Search For the Origin of the Crescent and Star

Motif in the Turkish Flag

(Part 2/2)


Polat Kaya, M. Sc. E. E.

Copyright © 1997


The Ural-Altaic languages are related to the Sumerian language. According to Hymes list of 100 common root words of Ural-Altaic and Sumerian languages used as tests for comparing these languages, any language that has 47% of the root words given in the list can be considered a direct descendant of the Sumerian language, [FH]. This test takes into account the fact that Sumerian and the present day Ural-Altaic languages are separated from each other in time by a duration of five thousand years. Turkish and Hungarian passes this test with results far better than 50% and hence can be considered as direct descendants of Sumerian. In view of the Hymes test, the proto-Ural-Altaic language and Sumerian must have been one and the same.

For these comparisons, the reader is suggested to visit Fred Hamori's web page on Internet [FH]. Reader are also invited to visit my 200-words Hymes list, conceptually grouped Sumerian and Turkish comparisons, in this home page.

It should also be noted here that even the language of Elams was an agglutinative language like that of the Sumerians and Turks.


It is well acknowledged that the Sumerians are not indigeneous people to Mesopotamia. In view of the existing close kinship of Sumerian and the Ural-Altaic languages and additionally many cultural evidences showing direct kinship betwen the Sumerians and the Central Asiatic peoples, it can be said that in order for this affinity to exists, the ancestors of the present day Altaic peoples (such as Turks and Hungarians) and those of the Sumerians must have been in direct contact with each other before Sumerians migrated into Mesopotamia. In other words, the Sumerians must have been a Central Asiatic people and must have been speaking the same or a dialect of a proto-Ural-Altaic language that Ural-Altaic peoples spoke then. That proto-Ural-Altaic language must have been either the same as the Sumerian or a version of the Sumerian language that the linguists have been able to read from thousands of Sumerian tablets. The very fact that the present day Turkish and Hungarian are Sumerian-like languages, is a strong indication that the speakers of these languages are the descendants of an Ural-Altaic people who must have been members of a group that the Sumerians were also a member.

A plausible area for the original homeland of Sumerians may be the part of Central Asia which is bounded between southern tips of Ural mountains in the north, the Caspian Sea in the south, Irtish river at the east and Idil (Volga) river at the west. Only in this area, as a most likely original homebase for Sumerians, they could have had close contact with all Ural-Altaic peoples linguistically and culturally.

In view of these considerations, it is expected that within such a common background, in addition to linguistic kinship, it is highly probable that one could also find the traces of other cultural kinships, such as the use of crescent, star or crescent and star motifs as emblems, between Central Asiatic cultures and the Sumerian culture. In this context we may find in the Sumerian culture, particularly in the religious culture, traces of their Central Asiatic cultural heritage which could have been continued for long periods of time as tradition by those Central Asiatic peoples who were left behind.


The Sumerian word for "god" is "dingir" and it is represented with an eight-pointed star symbol in the Sumerian cuneiform writing system. The word for "god" in the languages of Turks has the forms of "tengir", "tengere", "tangara", "tengri" and "tanri". Evidently, not only these Sumerian and the Turkish words are related to each other but also must come from the same cultural source.

The Sumerians worshipped a large number of specialized deities, as part of their religious beliefs. Among them, the four most important were the heaven-god "An", the air-god "Enlil", the water-god "Enki", and the great mother goddess, "Ninhursag", [SNK, p. 118]. In addition to these four leading deities, there were three important astral deities: the moon-god, "Nanna", the sun-god Utu and Nanna's daughter, the goddess Inanna, known also as Ishtar to other ancient peoples of Mesopotamia, [SNK, p. 122].

Ancient Turks are also known to believe the sky (heaven) god "Tengri", the astral deities such as the moon-god "Ay Tengri", the sun-god "Kun Tengri", the natural forces such as the wind "Yil", the mountains, thunder storms, etc.

Initially the heaven-god An was conceived by the Sumerians as the supreme ruler of the pantheon and later Enlil, the air-god seems to have taken his place as the leader of the pantheon.

It is seen that the Sumerians had similar beliefs in the Astral entities, such as the Sky, Moon and Sun, as did the ancestors of Altaic peoples through their Altaic Shamanism. Additionally, some Sumerian kings even deified themselves [SNK, p. 328; 5, p. 113] since they considered that their kingship had descended for them from heaven. Like the Sumerians, the Turkish qaghans (rulers) also believed that they were the representatives of Tengri on earth and their qaganship were given them by Tengri. These were all Shamanistic religious values of ancient Central Asiatic peoples.


