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The Rediscovery of Urkesh: Forgotten City of the Hurrians

The Rediscovery of Urkesh: Forgotten City of the Hurrians


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Ancient Urkesh was once a major hub of the ancient Near Eastern Hurrian civilization, known in mythology as the home of a primordial god. Little was known about Urkesh and the mysterious Hurrian civilization, as the ancient city had remained buried beneath desert sands for thousands of years, lost to the pages of history. However, in the 1980s, archaeologists discovered Tell Mozan, a towering mound that hid the remains of an ancient palace, temple, and plaza. A decade later, and researchers made the exciting realization that Tell Mozan was the lost city of Urkesh.

Located in what is now northern Syria, near its current borders with Turkey and Iraq, ancient Urkesh was once a large Mesopotamian city that flourished between 4000 and 1300 B.C. It is one of the earliest known cities in history and displayed quite a different model of urbanization to the Sumerians.

The powerful city of Urkesh

Urkesh was once a major political and religious center of the Hurrians, and an important stop on both the north-south trade route between Anatolia and the cities of Syria and Mesopotamia, and the east-west route that linked the Mediterranean with the Zagros Mountains of western Iran. Urkesh was also the capital of a kingdom that controlled the highlands immediately to the north where the supplies of copper were located, which made the city wealthy and rich.

View of Tell Mozan (northeast Syria), ancient Urkesh, from the north. The dighouse can be seen in the middle of the tell. ( Wikimedia Commons )

The elusive Hurrians

The people who built the city, the Hurrians, were a small, elusive, but influential civilization of the ancient Near East. Until the discovery of Tell Mozan, the Hurrians were known primarily from the second millennium; scholars assumed that that was when they first came into the region. The discovery of Urkesh, however, pushed back the earliest evidence for the Hurrians well into the third millennium. Previously, knowledge about the Hurrians was limited to ancient legends, and a small number of artifacts of unknown origin.

Excavations revealed compelling evidence that the Hurrians not only strongly influenced the language, culture, and religion of later peoples, but may have been present when nearby Mesopotamians were beginning to create the first cities. The most distinctive trait of the Hurrians was their language, which was wholly unique and unrelated to any other known ancient or living language.

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An Urkish lion and accompanying stone tablet bearing the earliest known text in Hurrian. The inscription reads: "Tishatal, [Endan] king of Urkesh, has built a temple for the god Nergal. May the god Nubadag protect this temple. May Nubadag destroy whomsoever seeks to destroy [it]; may his god not listen to his prayers. May the Lady of Nagar, [the sun god] Shimiga, and the god of the storm [curse 10,000 times whomsoever might seek to destroy it]." ( Wikimedia Commons ).

The exploration of Tell Mozan

The investigation of Tell Mozan began in the 1980s, but it took almost a decade before archaeologists were able to definitively identify the site as the lost city of Urkesh.

The excavations revealed most of what is known today about the early culture of the Hurrian people. Upon excavation, the site revealed not only mud-brick architecture, but also rare stone structures. The uncovered remains of this fabled ancient city have revealed an open plaza, a monumental flight of stairs and a deep underground shaft – the 'Passage to the Netherworld’ which was related to religious rituals.

Urkesh housed monumental public buildings, including a large temple. It dominated the ancient skyline at the top of a built-up terrace that rivaled nearby mountains. A large royal palace, currently under excavation, has yielded written evidence that has been able to identify this ancient city. Many of these findings have been dated to the Akkadian period (ca. 2350–2200 B.C.)

A staircase unearthed at Tell Mozan ( Met Museum )

Ancient seals provide a window into life in Urkesh

The Urkesh/Tell Mozan excavations have also yielded a large amount of seal impressions, which were once placed on boxes, jars and baskets. Some of these impressions were also used to seal doors of buildings or individual storerooms. Over a thousand impressions made from rolling over 100 different seals have been found. Of these impressions, about 150 contain seal inscriptions. In addition, a number of cuneiform tablets from the Old Akkadian period have been excavated; they include for the most part administrative texts, but also school texts, one with a portion of a Sumerian dictionary.

Hundreds of clay seals with depictions of the life and lore of the royal family have uncovered important information about the site’s history. Written documents from the Palace have given us the name, not only of the city and kingdom of Urkesh, but also of its king, Tupkish, and queen, Uqnitum. The documents state that one of the daughters of Naram-Sin, the famous Mesopotamian king, lived in Urkesh. Five seals belong to one of the kings of Urkesh, named Tupkish, eight to his queen, Uqnitum, and five more to courtiers connected with their household.

A Hurrian seal found at Urkesh ( UCLA)

As of now, no other archaeological site can claim the same type of evidence for Hurrian identity as Urkesh. To some extent, this is because there were probably only a few Hurrian cities distributed along what is now northern Syria. The Hurrians built a civilization that proved to be very influential for the whole of the ancient Near East.

In the third millennium, the Hurrians developed an alternative model to the southern urban experiment of the Sumerians, a model based on ethnic identity more than territorial contiguity. The cultural uniqueness of Urkesh is due in part to its geographical uniqueness: against the backdrop of the mountains, it combined the urban potential of the plains with the ability to exploit less easily accessible resources of the highlands. This contributed to its unique religious and political traditions, and safeguarded it from the aggressive expansionism of the Akkadian Empire. The Akkadian king, Naram-Sin, considered himself a god. Urkesh was the only major third millennium Syrian city that was not conquered by him, indicating that this city had an independence not accorded to the rest.

Finds from the excavations at Tell Mozan are on display in the Deir ez-Zor Museum in Syria. However, it is believed that many more treasures still remain hidden within deeper layers of the mound site. Sadly, excavations have been on hold since 2011 due to the Syrian Civil War and the site, like all of Syria, remains off limits to foreign archaeologists. A small team of locals guard the precious site, protecting their nation’s ancient heritage until peace prevails and excavations can resume.

Featured image: The Royal Palace of Urkesh, built around 2250 B.C. by king Tupkish. ( Archaeological Institute of America ).

