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  [Cultural heritage of mankind] [Kommagene Kingdom] [Dances and Costumes

Cultural Heritage of Mankind


Adiyaman region is one of the earliest settled areas of the world. Archeological evidence suggests that Adiyaman's history stretches back some 40,000 years. In fact cave paintings (those at Palanlı Mountain), and stone tools (those found in Gıre Moza) in the region indicate a history that is around 100,000 old. At the end of the last ice age, about 10 to 15 thousand years ago, the receding ice left behind very fertile land. Agriculture slowly replaced hunting gathering as a way of life, resulting permanent settlements around the region. According to archeological records, domestication of animals and cultivating grains like barley and wheat started about 8-9 thousand years ago. About this time too, one-room cone shaped houses, still present in Harran Valley started to appear.  Based on stone and bone fragments found in the area, it is believed a people called Hurri populated this region starting about 5,000 before the Common Era. From bronze artifacts discovered in many sights it is believed that the Hurris made the transition to the Bronze Age about 3,000 before the Common Era. Archeological digs reveal that Hurris populated an area ranging from the current Malatya to Gaziantep. Around 1350 before the Common Era this region came under the rule of Mittanis, who like the Hurris were Arian in origin. The evidence for this is based on artifacts discovered from the Mittani king Tusratta’s tomb. The region was under the control of many peoples throughout its history. Chronologically, it was Mittani Kingdom 1300 before the Common Era, then Hittite Empire until 1200, Phrygian Kingdom until 700, Medes and Persia until 334, Macedonia until 169, Kommagene Kingdom until 72 after the Common ear. Then followed the control of the Roman Empire until 395, Byzantine Empire until 670, Emevi Caliphate until 758, Abbasid Kingdom until 926, then again Byzantines until 1114, Eyyubians until 1298, Seljuk Turks until 1516 and finally the Ottoman Empire until 1923.    

    Other Names Used for Adiyaman: Adiyaman is the name used for the province since the establishment of the Turkish Republic. The name is a derivative of the phrase, Vadi-i Leman (Pretty Valley) which over time through permutations of pronunciation resulting in Adiyaman.

The ancient name of the region was Perre (Pirin). During the Islamic period it was called Hısnı Mansur, Semsur for short. During the Roman period the city was also called Klolzya in honor of the emperor Klozyos.    


Shortly after the disintegration of Alexander’s Empire, Kommagene emerged in the west of the Euphrates River as a buffer kingdom between the Persian and Roman Empires. The kingdom included current day provinces of Adiyaman, Gaziantep, Maraş, and Kilis and existed between 162 BCE and 72 ACE. The kingdom, whose capital was the city of Samasota, lived its golden age between 69 BCE and 36 ACE starting with the rein of King Antiochus I. Antiochus claimed blood ties to the Persian emperors from his father’s side and to Roman the emperors from his mother’s. The name Kommagene comes from the local dialect, which means “everybody’s kingdom”.

Antiochus’s biggest achievement was the construction of a temple and tumulus on Mt. Nemrut 7,500 feet above sea level, considered the 8th wonder of the world. From this site other significant monuments, including those at Arsemia (kingdom’s summer capital), burial sites at Fırlaz village and Karakuş, and the tumulus at Karadağ.

The discovery of Mt. Nemrut was by accident. In 18383 Helmut Von Moltke, who was assigned to the Taurus army of the Ottoman Empire came upon the statues during a field trip. He reported this the Prussian king; the rest is history. Systematic archeological study of the mountain started in 1938 with the digs conducted by Otto Puchstein and Karl Sester. But the mountain owes its worldwide reputation to two dedicated archeologists, the German Karl Dörner and the American Theresa Goel. (Ms. Goel’s ashes were strewn on top of the mountain after her death.)  

