Posted by on Nov 25, 2016 in Library | Comments Off on ARAMAEANS AND ASSYRIANS IN NORTH-WESTERN SYRIA: MATERIAL EVIDENCE FROM TELL AFIS : Sebastiano Soldi

Author(s): Sebastiano Soldi

Iron Age Syria cultural contacts

provides a case and influences.

for a multi-facetted approach to exploring a region open to various The Assyrian-Aramaean interaction is probably one of the most

interesting issues, as the “histories” of Aramaean Syria and Assyria share during the first half of the

1smtillenniumbctraitsofalinkedcommonpath,whichIreneWinterhaslabelled,fromthepointof view of visual art, as “a complex feedback-loop ofmutual interaction”1. Of course this east-west channel is only one of the possible interpretative means to understand the complex cultural and historical

dynamics characterising this period of the ancient Near East. The “extended frontiers”2 of Syrian Iron Age material culture could lead us to look for stimuli and comparisons northwards into theAnatolian

plateau3 and southwards in the southern Levant and in the coastal towns and harbours of Phoenicia, as well as westwards to theMediterranean shores4.

The aim of thispaper is toprovide somenew reflectionosn thetopicof thisinteractiobny reviewing someof thearchaeologicaldata comingfromtherecentexcavationsconductedby theUniversityofPisa inTell Afis, one of the largest IronAge settlements innorth-western inner Syria5.

Afis isa largetellof25 ha lyinginthedistrictof Idlib,some45 km south-westofAleppo, between thefertileplainoftheJazrandtheeasternalluvialdepressionofthMeadkh. Itconsistsofalargelower townofroundedshapeandofanacropolislocatedinthenorthernhalfofthetell(fig.1).Afis isthesite

where theAramaic steleofkingZakkur (KAI 202) was found;theFrenchConsul Henri Pognon found

iton the of the tell in 1903 and it is now in theLouvreMuseum6. The mentions acropolis inscription

the re-edification of Hazrek. Zakkur’s new capital of the kingdom of Hamath and Lu’ash, which is generallyidentifiewdithAfis7.The sitewas thennoticedbyWilliamAlbrightin1932andfinallychosen forarchaeologicalexcavationsin 1962by theItalianArchaeologicalMission inSyriadirectedbyPaolo

Matthiae. Since 1986 excavationshave been directedby StefaniaMazzoni, leadinga jointprojectof the Universities of Pisa, Florence, Bologna and Rome.

During theselast20 years thestudyof theevidenceof theAramaean townofAfis has been among the primary goals of the Italian expedition; excavation trenches have been opened in different parts of the tellwhere pottery collected from the surface gave an indication that levels dating to the IronAge

periodsmightbe found. ThoughAfisprovidedscarceevidenceofwrittentextwsewilltryheretoincludeinthediscussion

some of the information collected from recent excavations in order to add new reflections to the Assyrian-Aramaean interaction during IronAge II and III8.

The Lower Town: Area D and

The IronAge II?III Lower Town coincides with themaximum extension of the site, even though part of the IronAge settlement was also situated extra moenia9. The Lower Town has been excavated in two different areas: Area D, in the southern part of the site, and Area B, along the northern limit of the

1.Winter 1987, p. 369.
2. Mazzoni 1999, p. 147.
3. On intercultural processes between Aramaeans and Luwians, see Novak 2005, with case studies from Zincirli/Sam’al

andTellHalaf/Guzana;onTellAhmar/Masuwari/TiBlarsip,seeBunnens1995and1999;onTellTaynat/KunuluaH,arrison 2001; see alsoMazzoni 1994.

4.On therelationsofSyriawith theGreekworld intheIronAge, seeMazzoni 2001a,withbibliography.

