Ebla (Arabic: إبلا, modern: تل مرديخ, Tell Mardikh) was one of the earliest kingdoms in Syria. Its remains constitute a tell located about 55 km (34 mi) southwest of Aleppo near the village of Mardikh. Ebla was an important center throughout the 3rd millennium BC and in the first half of the 2nd millennium BC. Its discovery proved the Levant was a center of ancient, centralized civilization equal to Egypt and Mesopotamia and ruled out the view that the latter two were the only important centers in the Near East during the early Bronze Age. The first Eblaite kingdom has been described as the first recorded world power.
Starting as a small settlement in the early Bronze Age (c. 3500 BC), Ebla developed into a trading empire and later into an expansionist power that imposed its hegemony over much of northern and eastern Syria. Ebla was destroyed during the 23rd century BC; it was then rebuilt and was mentioned in the records of the Third Dynasty of Ur. The second Ebla was a continuation of the first, ruled by a new royal dynasty. It was destroyed at the end of the 3rd millennium BC, which paved the way for the Amorite tribes to settle in the city, forming the third Ebla. The third kingdom also flourished as a trade center; it became a subject and an ally of Yamhad (modern-day Aleppo) until its final destruction by the Hittite king Mursili I in c. 1600 BC.
Ebla maintained its prosperity through a vast trading network. Artifacts from Sumer, Cyprus, Egypt and as far as Afghanistan were recovered from the city's palaces. The kingdom had its own language, Eblaite, and the political organization of Ebla had features different from the Sumerian model. Women enjoyed a special status, and the queen had major influence in the state and religious affairs. The pantheon of gods was mainly north Semitic and included deities exclusive to Ebla. The city was excavated starting in 1964 and became famous for the Ebla tablets, an archive of about 20,000 cuneiform tablets found there, dated to around 2350 BC.[note 1] Written in both Sumerian and Eblaite and using the cuneiform, the archive has allowed a better understanding of the Sumerian language and provided important information over the political organization and social customs of the mid-3rd millennium BC's Levant.
Ruins of the outer wall and the "Damascus Gate"
Shown within Syria
|Alternative name||Tell Mardikh|
|Location||Idlib Governorate, Syria|
|Founded||c. 3500 BC|
|Abandoned||7th century AD|
|Cultures||Kish civilization, Amorite|
A possible meaning of the word "Ebla" is "white rock", referring to the limestone outcrop on which the city was built. Ebla was first settled around 3500 BC; its growth was supported by many satellite agricultural settlements. The city benefited from its role as an entrepôt of growing international trade, which probably began with an increased demand for wool in Sumer. Archaeologists designate this early habitation period "Mardikh I"; it ended around 3000 BC. Mardikh I is followed by the first and second kingdoms era between about 3000 and 2000 BC, designated "Mardikh II". I. J. Gelb consider Ebla as part of the Kish civilization, which was a cultural entity of East Semitic-speaking populations that stretched from the center of Mesopotamia to the western Levant.
First Eblaite Kingdom
|c. 3000 BC–c. 2300 BC|
The first kingdom at its greatest extent, including vassals
|Common languages||Eblaite language|
|Historical era||Bronze Age|
|c. 3000 BC|
|c. 2300 BC|
|Today part of|| Syria|
During the first kingdom period between about 3000 and 2300 BC, Ebla was the most prominent kingdom among the Syrian states, especially during the second half of the 3rd millennium BC, which is known as "the age of the archives" after the Ebla tablets.
The early period between 3000 and 2400 BC is designated "Mardikh IIA". General knowledge about the city's history prior to the written archives is obtained through excavations. The first stages of Mardikh IIA is identified with building "CC", and structures that form a part of building "G2", which was apparently a royal palace built c. 2700 BC. Toward the end of this period, a hundred years' war with Mari started. Mari gained the upper hand through the actions of its king Saʿumu, who conquered many of Ebla's cities. In the mid-25th century BC, king Kun-Damu defeated Mari, but the state's power declined following his reign.[note 2]
The archive period, which is designated "Mardikh IIB1", lasted from c. 2400 BC until c. 2300 BC. The end of the period is known as the "first destruction", mainly referring to the destruction of the royal palace (called palace "G" and built over the earlier "G2"), and much of the acropolis. During the archive period, Ebla had political and military dominance over the other Syrian city-states of northern and eastern Syria, which are mentioned in the archives. Most of the tablets, which date from that period, are about economic matters but also include royal letters and diplomatic documents.
The written archives do not date from before Igrish-Halam's reign, which saw Ebla paying tribute to Mari, and an extensive invasion of Eblaite cities in the middle Euphrates region led by the Mariote king Iblul-Il. Ebla recovered under King Irkab-Damu in about 2340 BC; becoming prosperous and launching a successful counter-offensive against Mari. Irkab-Damu concluded a peace and trading treaty with Abarsal;[note 3] it is one of the earliest-recorded treaties in history.