By Bryan Hilliard

References

"Tell Mozan Urkesh." Urkesh.org. http://www.urkesh.org/attach/English A4 O908 special topics.pdf

"Archaeologist, Villagers Protect Ancient Syrian City as Civil War Rages." UCLA Newsroom. May 23, 2014. http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/archaeologist-villagers-protect-ancient-syrian-city-as-civil-war-rages

"Tell Mozan." World Monuments Fund. http://www.wmf.org/project/tell-mozan

"Tell Mozan (ancient Urkesh)." Barnard. http://www.barnard.nl/mozan.html

"Mysterious Urkesh And Its Elusive Civilization Of The Hurrians." MessageToEagle.com. March 4, 2015. http://www.messagetoeagle.com/urkeshtellmozan.php

"Tell Mozan, Syria." The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I.e. The Met Museum. http://www.metmuseum.org/research/archaeological-fieldwork/tell-mozan-syria

"The Modern Face of an Ancient City." Economia Della Cultura, Politiche, Governo E Gestione. http://www.ceistorvergata.it/master/beniculturali/page.php?a=121


I write historical fantasy adventure, but the archaeologists working to study and preserve ancient sites are the true heroes. Unique and priceless sites like Urkesh are in danger of being destroyed because of war and political turmoil before we can learn about our ancient ancestors and the civilizations they built.

Set in the third century , Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. A Persian warrior’s curiosity is ignited when he leads an invasion into Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world draws the warrior deeper into layers of mysteries as its princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden? Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.

Ancient city of Urkesh, home to the Hurrian culture.

One of the most ancient cities known to exist on earth is Urkesh. Its exact location was a mystery until the 1990s when, after ten years of painstaking excavations, archaeologists identified Tel Mozan in northern Syria near the borders of Turkey and Iran as Urkesh. The capital city of the Hurrians, it flourished between 4000 and 1300 BCE. It initially became powerful because of its location at the intersection of major trade routes as well as its control of valuable copper deposits.

Intact stone stairway at Urkesh.

Ruins of monumental public buildings, including a large temple and a palace, have been found. The architecture is not only mud-brick construction, but also rare stone structures. Archaeologists have discovered remains of an open plaza, a monumental flight of stairs, and a deep underground shaft related to religious rituals known as the “Passage to the Netherworld.” Urkesh dominated the ancient skyline at the top of a built-up terrace that rivaled nearby mountains.

Lion and stone tablet inscribed with Hurrian language.

Very little was known about the Hurrians before Urkesh was positively identified. There may not have been many Hurrian cities in what is present-day southern Syria, but their civilization influenced the entire Middle East. They were a major influence on Mesopotamia to the south and cultures such as the Hittites as cities were first developing in that region. Unlike the centralized political structures of ancient Assyria and Egypt, Hurrian urban culture seems to have been more feudal in organization, possibly limiting the development of large palace or temple complexes.

The unique Hurrian language is unlike any other known ancient language. Historians believe that the speakers of this language originally came from the Armenian Highlands and spread over southeast Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia at the beginning of the second millennium BCE.

Hurrian incense container.

Accomplished ceramists, Hurrian pottery was highly valued in distant Egypt. Khabur ware and Nuzi ware are two types of wheel-made pottery used by the Hurrians. Khabur ware is characterized by reddish painted lines with a geometric triangular pattern and dots, while Nuzi ware has very distinctive forms, and are painted in brown or black.

Also known for achievements in metallurgy, Hurrians traded copper south to Mesopotamia from the highlands of Anatolia. The Khabur Valley had a central position in the metal trade, and copper, silver and even tin were accessible from Hurrian-dominated countries in the Anatolian highland. Among the few surviving examples of Hurrian metal work, some small fine bronze lion figurines were discovered at Urkesh.

Sadly, the Syrian civil war has disrupted the fascinating archaeological activities at Urkesh and endangered future discoveries about the Hurrian culture. The site lies close to the Turkish border, and is now protected by Kurdish troops and a team of local workers.


Excavations in Urkesh. © Archaeological Institute of America

Way back when, the ancient city of Urkesh was a large center for the ancient Middle Eastern Hurrian civilization. The city is known in mythology as the house of the Primordial God. Very little is known of Urkesh and the mysterious Hurrian civilization, because the ancient city had been buried underneath the desert sands for thousands of years and has been lost from the pages of history.

Still, during the 80’s, archeologists did find Tel Mozan – a hill under which there were ruins of an ancient temple, as well as of a castle. Ten years later, researchers came to the fascinating conclusion that Tel Mozan was in fact the lost city of Urkesh.

Located in the region of North Syria, near the borders of Turkey and Iran, the ancient city of Urkesh was a large Mesopotamiam city which flourished between the years of 4000 and 1300 BC. This is one of the earliest-known cities in history.

The City of Urkesh

Urkesh was once a large political and religious center of the Hurrians, built on the trade routes between Anatolia and the cities of Syria and Mesopotamia, connecting the Mediterranean with West Iran. Urkesh was also the capital of a kingdom which had control over a plateau with copper deposits, which made the city powerful and wealthy.

The Fascinating Hurrians

Before, knowledge of the Hurrians was limited to ancient legends and a small amount of artifacts of unknown origin. Recent excavations showed that the Hurrians not only influenced the language, culture and religion of later civilizations, but it is also possible that they aided in the development of neighboring Mesopotamians, which at that time were just starting to create their first cities. The most distinctive trait of the Hurrians was their language, absolutely unique and not like any of the known languages in history.

Excavations in Tell Mozan

Exploration of Tell Mozan began in the 80’s, but only ten years later archeologists were able to confirm that it was actually the city of Urkesh.

A staircase discovered at Tell Mozan. Met Museum

Excavations unveiled not only adobe constructions, but rare stone buildings as well – a monumental ladder and a deep underground shaft – „transition into hell” – which was related to religious rituals.

There were also monumental public buildings in Urkesh, including a large temple and a castle. A lot of them have been dated back to the Akkadian period (2350-2200 BC).

Ancient Press

During the excavations, a large amount of seals and stamps were discovered. Around 150 of them contain inscriptions. Besides that, cuneiform tablets from the old Akkadian period were found – they are mostly administrative documents, scholastic texts and even pieces of the Sumerian dictionary.

A lion and a stone tablet bearing the earliest known text in Hurrian. Wikimedia Commons

Hundreds of clay impressions with illustrations of the royal family unveiled important information about the history and life of the city. The writing tablets from the castle uncovered not only the name of the city – Urkesh, but the names of its rulers as well, King Tupkish and Queen Uqnitum. It is written in the documents that one of the daughters of Naram-Sin – the King of Mesopotamia – lived in Urkesh.

There were possibly only several Hurrian cities in South Syria. And even so, the Hurrians have created a civilization which influenced the whole Middle East.

The urban style of the Hurrians is based on ethnic identity on a larger scale, rather than territorial placement. The cultural uniqueness of Urkesh is explained in part with its geographic location – it united the potential of the plateaus with the opportunity to use less-accessible resources of the highland.