5. Iwould like to expressmy gratitudetoProf. StefaniaMazzoni who encouragedme during this studyand permitted me topublish theAfismaterials.My gratitudealso goes toProf.ChristineKepinski andDr. Aline Tenuwho invitedme at the workshopheld inRome duringthe6thICAANE. Iwould also liketothankProf.SerenaMaria Cecchini forherpreciousadvices

and Dr. Gunnar Lehmann and Dr. Robert Grutz for their kind permission to use their drawings.
6. Dussaud 1922, p. 175-76; Liverani 1965, p. 108; p. 110-12.
7. Mazzoni 2008a, p. 7-11; Mazzoni 1994, p. 323.
8.On theevidenceofIronAge IinTellAfisandthequestionoftheoriginsofAramaeans inwesternSyria,seerecent

discussion inVenturi 2007, p. 417-426. 9. Mazzoni 1987, p. 25.

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Syria86 (2009) aramaeans and assyrians in north-western syria 99

TELL AFIS Figure 1: Contour map of Tell Afis with excavation trenches.

tell, on the line of the ancient enclosure of the town wall. These two excavation areas have provided a

complex stratigraphy of levels dating to the IronAge II?III.
Area D’s lowest level (Level 10) belongs toMB II and the upper one, Level 9, contains materials to

be dated to IA I: all the succeeding occupation layers (Levels 8-1) show a continuous development of a domestic area between IAII and IA III.We will focus our attention on Level 4, forwhich a date of the

end of the 8thcentury has been proposed byMazzoni on thebasis of thepottery assemblage, and Level 2, dated to the following phase within the 7thcentury bc10. In Level 4 a large domestic structuremeasuring 20 x 25 m has been excavated; this house is characterised by three different functional areas11, where

storage jars were in place inside floors, and an area served as a kitchen for preparing food; the central

area was occupied by a square courtyard. Pottery from these rooms is characterised by homogenous orange ware fabrics and by shapes such as carinated bowls (shape CA ofAfis IronAge typology12),

jarswith double rims(shapeGA)13 and jarswith inflatedrims(shapeGB)14.All of thesepotterytypes areassessedinGunnarLehmann’sAssemblagel15A.reaD’sLevel2alsocontainsadomesticbuilding

10. Mazzoni 1987, p. 33. U.Ibid., p. 27.

12. Ibid., fig. 15, 9-13. For Afis Iron II pottery typology and comparisons, 13. Ibid., fig. 18, 2-4.
\4.Ibid., fig. 18, 5-14.
15.Lehmann 1996,p. 102;26 (Tab. 2.4.1).

see Oggiano


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100 S. SOLDI Syria86 (2009)

which maintains the same wall orientation as theprevious complex; in thepottery assemblage (Lehmann Assemblage2-3) ofthislevelwe findbowlswitha triangularimwhichcanbedatedtothe7thcenturybc

The Area excavation, on the northern limit of the site, has in recent years given interesting results

with occupation levels of A II?III, where a domestic quarterwas obliteratedby thebuilding of the

defensivetownwall. The domesticarea a fine ofwell stratified found imposing provided sample pottery

insitubelongingtothelocal IAII level17c,orrespondingtotheassemblageofLevel 4 inArea D (fig.2). The remainsof thehousewere sealed by a thicklayerof fallenmud brickswhich had been levelled

to serve as a building surface for erecting further constructions18. Over this layer of packed debris, the massivedefensivetownwallwassuperimposedp,robablyafterashortlapseoftime(fig.3).Thetown wall, which reaches a width of 5.2m, was builtwithout any foundationandwithoutplaster; itsonly peculiarfeatureisa rowofstandingmud bricksatthebottomformingakindofa step,probablyto

avoid infiltration of rain-water at its base. Pottery coming from levels pertaining to thewall, although notstrictlyinsitu,belongstotheendofthelocalIAII-earlyA III,generallysimilartothatofLevel 2 ofArea D.

We can put particular emphasis on two points concerning Area B: 1A.nimposingdefensivewallseemstohavebeenbuiltallofasudden(withoutplasterandwithout

foundationsb,utc. 5m wide19)directlyovera domesticquarterinuse duringthesecondhalfof the 8thcentury,whereas materials coming from the collapse of thewall can be dated to the early 7thcentury,

withina generalhomogeneityandcontinuityofpotteryassemblage.
2.On thenorthernsideofthetelltheAramaean townofIAII seemstoliedirectlyupontheruins

oftheMB townw,ithoutanyarchitecturaelvidenceforLBorAIperiods,whichareinsteadlargely

attestedon theacropolis20D.uring A II,Afis reaches itslargestextent,lyingdirectlyupon theruinsof theMB townand testifyingtothedemographicgrowthof thetownintheAramaean period.