At its greatest extent, Ebla controlled an area roughly half the size of modern Syria, from Ursa'um in the north, to the area around Damascus in the south, and from Phoenicia and the coastal mountains in the west, to Haddu in the east. Large parts of the kingdom were under the direct control of the king and was administered by governors; the rest consisted of vassal kingdoms. One of the most important of these vassals was Armi, which is the city most often mentioned in the Ebla tablets. Ebla had more than sixty vassal kingdoms and city-states, including Hazuwan, Burman, Emar, Halabitu and Salbatu.
The vizier was the king's chief official. The holder of the office possessed great authority; the most powerful vizier was Ibrium, who campaigned against Abarsal during the term of his predecessor Arrukum. During the reign of Isar-Damu, Ebla continued the war against Mari, which defeated Ebla's ally Nagar, blocking trade routes between Ebla and southern Mesopotamia via upper Mesopotamia. Ebla conducted regular military campaigns against rebellious vassals, including several attacks on Armi, and a campaign against the southern region of Ib'al—close to Qatna. In order to settle the war with Mari, Isar-Damu allied with Nagar and Kish. The campaign was headed by the Eblaite vizier Ibbi-Sipish, who led the combined armies to victory in a battle near Terqa. The alliance also attacked Armi and occupied it, leaving Ibbi-Sipish's son Enzi-Malik as governor. Ebla suffered its first destruction a few years after the campaign, probably following Isar-Damu's death.
The first destruction occurred c. 2300 BC; palace "G" was burned, baking the clay tablets of the royal archives and preserving them. Many theories about the cause and the perpetrator have been posited:
Second Eblaite Kingdom
|c. 2300 BC–c. 2000 BC|
Approximate borders of the second kingdom
|Historical era||Bronze Age|
|c. 2300 BC|
|c. 2000 BC|
The second kingdom's period is designated "Mardikh IIB2", and spans the period between 2300 and 2000 BC. The second kingdom lasted until Ebla's second destruction, which occurred anytime between 2050 and 1950 BC, with the 2000 BC dating being a mere formal date. The Akkadians under Sargon and his descendant Naram-Sin invaded the northern borders of Ebla aiming for the forests of the Amanus Mountain; the intrusions were separated by roughly 90 years and the areas attacked were not attached to Akkad. Archi accept that the Ibla mentioned in the annals of Sargon and Naram-Sin is the Syrian Ebla but do not consider them responsible for the destruction which ended the Archive period. By the time of Naram-Sin, Armi was the hegemonic city in northern Syria and was destroyed by the Akkadian king.
A new local dynasty ruled the second kingdom of Ebla, but there was continuity with its first kingdom heritage. Ebla maintained its earliest features, including its architectural style and the sanctity of the first kingdom's religious sites. A new royal palace was built in the lower town, and the transition from the archive period is marked only by the destruction of palace "G". Little is known about the second kingdom because no written material have been discovered aside from one inscription dating to the end of the period.
The second kingdom was attested to in contemporaneous sources; in an inscription, Gudea of Lagash asked for cedars to be brought from Urshu in the mountains of Ebla, indicating Ebla's territory included Urshu north of Carchemish in modern-day Turkey. Texts that dates to the seventh year of Amar-Sin (c. 2040 BC),[note 9] a ruler of the Ur III empire, mention a messenger of the Ensí ("Megum") of Ebla.[note 10][note 11] The second kingdom was considered a vassal by the Ur III government, but the nature of the relation is unknown and it included the payment of tribute. A formal recognition of Ur's overlordship appears to be a condition for the right of trade with that empire.
The second kingdom disintegrated toward the end of the 21st century BC, and ended with the destruction of the city by fire, although evidence for the event has only been found outside of the so-called "Temple of the Rock", and in the area around palace "E" on the acropolis. The reason for the destruction is not known; according to Astour, it could have been the result of a Hurrian invasion c. 2030 BC, led by the former Eblaite vassal city of Ikinkalis.[note 12] The destruction of Ebla is mentioned in the fragmentary Hurro-Hittite legendary epic "Song of Release" discovered in 1983, which Astour considers as describing the destruction of the second kingdom. In the epic, an Eblaite assembly led by a man called "Zazalla" prevents king Meki from showing mercy to prisoners from Ebla's former vassal Ikinkalis, provoking the wrath of the Hurrian storm god Teshub and causing him to destroy the city.
Third Eblaite Kingdom
|c. 2000 BC–c. 1600 BC|
|Common languages||Amorite language.|
|Historical era||Bronze Age|
|c. 2000 BC|
|c. 1600 BC|
The third kingdom is designated "Mardikh III"; it is divided into periods "A" (c. 2000–1800 BC) and "B" (c. 1800–1600 BC). In period "A", Ebla was quickly rebuilt as a planned city. The foundations covered the remains of Mardikh II; new palaces and temples were built, and new fortifications were built in two circles—one for the low city and one for the acropolis. The city was laid out on regular lines and large public buildings were built. Further construction took place in period "B".
The first known king of the third kingdom is Ibbit-Lim, who described himself as the Mekim of Ebla.[note 13] A basalt votive statue bearing Ibbit-Lim's inscription was discovered in 1968; this helped to identify the site of Tell-Mardikh with the ancient kingdom Ebla. The name of the king is Amorite in the view of Pettinato; it is therefore probable the inhabitants of third kingdom Ebla were predominantly Amorites, as were most of the inhabitants of Syria at that time.