From my own research, I have found the following information that verify the point that the crescent and star motifs are related to Shamanistic beliefs. References given at the end of this paper provide additional useful information.

a) Sumerians have used the "crescent and star" motif in some of their monuments and/or documents that have been discovered so far. One of the earliest known crescent and star representation is shown on the Sumerian Ur-Nammu stele which is said to be commissioned about 2100 B.C. [SNK, illustration after p. 64; JLH p. 43 and DJH p. 107]. Ur-Nammu is the Sumerian King of Ur (2113 - 2096 B.C.), [HS p.150] and the founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur, [SNK, p. 83]. On the top panel of the Ur-Nammu stele and on the very top of the monument is shown a crescent moon embracing a twelve-pointed star. This crescent and star combination was the religious representation of their gods, in this case the Moon and the Sun. To show their due respect to these gods, the representation was placed above everything else. Ur-Nammu and a seated goddess are portrayed just below the crescent and twelve-pointed star symbol on the stele.

b) On page 25 of the Referece by Fevzi Kurtoglu, [FK], four Sumerian seals are shown. On two of them, a crescent embraces an eight-pointed star, on a third one, a crescent embraces a six-pointed star. On a fourth one, there is a crescent moon and an eight-pointed star which is on the righthand side of the crescent. On p. 28 of Ref. FK, we also have the picture of another Sumerian seal having a crescent and star symbol on it.

c) Ref. FK, also mentions as the earliest "crescent" symbol with a cross inside it found in the Elamian city of Susa belonging to Elams. Elams having a language similar to that of the Sumerians are also considered as people who have come from Central Asia, to Mesopotamia [FK, p. 23]. Also referenced [FK, p. 27] is a crescent and star symbol found on an Elam monument found in Susa and said to be belonging to King Sonnegatt (2220 B.C.). Ref. FK provides additional references for these citings.

d) On p. 25 of Ref FK, we have two seals which carry the impression of a crescent and an eight-pointed star side by side which is attributed to Hittites.

e) Finally on the same page, the very last seal impression shows two thin crescents, each embracing a star or sun in the form of a dot [7] left from Assrians.

Hittite seals had crescent and star symbols. Some of them have eight sets of crescent and star symbols, four on either side of the main logo of the seal, [[FK, p,41]. Some Hittite sun disks made of cupper and bronze have eight-pointed star symbols arranged in various fashions.

f) Again in the same reference, there is reference to Parthian steles and coins carrying crescent and eight-pointed star configurations, one of which is shown on page 28 [FK] where a crescent embraces an eight-pointed star.

g) A Babylonian cylinder-seal impression, Agade Dynasty, ruling a mixture of Sumerians and Akkadians, circa 2350 B. C. shows a crescent alone [HS plate 46].

h) A silver disk, with a crescent and star motif, is found from Afghanistan left from Alexander the Great's time, (about 330 - 325 B.C.), [AP, p. 47]. The caption describing this disc is as follows: "This silver disk, from remote Afghanistan, shows how Greek and non-Greek ideas were blended. On the left in Greek dress is the goddess Kybele. A figure in eastern dress shelters her with a parasol. Also eastern are the sun god in the sky and the priest at a fire-altar."

In this description, the "crescent and star" motif to the right of the Eastern "Sun god" is not described. In this configuration of the crescent and star, the crescent is faced to the right and to its right is a "Makedonian" star. Here the eastern star (probably "eight pointed", is replaced by the Makedonian "sixteen pointed star". This replacement of eastern star with the Makedonian star must be a representation of Alexander's conquering of the east. The northernmost part of Afghanistan that Alexander the Great conquered is also known as Turkistan. At the time Alexander's armies conquered this area, about 325 B.C., there were Bactrians, Sogdians who were ethnically Iranian peoples and also the Saka peoples who spoke a form of Turkish.

i) Central Asiatic Parthians ruling an empire in Iran seems to have used the "crescent and eight-pointed star" motif while the Sassanian Kings of Iran used crescent with a sun disk without the rays. Parthians were Central Asiatic people who ruled in Persia from about 200 B. C. until Sassanian period, for about five hundred years.

At this point it may be useful to quote the following from Tamara Talbot Rice, [TTR, p.168-170]: "In the Seljukid age many ancient shapes continued to retain their symbolic significance largely because they still figured in astrology, and this probably helps to explain the frequency with which they occure in the art of the period. Stars with from five to twelve points constantly appear, figuring even on the coins, where they may have represented Venus. In astrology Venus personified goodness and renewed life. When combined with crescent they may have signified Venus' meeting with the moon. On the other hand, certain passages in the Shahnamah suggest that representation of the sun and moon had a political rather than magical meaning, for Kay Khusraw, whose violet banner displayed both orbs, remarked that he had heard 'the Mobeds say that when the Moon of the Turans [the Turks] reaches its zenith it will be vanquished by the sun of Iran".