The acropolis: Area G and A

We have brieflydescribed the situationin theLower Town. The evidence fromtheacropolis is of coursemore complex,due tovarious factors.The firstis thedifferenktind of archaeological record

which comesfroman areawhere have been builtover thecenturies: imposingpublic buildings frequent

cutting,fillingand rebuildingactivitiesof largebuildingshave caused big losses in theunderlying

A further lies in the of ancient
archaeological layers. difficulty protractedspoliation buildingsduring

Late Antiquity andMedieval times: inthisperiod theancient tell,especially itsuppermost part,became a source ofmasonry materials used in the nearby village21.

InArea E, on thewestern slope of the acropolis, excavations conducted since 1988 have shown a

continuityofoccupationfromtheBronzeAge IItotheEarlyIronAge II,fillingthegapoftheso-called “Dark Age” in the archaeological documentation and providing awell stratified sequence of architectural

remainsandmaterials22. all During

of within the between the 12thand 10th
IAI, period century,

urbanplan andbuildingorientationchangedingraduallythroughthepeacefulandnecessaryevolution

of and A break is recordedat theend of the II of


havebeenfound(seeD’Amore 2005,p.20).
22. See a detailed synthesisofArea E excavations inVenturi 2007.

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reorganisation private public spaces23.

16M.azzoni1987,fig.10,1-5;Oggiano1997,p.191for7thcenturydateandcomparisons. 17. Virgilio 2005, p. 40-41.

IS. Ibid., p. 38.

19.Mazzoni 2002, p. 18.
20. Mazzoni 2000a, p. 8-9; Venturi 2007, p. 126.
21. In thewesternpartof theacropolis (AreaA) Byzantine and Islamicpotterywithout any relatedarchitecturalstructures

23. Ibid., p. 199.



Figure 2 a-c: Photo (S.Mazzoni) and plan (PDel Vesco) ofArea B domesticquarterunder enclosurewall ? ArchivioMissione Archeologica aTellAfls.

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Figure 3 a-c: Photo (S.Mazzoni) and plan (P.Del Vesco) ofArea B enclosurewall (US 3763) ? ArchivioMissione Archeologica a TellAfis.

IronAge I: layers of ashes separate this period from the last architectural phase documented inArea E (PhaseIc-a)24T.hislastperiodbelongstotheEarlyIronAgeII,inapotteryhorizonofthemiddleof

9thcentury (appearance of first sherds of Red Slip ware)25.
Theacropolis anditstwomain areasofexcavation, namelyGandA,bringustothecoreofthemain

question: investigations conducted between 1989 and 2000 inArea G and still ongoing inArea A, show that themain official buildings of the site were situated here, during the town’s Aramaean period and

most probably still existed (at least inArea A) in the succeeding Assyrian period.

24. Venturi 2007, p. 161-165.
25. Mazzoni 1998a, p. 169; Degli Esposti 1998.

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InArea G, on the eastern side of the acropolis, a large paved square courtyard ofl5.5xl5m has

been excavated (fig. 4a): mud brick walls, built without plaster and without foundations, rose to a height

of8m. The buildingwas cutdeepwithintheIronAge I levels,ina squarepit20 20m, toa depth of 5m below the surface, so that thewalls rose about 3m above the ground floor. No access point has been found around the four sides; probably the structurewas accessible by a removable device, such as a wooden staircase26.