By the beginning of the 18th century BC, Ebla had become a vassal of Yamhad, an Amorite kingdom centered in Aleppo. Written records are not available for this period, but the city was still a vassal during Yarim-Lim III of Yamhad's reign. One of the known rulers of Ebla during this period was Immeya, who received gifts from the Egyptian Pharaoh Hotepibre, indicating the continuing wide connections and importance of Ebla. The city was mentioned in tablets from the Yamhadite vassal city of Alalakh in modern-day Turkey; an Eblaite princess married a son of King Ammitaqum of Alalakh, who belonged to a branch of the royal Yamhadite dynasty.
Ebla was destroyed by the Hittite King Mursili I in about 1600 BC. Indilimma was probably the last king of Ebla; a seal of his crown prince Maratewari was discovered in the western palace "Q". According to Archi, the "Song of Release" epic describes the destruction of the third kingdom and preserves older elements.
Ebla never recovered from its third destruction. It was a small village in the phase designated "Mardikh IV" (1600–1200 BC), and was mentioned in the records of Alalakh as a vassal to the Idrimi dynasty. "Mardikh V" (1200–535 BC) was a rural, early Iron Age settlement that grew in size during later periods. Further development occurred during "Mardikh VI", which lasted until c. 60 AD. "Mardikh VII" began in the 3rd century AD and lasted until the 7th century, after which the site was abandoned.
Ebla consisted of a lower town and a raised acropolis in the center. During the first kingdom, the city had an area of 56 hectares and was protected by mud-brick fortifications. Ebla was divided into four districts—each with its own gate in the outer wall. The acropolis included the king's palace "G", and one of two temples in city dedicated to Kura (called the "Red Temple"). The lower city included the second temple of Kura in the southeast called "Temple of the Rock". During the second kingdom, a royal palace (Archaic Palace "P5") was built in the lower town northwest of the acropolis, in addition to temple "D" built over the destroyed "Red Temple".
During the third kingdom, Ebla was a large city nearly 60 hectares in size, and was protected by a fortified rampart, with double chambered gates. The acropolis was fortified and separated from the lower town. New royal palace "E" was built on the acropolis (during Mardikh IIIB), and a temple of Ishtar was constructed over the former "Red" and "D" temples (in area "D"). The lower town was also divided into four districts; palace "P5" was used during Mardikh IIIA, and replaced during Mardikh IIIB by the "Intermediate Palace".
Other third kingdom buildings included the vizier palace,[note 14] the western palace (in area "Q"), the temple of Shamash (temple "N"), the temple of Rasap (temple "B1") and the northern palace (built over the "Intermediate Palace"). In the north of the lower town, a second temple for Ishtar was built, while the former "Temple of the Rock" was replaced by a temple of Hadad.[note 15]
The kings of the first kingdom were buried outside the city; the last ten kings (ending with Irkab-Damu) were buried in Darib, while older kings were buried in a royal mausoleum located in Binas and only one royal tomb dating to the first kingdom was discovered in Ebla (Hypogeum G4). This first kingdom tomb was probably built during the reign of the last king and might be an indication of Eblaite adoption of Mesopotamian traditions to bury the kings beneath their royal palaces.
The third kingdom royal necropolis was discovered beneath palace Q (the western palace); it contains many hypogea but only three were excavated. Those tombs were natural caves in the bedrock of the palace's foundation; they all date to the 19th and 18th centuries BC and had a similar plan consisting of an entrance shaft, burial chambers and a dromos connecting the shaft to the chamber.
The royal tomb found in the royal palace G is designated hypogeum G4; it dates to the archive period, most probably the reign of Isar-Damu. The tomb is heavily damaged; most of its stones were sacked and nothing of the roof system remains. It also lacks any skeletal remains or funerary goods suggesting that it was either heavily pillaged, never used, or was built as a cenotaph.
Excavated between 1992 and 1995, it is located underneath the western sector of the palace at a depth of almost 6 meters. The tomb is composed of two rooms opened on each other's with lime plaster floors. Both rooms are rectangular in shape; the eastern room (L.6402) is 4 meters wide, more than 3,5 meters long (total length is unknown due to heavy damage) and west-east oriented. The western room (L.5762) is 5.20 meters long, 4 meters wide and west-east oriented. Limestone was used to build the walls and few blocks protruding from the sides toward the middle of the rooms suggest the roof to have been a corbelled vault.
The first kingdom's government consisted of the king (styled Malikum) and the grand vizier, who headed a council of elders (Abbu) and the administration. The second kingdom was a monarchy, but little is known about it because of a lack of written records. The third kingdom was a city-state monarchy with reduced importance under the authority of Yamhad.