This contributed to the formation of fascinating religious and political traditions, as well as protection from the aggressive expansionism of the Akkadian King Naram-Sin, who was believed to be a God. Urkesh was the only city in Syria which was not overrun by him.

It is believed that many more treasures lie hidden in the deeper layers of the Tel Mozan hill. Unfortunately, excavations were suspended in 2011 because of the war in Syria and the location is off-limits to foreign archeologists.


Ancient Urkesh: The Real Thing

I write historical fantasy adventure, but the archaeologists working to study and preserve ancient sites are the true heroes. Unique and priceless sites like Urkesh are in danger of being destroyed because of war and political turmoil before we can learn about our ancient ancestors and the civilizations they built.

Set in the third century , Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. A Persian warrior’s curiosity is ignited when he leads an invasion into Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world draws the warrior deeper into layers of mysteries as its princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden? Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.

Ancient city of Urkesh, home to the Hurrian culture.

One of the most ancient cities known to exist on earth is Urkesh. Its exact location was a mystery until the 1990s when, after ten years of painstaking excavations, archaeologists identified Tel Mozan in northern Syria near the borders of Turkey and Iran as Urkesh. The capital city of the Hurrians, it flourished between 4000 and 1300 BCE. It initially became powerful because of its location at the intersection of major trade routes as well as its control of valuable copper deposits.

Intact stone stairway at Urkesh.

Ruins of monumental public buildings, including a large temple and a palace, have been found. The architecture is not only mud-brick construction, but also rare stone structures. Archaeologists have discovered remains of an open plaza, a monumental flight of stairs, and a deep underground shaft related to religious rituals known as the “Passage to the Netherworld.” Urkesh dominated the ancient skyline at the top of a built-up terrace that rivaled nearby mountains.

Lion and stone tablet inscribed with Hurrian language.

Very little was known about the Hurrians before Urkesh was positively identified. There may not have been many Hurrian cities in what is present-day southern Syria, but their civilization influenced the entire Middle East. They were a major influence on Mesopotamia to the south and cultures such as the Hittites as cities were first developing in that region. Unlike the centralized political structures of ancient Assyria and Egypt, Hurrian urban culture seems to have been more feudal in organization, possibly limiting the development of large palace or temple complexes.

The unique Hurrian language is unlike any other known ancient language. Historians believe that the speakers of this language originally came from the Armenian Highlands and spread over southeast Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia at the beginning of the second millennium BCE.

Hurrian incense container.

Accomplished ceramists, Hurrian pottery was highly valued in distant Egypt. Khabur ware and Nuzi ware are two types of wheel-made pottery used by the Hurrians. Khabur ware is characterized by reddish painted lines with a geometric triangular pattern and dots, while Nuzi ware has very distinctive forms, and are painted in brown or black.

Also known for achievements in metallurgy, Hurrians traded copper south to Mesopotamia from the highlands of Anatolia. The Khabur Valley had a central position in the metal trade, and copper, silver and even tin were accessible from Hurrian-dominated countries in the Anatolian highland. Among the few surviving examples of Hurrian metal work, some small fine bronze lion figurines were discovered at Urkesh.

Sadly, the Syrian civil war has disrupted the fascinating archaeological activities at Urkesh and endangered future discoveries about the Hurrian culture. The site lies close to the Turkish border, and is now protected by Kurdish troops and a team of local workers.


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Discover 5 lost cities that have been rediscovered

You may have heard about the history of Atlantis, the lost city, supposedly swallowed up by the sea and disappeared forever – it left no evidence of its existence behind. What we have is just a myth that was contacted by Plato, and mankind is full of myths and legends, isn’t it? But the cities that have really existed over the past millennia? About 6,000 years ago, the first formations of cities began to appear, becoming increasingly complex in their ways of organizing themselves. Since then, many societies have also collapsed, leaving cities lost in time behind.

Thanks to numerous expeditions undertaken by archaeologists from around the world, many of these cities are beginning to be rediscovered. Some of them were only possible thanks to the combination of archeology and new technological tools – they emerged from a distant past and provided a series of pieces for researchers to trace their stories. And they also make us think about how many lost cities must remain buried or under dense tropical forests, but here you can see 5 lost cities that have been rediscovered.

1 – Machu Picchu

Only on July 24, 1911, the city was rediscovered by American professor Hiram Bringham, while leading an expedition from Yale University. At that time, Bringham sought to find the city of the descendants of the Incas, Vilcabamba, which was built as a refuge for those fleeing Spanish invaders. As he passed through the Urubamba canyon, the professor learned that there were abundant ruins at the top of the mountain – the challenge would be to reach them.

Also known as the “Lost City of the Incas”, Machu Picchu means, in Quechua, “old mountain” and, perhaps, it is one of the most famous rediscovered cities in the world. Located on a mountain in Peru, at 2,400 meters high, it is estimated that the city was built around the 15th century, as one of the main symbols of the Inca Empire – present in part of western South America, centered on the Cordillera del Andes.

Upon arriving in the old city, he was faced with a landscape of ruins taken by native vegetation, but with buildings that were undoubtedly abandoned for a long time. Bringham returned to Machu Picchu on a new expedition in 1912, and in the years that followed, 1914 and 1915, several other explorers mapped and explored the location and surroundings of the lost city in detail.

2 – Çatalhüyük

The city was rediscovered by archeologists around 1958, in the Southern Plateau of Anatolia, in Asia Minor, and its territory spanned more than 32 acres, up to 18 layers, about 21 meters deep. Further research indicates that the complex has been inhabited, uninterruptedly, for more than 1,150 years. In 2012, the city was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.

Located in modern-day Turkey, Çatalhüyük is perhaps one of the oldest cities in human history ever discovered. In fact, it was not a city as we have in mind today. Dating from 6,700 years BC, it is considered one of the largest settlements of the Neolithic period in a region known as Asia Minor.

Today we know that Çatalhüyük has a very refined culture stage, in addition to houses built with bricks and the entrance was through the roof – the access between the houses was made from the top of the other houses -, and within them there were platforms for sleeping, sitting and work. Their dead were buried inside the house, in a fetal position, which possibly involved ritualistic processes.

3 – Mayan Megalopolis

In 2018, a group of researchers identified the ruins of more than 60,000 structures such as houses, palaces, elevated highways and other types of architectural features. All hidden by the dense Guatemalan jungle. It was, in fact, a great megalopolis of the Mayan people – a civilization that reached its peak in Central America some 1,200 years ago.