Serena Cecchini, who conducted work on the area, has clearly distinguished a level (8b) sealed underneaththecollapse of themud brickwall (fig.4b), with potterypreservedbetween thecobbled floor and the collapsed bricks. The assemblage of thematerials coming from this layer resembles that of Level 4 inArea D, with double rimsjars (shapeGA), bowls with angular inwardthickenedrim

(shapeCN) andRedSliphemisphericalbowlswithsimplerim(shapeCG)27.Shortlyafterthecollapse of the structure, thewhole area became amassive dump which was slowly filled with pottery, ashes and

animal bones; the deepest layers contain a very large amount ofmaterials, which gradually become more

irregular. The uppermost layers, especially 7-6, show a great quantity of Red Slip fragments, unlike anythingfoundelsewhereinTellAfis (fig.5a-c). BurnishedRed Slip potteryisa localproductionwhich

presents standardised characteristies: some items are accurately fired and wholly covered with a thick

layer of dark red slip and a remarkable finishing of the surface, but themajority part of the fragments

show a very light splashing of orange-red wash just below the rim and a cursive burnishing made by a stick.The depressionof thegreatcourtyardhad been graduallyfilledby theend of A II and the

beginning of IA III, in the last part of the 8thcentury and during the 7thcentury28.
No other monumental building was erected in this eastern part of the acropolis after the collapse

of the square courtyard, as all the other IA III remains excavated in the north-eastern corner ofArea G document little domestic buildings with no stratigraphie relation to the courtyard building29.

Figure 4a: Plan of squared courtyardinArea G, fromCecchini 2000a, fig. 1;4b: Section of collapsedmud brickwalls the courtyard, from Cecchini 1998, fig. 7.

26. Cecchini 2000a, p. 201.

27. Cecchini 1998,p. 284-285; fig. 18: 10; 9; 3. 28. Cecchini 2000a, p. 201-202.
29. Cecchini 2000b, p. 20-21.

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104 S. SOLDI Syria86(2009)

From a historical point of view the evidence ofArea G seems to document a large ceremonial unit of theAramaean townof the8thcenturywhich is collapsed forunknownreasons: stabilityproblems?

earthquake?conquest or voluntarydestruction?The firsthypothesisseems themore probable given boththestructuroefthewalls (1.8mwide atthebottomand2.2 atthetop,leaningon themore ancient

accumulationofIronAge Iandwithoutanyfoundation)andtheabsenceoftracesofdestructioninthe 8bLevel between thefloorand thecollapsedwall: Cecchini also hypothesizesthatthebuildingwas not evenfinishedat thetimeof thecollapse,because of theabsence ofplasteron thewalls whichwould

normally have been essential for a big open area building such as this one30.At the end of the 8thcentury, i.e. shortly after the conquest of Hazrek/Hatarikka by the army of Tiglath-pileser III in 738 bc or even

afterthe ofHama II in the was outofuse: shouldwe relate conquest by Sargon 720, courtyard already

thisfactto theAssyrians and to theirconquestof theregionofAfis or todynamics internalto the settlemenwthich remainhiddenfromourknowledge?

In theupper layersof thecollapsed structurae sherdhas been foundwith threeinscribedAramaic

letters:Iwr If thesecouldbe thelettersofthenameofthe
(fig.5f). correctlyinterpreted, god Ilu-W?r,

theone citedon theZakkur steleas hisprotectorand towhom thekingwould have builta greattemplein the Aps, probably the ancient sacred district, i.e. the acropolis, of the new re-founded capital Hazrek31.

From the fillof the between thehundredsof sherdsofRed local upper square courtyard, Slip ware,

and imported pottery,we can also recognise some peculiar samples completely differentfrom our local common and fine wares. Among these are some pottery fragments32 not sharing the classical local

features of fabrics and morphology, probably belonging to an eastern pottery horizon ofNeo-Assyrian

productions of the 7thcentury bc (fig. 5d-e).
From the comparisons with the evidence previously reviewed, we can trace a line which connects