The queen shared the running of affairs of state with the king. The crown prince was involved in internal matters and the second prince was involved in foreign affairs. Most duties, including military ones, were handled by the vizier and the administration, which consisted of 13 court dignitaries—each of whom controlled between 400 and 800 men forming a bureaucracy with 11,700 people. Each of the four quarters of the lower city was governed by a chief inspector and many deputies. To oversee royal interest, the king employed agents (mashkim), collectors (ur) and messengers (kas).
Many client kingdoms owed allegiance to Ebla and each was ruled by its own king (En); those vassal kings were highly autonomous, paying tribute and supplying military assistance to Ebla. The administrative center in the capital was named the "SA.ZA"; it included the royal palaces, storerooms and some temples. Regions beyond the walls of the capital were collectively named in Eblaite texts "uru-bar" (literally meaning outside of the city). The villages and towns under the central authority were either ruled directly from the capital, or had appointed officials. The titles of the civil servants do not clearly define the bearer's responsibilities and authority as each town had its own political traditions.
The regions under the direct control of the king that were economically vital for the capital are called the "chora" by archaeologists. Regions under direct control of the king extended beyond the chora and it is difficult to determine the exact size of the kingdom and the chora due to the constant military expansion of Ebla which added new territories; some of those were ruled directly while others were allowed to retain their own rulers as vassals.
Generally, the chora is the core region of Ebla that includes the economic hinterland supporting the capital. It includes the cities and villages where the king or his vizier had palaces, towns that included important sanctuaries of gods related to the royal institution, towns visited by the monarch during the different rituals he participated in (such as the renewal of royalty ritual),[note 16] and other cities such as the ones where textiles were delivered. The chora spans around 3000 km²; from west to east it includes the plains east of Jabal Zawiya, the Maṭkh swamp, al-Hass mountain and mount Shabīth. Areas directly on the borders of the chora such as al-Ghab, al-Rouge plain and al-Jabbul have close cultural affinity with the chora.
Mardikh II's periods shared the same culture. the population of Ebla during Mardikh IIB1 is estimated to have numbered around 40,000 in the capital, and over 200,000 people in the entire kingdom. The Eblaites of Mardikh II were Semites, close to their North-Western Semitic neighbors, such as the Amorites. Giovanni Pettinato said the Eblaite language, one of the oldest attested Semitic languages, was a West Semitic language; Gelb and others said it was an East Semitic dialect closer to the Akkadian language. Academic consensus considers Eblaite an East-Semitic language which exhibits both West-Semitic and East-Semitic features.[note 17]
Ebla held several religious and social festivals, including rituals for the succession of a new king, which normally lasted for several weeks. The Eblaite calendars were based on a solar year divided into twelve months. Two calendars were discovered; the "old calendar" used during the reign of Igrish-Halam, and a "new calendar" introduced by vizier Ibbi-Sipish. Many months were named in honor of deities; in the new calendar, "Itu be-li" was the first month of the year, and meant "the month of the lord". Each year was given a name instead of a number.
Women received salaries equal to those of men and could accede to important positions and head government agencies. The Eblaites imported Kungas from Nagar,[note 18] and used them to draw the carriages of royalty and high officials, as well as diplomatic gifts for allied cities. Society was less centered around the palace and the temple than in Mesopotamian kingdoms. The Eblaite palace was designed around the courtyard, which was open toward the city, thus making the administration approachable. This contrasts with Mesopotamian palaces, which resembled citadels with narrow entrances and limited access to the external courtyard. Music played an important part in the society and musicians were both locals, or hired from other cities such as Mari. Ebla also hired acrobats from Nagar, but later reduced their number and kept some to train local Eblaite acrobats.
The Mardikh III population was predominately Semitic Amorite. The Amorites were mentioned in the first kingdom's tablets as neighbors and as rural subjects, and they came to dominate Ebla after the destruction of the second kingdom. The city witnessed a great increase in construction, and many palaces, temples and fortifications were built. The Amorite Eblaites worshiped many of the same deities as the Eblaites of earlier periods, and maintained the sanctity of the acropolis in the center of the city. The third kingdom's iconography and royal ideology were under the influence of Yamhad's culture; kingship was received from the Yamhadite deities instead of Ishtar of Ebla, which is evident by the Eblaite seals of Indilimma's period.
During the first kingdom period, the palace controlled the economy, but wealthy families managed their financial affairs without government intervention. The economic system was redistributive; the palace distributed food to its permanent and seasonal workers. It is estimated that around 40,000 persons contributed to this system, but in general, and unlike in Mesopotamia, land stayed in the hands of villages, which paid an annual share to the palace. Agriculture was mainly pastoral; large herds of cattle were managed by the palace. The city's inhabitants owned around 140,000 head of sheep and goats, and 9,000 cattle.
Ebla derived its prosperity from trade; its wealth was equal to that of the most important Sumerian cities, and its main commercial rival was Mari. Ebla's main articles of trade were probably timber from the nearby mountains, and textiles. Handicrafts also appear to have been a major export, evidenced by the quantity of artifacts recovered from the palaces of the city. Ebla possessed a wide commercial network reaching as far as modern-day Afghanistan. It shipped textiles to Cyprus, possibly through the port of Ugarit, but most of its trade seems to have been directed by river-boat towards Mesopotamia—chiefly Kish. The main palace G was found to contain artifacts dating from Ancient Egypt bearing the names of Pharaohs Khafra and Pepi I.