The most interesting thing about this rediscovery is that, in addition to being very recent, it was possible thanks to the combination of new technologies and archaeological studies. In this case, the great complex of Mayan ruins was observed with the revolutionary technology called Light Detection And Ranging (LiDar) – through the properties of the optics, it is able to remove the dense forest and reveal hidden ruins.

4 – Urkesh: forgotten city of the hurritas

Buried for thousands of years, it was only in the 1980s that archaeologists discovered Tell Mozan – a high mound that hid what was left of the old palace, temple and square. Only 10 years later did the researchers conclude that it was, in fact, the lost city of Ukesh.

Ukesh was an important political and religious center between 4,000 and 1,300 BC, located in what is now northern Syria, close to the borders between Turkey and Iraq. In addition to being one of the main trade routes between Syria and Mesopotamia, the city was also home to the Hurrites – a people from Mesopotamia.

The rediscovered city is one of the first known in history to have a model of urbanization quite different from the complex model of Sumerian cities.

5 – Lost gold city of Luxor

Discovered in September 2020, the city of Akhenaton – present-day Egyptian city Luxor – still has a lot to explore. The so-called “lost golden city of Luxor” would have been built as a city of short occupation by Pharaoh Akhenaton, dating from the time of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, who ruled between 1386 BC and 1353 BC.

The state of conservation impressed the researchers. The structures are full of everyday objects the majority related to artistic and industrial production. Houses where workers could possibly have lived while serving Pharaoh. Other elements related to the production of glass and metals.

The total size of the city has not yet been determined, but its dating is evident thanks to the hieroglyphs present in a variety of artifacts. Different layers of settlement observed by the researchers indicate different periods of occupation, going back to the period between the 3rd century AD and the 7th century AD.


Forget-me-not

The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.


Forget-me-not

The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.


Archives

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 27, 2013

The Hurrians

The Hurrians, probably originators of the various storm-gods of the ancient Near East, were a people of the Bronze Age Near East. Modern scholars place them in Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia at their probable earliest origins. Hurrian settlements are distributed over three modern countries, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

The heart of the Hurrian world is dissected by the modern border between Syria and Turkey. Several sites are situated within the border zone, making access for excavations problematic. A threat to the ancient sites are the many dam projects in the Euphrates, Tigris and Khabur valleys. Several rescue operations have already been undertaken when the construction of dams put entire river valleys under water.

They spoke an ergative-agglutinative language conventionally called Hurrian, which is unrelated to neighbouring Semitic or Indo-European languages, and may have been a language isolate. The Iron Age Urartian language is closely related to Hurrian. Several notable Russian linguists, such as S. A. Starostin and V. V. Ivanov, have claimed that Hurro-Urartian languages were related to the Northeast Caucasian languages.

From the 21st century BC to the late 18th century BC, Assyria controlled colonies in Anatolia, and the Hurrians, like the Hattians, adopted the Assyrian Akkadian cuneiform script for their own language about 2000 BCE. Texts in the Hurrian language in cuneiform have been found at Hattusa, Ugarit (Ras Shamra), as well as in one of the longest of the Amarna letters, written by King Tushratta of Mitanni to Pharaoh Amenhotep III. It was the only long Hurrian text known until a multi-tablet collection of literature in Hurrian with a Hittite translation was discovered at Hattusa in 1983.

Hurrian names occur sporadically in northwestern Mesopotamia. They occupied a broad arc of fertile farmland stretching from the Khabur River valley in the west to the foothills of the Zagros Mountains in the east. The Khabur River valley was the heart of the Hurrian lands. This region hosted other rich cultures (see Tell Halaf and Tell Brak).

The first known Hurrian kingdom emerged around the city of Urkesh (modern Tell Mozan) during the third millennium BCE. There is evidence that they were allied with the Akkadian Empire, indicating they had a firm hold on the area by the reign of Naram-Sin of Akkad (ca. 2254–2218 BCE).

The city-state of Urkesh had some powerful neighbors. At some point in the early second millennium BCE, the Amorite kingdom of Mari to the south subdued Urkesh and made it a vassal state. In the continuous power struggles over Mesopotamia, another Amorite dynasty made themselves masters over Mari in the eighteenth century BCE. Shubat-Enlil (modern Tell Leilan), the capital of this Old Assyrian kingdom, was founded some distance from Urkesh at another Hurrian settlement in the Khabur River valley.

The Hurrians also migrated further west in this period. By 1725 BCE they are found also in parts of northern Syria, such as Alalakh. The Amoritic-Hurrian kingdom of Yamhad is recorded as struggling for this area with the early Hittite king Hattusilis I around 1600 BCE.

Hurrians also settled in the coastal region of Adaniya in the country of Kizzuwatna, southern Anatolia. Yamhad eventually weakened to the powerful Hittites, but this also opened Anatolia for Hurrian cultural influences. The Hittites were influenced by the Hurrian culture over the course of several centuries.

The Hittites continued expanding south after the defeat of Yamhad. The army of the Hittite king Mursili I made its way to Babylon and sacked the city. The destruction of the Babylonian kingdom, as well as the kingdom of Yamhad, helped the rise of another Hurrian dynasty.

The first ruler was a legendary king called Kirta who founded the multi-ethnic kingdom of Mitanni (known also as Hanigalbat/Ḫanigalbat, and to the Egyptians as nhrn) around 1500 BCE. Mitanni, the largest and most influential Hurrian nation, gradually grew from the region around the Khabur valley and was the most powerful kingdom of the Near East in c. 1450–1350 BCE.

Some theonyms, proper names and other terminology of the Mitanni exhibit an Indo-Aryan superstrate, suggesting that an Indo-Aryan elite imposed itself over the Hurrian population in the course of the Indo-Aryan expansion. The Mitanni being perhaps an Indo-European-speaking people who formed a ruling class over the Hurrians.

Another Hurrian kingdom also benefited from the demise of Babylonian power in the sixteenth century BCE. Hurrians had inhabited the region northeast of the river Tigris, around the modern Kirkuk. This was the kingdom of Arrapha.

Excavations at Yorgan Tepe, ancient Nuzi, proved this to be one of the most important sites for our knowledge about the Hurrians. Hurrian kings such as Ithi-Teshup and Ithiya ruled over Arrapha, yet by the mid-fifteenth century BCE they had become vassals of the Great King of Mitanni. Arrapha itself was destroyed by the Assyrians in the fourteenth century BCE.