Area G Level 8b, i.e. theperiodbetween theconstructionof thesquarecourtyardand thecollapse of its mudbrickwalls,withAreaDLevel4withitsdomesticmultifunctionabluildingandArea ataperiod before theconstructionof thebig townwall. The generalpicturedrawnfrom all thisarchaeological

evidence is that of a flourishing Aramaean centre during the 8thcentury bc, reaching itsmaximum widthonthenorthernandsouthernlimitsoftheLowerTown.This,ifwe trytolinkourarchaeological

documentation to the few epigraphic records, would correspond to the town “re-founded” by Zakkur, kingofHamathandLu’ash.Ofcoursethisisnotthetownatthetimeofthekinghimselfw,howould have reigned, according to the date of the inscription and to other historical sources33, at the very end of the 9thcentury and in the first quarter of the 8thcentury bc34, but the town of a few decades later,when

theLu’ash kingdom was still independent between the time of theTurt?nu Samsi-ilu and the campaigns

of III inNorth At theendofthis or afteritbecame to Tiglath-pileser Syria35. period shortly necessary

provideAfiswithabigdefensivewall,probablybuiltinaveryshorttimeonlevelleddebrissealingA II materialsstillinsitu:thewell-stratifiepdotteryleavesus innodoubtthawte arenotdealingwiththewall

Zakkur claims to have built around Hazrek as defence against the army of theKing ofAram-Damascus and his seventeen allies, but with a wall that had to defend the town at least half a century later.We can supposethatitsaimwas todefendthetownfromthearmyofTiglath-pileserIIIorofSargonII,when already-conquered Hatarikka joined an anti-Assyrian revolt lead by the king of Hamath Yau-bi’di36.


30. Cecchini 2000a, p. 201.
31.Mazzoni 1998b,p. 18;Lipi?ski2000a, p. 256-257.
32. TA96G33/10 (see Tell JurnKebir: Eidem,Ackermann 1999,fig.8, 4; SheikhHassan, TypAb: Schneider 1999b,

1, 1-3); TA96G58/47; TA97G714/1.
33. See inparticulartheAntakya steleat thetimesofAdad-n?r?r?III and Samsi-ilu, around 800 bc (Dalley 2000, p. 87).

34. Lipi?ski 2000a, p. 254-255; p. 318.

35.The EponymChronicle referstootherthreemilitarycampaigns in772, 765 and 755 againstHatarikka,probably led by Samsi-ilu (Hawkins 1982,p. 404-405; Ikeda 1999,p. 281-283; Tab. I).

36. Lipi?ski 2000a, p. 316.

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Figure 5 a-c: Red Slip potteryfromArea G; d-e: Fragmentof carinatedbowl ofNeo-Assyrian type; f:InscribedostrakonwithAramaic letters(Iwr).a-e: S. Soldi; f:M. Necci ? ArchivioMissione Archeologica aTellAfls.

At any rate some questions remain unsolved: is there any evidence of the town wall mentioned by Zakkur? Is itplausible thata big IronAge II townlyingon theroadbetweenArpad andHamathwas not provided with an enclosure wall before the second half of the 8thcentury? There is currently no

archaeological data answering this question, because it seems that the excavated layers inArea B rest directly on Middle Bronze Age ruins. We can assume that theMB rampart was still functional for the

IronAge town,andprobablypartoftheIronAge IIwallhasbeenlostwiththeheavyerosionofthetell on this side of the settlement.

New archaeological records from the last campaigns come from thewestern acropolis of the tell. The firsttrenchesinTellAfisAreaA were opened in 1970underthedirectionofMatthiae. Thework

inthisarea ledtotheidentificatioonfa largeofficialbuildingwitha long,plasteredroomwhichwas thought to be the central room of a palace of the bit hilani type37.The resumption of excavation in this sector since 2000 has widened the excavation area all around the structure and reached deep down to the foundation boulders of thebuilding. The area suffered a continuous spoliation and demolition of ancient structures from late Classical times and during theByzantine period, as numerous finds belonging to this

age testify38.The very poor state of preservation is particularly marked in the central part of the building, where evidence of stones being removed from their original place and broken to be carried away is

particularly striking. The western and southern parts of the building, where a westward collapsed mud brick wall is still in place, are preserved better than the surrounding areas and can offer some useful

record documenting the last phase of the structure39.

37. Matthiae 1979.

38. Byzantine and IslamicpotteryinD’Amore 2005, fig. 16,8-12; a Byzantine coin inSoldi 2005, fig.21,4. 39. See a preliminaryreportinD’Amore 2005 and Soldi 2005.