Ebla continued to be a center of trade during the second kingdom, evidenced by the surrounding cities that appeared during its period and were destroyed along with the city.[note 19] Trade continued to be Ebla's main economic activity during the third kingdom; archaeological finds show there was an extensive exchange with Egypt and coastal Syrian cities such as Byblos.
Ebla was a polytheistic state. During the first kingdom, Eblaites worshiped their dead kings. The pantheon of the first Ebla included pairs of deities and they can be separated into three genres; in the first and most common one, there were the couples, such as the deity and his female consort. The second type of pairs was the divine twosomes, such as the deities that cooperate to create the cosmos, like in the Egyptian and Mesopotamian pantheons. The third type included divine pairs who were actually a single deity that had two names. Eblaites worshiped few Mesopotamian deities, preferring North-Western Semitic gods, some of which were unique to Ebla. The first genre of pairs included Nidakul, who was exclusive to Ebla, and his consort, Belatu ("his wife"); Rasap and his consort Adamma; the patron gods of the city Kura, who was unique to Ebla, and his consort Barama. The third genre included the artisan god Kamish/Tit, Kothar-wa-Khasis and the planet Venus represented by twin mountain Gods; Shahar as the morning star and Shalim as the evening star.
The first Eblaites worshiped many other deities, such as the Syrian goddess Ishara,[note 20] who was the goddess of the royal family. Ishtar was also worshiped but was mentioned only five times in one of the monthly offering lists, while Ishara was far more important, appearing 40 times. Other deities included Damu;[note 21] the Mesopotamian god Utu; Ashtapi; Dagan; Hadad (Hadda) and his consort Halabatu ("she of Halab"); and Shipish, the goddess of the sun who had a temple dedicated to her cult. The four city gates were named after the gods Dagan, Hadda, Rasap and Utu, but it is unknown which gate had which name. Overall, the offering list mentioned about 40 deities receiving sacrifices.
During the third kingdom, Amorites worshiped common northern Semitic gods; the unique Eblaite deities disappeared. Hadad was the most important god, while Ishtar took Ishara's place and became the city's most important deity apart from Hadad.
At the beginning of the process of deciphering the tablets, Pettinato made claims about a possible connections between Ebla and the Bible, citing an alleged references in the tablets to the existence of Yahweh, the Patriarchs, Sodom and Gomorrah and other Biblical references. However, much of the initial media excitement about a supposed Eblaite connections with the Bible, based on preliminary guesses and speculations by Pettinato and others, is now widely discredited and the academic consensus is that Ebla "has no bearing on the Minor Prophets, the historical accuracy of the Biblical Patriarchs, Yahweh worship, or Sodom and Gomorrah". In Ebla studies, the focus has shifted away from comparisons with the Bible; Ebla is now studied as a civilization in its own right. The claims led to a bitter personal and academic conflict between the scholars involved, as well as what some described as political interference by the Syrian authorities.
In 1964, Italian archaeologists from the University of Rome La Sapienza under the direction of Paolo Matthiae began excavating at Tell Mardikh. In 1968, they recovered a statue dedicated to the goddess Ishtar bearing the name of Ibbit-Lim, mentioning him as king of Ebla. That identified the city, long known from Lagashite and Akkadian inscriptions. In the next decade, the team discovered a palace (palace G) dating from c. 2500 – 2000 BC. Finds in the palaces include a small sculpture made out of precious materials, black stones and gold. Other artifacts included wood furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl and composite statues created from colored stones. A silver bowl bearing king Immeya's name was recovered from the "Tomb of the Lord of the Goats", together with Egyptian jewels and an Egyptian ceremonial mace presented by pharaoh Hotepibre.
About 17,000 cuneiform tablet fragments were discovered; when put together, they constitute 2,500 complete tablets, making the archive of Ebla one of the biggest from the third millennium BC. About 80% of the tablets are written using the usual Sumerian combination of logograms and phonetic signs, while the others exhibited an innovative, purely phonetic representation using Sumerian cuneiform of a previously unknown Semitic language, which was called "Eblaite". Bilingual Sumerian/Eblaite vocabulary lists were found among the tablets, allowing them to be translated. The tablets provide many important insights into the cultural, economic and political life in northern Mesopotamia around the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. They also provide insight into the everyday lives of the inhabitants, and contain information about state revenues, Sumerian-Eblaite dictionaries, diplomatic exchanges with foreign rulers, school texts, hymns and myths.
The tablets constitute one of the oldest archives and libraries ever found; there is tangible evidence of their arrangement and even classification. The larger tablets had originally been stored on shelves, but had fallen onto the floor when the palace was destroyed. The locations of the fallen tablets allowed the excavators to reconstruct their original positions on the shelves; they found the tablets had originally been shelved according to subject.
