Excavations in the Domuztepe Mound in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş, considered to be the biggest settlement in the era since the usage of the term “Near East,” have unearthed vessels depicting “tree of life” motifs.
The mound is located close to the Kelibişler neighborhood in the Pazarcık district.
Led by Hacettepe University Archaeology Department academic Dr. Halil Tekin under the coordination of the Kahramanmaraş Museum Directorate, the excavations started in 2013.
Culture and Tourism Ministry officials and university students have also taken part in the work, which was initiated in 1996 as a British-American joint project and has been maintained by Turkish academics since 2013, unearthing important artifacts.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Tekin said the most interesting thing about the potteries found in the Domuztepe Mound is that they have a tree motif, known as the “tree of life” in ancient Near East archaeology, with cumulative motifs.
“The origin of this tree, which has become used as a Christmas tree in the Christian world throughout time, is here, namely in Mesopotamia. The earliest known example of it is in Domuztepe,” Tekin said, in regards to the importance of the tree of life motifs.
He said they had seen figures of pine trees on some vases and potteries in Domuztepe and that it is very interesting and important “since it is not an ordinary tree. It is related to a faith system, a burial tradition,” he added.
Tekin said they would have more detailed information about it in the coming days which would be announced.
“We are talking about the period of the 7000s B.C. They are very ancient times. The oldest known example of this tree’s culture or belief system is in Domuztepe. We believe it expanded from Domuztepe in various ways. The oldest example is here. It expanded to the south, to Basra and then became the most important factor in Sumerian civilization. There is also a similar tree in the Acadians, which is known as the ‘eya tree’ in Hittite documents in the 3000s B.C. The pine tree symbolizes life because it is a tree that never dies. The one we have found here is a tree with thorny leaves. This is why we believe it is a symbol of life,” Tekin said.
According to Tekin’s research relating to the Christian world, there is no trace of this tree before 1504.
Oldest Christmas tree
The pine tree is what is now known as a Christmas tree.
“When Marco Polo arrived in Asia, he probably brought this culture to the western world in the same way he brought many elements. [Christmas tree] culture did not suddenly appear there. The Dutch people who immigrated to the U.S. at the end of the 19th century included this tree in their Christian faith system. Then this tree became a commercial factor in the U.S. We can say that the pieces depicting the pine tree which have been found here make it the oldest Christmas tree in the world,” Tekin said.
Larger pieces depicting the figures were found by others in the past and now smaller pieces depicting the Christmas tree have been uncovered.