This ancient statement associates Turks of Turan with the moon of which the crescent is one form of it.

j) Central Asiatic Kushans (78 - 144 AD) used crescent and sun symbol in their golden jewelries worn by their women. Archaeological findings from Tillya Tepe ("tepe" is a Turkish word meaning "hill", "small mountain", "mound"), near Amu Derya (Oxus) River in Northern Afganistan show crescent and sun disk where crescent embraces the sun, made in the form of a gold hair pendant. One of these pendants is worn with a collapsible crown while the other two are used with head garments worn by Kushan ladies, [VIS, p. 50 and 64-65].

k) A stele described by Bradley Schaefer (BSc) in his article [BSc] as: "Mesopotamia's star and crescent: the symbol of the moon god (Sin) who was worshipped in the cities of Ur and Haran". On this stele are shown, a crescent moon flanked by an eight-pointed star on the left and an eight-pointed sun on the right.

l) Parthian coins (Parthians, a Central Asiatic steppe people, ruled the Persian Empire for about 475 years, {about 250 BC - 225 AD)} belonging to Mithradates II, Pharnaces I and Mithradates Eupator (240-120 B. C.) showing crescent and eight-pointed star, are given in Ref. 7, p. 32 and Ref. BSc, p. 48.

m) Moon embracing a sun disk is shown with Egyptian god Iah's image carved in 600 B. C., [BSc, p. 49].

n) In Reference by Bradley Schaefer, [BSc], the author also states that: "The earliest example of the star and crescent appearing on any coin that I have located dates from 477 BC, from the Aegean island Melos. Numerous other examples can be found in subsequent decades from Thracian city of Aenus." Bradley Schaefer also makes reference to coins found from Romania dated 200 B.C., and Etruscan coins from 3rd century BC [BSc].

From the point of view of Turkish history this is very interesting, because during the time period between 1200 BC. to 100 BC., there were Central Asiatic Turkish speaking Saka peoples living in Eurasia. There seems to be evidences that some of these Turkish speaking peoples even lived in some of the Aegean islands during 600 B.C. and earlier, [PK]. Some of these coins having crescent and star motif and being found in Thracia and Romania and even in Greece itself may have been left by the Turkish peoples living in western end of Eurasia (please see my Reading of the Lemnos Island inscription).

o) Bradley Schaefer [BSc] also mentions finding coins from Yemen that date from 100 B.C., from Libya dated from AD 23 and from Turkey and Greece in all ages and all show the star and crescent symbol.

So we have samples of the Crescent alone, star of different configurations alone and "crescent and star" symbols belonging to Sumerians, Elams, Babylonians and other cultures of Mesopotamia and many other cultures of different areas including the Shamanistic cultures of Central Asia and the Americas. These symbols seem to represent the shamanistic beliefs of all of these peoples. Sumerians being very close relatives of the Ural-Altaic peoples, particularly the Turks and Hungarians, it is very likely that the shamanist ancestors of the Turkish peoples also used the crescent moon and star representations in their cultures. As archeological reseach in Central Asia increases, (such research in Central Asia as compared to other parts of the world has been so far insignificant), additional crescent and star symbols, belonging to the local cultures of Central Asiatic peoples among whom the ancestors of Turks had a big say, are bound to surface.


1. The historical and archeological evidence points to Central Asia and to Central Asiatic Shamanism, through religious beliefs of Sumerians and the shamanism among the Native Peoples of Americas, as being the origin of the crescent and star symbol.

2. The historical and archeological evidence also show that the origin of the crescent and star symbol is religious and it represents celestial gods/goddesses particularly those representing the Sky, Moon, Sun and Venus.

3. Ancestors of Turks had a Shamanistic religion and believed in gods representing the Sky, Moon and Sun, like the Sumerians. For the Sumerians, the Turkish peoples and some of the Native Peoples of Americas, the tradition of believing and worshipping these gods must have been the continuation af an ancient Central Asiatic traditon having its roots in Central Asiatic shamanism. A tradition that was also carried to Mesopotamia and to Americas from Central Asia.

4. It is undeniable that the proto-Ural-Altaic language spoken by the ancestors of Turks and Hungarians must have been the same as the Sumerian language or a form of it. Hence, the ancestos of Turks having the same linguistic and religious cultural background as the Sumerians, and the Sumerians having attested forms of the crescent and star symbols representing their religious beliefs, it is highly probable that these symbols were also religious symbols representing the ancient gods of shamanistic beliefs of the Central Asiatic peoples. This is evidenced by their shamanic cultural representations on objects like shamanic drums and costumes.