By the thirteenth century BCE all of the Hurrian states had been vanquished by other peoples. The heart of the Hurrian lands, the Khabur river valley, became an Assyrian province. It is not clear what happened to the Hurrian people at the end of the Bronze Age. Some scholars have suggested that Hurrians lived on in the country of Subartu north of Assyria during the early Iron Age.

The Hurrian population of Syria in the following centuries seems to have given up their language in favor of the Assyrian dialect of Akkadian or, more likely, Aramaic. This was around the same time that an aristocracy speaking Urartian, similar to old Hurrian, seems to have first imposed itself on the population around Lake Van, and formed the Kingdom of Urartu. By the Early Iron Age, the Hurrians had been assimilated with other peoples, except perhaps in the kingdom of Urartu, also known as Armenia.

Knowledge of Hurrian culture relies on archaeological excavations at sites such as Nuzi and Alalakh as well as on cuneiform tablets, primarily from Hattusa (Boghazköy), the capital of the Hittites, whose civilization was greatly influenced by the Hurrians.

Tablets from Nuzi, Alalakh, and other cities with Hurrian populations (as shown by personal names) reveal Hurrian cultural features even though they were written in Akkadian. Hurrian cylinder seals were carefully carved and often portrayed mythological motifs. They are a key to the understanding of Hurrian culture and history.

The Hurrian urban culture was not represented by a large number of cities. Urkesh was the only Hurrian city in the third millennium BCE. In the second millennium BCE we know a number of Hurrian cities, such as Arrapha, Harran, Kahat, Nuzi, Taidu and Washukanni – the capital of Mitanni.

Although the site of Washukanni, alleged to be at Tell Fakhariya, is not known for certain, no tell (city mound) in the Khabur Valley much exceeds the size of 1 square kilometer (250 acres), and the majority of sites are much smaller.

The Hurrian urban culture appears to have been quite different from the centralized state administrations of Assyria and ancient Egypt. An explanation could be that the feudal organization of the Hurrian kingdoms did not allow large palace or temple estates to develop.

The Hurrians were masterful ceramists. Their pottery is commonly found in Mesopotamia and in the lands west of the Euphrates it was highly valued in distant Egypt, by the time of the New Kingdom.

Archaeologists use the terms Khabur ware and Nuzi ware for two types of wheel-made pottery used by the Hurrians. Khabur ware is characterized by reddish painted lines with a geometric triangular pattern and dots, while Nuzi ware has very distinctive forms, and are painted in brown or black.

The Hurrians had a reputation in metallurgy. The Sumerians borrowed their copper terminology from the Hurrian vocabulary. Copper was traded south to Mesopotamia from the highlands of Anatolia. The Khabur Valley had a central position in the metal trade, and copper, silver and even tin were accessible from the Hurrian-dominated countries Kizzuwatna and Ishuwa situated in the Anatolian highland. Not many examples of Hurrian metal work have survived, except from the later Urartu. Some small fine bronze lion figurines were discovered at Urkesh.

The Mitanni were closely associated with horses. The name of the country of Ishuwa, which might have had a substantial Hurrian population, meant “horse-land”. A famous text discovered at Hattusa deals with the training of horses. The man who was responsible for the horse-training was a Hurrian called Kikkuli. The terminology used in connection with horses contains many Indo-Aryan loan-words (Mayrhofer, 1974).

Among the Hurrian texts from Ugarit are the oldest known instances of written music, dating from c. 1400 BCE. Amongst these fragments are found the names of four Hurrian composers, Tapšiẖuni, Puẖiya(na), Urẖiya, and Ammiya.

The Hurrian religion, in different forms, influenced the entire ancient Near East. The Hittites were influenced by the Hurrian culture over the course of several centuries. The Hurrian culture made a great impact on the religion of the Hittites. From the Hurrian cult centre at Kummanni in Kizzuwatna Hurrian religion spread to the Hittite people. Syncretism merged the Old Hittite and Hurrian religions.

The population of the Indo-European-speaking Hittite Empire in Anatolia included a large population of Hurrians, and there is significant Hurrian influence in Hittite mythology. Their pantheon was also integrated into the Hittite one, and the goddess Hebat of Kizzuwatna became very important in Hittite religion towards the end of the 13th century BC. A corpus of religious texts called the Kizzuwatna rituals was discovered at Hattusa.

Šauška, or Šawuška, was a Hurrian goddess who was also adopted into the Hittite pantheon. She is known in detail because she became the patron goddess of the Hittite king Hattusili III (1420–1400 BC) following his marriage to Puduhepa, the daughter of the goddess’s high priest. Her cultic center was Lawazantiya in Kizzuwatna.

Shaushka is a goddess of fertility, war and healing. She is depicted in human form with wings, standing with a lion and accompanied by two attendants. She was considered equivalent to the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar and is sometimes identified using Ishtar’s name in Hittite cuneiform.

Hurrian cylinder seals often depict mythological creatures such as winged humans or animals, dragons and other monsters. The interpretation of these depictions of gods and demons is uncertain. They may have been both protective and evil spirits. Some is reminiscent of the Assyrian shedu.

The Hurrian gods do not appear to have had particular “home temples”, like in the Mesopotamian religion or Ancient Egyptian religion. Some important cult centres were Kummanni in Kizzuwatna, and Hittite Yazilikaya.

Harran was at least later a religious centre for the moon god, and Shauskha had an important temple in Nineve, when the city was under Hurrian rule. A temple of Nergal was built in Urkesh in the late third millennium BCE. The town of Kahat was a religious centre in the kingdom of Mitanni.

The Hurrian myth “The Songs of Ullikummi”, preserved among the Hittites, is a parallel to Hesiod’s Theogony the castration of Uranus by Cronus may be derived from the castration of Anu by Kumarbi, while Zeus’s overthrow of Cronus and Cronus’s regurgitation of the swallowed gods is like the Hurrian myth of Teshub and Kumarbi. It has been argued that the worship of Attis drew on Hurrian myth. The Phrygian goddess Cybele would then be the counterpart of the Hurrian goddess Hebat.

Kizzuwatna is the name of an ancient Anatolian kingdom in the 2nd millennium BC. It was situated in the highlands of southeastern Anatolia, near the Gulf of İskenderun in modern-day Turkey, and occupied a wide oval of territory between the Hittites to the north and west, and the increasingly powerful state of Mitanni to the south and east. It encircled the Taurus Mountains and the Ceyhan river.

The center of the kingdom was the city of Kummanni, situated in the highlands. In a later era, the same region was known as Cilicia.
Primarily a Hurrian state, with a capital at Kummanni, Kizzuwatna remained an independent power until the late fifteenth century, when it was conquered by Mitanni.