These features were absent from earlier Sumerian excavations. Sophisticated techniques of arrangement of texts, coupled with their composition, evidence the great antiquity of archival and library practices, which may be far older than was assumed to be the case before the discovery of the Ebla library. A sizable portion of the tablets contain literary and lexicographic texts; evidence seems to suggest the collection also served—at least partially—as a true library rather than a collection of archives intended solely for use by the kings, their ministers, and their bureaucracy. The tablets show evidence of the early transcription of texts into foreign languages and scripts, classification and cataloging for easier retrieval, and arrangement by size, form and content. The Ebla tablets have thus provided scholars with new insights into the origin of library practices that were in use 4,500 years ago.
Ebla's first kingdom is an example of early Syrian centralized states, and is considered one of the earliest empires by scholars, such as Samuel Finer, and Karl Moore, who consider it the first-recorded world power. Ebla's discovery changed the former view of Syria's history as a bridge between Mesopotamia and Egypt; it proved the region was a center of civilization in its own right.
As a result of the Syrian Civil War, excavations of Ebla stopped in March 2011, and large-scale looting occurred after the site came under the control of an opposition armed group. Many tunnels were dug and a crypt full of human remains was discovered; the remains were scattered and discarded by the robbers, who hoped to find jewelry and other precious artifacts. Besides excavations by rebels, nearby villagers also began digging at the site with the aim of finding and looting artifacts; some villagers removed carloads of soil suitable for making ceramic liners for bread-baking ovens from the tunnels.
Ablah (Arabic: عبلة, translit. ‘Ablah; Kurdish: Ebla) is a village in northern Aleppo Governorate, northwestern Syria. Situated in a wadi surrounded by the Aqil mountains and some 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) northeast of the Shahba reservoir, it is located 10 km (6.2 mi) south of Akhtarin and some 25 kilometres (16 mi) northeast of the city of Aleppo.
Administratively the village belongs to Nahiya Akhtarin in Azaz District. Nearby localities include Tall Tanah 1.5 km (0.93 mi) to the northwest and Hezwan 5 km (3.1 mi) to the southeast. In the 2004 census, Ablah had a population of 517.Armi (Syria)
Armi, was an important Bronze Age city-kingdom during the late third millennium BC located in northern Syria.Dagon
Dagon (Phoenician: 𐤃𐤂𐤍, translit. Dāgūn; Hebrew: דָּגוֹן, Tib. /dɔːgon/) or Dagan (Sumerian: 𒀭𒁕𒃶, translit. dda-gan) is an ancient Mesopotamian and ancient Canaanite deity. He appears to have been worshipped as a fertility god in Ebla, Assyria, Ugarit and among the Amorites.
The Hebrew Bible mentions him as the national god of the Philistines with temples at Ashdod and elsewhere in Gaza.A long-standing association with a Canaanite word for "fish" (as in Hebrew: דג, Tib. /dɔːg/), perhaps going back to the Iron Age, has led to an interpretation as a "fish-god", and the association of "merman" motifs in Assyrian art (such as the "Dagon" relief found by Austen Henry Layard in the 1840s). The god's name was, however, more likely derived from a word for "grain", suggesting that he was in origin associated with fertility and agriculture.Early Dynastic Period (Mesopotamia)
The Early Dynastic period (abbreviated ED period or ED) is an archaeological culture in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) that is generally dated to c. 2900–2350 BC and was preceded by the Uruk and Jemdet Nasr periods. It saw the invention of writing and the formation of the first cities and states. The ED itself was characterized by the existence of multiple city-states: small states with a relatively simple structure that developed and solidified over time. This development ultimately led to the unification of much of Mesopotamia under the rule of Sargon, the first monarch of the Akkadian Empire. Despite this political fragmentation, the ED city-states shared a relatively homogeneous material culture. Sumerian cities such as Uruk, Ur, Lagash, Umma, and Nippur located in Lower Mesopotamia were very powerful and influential. To the north and west stretched states centered on cities such as Kish, Mari, Nagar, and Ebla.
The study of Central and Lower Mesopotamia has long been given priority over neighboring regions. Archaeological sites in Central and Lower Mesopotamia—notably Girsu but also Eshnunna, Khafajah, Ur, and many others—have been excavated since the 1800s. These excavations have yielded cuneiform texts and many other important artifacts. As a result, this area was better known than neighboring regions, but the excavation and publication of the archives of Ebla have changed this perspective by shedding more light on surrounding areas, such as Upper Mesopotamia, western Syria, and southwestern Iran. These new findings revealed that Lower Mesopotamia shared many socio-cultural developments with neighboring areas and that the entirety of the ancient Near East participated in an exchange network in which material goods and ideas were being circulated.Ebla tablets
The Ebla tablets are a collection of as many as 1,800 complete clay tablets, 4,700 fragments, and many thousands of minor chips found in the palace archives of the ancient city of Ebla, Syria. The tablets were discovered by Italian archaeologist Paolo Matthiae and his team in 1974–75 during their excavations at the ancient city at Tell Mardikh. The tablets, which were found in situ on collapsed shelves, retained many of their contemporary clay tags to help reference them. They all date to the period between ca. 2500 BC and the destruction of the city ca. 2250 BC. Today, the tablets are held in museums in the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Damascus, and Idlib.Eblaite language
Eblaite (also known as Eblan ISO 639-3), or Paleo Syrian, is an extinct Semitic language which was used during the third millennium BCE by the populations of Northern Syria. It was named after the ancient city of Ebla, in modern western Syria. Variants of the language were also spoken in Mari and Nagar. According to Cyrus H. Gordon, although scribes might have spoken it sometimes, Eblaite was probably not spoken much, being rather a written lingua franca with East and West Semitic features.Hotepibre
Hotepibre Qemau Siharnedjheritef (also Sehetepibre I or Sehetepibre II depending on the scholar) was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 13th Dynasty during the Second Intermediate Period. According to egyptologists Kim Ryholt and Darrell Baker, he was the sixth king of the dynasty, reigning for one to five years, possibly three years, from 1791 BC until 1788 BC. Alternatively, Jürgen von Beckerath and Detlef Franke see him as the ninth king of the dynasty.Ibrium
Ibrium (24th century BC), also spelt Ebrium, was the vizier of Ebla for king Irkab-Damu and his successor Isar-Damu.