5. The ancestors of Turkish people had the crescent and star symbol and the sun disk with eight pointed rays among their clan-crests engraved on rocks in Central Asia. Additionally, the crescent and the crescent and star symbols are also found as emblems on grave yard stones and constructions.

6. Turkish peoples of Central Asia along with some other known Central Asiatic peoples have used the crescent, star or the crescent and star symbols on their flags, war standards, rugs, tents, coins, jewelries, etc. in relatively recent times, i.e., about the last two thousand five hundred years. The usage of these symbols by Central Asiatic peoples, such as Parthians, Kushans, Gaznevi Turks, Khazars, Seljuks, Ottomans and the present day Turkish Republics, must be the continuation of an unwritten but ancient Central Asiatic tradition.

7. The crescent moon embracing an eight-pointed star motif seems to be the most frequently used religious symbol. It is used not only by Sumerians but also by many other Middle Eastern peoples whose culture have been influenced by Sumerians in every respect.

8. Among the users of this symbol are the Central Asiatic Turkish peoples whose language and religious culture had a common background with those of Sumerians.

9. As time progressed toward the present, the crescent and star symbol was adapted and used by some European cultures also.


AP ..... Anton Powell, "Ancient Greece, Facts On File", Inc., New York, 1989

BO ..... Prof. Dr. Bahaeddin Ogel, "Islamiyetten once Turk Kultur Tarihi (Orta Asya kaynak ve buluntularina gore),

..........Turk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi, Ankara, 1991.

BSc .... Bradley Schaefer, "Heavenly Signs", New Scientist, 21/28 December 1991, p.48.

DJH .... Dora Jane Hamblin, "The First Cities", Time-Life Books, New York, 1973.

EB. .... Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1963, Volume 6, p. 726.

EE ..... Emel Esin, "Buke: The Cosmic Significance of the Dragon in Early Turkish Iconography", Cultura Turcica, Vol. .......... V-VII, 1968-1970, Ankara.

FH ..... Fred Hamori, {[], choose "Languages' then "100 word Hymes list";

..........or visit directly "Hymes List of 100 common root word", (}.

FK ..... Fevzi Kurtoglu, "Turk Bayragi ve Ay Yildiz", Turk Tarih Kurumu Yayinlari, Ankara, 1992.

HNO ... Huseyin Namik Orkun, "Eski Turk Yazitlari", Turk Dil Kurumu Yayinlari: 529, Ankara, 1987.

HS ..... H. W. F. Saggs, "Everyday Life in Babylonia and Assyria", B. T. Batsford Ltd London, G. P. Putnam's

..........Sons, New York, 1965.

IK ..... Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Kafesoglu, "Turk Bozkir Kulturu", Turk Kulturunu Arastirma Enstitusu, Ankara, 1987.

JC ..... Joseph Campbell, "Historical Atlas of world mythology Vol. I, Part 2: Mythologies of the great hunt",

..........Perennial Library, Harper & Row, Pyblishers, New York, 1988.

JLH ... John L. Hayes, "A Manual of Sumerian Grammar and Texts", Undena Publications, Malibu, 1990.

MAC ... M. A. Czaplicka, "The Turks of Central Asia in History and at the Present Day", London: Curzon Press;

..........New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1973.

ME ..... Mircea Eliade, "Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy", Bollingen Series LXXVI,

..........Princeton University Press, 1964.

NE ..... Necdet Evliyagil, "Turkiye", published on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the

..........Turkish Republic, Ajans- Turk, Ankara, 1973.

NBHWF .. Norman Bancroft-Hunt and Werner Forman, "The Indians of the Great Plains",

..........Orbis Publishing, London, 1981.

ND ..... Nejat Diyarbekirli, "Turkler'de Mezar Yapisi ve Defin Merasimleri", Turk Kulturunu Arastirma Enstitusu,

.......... Prof. Dr. Muharrem Ergin'e Armagan, Yil XXVIII/1-2, Ankara, 1990.

PK ..... Polat Kaya, "A study of the Lemnos Island Inscription: (a preliminary report)", Ottawa, 1997,

........... (ISBN 0-9696949-3-8).

SNK ... Samuel Noah Kramer, "The Sumerians", The University of Chicago Press, Chicago

.......... and London, 1963.

TA ..... Turghun Almas, "Uygurlar (The Uigurs)", vol. 1. Almati, Kazakistan, 1992.

TRR ..... Timothy R. Roberts, "Myths of the World, Gods of the Maya, Aztecs, and Incas",

............ MetroBooks, New York 1996,

TTR ... Tamara Talbot Rice, "The Seljuks", Thames and Hudson London, 1961. VIS Viktor

.......... Ivanovich Sarianidi, "The Golden Horde of Bactria", National Geographic Magazine,

.......... vol. 177, No. 3, March 1990.