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S. SOLDI Syria86(2009)


b: Hypothetical reconstructionofTempleAI (3D elaborationbyC. Alvaro) ? ArchivioMissione Archeologica a TellAfis.

Figure 6 a: Plan ofTempleAI inArea A (drawingbyC. Alvaro andV. Melchiorri);

The great building on thewestern side of theAcropolis appears now, after themost recent excavation campaigns, to be without any doubt a typical in antis temple with a tripartite plan on a north-south

axis Its dimensionsare testified its32m north longitudinal (TempleAI; fig.6-7)40. impressive by long

south extension and by the big boulders of its foundations. On the southern front a 8.5 m threshold cut in rectangular stones marks themain entrance to the building; the southern facade is flanked by two overhanging side towers, marking the south-western and south-eastern corners. The interior of the

temple has been severely damaged by late spoliation and we can reconstruct the plan from the deepest layers of stone foundations. At any rate, the central room with itshard plastered floor and thewestern

rooms flanking the central room are still clearly distinguishable, and still present the original floors of the

lastfunctional The and dimensionsofthe leadsustothinkthawte period. striking unparalleled building

are dealing with themain temple of the town, the one representing themain cult on the acropolis of the Aramaean town, probably dedicated to the Storm God. The north-south orientation clearly breaks with the north-east-south-west building orientation of the previous levels of the settlement that are attested

underneath thewestern floor and in nearby Area E. Here a patent intention to rebuild the acropolis of

the town in a new monumental style is clearly perceptible. Deep foundations 2.6 m wide, consisting of boulders,andtheimposingcollapseofthewesternmudbrickwall showthatthebuildingwouldhave

had an extraordinary silhouette, probably visible from the plain surrounding Afis.

40.Mazzoni 2008b,p.157;ontheAfistempleinrelationtootherIronAge inantistemplesfromnorthernSyria,see Mazzoni forthcoming a; on Syrian Iron Age temples, see Matthiae 1992 and Werner 1994.

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Figure 7: General photo ofTempleAI fromS (a) and fromNE (b). M. Necci ? ArchivioMissione Archeologica a TellAfis.

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108 s. soldi Syria86 (2009)

UnderneathTempleAI issomeothersparseevidenceofa secondmore ancientbuilding(TempleAll) which itis impossibletoreconstrucbtecause of thecuttingsof theupper templeandbecause of thedeep

spoliationof thestructureUs.nder this,a thirdbuilding(TempleAIII) with a plasteredshrineiscurrently under excavation and has been tentatively dated to the 1l^-lO01 century bc. The provenance from thefill

ofthistempleofa sealdepictingtheStormGod onabull,andakernosvesselwithabull’sheadfound on thefloor during the last campaign, both support an identification with a Storm God temple41.

The persistencetroughouthecenturiesof theIronAge of thesacredarea on theacropolisofAfis

would the identificationof this of townwith the strengthen part

proposed by Edward Lipmski and StefaniaMazzoni42. This identificationis supportedby the long

sequence of occupation levels down to theChalcolithicAge in nearbyArea E; the citadel ofAfis, continuouslyinhabitedfromthebeginningof the4thmillennium,couldbe identifiewdith thereferences toApsulApsunalApzunaintextsfromEbla,Ugarit andAlalakh, andwas thecentreknownasApis of the

new capital of theLu’ash kingdom under king Zakkur43.
From theruinsof thetemplea fragmentof a basalt stelewithAramaic inscription(fig.8a) probably

mentioning Haza’el and Jehu, kings ofAram and Israel in the last quarter of 9thcentury bc44, testifies to the importance of the sacred area; numerous broken fragments of carved basalt (fig. 8b-d) show that all around this area iconographie and epigraphic documents were displayed, which were lost once the area began to serve as an open quarry (fig. 7a)45. On thewestern and southern external sides of the temple archaeological contexts were much better preserved. From the levels sealed by the collapse of thewesternwall we isolatedpotterybelonging to IronAge III, amongstwhich were carinatedbowls,

bowls with with inflatedrimand hole-mouth A feature triangularims,jars cooking pots46. peculiar