Ibrium is attested campaigning against the city of Abarsal during the time of vizier Arrukum, he took office after Arrukum during the last two years of Irkab-Damu's reign and continued to hold office during the reign of Isar-Damu, he kept his position for about 20 years and was succeeded by his son Ibbi-Sipish thus establishing a parallel dynasty of viziers next to the royal family.Ibrium waged a war against Armi in his ninth year as vizier, the texts mentions that the battle happened near a town called Batin (it could be located in northeastern Aleppo), and that a messenger arrived in Ebla with news about the defeating of Armi. He also conducted several campaigns against rebellious vassals and concluded a peace and trading treaty with Abarsal.Idlib
Idlib (Arabic: إدلب, also spelled Edlib or Idleb), a city in northwestern Syria, operates as the capital of the Idlib Governorate and stands 59 kilometers (37 mi) southwest of Aleppo. It has an elevation of nearly 500 meters (1,600 ft) above sea level. In the 2004 census by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Idlib had a population of 98,791 and in 2010 the population was around 165,000. Before the Syrian Civil War started in 2011, the inhabitants were mostly Sunni Muslims, although there was a significant Christian minority. Idlib is divided into six main districts: Ashrafiyeh (the most populous), Hittin, Hejaz, Downtown, Hurriya, and al-Qusur.
A major agricultural center of Syria, the Idlib area is also historically significant, containing many "dead cities" and man-made tells. Idlib contains the ancient city of Ebla, once the capital of a powerful kingdom. The ancient kingdoms of Nuhašše and Luhuti
flourished in the territory of the present-day Governorate during the Bronze and Iron ages.Irkab-Damu
Irkab-Damu (reigned c. 2340 BC), was the king (Malikum) of the first Eblaite kingdom, whose era saw Ebla's turning into the dominant power in the Levant.During his reign, the vizier started to acquire an important role in running the affair of the state and the military. Irkab-Damu's reign is also noted for the wide diplomatic relations between Ebla and the surrounding kingdoms.Ishara
Ishara (išḫara) is an ancient deity of unknown origin from northern modern Syria. She first appeared in Ebla and was incorporated to the Hurrian pantheon from which she found her way to the Hittite pantheon.
In Hurrian and Semitic traditions, Išḫara is a love goddess, often identified with Ishtar. Her cult was of considerable importance in Ebla from the mid 3rd millennium, and by the end of the 3rd millennium, she had temples in Nippur, Sippar, Kish, Harbidum, Larsa, and Urum.
Ishara is the Hittite word for "treaty, binding promise", also personified as a goddess of the oath.Khashshum
Khashshum, (also given as Ḫaššum, Hassu, Hassuwa or Hazuwan) was a Hurrian city-state, located in southern Turkey most probably on the Euphrates river north of Carchemish.Kish civilization
The Kish civilization or Kish tradition is a time period corresponding to the early East Semitic era in Mesopotamia and the Levant. Coined by Ignace Gelb, the epoch began in the early 4th millennium BC. The tradition encompasses the sites of Ebla and Mari in the Levant, Nagar in the north, and the proto-Akkadian sites of Abu Salabikh and Kish in central Mesopotamia which constituted the Uri region as it was known to the Sumerians.The East Semitic population migrated from what is now the Levant and spread into Mesopotamia, and the new population could have contributed to the collapse of the Uruk period c. 3100 BC. This early East Semitic culture is characterized by linguistic, literary and orthographic similarities extending from Ebla in the west to Abu Salabikh in the East. The personal names from the Sumerian city of Kish show an East Semitic nature and reveals that the city population had a strong Semitic component from the dawn of recorded history, Gelb consider Kish to be the center of this civilization hence the naming.The similarities included the using of a writing system that contained non-Sumerian logograms, the use of the same system in naming the months of the year, dating by regnal years and a similar measuring system among many other similarities. However Gelb doesn't assume the existence of a single authority ruling those lands as each city had its own monarchical system, in addition to some linguistic differences for while the languages of Mari and Ebla were closely related, Kish represented an independent East Semitic linguistic entity that spoke a dialect (Kishite), different from both pre-Sargonic Akkadian and the Ebla-Mari language. The Kish civilisation is considered to end with the rise of the Akkadian empire in the 24th century BC.Mardikh
Mardikh (Arabic: مرديخ) is a village in the Idlib Governorate of Syria. It is the nearest village to the site of historical Ebla ("Tel Mardikh"), south east of Idlib. Nearby localities include Saraqib to the north, Kafr Amim to the east, Maardabsah and Khan al-Sabl to the south and Dadikh to the west. According to the Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Mardikh had a population of 2,918 in the 2004 census.Mari, Syria
Mari (modern Tell Hariri, Arabic: تل حريري) was an ancient Semitic city in modern-day Syria. Its remains constitute a tell located 11 kilometers north-west of Abu Kamal on the Euphrates river western bank, some 120 kilometers southeast of Deir ez-Zor. It flourished as a trade center and hegemonic state between 2900 BC and 1759 BC. As a purposely-built city, the existence of Mari was related to its position in the middle of the Euphrates trade routes; this position made it an intermediary between Sumer in the south and the Levant in the west.
