650 Babylonian cuneiform tablets document 8000 years of Syria’s history

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Archaeological discoveries in the Tell Lilan site located 120 km northeast of Hasaka indicate to the historic significance of the site which dates back to the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC.

Syria_cuneiform_tabletsThe site is located on one of the important ancient trade routes linking Cappadocia, Ashur and Anatolia principalities.

Excavations that have been carried out in various sectors in the site since 1978 show that the area was settled for the first time during the middle of the 6th millennium BC and continued until the late 1800’s BC.

Expeditions uncovered pottery dating back to the Halaf period (6500–5500 BC) and the Ubaid period (6500-3800 BC), in addition to bell-shaped jars dating back to the Uruk period (4000-3100 BC).

Excavations uncovered an important human settlement dating back to the era of Nineveh. Pottery, serrated yellow cups, pedestals of colored statues, and cookware were discovered at the settlement.

The site covered 15 hectares during the first half of the 3rd millennium BC, and later witnessed a sudden boom in terms of population and civilized development during the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. During this era, a wall and a defensive system were established to protect the expanding housing areas, transforming the site from a tiny village to a city covering 90 hectares.

A temple was uncovered in the northeast side of the site. Its most distinct characteristics are its facades, twisting and ornate pillars, and a central hall surrounded by chambers on the eastern and western sides. Pottery, tablets and cylindrical seals bearing cuneiforms were found in the temple.

The castle found in the lower area of the site contained an archive of 650 cuneiform tablets written in the old Babylonian dialect, with the texts including administrative and economic texts, political messages and treaties that shed light on developments in the area following the fall of the city of Mari (circa 1759 BC).

According to texts found in Tel Lilan and other sites, the city was given the name Shubat Enlil which means “Home of Enlil” (Enlil being an ancient god) by Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad I. Before that, it was known as Shekhna, and this name was used again after the death of Shamshi-Adad I in 1776 BC. The city was destroyed by king Samsu-iluna of Babylon in 1728, and remained unoccupied since then.


Author: H. Sabbagh | Source: Global Arab Network [January 26, 2011]


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