Despite its clear regional and transregional importance for research, Gerçin Höyük has not been investigated archaeologically since the “visits” of the nineteenth century. Existing knowledge of the building complexes on Gerçin is therefore extremely small: since the publication of the Hadad statue, its inscription, and the sketch of the other four statues (von Luschan 1893), and since the brief description of the topography of the settlement by Koldewey (the sketch was published in Wartke 2005), scholars have on the one hand analyzed the inscription and the language (Sachau 1893; Tropper 1993; Niehr 1994; 2001), and on the other hand discussed the whole monument in its significance for cultural history, from iconographical and iconological perspectives (Voos 1988; Bonatz 2000; 2014).
Hadad statue from Gerçin Höyük (von Luschan 1893: Taf. 7)
The connection between the Hadad statue and the other four statue fragments in the context of rituals in cult for the dead was once again highlighted briefly in two articles by Herbert Niehr (2001; 2006). However, the uncertain archaeological context of these statues and the lack of archaeological excavations at this site prevent reconstruction of the specific burial complexes and so also of the ritual actions connected to them.
Research into the cult of ancestors in the early iron age of the North Syrian – South Anatolian area has shown that it should be seen as an important instrument of identity among both the Aramaic and Luwian dynasties and their urban elites (Niehr 1994; Bonatz 2000, Brown 2008; Gilibert 2011). The ritual practice of ancestor cult and cult of the dead is principally known from the iconographical analysis of grave stelae, relief-carved orthostats, and the upright statues on the citadels, and from some inscriptions.
Despite the spectacular new find of the Katumawa Stele in the lower city of Zincirli, which for the first time documents the erection of a stele to commemorate the dead in its original architectural context, which is interpreted as a “mortuary chapel” (Strubel and Herrmann 2009), we today still largely do not know what the relationships between ancestor cult and the burial places were, where the necropoleis of the settlements lay, or what influence was exerted on the conception of monumental cult complexes by the demonstrable close relation between ancestor cult and cult of the gods.
Accordingly, the complex on Gerçin Höyük presents the unique opportunity to address specifically, in an archaeological treatment from regional and transregional perspectives, questions of the origin and development of a prominent religious site at which cult of gods, ancestors, and burials are united. The project advances firmly from the hypothesis that in Gerçin lay a – and probably even the – principal temple of Sam’al, and that the complex of royal graves at this place is a result of its sacral significance.