During in 1907 survey, John Garstang visit a series of artificial settlement mounds near the village of Sakje Geuzi (Sakçagöze, Turkey). The smallest of mounds, locally called Coba Höyük (written as ‘Jobba Eyuk’ by Garstang), was found to have carved stones littered across its surface, which were thought to date from the Hittite period.
The surface of Coba Höyük before it was excavated in 1908. Refno: SG-278: 'Sakje Geuzi'
Garstang returned to the site a year later to carry out a short experimental dig of the mounds on behalf of the Liverpool Institute of Archaeology. His primary aim was to gather enough evidence to prove to funders that the site was worthy of a full scale excavation. His team dug exploratory trenches in all of the mounds, but carried out a more detailed excavation of Coba Höyük, as it was the smallest mound and appeared to be the most likely to contain remains from the Hittite period.
Image of Coba Höyük before it was excavated. RefNo: SG-010: 'Sakje Geuzi No. 6a'
The team discovered that pottery and other artefacts which suggested that the mounds had been occupied from the Neolithic period onwards. Stratification in the trenches gave evidence that the mounds had been built up over time as each culture had built on top of the ruins and rubbish of their predecessors.
Neolithic flints found in Coba Höyük during the 1908 excavation. Refno: SG-099: 'Sakje Geuzi No.78 'Sakje Geuzi, Flints etc Neolithic'
The sculptured stones on Coba Höyük were found to be part of an entrance of a temple or palace dating from the later Hittite period and initially thought to date from between 880BC and 730BC. The portico comprised two almost identical lion sculptures followed by a sphinx, and various reliefs which would have formed a procession around the entrance. They also discovered a pedestal supported by two sculptures of sphinxes, which Garstang believed were part of an altar or a base of a pillar to support the entrance.
Image of the portico as it was being excavated in 1908. Refno: SG-054: 'Sakje Geuzi No. 41 'Sakje Geuzi: Portico with Sculptures, view''
The significance of the finds led to the formation of the Hittite Excavation Committee in the Institute of Archaeology, to fund further excavations in the region.
John Garstang (1908) ‘Excavations at Sakje-Geuzi, in North Syria: Preliminary Report for 1908’, Liverpool Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology, Vol. 1, pp97-117.
John Garstang (1913) ‘Second Interim Report on the Excavations at Sakje-Geuzi in north Syria, 1911’ Liverpool Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology, Vol. V pp63-72.