Die Ausgrabung

The Syrian-German excavations aimed first of all at establishing a topographical plan of the site, which should include those architectural findings of the French excavations that were still visible after the closing of the dam. About two thirds of the town are flooded. Today, the site is a peninsula along the southern bank of Lake Assad. It slopes from west to east. In the west, where the site is highest, there is a temple area with sanctuaries of the weathergod Ba'al and - possibly - of his consort Ashtarte. East of the temple area there is the so-called Upper Town with several excavated dwelling-houses.

Bordering on the Upper Town, but in a pronounced depression and reaching all the way to the town-wall of Byzantine Barbalissos, there lies the so-called Lower Town. That is where the French archeologists excavated a temple ("Temple M2") and a priest's house ("Temple du Devin, M1"), which served also as training center for the religious elite of Emar and which harbored a large library. The most exciting tablet finds were made in that house. Besides literary and lexical texts in the Mesopotamian tradition they included ritual texts stemming from the local, Syrian sphere. A further dwelling-quarter in the north has survived as a small island. According to the French director, Jean-Claude Margueron, it harbored the residence of the king of Emar ("Bit-Hilani").

Fortunately, the destruction by looting that followed upon the end of the French excavations has only touched the uppermost, mainly Late Bronze Age layers. The earlier layers in that part of the tell that has not been flooded have remained accessible to further research. They stand at the beginning of the chronological presentation of the newest excavation results:

The earliest findings up to this point were unearthed beneath the temple of Ba'al and the courtyard east of it.

In three building levels following close one upon the other, Early Bronze Age dwelling-houses are more or less well preserved. The two later levels are disturbed by the foundations of the temple, which reach that far down. So far, the earliest level has yielded a small room (ca. 2 x 2.5 m). Its walls are made of pisé mixed with pebbles and covered with a thin layer of mud and lime. It contained a large and varied inventory that was crushed in situ on the floor. The inventory comprises clay vessels as well as (the upper parts of) terracotta figurines and jewelry made of mother-of-pearl and of bone.

Middle Bronze Age, the next younger period, was ascertained in the southwest, at the highest elevation of the town, as well as in the so-called Upper Town. It shows in a piece of the town-wall with bastions and, right to the east of it, under the temple of Ashtarte, in a courtyard with fireplace, tannurs and post-holes for a roof.
Three solid floors on top of one another stand for three usage levels, but it remains uncertain whether the courtyard was part of a dwelling-place or of a defensive installation - easy to imagine in view of the situation, so exposed and bordered by the town-wall with a width of two and a half meters.

The dwelling-houses that were excavated in the Upper Town belong to the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. A house, dating to around 1400 BC is particularly noteworthy.

Its ground-plan is a combination of two Middle Bronze Age standard ground-plans dividing the house into a western and an eastern group of rooms. The finds suggest that in the western rooms, bones were worked while the eastern rooms served to process grain. In the west, several animal horns and two jawbones of elephants were found, while the assumed function of the eastern rooms is supported not only by appropriate tools but also by a clay tablet listing rations of grain.

From the debris above the house, there emerged a silver stamp-seal, very well preserved. It bears an inscription in Luwian hieroglyphs giving the name of its owner as Kuku. The seal is certainly later than the house; it may have come to Emar around the 13th century BC, at the time of Hittite hegemony.

Other Late Bronze Age finds from the Upper Town include terracotta figurines (animals, naked women holding their breasts, a musician) and a clay object of unknown function, moulded in the negative and showing motifs from the Mesopotamian, Anatolian and Syro-Palestinian repertoires.

As to the Late Bronze Age, we concentrated on the temple area, as had the French archeologists before us.
The temple area in the very west of the hill that is the Emar of today, consists of the sanctuaries of Ba'al and - possibly - of Ashtarte as well as of courtyards and a cult terrace; it is enclosed by a strong wall.
The temple of Ba'al is an antae temple situated on a terrace which may be gained from the lower courtyard by a flight of stairs. Two building-phases can be differentiated: A smaller installation (7.5 x 14.5 m) was superstructed by a larger one (11.5 x 20 m).

The temple of Ashtarte has two phases as well. But here it seems as if the earlier installation was larger, while ground-plan and dimensions of the later one resemble the earlier temple of Ba'al. Again, a flight of stairs must have led up to the terrace. The earlier sanctuaries were destroyed by fire.

There is a broad road running between the two temples, which, at several instances, has been coated with a covering of mud and lime. The road may have led processions up from the lower courtyard to the so-called cult terrace in the extreme west. Originally, the way up from the lower courtyard via the flight of stairs to the temple of Ba'al was decorated with two lion sculptures. The torso of one lion was still lying in the courtyard; the carving at the front and on only one side showed that the lion was incorporated at a place where only one side was visible. This particular lion had lost its head, only, whereas its counterpart and a pair of smaller lions were stolen en bloc and offered on the art market.

Other finds come from tombs that were brought down here in Late Roman times. More than thirty were laid bare, almost all of them had been looted. The grave-gifts that were - luckily - overlooked include a bronze fibula and a small facetted glass bottle that could be completely restored.

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