The country possessed valuable resources, such as silver mines in the Taurus Mountains. The slopes of the mountain range are still partly covered by woods. Annual winter rains made agriculture possible in the area at a very early date. The plains at the lower course of the Ceyhan river provided rich cultivated fields.

A Bronze Age archaeological site, where early evidence of tin mining was found, is at Kestel. Tin was as scarce and valuable as petroleum is today in the Bronze Age. It was a vital ingredient of bronze, used with copper to make the alloy.

In 1989, on a hill opposite the mine, associates found piles of Bronze Age pottery, close to 50,000 ground stone tools and evidence that this site had been continuously occupied from 3290-1840 BC. A great deal of the city was semi subterranean. The Kestel mine stopped producing at the end of the third millennium BC.

King Sargon of Akkad claimed to have reached the Taurus mountains (the silver mountains) in the 23rd century BC. However, archaeology has yet not confirmed any Akkadian influence in the area. The trade routes from Assyria to the karum in the Anatolian highlands went through Kizzuwatna by the early 2nd millennium BC.

Kizzuwatna emerged from the ‘land of Adaniya’ (modern Adana) near the coast during the dark age of the sixteenth century BC. The earliest Hittite records refer to both Kizzuwatna and neighbouring Arzawa as Luwia, so it is possible they emerged from a single territorial association.

Several ethnic groups coexisted in the coastal region of Adaniya in the country of Kizzuwatna, southern Anatolia. The Hurrians inhabited this area at least since the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. The Hittite expansion in the early Old Kingdom period (under Hattusili I and Mursili I) was likely to bring the Hittites and the Luwians rom the north to southeastern Anatolia. Other regional peoples, such as the Teucri, also included Luwian elements amongst their make-up, showing how far they spread.

The Luwian language was part of the Indo-European language group, with close ties to the Hittite language. Both the local Hittites and the Luwians were likely to contribute to the formation of independent Kizzuwatna after the weakening of the Hittite Old Kingdom.

The toponym Kizzuwatna is possibly a Luwian adaptation of Hittite *kez-udne ‘country on this side (of the mountains)’, while the name Isputahsu is definitely Hittite and not Luwian. Hurrian culture became more prominent in Kizzuwatna once it entered the sphere of influence of the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni.

The kings of Kizzuwatna of the 2nd millennium BC had frequent contact with the Hittites to the north. Puduhepa, queen of the Hittite king Hattusili III, came from Kizzuwatna, where she had been a priestess.

In the power struggle that arose between the Hittites and the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni, Kizzuwatna became a strategic partner due to its location from the reign of Shunashura I, until the Hittite king Arnuwanda I overran the country and made it a vassal kingdom. Isputahsu made a treaty with the weakened Hittite king Telepinu, although some sources say Tudhaliya II (I), which with the dating used here place that king at least fifty years later than this event. Later, Kizzuwatna shifted its allegiance, perhaps due to a new ruling dynasty.

Kizzuwatna rebelled during the reign of Suppiluliuma I, but remained within the Hittite empire for two hundred years. In the famous Battle of Kadesh (c. 1274 BC), Kizzuwadna supplied troops to the Hittite king.

Arzawa in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC (roughly from late 15th century until the beginning of the 12th century) was the name of a region and a political entity (a “kingdom” or a federation of local powers) in Western Anatolia.

The core of Arzawa is believed to have been located along the Kestros River (Küçük Menderes), with its capital at Apasa, later known as Ephesus.

It was the successor state of the Assuwa league, a confederation of states in western Anatolia formed to oppose the Hittite empire that included parts of western Anatolia, but got defeated and conquered by the Hittites under an earlier Tudhaliya I around 1400 BC.

Arzawa was the western neighbour and rival of the Middle and New Hittite Kingdoms. On the other hand it was inclose contact with the Ahhiyawa of the Hittite texts, which corresponds to the Achaeans of Mycenaean Greece. Moreover, Achaeans and Arzawa formed a coalition against the Hittites, in various periods.

When the Hittites conquered Arzawa it was divided into three Hittite provinces: a southern province called Mira along the Maeander River, which would later become known as Caria a northern province called the Seha River Land, along the Gediz River, which would later become known as Lydia and an eastern province called Hapalla.

The languages spoken in Arzawa during the Bronze Age and early Iron Age cannot be directly determined due to the paucity of indigenous written sources. The current consensus among scholars is that the linguistic identity of Arzawa was predominantly Luwian, based, inter alia, on the replacement of the designation Luwiya with Arzawa in a corrupt passage of a New Hittite copy of the Laws, which appears to reflect a change in the name of the region.

However, one scholar has recently argued that Luwiya and Arzawa were two separate entities, because Luwiya is mentioned in the Hittite Laws as a part of the Hittite Old Kingdom, whereas Arzawa was independent from the Hittites during this period. He also argued that there was no significant Luwian population in Arzawa, but instead that it was predominantly inhabited by speakers of Proto-Lydian and Proto-Carian.

The inscription of the Karabel rock-carved prince-warrior monument in Mount Nif was read as attributing it to “Tarkasnawa, King of Mira”, a part of the Kingdom of Arzawa.

The zenith of the kingdom was during the 15th and 14th centuries BC. The Hittites were then weakened, and Arzawa was an ally of Egypt. This alliance is recorded in the correspondence between the Arzawan ruler Tarhundaradu and the Pharaoh Amenophis III called the Arzawa letters, part of the archive of the Amarna letters (Nr.31 and 32), having played a substantial role in the decipherment of the Hittite language in which they were written.

According to Hittite records, in ca. 1320 BC Arzawa joined an anti-Hittite alliance together with the region of Millawanta (Milet) under the king of Ahhijawa (the latter widely accepted as Mycenaean Greece or part of it).

As a response of this initiative, the Hittite kings Suppiluliuma I and Mursili II finally managed to defeat Arzawa around 1300 BC. The king of Arzawa managed to escape to Mycenaean controlled territory. Arzawa was then split by the Hittites it into vassal kingdoms. These were called Kingdom of Mira, Hapalla and “Land of the River Seha” (present-day Gediz or Bakırçay rivers or both). Also, Mursili’s son Muwatalli added as vassal Wilusa (Troy).

These kingdoms, usually termed simply as “lands” in Hittite registers, could have formed part of the Arzawa complex already during the existence of Arzawa kingdom.