Kommagene started out as a kingdom that contained many ethnic groups. The early rulers knew that to rule effectively they had respect other cultures and especially other religions. This is the reason why so many reliefs of that period contain ceremonial handshakes. The official language of the kingdom was Greek, a language most likely alien to the local population. The language suggests that Kommagene’s kings intended to bring civilization, Hellenic civilization that is, to this part of the world. Although they started out on a positive vein, eventually they alienated the locals, whom they viewed as inferior. When the Romans took over these lands, it is easy to imagine that the locals didn’t put up a lot of resistance. Adiyaman has been the host of many civilization throughtout its history. Being a melting pot socially and culturally, it has valuable features related to customs about different periods of life, hospitality, folk dancing, carpets and kilims etc. Adiyaman is famous for its folk songs, folk dancers and tombs.  Different kinds meatballs such as "cig kofte, icli kofte, mercimekli kofte" and hitap (stuffed hot pie) are special local foods in Adıyaman.The region of Adiyaman has throughout its history been witness to many different cultures. The first cultural development started with the Hittites when they decided to settle in this region. The Hittites laid the basis for the cultural development not only of Mesopotamia but also the cultures of the Mitannis, Urartus, Assyrians, Medes, Persians and Greeks all of whom left their traces behind. Later the Kommagene and Roman Empires enriched this cultural structure.  Among the traditional dances the Halay dance has a very special significance. The most popular dances are: AgirHalay, DuzHalay, Berde, Derika, AGirhava, Dikhava, Lorke, Pekmezao, Tirpano and KurderoHalay. Songs like Uzun Hava are especially loved by the people because in them are expressed their sufferings and love.


Wedding Ceremony in Village

Mustafa Erkmen


Abuzer Caliskan

A young lady

Remzi Taskiran

Serving Tea

Adiyaman Region Dances and Costumes 

Adıyaman is located between the upper Euphrates of eastern and the middle Euphrates of southeastern Turkey. The province stretches to the Euphrates valley in the east and the Aksu depression in the west. It is bounded by the Malatya Mountains on the north and in the south it is made up of valleys between countered hills.  

Adıyaman and the surrounding area was conquered in 1084 (13 years after the battle of Malazgirt) by Buldaçı Bey , one of the commanders of Selcuk kingdom’s the founder, Kutalmışoğlu Süleyman Şah. The region frequently changed hands between various powers in the region until finally it was “Turcofied” by the Memluk Turks. Ottoman sultan Yavuz Sultan Selim made Adıyaman a part of his domain in 1516. During the Ottaman rein, Adıyaman was one of the 5 sancaks (like a county, with Samsat as the capital), of the Dulkadir province. In the late 19th century, Adıyaman was made a sancak in the Malatya province. In 1954 Malatya was carved up into two provinces resulting in the creation of the Adıyaman province with the city of Adıyaman as its provincial capital. Adıyaman has 8 provincial districts (counties): Besni, Kahta, Samsat, Gölbaşı, Gerger, Çelikhan, Tut, and Tokaris. Agriculture and animal husbandry are the main economic activities of the province.

Adıyaman is one of the most significant places in Turkey archeologically as well as in folk arts. Among archeological sites are the caves of Pirim in the capital city, fortresses at Gerger and Samsat (now under the waters of the Atatürk Dam), and the Cendere Bridge north of Kahta. But the most significant ruin in the province is Mt. Nemrut, a ceremonial and burial tumulus for King Antiochus I of the Kommagene kingdom. The site, about 7,500 feet above sea level has two terraces (east and west) with gigantic statutes of the king and various Roman and Greek gods. 

Folk dances of Adıyaman usually depict daily life or cultivation of the land. Coeducational groups usually perform these dances, contrary to the Moslem tradition of keeping sexes apart.

There are however dances only for women or only for men. The live music for the dances is usually provided by a drum and a Turkish oboe, called Zurna. The locals use the term Gofend to describe a dance group. Sergofend is the term used for the male at the head of the dance line, Başgofend for the female leader.

In dances that that are more forceful and rigorous the performers are shoulder- to-shoulder tightly clasping hands with dancers on the either side. For lighter numbers the dancers join each other by hooking little gingers together. Shoulder holding or shaking arms are not a part of Adıyaman folk dances. The Chanting in Adıyaman dances is different than the ones in Gaziantep, Kars, or Erzurum. Dancers belt out “Tısss…Tısss…Tısss” or “Ha…Ha…Ha…” during their performance.