ofvariousspotsintheareaoutsidethetemplebuildingarefunnelsorpipeswithone simpleendand

the other end finishing in a plain outward-curving rim with a greenish-white glazed interior surface (fig.9-10); some of thempresenta verticalhorn (fig.9-10). Although theirfunctionis not yet clear, their provenance is always associated with the collapse of the outer wall of the temple; none come from inside the precincts but they are in evidence everywhere along the four external sides of the temple. The

of these have leadus toformulatedifferent one stratigraphipeosition unique objects hypotheses, being

that these funnels were cultic, and a second being that they served as a kind of wall decoration on the

exteriors inthissecond which seemsmore these would havebeen fa?ades; hypothesis, plausible, pipes

set intothewall by thesimpleend so thattheflaringglazed sidewas visible,probablywith thehornon

thelowerside,maybe tocollectrainwater andpreventitfromfallingdirectlyat thebase of thetemple walls. The glazed surface would have had a double function as both decorative and an water-proofing


41. Mazzoni 2008a, p. 26-27; fig. 34-35.

andadedicatorypart(thebuildingandrestorationofIlu-WertempleinApis); onthisissueseealsoParker 1997,p. 108-109,

and his hypothesisof twodifferenctities forHazrek andApis. Contra Parp?la 1987,p. 134,who locatesHatarikka in southern

Syria (i.e. nearDamascus) as thecity isnamed ina textofBel-duri governorofDamascus, andHawkins 1987,p. 161,and 1995, p.96,who identifiemsodernAfiswithancientApis ofthesteleandbelieves thatHazrek/Hatarikkacouldbemoreprobablya

site in theneighbourhoodofAfis (Hawkins 1995a, p. 96, n. 101, also excludes Parpola’s hypothesisof locatingHazrek west

of Damascus).
43. Mazzoni 2001b, p. 99-100; see discussion inDion 1997, p. 141-143 and Lipi?ski 2000a, p. 255-258. On Ab-zu* in

theEbla textsseeArchi, Piacentini& Pomponio 1993,p. 147,with identificatiownithAfis and recentlyFronzaroli 2003a, p. 141-142,who excludesAfisasapossiblecandidatefor?b-zu^ (Apsu)becauseofitsvicinitytoEbla andproposestolocate

thistoponymintheregionofHorns (wherealsoKaraman and lb4alshouldbe located).
44. Amadasi Guzzo 2005.
45.Among thenumerouscarvedbasaltflakesalso a fragmenotfanOld Syrianstelehas been found(seeMazzoni 2005,

p. 10;D’Amore 2005,p. 18-19).
46. Soldi 2005, fig. 20,2-4; 9-11.

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42. Lipi?ski

2000a, p.



257 and Mazzoni Mazzoni 100.This bibliography; 1998b,p. 18; 2001b, p.

also byHerbertNiehr (2003, p. 94), relyingon thedistinctioninZakkur’s inscriptionon amemorial part (the siege ofHazrek)

of theZakkur as inscription,

Syria86 (2009) aramaeans and assyrians in north-western syria 109

A striking parallel for theAfis funnels comes from Zincirli, where the so-called Rohr-Ringe described

byWalter Andrae47 have been found in the area of theN?rdliche Hallenbau, dated to the period of king

Bar-Rakib the itemcomesfroma southoftheHilani III (fig.11a). Unfortunately, only published pit

wheretheHandkonsolenwerealsofound(fig.lib),sothawtedonotknowiftheybelongtoaperiod previous to or subsequent to the edification of the area under the reign of Bar-Rakib (c. 730-710 bc)48.