Known western Anatolian late-Bronze Age regions and/or political entities which, to date, have not been cited as having been part of the Arzawa complex are Land of Masa (“Masha”), Karkiya, associable with Iron Age “Caria”, and Lukka lands, associable with Iron Age “Lycia”.

After the collapse of the Hittite Empire from the 12th century, while Neo-Hittite states partially pursued Hittite history in southern Anatolia and Syria, the chain seems to have broken as far as Arzawa lands in western Anatolia were concerned and these could have pursued their own cultural path until unification came with the emergence of Lydia as a state under the Mermnad dynasty in the 7th century BC.

There has been evidence from a British expedition in 1954 to Beycesultan in inner western Anatolia which suggests that the local king had central heating in his home. Nothing more was heard from this invention until Gaius Sergius Orata reinvented it in Ancient Rome around 80 BCE.

Melid (Hittite: Malidiya and possibly also Midduwa Akkadian: Meliddu Urartian: Melitea Latin: Melitene) was an ancient city on the Tohma River, a tributary of the upper Euphrates rising in the Taurus Mountains. It has been identified with modern Arslantepe near Malatya, Turkey.

The site has been inhabited since the development of agriculture in the fertile crescent dating to the Uruk period. From the Bronze Age the site became an administrative center of a larger region in the kingdom of Isuwa, the ancient Hittite name for one of its neighboring Anatolian kingdoms to the east, in an area which later became the Luwian Neo-Hittite state of Kammanu.

The earliest settlements in Isuwa show cultural contacts with Tell Brak to the south, though not being the same culture. Agriculture began early due to favorable climatic conditions. Isuwa was at the outer fringe of the early Mesopotamian Uruk period culture.

The people of Isuwa were also skilled in metallurgy and they reached the Bronze Age in the fourth millennium BC. Copper were first mixed with arsenic, later with tin. The Early Bronze Age culture were linked with Caucasus in the northeast.

In the Hittite period the culture of Isuwa show great parallels to the Central Anatolian and the Hurrian culture to the south. The monumental architecture was of Hittite influence.

The land of Isuwa was situated in the upper Euphrates river region. The river valley was here surrounded by the Anti-Taurus Mountains. To the northeast of the river lay a vast plain stretching up to the Black Sea mountain range.

The plain had favourable climatic conditions due to the abundance of water from springs and rainfall. Irrigation of fields was possible without the need to build complex canals. The river valley was well suited for intensive agriculture, while livestock could be kept at the higher altitudes. The mountains possessed rich deposits of copper which were mined in antiquity.

The Isuwans left no written record of their own, and it is not clear which of the Anatolian peoples inhabited the land of Isuwa prior to the Luwians. They could have been Indo-Europeans like the Luwians, related to the Hittites to the west, Hattians, Hurrians from the south, or Urartians who lived east of Isuwa in the first millennium BC.

The area was one of the places where agriculture developed very early in the Neolithic period. Urban centres emerged in the upper Euphrates river valley around 3000 BC. The first states may have followed in the third millennium BC. The name Isuwa is not known until the literate Hittite period of the second millennium BC. Few literate sources from within Isuwa have been discovered and the primary source material comes from Hittite texts.

To the west of Isuwa lay the hostile kingdom of the Hittites. The Hittite king Hattusili I (c.1600 BC) is reported to have marched his army across the Euphrates river and destroyed the cities there. This corresponds with burnt destruction layers discovered by archaeologists at town sites in Isuwa at roughly this date.

The Hittite king Suppiluliuma I records how in the time his father, Tudhaliya II (c.1400 BC), the land of Isuwa became hostile. The enmity was probably aggravated by the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni to the south.

Mitanni tried to form an alliance against the Hittites. According to a fragmentary Hittite letter, the king of Mitanni, Shaushtatar, seems to have waged war against the Hittite king Arnuwanda I with support from Isuwa. These hostilities lasted into Suppiluliuma’s own reign when ca. 1350 BC he crossed the Euphrates and entered the land of Isuwa with his troops. He claims to have made Isuwa his subject.

Isuwa continued to be ruled by kings who were vassals of the Hittites. Few kings of Isuwa are known by names and documents. One Ehli-sharruma is mentioned as being king of Isuwa in a Hittite letter from the thirteenth century BC. Another king of Isuwa called Ari-sharruma is mentioned on a clay seal found at Korucutepe, an important site in Isuwa.

The city was heavily fortified, probably due to the Hittite threat from the west. The Hittites conquered the city in the fourteenth century BC. In the mid 14th century BC, Melid was the base of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I on his campaign to sack the Mitanni capital Wassukanni.

After the end of the Hittite empire, from the 12th to 7th century BC, a new state emerged in Isuwa, the independent Luwian Neo-Hittite state of Kammanu, one of the so-called Neo-Hittite states, with Melid as its center. A palace was built and monumental stone sculptures of lions and the ruler erected.

The encounter with the Assyrian king of Tiglath-Pileser I (1115-1077 BC) resulted in the kingdom of Melid being forced to pay tribute to Assyria. With the demise of the Hittites the Phrygians settled to the west, and to the east the kingdom of Urartu was founded.

The most powerful neighbour was Assyria to the south. The encounter with the Assyrian king of Tiglath-Pileser I (1115-1077 BC) resulted in Kammanu being forced to pay tribute to Assyria.

Kammanu continued to prosper however until the Assyrian king Sargon II (722-705 BC) sacked the city in 712 BC. At the same time the Cimmerians and Scythians invaded Anatolia from the Caucausus to the northeast.

The movement of these nomadic people may have weakened Kammanu before the final Assyrian invasion, which probably caused the decline of settlements and culture in this area from the seventh century BC until the Roman period.

The Neo-Hittite state show influences both from the Phrygia, Assyria and the eastern kingdom of Urartu. After the Scythian people movement there appear some Scythian burials in the area.

The ancient land of Isuwa has today virtually disappeared beneath the water from several dams in the Euphrates river. The Turkish Southeastern Anatolia Project which started in the 1960s resulted in the Keban, Karakaya and Atatürk Dam which entirely flooded the river valley when completed in the 1970s. A fourth dam, Bireçik, was completed further south in 2000 and flooded the remainder of the Euphrates river valley in Turkey.

A great salvage campaign was undertaken in the upper Euphrates river valley at instigation of the president of the dam project Kemal Kurdaş. A Turkish, US and Dutch team of archaeologists headed by Maurits van Loon began the survey. Work then continued downstream where the Atatürk Dam was being constructed.

