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The Tablet Describes Daniel Figure in the Tarsus Museum

A limestone tablet on exhibit in the Tarsus Museum attracts attention because of the depiction it displays.

The tablet is framed by a border of rectangles on the outside and a row of studs placed inside and at the corners. It is divided into two sections horizontally. In the upper section, the Moon Goddess and the Sun God are shown in bas-relief, each in a medallion, in which the Moon Goddess is sculpted in bust with a crescent moon on her head, while the Sun God is shown by the head-and-neck only. In the lower section, within the area bordered by the branches and leaves on both sides, Daniel, the Hebrew Prophet is placed frontally in the middle, standing up, with his arms raised, wearing a pointed hat, a cape and a pair of trousers and two lions in profile are moving towards him from his right and left.

In Christian art, however, the sun and the moon are usually observed in the scenes of Crucifixion.

A figure shown frontally, standing up and praying with raised arms is called an "oranse". Such "oranse" figures are found in Greek art from the beginning of the 4th century B.C., and in Roman art from the reign of Trajan (A.D. 98-117). Similar ones are used by Christians on their sarcophagi from the end of the 2nd century, on the catacomb murals at the end of the 3rd century, and on other items generally, as portraits of deceased persons.

Such Prophets that are mentioned in the Old Testament; Noah, Abraham and his son Isaac, Daniel, etc. are depicted as "oranses" in order to pray God on behalf of the dead, for these names were exemplary to the Christians by reasons of having saved themselves from dire conditions through their faith and through God's assistance. Likewise, the Christians would be protected by God through enduring in patience the difficulties and evils done to them, as Daniel was punished for worshipping Him by being thrown into the pit with lions, but through the Grace of God, he was able to get out without incurring any harm.

The carved limestone tablet present in the Tarsus Museum appears to be an important specimen because of its depiction of the Moon Goddess and the Sun God that, in accordance with the exposition of the Bible, at the moment the sun dwindled and the moon does not reflect its light any more, the doomsday has arrived; and of Daniel as an "oranse" and the lions show that the salvation is near for the faithful, that Jesus Christ shall come back at the end of time; it can be dated to the second half of the 6th century because of the bas-relief technique used in the figurative and vegetal composition, its emphasized contours for the figures and its stylized manner of presentation.

*Yard. Doç. Dr. Ayşe Aydın, Mersin Üniversitesi, Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi, Arkeoloji Bölümü, 33345 Çiftlikköy Kampüsü, Mersin.

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