Sphinx Gate (Hattusa)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Sphinx Gate in Hattusa (the capital of the Hittite Empire in the Late Bronze Age) was part of the city's fortifications. The Sphinx's Gate, is one of the three most notable gates of Hattusa's Upper City fortifications, other two being King's Gate, the Lions' Gate.


The inner doorway was adorned with sphinxes that were almost three dimensional, not only the front of their bodies looking towards the city but also with high wings on the sides and long upright tails. Only one original Sphinx is still in place while two others are kept in the local museum. All four door jambs of the gate bore representations of Sphinxes.

Structural Details

circa 1500 BCE

One of the images most commonly associated with Hittites is the sphinx, combining a lion's body with an eagle's wings and a human head and chest. At Hattusa as at several other prominent Hittite Cities, they were placed on either side of the main entrance.

circa 1500 BCE

Having been badly damaged by fire in ancient times, they had to be dismantled for restoration in 1907. A pair of sphinxes found at the southern gate in Hattusa were taken for restoration to Germany in 1917. The better-preserved was returned to Turkey in 1924 and placed on display in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, but the other remained in Germany where it was on display at the Pergamon Museum from 1934,[9] despite numerous requests for its return.

circa 1500 BCE

In 1915, German archaeologists discovered a sculpture with a lion’s body and a human head at the Sphinx Gate of the Yerkapı rampart in the ruins of the ancient Hittite capital Hattuşa in central Turkey; they brought the artifact to Germany for restoration, along with another sphinx.

circa 1500 BCE

In total four sphinxes were unearthed during excavations at Yerkapı. One of them is the one that was returned, the other one is in Yerkapı but the majority of it has been lost. The other sphinx is in Istanbul and we believe that it will be taken to Hattuşa. The last sphinx is totally lost, even its pieces do not exist.

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