Mari was first abandoned in the middle of the 26th century BC but was rebuilt and became the capital of a hegemonic East Semitic state before 2500 BC. This second Mari engaged in a long war with its rival Ebla and is known for its strong affinity with Sumerian culture. It was destroyed in the 23rd century BC by the Akkadians, who allowed the city to be rebuilt and appointed a military governor bearing the title of Shakkanakku ("military governor"). The governors later became independent with the rapid disintegration of the Akkadian Empire and rebuilt the city as a regional center in the middle Euphrates valley. The Shakkanakkus ruled Mari until the second half of the 19th century BC, when the dynasty collapsed for unknown reasons. A short time after the Shakkanakku collapse, Mari became the capital of the Amorite Lim dynasty. The Amorite Mari was short-lived as it was annexed by Babylonia in c. 1761 BC, but the city survived as a small settlement under the rule of the Babylonians and the Assyrians before being abandoned and forgotten during the Hellenistic period.
The Mariotes worshiped both Semitic and Sumerian deities and established their city as a center of old trade. However, although the pre-Amorite periods were characterized by heavy Sumerian cultural influence, Mari was not a city of Sumerian immigrants but rather a Semitic-speaking nation that used a dialect similar to Eblaite. The Amorites were West Semites who began to settle the area before the 21st century BC; by the Lim dynasty's era (c. 1830 BC), they became the dominant population in the Fertile Crescent.
Mari's discovery in 1933 provided an important insight into the geopolitical map of ancient Mesopotamia and Syria, due to the discovery of more than 25,000 tablets that contained important information about the administration of state during the 2nd millennium BC and the nature of diplomatic relations between the political entities in the region. They also revealed the wide trading networks of the 18th century BC, which connected areas as far as Afghanistan in Southern Asia and Crete in the Mediterranean region.Paolo Matthiae
Paolo Matthiae (born 1940) is an Italian archaeologist.
He was Professor of Archaeology and History of Art of the Ancient Near East in the University of Rome La Sapienza; he has been Director of the Ebla Expedition since 1963—in fact, its discoverer—and has published many articles and books about Ebla and about the History of Art of Mesopotamia and Syria in general. In 1972 and 1973, Matthiae co-directed the excavation of Tell Fray in the Euphrates Valley that was to be flooded by Lake Assad, the reservoir of the Tabqa Dam which was being constructed at that time. He is a member of institutions as the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Rome), the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres and the Deutsches Archaeologisches Institut, and is doctor Honoris Causa of the Autonomous University of Madrid.Resheph
Resheph (also Rešef, Reshef; Canaanite ršp רשף; Eblaite Rašap, Egyptian ršpw) was a deity associated with plague (or a personification of plague) in ancient Canaanite religion. The originally Eblaite and Canaanite deity was adopted into ancient Egyptian religion in the late Bronze Age during the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt (late 15th century BC) as a god of horses and chariots.
In Biblical Hebrew, רֶשֶׁף resheph is a noun interpreted as "flame, lightning" but also "burning fever, plague, pestilence".Scapegoat
In the Bible, a scapegoat is an animal which is ritually burdened with the sins of others, then driven away. The concept first appears in Leviticus, in which a goat is designated to be cast into the desert to carry away the sins of the community.
And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for Azazel.
Practices with some similarities to the scapegoat ritual also appear in ancient Greece and Ebla.Umm el-Marra
Umm el-Marra, Arabic: أم المرى, east of modern Aleppo in the Jabbul Plain of northern Syria, was one of the ancient Near East's oldest cities, located on a crossroads of two trade routes northwest of Ebla, in a landscape that was much more fertile than it is today. Possibly this is the city of Tuba mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions listing cities that were defeated or destroyed in the Pharaoh Thutmose III's north Syrian campaign. The city of Tuba is also mentioned
in epigraphic remains from Ebla, Mari, and Alalakh.