Local Dancing & Everyday Costumes:

Men: Men wear, under their caps, a hand-decorated colorful cloth called a Terlik (sweat cloth) in order to absorb moisture during the dances. In some regions the term Arakçin (in Arabic in meas sweat gatherer) is used for terlik. The dancers wear a long-sleeved collarless, white or cream colored striped shirt with slits along the sides. Over the shirt they wear a black or brown vest, kırkdüğme (forty buttons), with woven fabric on the sides, silk material in the back. As the name implies, the vest has forty buttons. For pants the men wear a black or brown plain baggy trousers, called şalvar that is usually sewn from rough goat hair fabric. These şalvars usually have no pockets and have wool drawstrings strung through a silk housing by the belt area. A wool sash, usually red, is tightly wrapped around the waist. The outfit is topped with a rough hand-sewn half-sleeved brown coat, called aba. The front of aba is hand decorated with various motifs. Hand-made wool socks with colorful decorations are worn under leather moccasins. Men usually carry a white handkerchief.

Women: Women wear a crown that it bordered by a chain around the lower circumference. Decorative coins (in the olden days gold) dangle from this chain. A gilded sash is wrapped around the crown; a white cotton scarf (called Keten), is tied crosswise in the front, is worn over the crown, leaving its front open. (An unmarried woman does not wear the scarf.) Women braid their hair in two to six strands; a decorative ditty with tassels, called Kezi, is worn across the braided hair in the back.

Women wear a loose, long-sleeved, knee-length cotton undershirt that is decorated in various patterns. Mountain villages call this a Çit. Over the undershirt they wear a long ankle-length, long-sleeved colorful dress. The striped dress, open in the front, has slits in the sleeves as well as along the sides. The side slits extends waist-high from the bottom dividing the lower half af the dress into three pieces. This is the reason the dress is called “üç etek” (three skirts.) Under the dress a pantaloon (red or rose colored), of silk or another shinny material is worn. An apron, designed with wax-press tops off the outfit. Hand-made wool socks of bright colors and moccasins complete the outfit.

Women also wear decorative jewelry consisting of a silver or gold belt, a gold necklace as well as matched bracelets and earrings.  

In the villages women wear a dress called Çotu or fistan. Decorative patches usually adorn the dress around the waist. Under the dress they wear a long cotton undershirt called kıras that is secured with a belt of the same material. In all modes of dress, a long pantaloon, usually of shinny material is worn as underpants. More recently, rubber shoes are worn instead of moccasins. Women in the villages do not cover their faces.

Although modern dress is the usual mode of dress in the cities, there are still women who wear traditional outfits in the cities. But when they go out they cover themselves, and their dress with a black wrap called çarşaf (shador in Persian). Women covering themselves is a religious tradition.


Dances of the Region: There are many dances of the Adıyaman region. Although it is not possible to list them all, following is a partial list of them.  

1. Simsimi 2. Düz (Çeçen Kızı) 3. Sevda 4. Ağırlama
5. Teşi 6. Göçeri 7. Çap (Takayak) 8. Halay
9.Rişko 10. Galuç 11. Kımıl 12. Darık
13. Hellican (With song) 14. Göftan 15. Tırgi 16. Serjiri,
17. İkiayak 18. İriş 19. Köfanjan 20. Dıngi (With song)
21. Fatmalı 22. Sal(Boat) 23. Keriboz 24. Barış
25. Kardeş Yolu (With song)      

 Description of Some Dances:

Sal (Boat): This dance depicts an ancient tragic event when a boat, carrying a wedding  party (from a village in Samsat to Urfa), including the bride, capsizes in the Euphrates resulting in the drowning of all in the boat.

At the start of the dance, men representing the wedding party appear in a back-and-forth waving action representing the boat and the people in it. Later the dance depicts the boat being caught in the current and the attempt of the men to save it. Women appear, on heir knees, beating their knees and chests while wailing (locals call it zılgıt) a high-pitched lamentation. In the main dance line however, there is only one woman, representing the bride. The dance concludes (after the symbolic sinking of the boat) with the dancers singing a folk song, Euphrates, holding oars in their hands.