The excavations revealed settlements from the Paleolithic down into the Middle Ages. The sites of Ikizepe, Korucutepe, Norşuntepe and Pulur around the Murat (Arsanias) river, a tributary of the Euphrates to the east, revealed large Bronze Age settlements from the fourth to the second millennium BC. The center of the kingdom Isuwa may have lain in this region which would equate well with the Hittite statements of crossing the Euphrates in reaching the kingdom.

The important site of Arslantepe near the modern city of Malatya luckily remained safe from the rising water. Today an Italian team of archaeologists led by Marcella Frangipane are working at the site and studying the surrounding area. The site of Arslantepe was settled from the fifth millennium BC until the Roman period. It was the capital of the Neo-Hittite kingdom of Malatya.

The Hurrians are found also in parts of northern Syria, such as Alalakh, an ancient city-state, a late Bronze Age capital in the Amuq River valley of Turkey’s Hatay Province. It was occupied from before 2000 BC, when the first palace was built, and likely destroyed in the 12th century BC and never reoccupied. The city contained palaces, temples, private houses and fortifications. Modern Antakya has developed near the site.

Alalakh was founded by the Amorites (in the territory of present-day Turkey) during the Middle Bronze Age in the 2nd millennium BC. The first palace was built c. 2000 BC, contemporary with the Third Dynasty of Ur. The written history of the site may begin under the name Alakhtum, with tablets from Mari in the 18th century BC, when the city was part of the kingdom of Yamhad (modern Aleppo).

A dossier of tablets records that King Sumu-epeh sold the territory of Alakhtum to his son-in-law Zimri-Lim, king of Mari, retaining for himself overlordship. After the fall of Mari in 1765 BC, Alalakh seems to have come under the rule of Yamhad again. King Abban of Aleppo bestowed it upon his brother Yarim-Lim, to replace the city of Irridi. Abban had destroyed the latter after it revolted against his brother Yarim-Lim.

A dynasty of Yarim-Lin’s descendents was founded, under the hegemony of Aleppo, that lasted to the 16th century. According to the short chronology found at Mari, at that time Alalakh was destroyed, most likely by Hittite king Hattusili I, in the second year of his campaigns.

After a hiatus of less than a century, written records for Alalakh resume. At this time, it was again the seat of a local dynasty. Most of the information about the founding of this dynasty comes from a statue inscribed with what seems to be an autobiography of the dynasty’s founding king.

According to his inscription, in the 15th century BC, Idrimi, a Hurrianised Semitic son of the king of Aleppo who had been deposed by the new regional master, Barattarna, king of the Mitanni, may have fled his city for Emar, traveled to Alalakh, gained control of the city, and been recognized as a vassal by Barattarna.

The inscription records Idrimi’s vicissitudes: after his family had been forced to flee to Emar, he left them and joined the “Hapiru people” in “Ammija in the land of Canaan.” The Hapiru recognized him as the “son of their overlord” and “gathered around him” after living among them for seven years, he led his Habiru warriors in a successful attack by sea on Alalakh, where he founded the kingdom of Mukish and ruled from Alalakh as a vassal to the Mitanni.

The city state of Alalakh to the south expanded under its new vigorous leader Idrimi, himself a subject of the Mitannian king Barattarna. Idrimi also invaded the Hittite territories to the north, resulting in a treaty with the country Kizzuwatna. King Pilliya of Kizzuwatna had to sign a treaty with him.

Alalakh was probably destroyed by the Sea People in the 12th century BC, as were many other cities of coastal Anatolia and the Levant. The site was never reoccupied, the port of Al Mina taking its place during the Iron Age.

After the fall of the Hittite empire, several minor Neo-Hittite kingdoms emerged in the area, such as Tabal, Quwe and Kammanu, a Luwian speaking Neo-Hittite state in South Central Anatolia in the late 2nd millennium BC, formed from part of Kizzuwatna after the collapse of the Hittite Empire. Its principal city was Melid.

Aleppo has scarcely been touched by archaeologists, since the modern city occupies its ancient site. The site has been occupied from around 5000 BC, as excavations in Tallet Alsauda show. The city appears in historical records as an important city much earlier than Damascus.

The first record of Aleppo comes from the third millennium BC, when Aleppo was the capital of an independent kingdom closely related to Ebla, known as Armi to Ebla and Armani (Armenians) to the Akkadians. Giovanni Pettinato describes Armi as Ebla’s alter ego. Naram-Sin of Akkad destroyed both Ebla and Armani in the 23rd century BC.

In the Old Babylonian period, Aleppo’s name appears as Ḥalab (Ḥalba) for the first time. Aleppo was the capital of the important Amorite dynasty of Yamḥad. The Amoritic-Hurrian kingdom of Yamhad (ca. 1800–1600 BC), alternatively known as the ‘land of Ḥalab,’ was the most powerful in the Near East at the time and is recorded as struggling for this area with the early Hittite king Hattusilis I around 1600 BCE.

Yamhad eventually weakened to the powerful Hittites, and Yamḥad was destroyed by the Hittites under Mursilis I in the 16th century BC.However, Aleppo, which had cultic importance to the Hittites for being the center of worship of the Storm-God, soon resumed its leading role in Syria when the Hittite power in the region waned due to internal strife. This opened Anatolia for Hurrian cultural influences. The Hittites were influenced by the Hurrian culture over the course of several centuries.

Taking advantage of the power vacuum in the region, Parshatatar, king of the Hurrian Armenian kingdom of Mitanni, conquered Aleppo in the 15th century BC. Subsequently, Aleppo found itself on the frontline in the struggle between the Mitanni and the Hittites and Egypt.

The Hittite Suppiluliumas I permanently defeated Mitanni and conquered Aleppo in the 14th century BC. When the Hittite kingdom collapsed in the 12th century BC, Aleppo became part of the Aramaean Syro-Hittite kingdom of Arpad (also known as the state of Bit Agusi) at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC, and later it became the capital of the Aramaean Syro-Hittite kingdom of Hatarikka-Luhuti.

Aleppo itself was known as Halman, and this changed over time to Hatarikka (or Hadrach, in the Old Testament). While the Iron Age Aleppo may initially have been independent, it quickly became a south-eastern province within another Aramean Syro-Hittite state known as Pattin (or Unqi), before falling into the hands of Hamath.

In the 9th century BC, Aleppo was conquered by the Assyrians and became part of the Neo-Assyrian Empire until the late 7th century BC, before passing through the hands of the Neo-Babylonians and the Achamenid Persians.


Watch the video: The Oldest Known Melody Hurrian Hymn -. (May 2022).


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