Syria Archeology Part I

By | December 17, 2021

The recovery at Tell Mardīkh-Ebla (v. App. IV, iii, p. 607), by the Italian Archaeological Mission in the years 1975-77, of a large quantity of cuneiform documents (about 2000 whole tablets and 15,000 large fragments, and inscribed scales for over 17,000 inventory numbers), found in the Palazzo real area G (about 2350-2300 BC), has in a certain sense revolutionized the history of the ancient Syria, completely undermining the old opinions linked to a “ modeling ” based on well-defined environmental and climatic characteristics, essentially consisting of by the presence of large rivers. The extraordinary discovery of economic, administrative, juridical, literary and lexical texts, of enormous importance for economic, political, social and religious life of the city and its territory made it possible to outline a new image of Syrian culture, centered on the development in the 3rd millennium BC of a great urban civilization, which stood autonomously and originally with respect to the Sumerian or even Mariotic models. A new testimony of the primary role of the internal Syria in the first centuries of the 2nd millennium, and a confirmation of the autonomy of the Paleosirian tradition from the Mesopotamian world come from the discovery, in 1992, in the Lower City, of the Monument P3 belonging to the mature Paleosirian period. (around 1650 BC): it is an imposing cult terrace (52.50 × 42 m) built in large limestone blocks, which encloses a large courtyard with no access.

In the last fifteen years, the archaeological activities in the large site of Ra’s Šamra-Ugarit (see ra’s šamra, in this Appendix), conducted since 1978 by M. Yon, have been mainly aimed at the expansion of the excavation area, in particular housing sectors, and the systematic study of materials and archaeological, architectural, linguistic, etc. data acquired in previous campaigns. Area D, which occupies the geographic center of the tell, revealed a home neighborhood crisscrossed by streets, destroyed by fire and sacked along with the rest of the city no doubt in the early 12th century BC This neighborhood included a temple called aux rhytons, probably dedicated to the god El (an exceptional statuette of the god was discovered nearby in 1988), which only the internal layout allowed to distinguish from the neighboring houses. For Syria 2009, please check

As in Ugarit, so in the site of Tell Ḥarīrī-Mari (see mari, App. IV, ii, p. 393) the excavations are largely extensive: the opening of new sites (A, B, C, D, E, F) by the French Mission directed by JC Margueron is part of a global review of the documentation in order to better define the urban characteristics of the site throughout its history. The domestic structures of sector F, located between the pre-Argonic district of Parrot (of which they trace the planimetric layout) and the great Royal Palace, certainly exemplify the life of the population of Mari in the middle of the 3rd millennium. The chronology of the occupation of the site has been considerably clarified by the discovery of housing units of the Middle-Assyrian period on the north-west promontory (sector E) of the tell. The works in sector A, from which the complex remains of a palace from the ” Shakkanakku ” era emerged, emphasized a very little investigated and unclear period in the history of Mari and the need for a revision of the schemes usually admitted that they identified it with the period of the 3rd dynasty of Ur. The main problem and objective of future research, through an in-depth paleoenvironmental investigation, remains the definition of the relationship of the city with the river and, at the same time, the identification of the territory that it dominated.

In this perspective, the study of the relations between Mari and the nearby city of Terqa, also located along the Euphrates a few kilometers south of the confluence with the H̱ābūr, has been inserted. The site of Tell ῾Ašara, after a first French mission in 1923, was again the subject of investigations in 1975 by an American archaeological mission (G. Buccellati), then in 1987 again by a French mission (O. Rouault). Terqa, starting from the second half of the 3rd millennium, had become the center of worship of the greatest divinity of the region, Dagan (as we learn from the texts of Mari), while Mari was the political and economic capital. The excavations of the American Mission southwest of the tell, in area C, they unearthed a Templar building dedicated to Ninkarrak (the healing god) and a residential area with the ” house of Puzurum ” in which important epigraphic documents were found. The tablet archive contributes to the knowledge of the political history of the site in the period between about 1750 and 1600 BC, immediately after the fall of Mari. An urban culture, characterized by a strong local tradition, therefore continued to develop following its own political and artistic line for almost three centuries, in a period that seemed instead of sharp decline for the settlements of the Euphrates and Gezirah valleys. Between 1989 and 1991, the French Mission resumed excavations in sector E, along the eastern slopes of the tell, bringing to light a series of rooms belonging to an imposing ” Mitannic ” building: the discovery of a magnificent bronze harpé in excellent condition confirms the ” official ” character of the building, while two jars containing about thirty inscribed tablets prove that the city had entered the area of ​​Mitannic influence at the time of the rulers Barattarna and Shaustatar (15th century BC). Terqa, therefore, provides important data for that little-known period between the end of the Middle Bronze and the beginning of the Late Bronze.

Syria Archeology