History of Ebla
History of the Excavations
History of Ebla
 
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Tavolette degli Archivi di Stato

Ebla lived, a san urban centre, three great periods of flourishing, in the mature Early Syrian period, between 2400 and 2300 BC, in the late Early Syrian period, between 220 and 2300 BC, and in the archaic and mature Old Syrian periods, between 2000 and 1600 BC. Each of these main phases, the oldest one of which came after the long decades of formation of the archaic Early Syrian town still not well known, ended with a heavy destruction: the first one, around 2300 BC, was the deed of the Akkadian army, led by Sargon of Akkad, the founder of the dynasty; the author of the second one, around 2000 BC, is unknown, though it cannot be ruled out that the destruction may be related with the expeditions by the kings of the IIIrd Dynasty of Ur, and with the disturbance made by the Amorites, who immediately after seized power over a large part of Mesopotamia and Syria; the third, and final destruction, around 1600 BC, was quite likely the accomplishment of a coalition of Hittites and Hurrians, and the protagonists were the great Old Hittite king Mursilis I, and one unknown king of Nineveh, called Pizikarra.

   
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Blocchetti di Lapislazzuli rinvenuti nel Palazzo Reale G








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Parti di statuette, rivestimenti e lamine in oro dal Palazzo Reale G

In the mature Early Syrian period Ebla was the most important town of north inner Syria, and held political and commercial relations with the Lands of Sumer and Akkad, in particular with the towns if Kish and Ur, documented by the texts of the State Archives and by the archaeology of the Royal Palace G, and probably with Pharaonic Egypt, as documented by the finding of precious stone vases made in Pharaonic workshops, bearing the names of Khefren of the IVth Dynasty, and Pepys I of the VIth Dynasty. Ebla ruled over the international trade routes between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean, carrying silver towards Mesopotamia, timber to Mesopotamia and Egypt, lapis lazuli from far away Afghanistan, and perhaps the abundant Nubian gold from Egypt.
Ebla developed in a few decades from powerful city-state to capital of a territorial state spreading quite widely over north inner Syria, from the area south of the Taurus mountains to the Homs region, while in the years of the Royal Archives it developed imperial ambitions, fighting against Mari, allying herself with Nagar, Khamazi, and Kish, and lastly succumbing to the military power of the powerful Sargon’s Akkad, who wished to break off the control Ebla was imposing over the trade routes from Mesopotamia to Egypt.

   
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Statua reale assisa dal Tempio P2 (TM.86.P.314)


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Testa di Statua Femminile dal Tempio P2 (TM.89.P.318)


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Ori dalla tomba del Signore dei Capridi (Area Q)

In the late Early Syrian period, after an obscure phase, Ebla flourished again, and became again a trade centre of some importance, as is documented by the texts of Lagash and Ur, mentioning the Ebla region as source of precious timber for the cult buildings of Lagash, or the presence of “Ebla men carrying precious inlaid pieces of furniture and embroidered textiles to the court of the kings of the IIIrd Dynasty f Ur. Also this phase, poorly preserved in the archaeology of Ebla, ended tragically, with a radical destruction, probably, as already mentioned, during the period of a very probable micro-climatic crisis, limited economical wealth, strong social tensions, and accentuate movements of semi-nomadic groups, ending with the affirmation of the Amorite princes.
Yet, during the archaic Old Syrian period, around 2000 BC, with a consistent availability of man-power, the town was rebuilt again, with extended works to eliminate debris from the Lower Town, which almost completely removed the oldest layers, in order to obtain earth to build the imposing beaten earth ramparts, which made up the massive Old Syrian town wall. This town, which had again a very important role in north inner Syria, was built according a Unitarian plan, which included, around the central Citadel, where the Royal Palace E and Ishtar’s Temple stood, a ring of important, and often imposing public buildings in the Lower Town – palaces and temples – beyond which residential quarters stretched, reaching to the base of the ramparts, pierced by four city gates, and on which powerful forts and smaller buildings with marked defensive functions stood.
This is certainly the town mentioned, a few decades after the destruction of 1600 BC, in a bilingual Hurrian-Hittite poem, called “Poem of Liberation”, found in the Hittite capital Hattusas, modern Boghazköy, dating from the XVth century BC; here Ebla is called the “Town of the Throne”, and its king was called “Star of Ebla”. The town recalled in the poem from Hattusas certainly was the main ally of Aleppo, capital of the powerful kingdom of Yamkhad, which certainly in the classical Old Syrian period took the hegemony Ebla had in the archaic Old Syrian period, and it did not survive after the destruction by the joint forces of Hittites and Hurrians. The disorder created by the expeditions of the great Old Hittite kings Hattusilis I and Mursilis I against Aleppo and Ebla lastly brought, in a probable frame of alliances among Hittites, Hurrians, and Cassites, to the destruction in 1959 BC of Babylonia, where the last descendant of Hammurabi’s ruled.

   
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Figurina femminile ellenistica dipinta (TM





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Iscrizione Cufica

Ebla never recovered from this disaster: the still imposing ruins, particularly of the Royal Palace E and of the Southern Palace, were immediately occupied by squatters, with poor and small refurbishing of the preserved structures, who tried to reconstruct fragments of an urban pattern, particularly in the decades after 1600 BC, but without success. The site of Ebla became more and more a rural settlement, with an even more limited occupation during the Iron Age, while in the Persian-Hellenistic period only the Acropolis was settled with a rural residence, with a strong evidence of textile production.
In the Late Roman and Byzantine periods the site, possibly already called Mardikh, was the seat pf a small monastic settlement, while the chronicles of the first Crusade mention, by the end of 1098, episodes concerning the sack of the town of Ma’arret en-Nu’man, which might be related with an occupation of the site by the Crusaders themselves: this absolutely short-lived occupation might be documented in archaeology of the presence of a stone wall, blocking the still emerging ruins of the ancient Damascus Gate, for which they re-employed, putting them upside down, slabs with Arabic inscriptions with invocations to Allah in Cufic writing.

 
 
 

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