Sımsımi: This is a dance performed on horseback in village weddings by young men only. During the dance, men depict bravery and strength in order to impress womenfolk. The dance is therefore a rigorous one, requiring stamina and strength from those who perform it. The basis of the dance is an old Turkish game called cirit. During the dance young men chase each other on horseback to “hunt” others with their whip.
Düz: Like many folk dances of the region, this one too tells of an old story (legend). According to a Samsat (on Euphrates) legend a poor young man, Bekiro, falls in love with a young girl, Emine who lives across the river Euphrates. But her father gives her to a rich son of a clan leader. Emine, who is in love with Bekiro, agrees to elope with him. But her father sends several men after the couple. These men shoot the couple as they are attempting to cross the river.

            Emine’s mother hears of the shooting and races to the marsh where the couple has fallen.   She reaches them just as Bekiro and Emine are dieing. The song he sings before his death             accompanies the dance.

Tırgi: Nomadic people spend their summers in high grasslands, Çayi, and winters in lower elevations, Bozik. The legend takes place in one of the permanent settlements of these nomads (called Yörük in Turkish), Mıdın. A young woman, Aybekiri’s daughter Tırgi falls in love with Seybe. Although it is not time yet to migrate to grasslands, her family escapes to their summer home to escape rumors.

While there a rich family asks for Tırgi’s hand for their son, and her father ascends. As tradition dictates it, Tıgri accepts her fate without complaint. While she is taken to her betrothed however, she asks to dismount her horse to pray. While praying she beseeches God to turn her into a stone. Her wish is granted and she is turned into a mountain. This mountain is called Tırgi’s Mountain to this day. The mountain is considered sacred nowadays with young women tying wishing ribbons and other ornaments to the trees on the mountain. 

Sevda: This dance depicts the bounty of nomadic life. After the milking of livestock, young women return to their tents in a merry mood. They start to dance chanting “tilili”. Other young people of the camp join the dance, making the dance a merry occasion of celebration.

Teşi: Teşi is an instrument used to spin wool. The dance, performed in a line like hora, symbolizes the washing and spinning of the wool.

Göçeri: This is another dance performed by nomadic people who celebrate their arrival to a new place with a lovely dance that is performed by a line of men and one of women facing each other.

Çep: This dance, performed in the mountainous regions, symbolizes the grace and movements of a deer. The dancers keep rhythm to the beat of a drum.

Halay: This dance is performed by the families of a couple about to be married. The families show their joy of the impending event by dancing together.

Rişko: This dance is performed during the harvest season to celebrate the bounty of the land. Man and women dance in a line across from each other. The characteristic of the dance is the graceful movement of the arms and shoulders, especially at the start of it.

Galuç: This dance is from the Hallun village of Kahta and depicts the struggle of the villagers fighting a poisonous weed called Geliç. Village men get up early in the mornings before planting season to eradicate the weed from the fields. At noon their women bring their lunch in buckets and water in gourds. After lunch is consumed, men get back to work.

When finally the field is cleared of the weed, men celebrate the occasion by performing the dance. Women joined them too. Women carry the gourds on their shoulders during the dance and men go through symbolic motion of chopping the weed with their sickles.

This is a fine dance that has won many awards in international folk dance competitions.

Goftan: This dance tells the story of a young woman who falls in love, during a wedding, with a man wearing a kaftan. She doesn’t know his name or identity but creates a dance in memory of the event.

Hallaç: Hallaç is a person who separated (before the invention of cotton gin) cotton from seed by beating it. In the old days a hallaç traveled from village to village, separating cotton from seed. One hallaç falls in love with a young woman in a village of Kahta. He asks for her hand, but her father refuses resulting in the elopement of the young couple. Her father upon hearing this, has both of them shot

The dance, performed to the rhythm of cotton being stroked, is accompanied by a sad song telling the tragic story of the young couple.

Barış: This lively dance celebrates the peace that is struck between two feuding clans. The two families, to strengthen the bond between them, also inter-marry creating even more opportunities for celebration. The dance is performed by both men and women, and nowadays it celebrates love and friendship.   


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