Karatepe is the Late Hittite fortress and situated in the province of Osmaniye in the district of Kadirli. The fortress called Asativadaya was founded in the 8th century BCE as a frontier castle by Asativatas, ruler in the plain of Adana, against the wild hordes lurking in the north. It was the ancient city of Cilicia, which controlled a passage from eastern Anatolia to the north Syrian plain. It became an important Neo-Hittite center, after the collapse of the Hittite Empire in the late 12th century BCE. Karatepe is located on a caravan road (Akyol) leading from the southern plains up to the Central Anatolian plateau. This road had been used before the Hittites, during the Hittite period, and in the Crusaders’ times. It was also used by Nomads until recently.
After the site was discovered in 1946, Karatepe was excavated from 1947 to 1957 by a team led by Dr. Helmuth Theodor Bossert, revealing the ruins of the walled city of king Azativatas. Restoration work was carried on for many years, which uncovered some further findings. In the late 1990s, archaeological work, now led by Dr. Halet Çambel, was conducted on a palace at the site. Two monumental T-shaped gate-houses, flanked by high towers, gave access to the citadel. An entrance passage between two towers led up to a double-leafed wooden gate, which swung on basalt pivot-stones. In a holy precinct at the inner entrance of the southwest gate stood the monumental statue of the Storm-God on its double bull-socle. The statue has been restored and set upright in its original position. The inner walls of the gate-houses were adorned with sculptures of lions and sphinxes, inscriptions and reliefs, depicting cultural, mythological and daily-life scenes carved on blocks of basalt. A bilingual text in Phoenician and Hieroglyphic Luwian, the longest known texts in these languages, was inscribed on slabs of each gate and a third time in Phoenician on the statue, constituting the key for the final decoding of the hieroglyphs.
This region and the citadel, including a palace and grain wells, had been destroyed and burnt down to the ground by Salmanassar V (around 725-720 BCE) and by Asarhaddon (around 680 BCE).
Currently, the fortress is part of the Karatepe-Arslantaş National Park.