Robert Koldewey also reports that numerous items such as these have been found in theN?rdliche Hallenbau, but they are not published in the catalogue49 and similar items were found in the Palace of

Sargon II inKhorsabad, where they could have functioned as devices for lighting or ventilation. Rings such as those from Zincirli are described by Victor Place from the room 22 of the serail inKhorsabad as “manchons en terre cuite”50: they resemble theAfis funnels, but are shorter and without the glazed

horned end. Victor Place stresses the location where the pipes have been found arguing their architectural

functionfromthe which he context,

tobe of theventilationand of thevaulted hypothesises part lighting

chambers51. The comparisons of the few data available, keeping inmind the historical data of of the

reignsof Sargon II (721-705) andBar Rakib (c. 733-711) as chronologicalreferences,leadus to think we are dealing here with some materials which could have been used as architectural devices innorthern

Syria and Assyria at about the same time from the second half of 8thcentury up to the 7thcentury.

47. Andrae 1943, p. 60-61, Taf. 31, f-g.

48. See recentlyPucci 2008 fordiscussiononZincirlibuildingphases,andIbid.,p. 72-73, fortheprovenanceofclayfists and glazed rings. See also Lehmann 1996, p. 279.

49. Koldewey 1898, p. 167

50. Place 1867-70, p. 54-55, PL 67, 11-14. 51. Ibid, p. 315-316.

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110 S. SOLDI Syria86(2009)

Figure9:Clay funnelsfromTempleAI. S. Soldi? Archivio Missione Archeologica aTellAfis.

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Syria86 (2009)


Figure 10:Clay funnelsfromTempleAI. S.Martelli? ArchivioMissione Archeologica aTeliAf?s.

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A05A117 1




Syria86 (2009)

It is of course too early tohypothesize an origin and to define the exact function for

these items52,but we can confidently affirm that architects from northern Syria and

from Assyria were using similar devices as

part ofmonumental buildings53.
In any case, it is remarkable that this

technique of glazed artefacts first appears within a monumental building inAfis

in this last phase of great architectural

of the settlement54. We can also recall that historical sources recording details of the construction of Sargon’s new

capital D?r Sarrukin between717 and 706 bc55,mention, among workers from all

over the empire, the presence of a squad fromHatarikka involvedinmoulding large

bricksfortheterraceand inglazingbricks,

probably for the gateways56.
Although it isveryhard togive a firm

date at themoment for the first erection of

the great temple, because of the poor state

of preservation, we can suppose that in

Assyrian times thebuildingwas actively restored and still served as a primary cult


on the citadel. Various restorations of thewhite plastered floors on thewestern


Figure 11a: “Rohr-Ringe”fromZincirliN?rdlicheHallenbau (fromAndrae 1943,Taf. 31, f-g);b: “Handkonsolen”fromZincirli

N?rdlicheHallenbau (fromAndrae 1943,Taf. 31, d-e).

sideofthestructurteestifyhowcontinuouscarewas takentokeepingthebuildingingoodorderuntilits

lastmoment of activity57.We suppose that this care was taken during the last period of the town, when Hazrek/Hatarikka would have been the residence of anAssyrian governor58.

52. Concerning Syria it isworth tomention that”clay nails” in the shape of longpipes have been foundnear theBaal

andAstarte temples and infrontof the entranceof the fourthTemple in chantierM inLate Bronze Age Emar: theywere

probably insertedintothewalls, decoratingthefacades of thebuildings (Margueron 1982,p. 32-34; Margueron 1993,p. 467, n.352-353).TheEmaritemsarelongerthantheIronAge ones,andhaveaclosedendwhichcanbeplainortapering;theyare

more similarin and functiontothe nail butcouldbe an forthe probably shape Mesopotamian tradition, interestinpgrototype

Afis andZincirli ones.
53. Even thefoundinginZincirli of theglazed rings togetherwithHandkonsolen (or clay fists,see Peltenburg 1968;

Moorey 1994,p. 314-315) points towardscontactsbetweennorthernSyrianandAssyria, even thoughtheuncertaintyof the provenance contextsmakes furtherspeculationsmore difficulton the subject (Pucci 2008, p. 73). Glazed clay fistswith the shapeofarmandhandarealso recordedinKhorsabad (Place 1867-70,p. 234;Albenda 1986,p. 98) andA??ur (Preusser 1955,

p.21;Taf. 14,b;Taf. 17).
54.Among thefew examples of glazed artefactsfrom thewestern acropolis,we can recall an interestinfgragmentof a

glazed bottleof IronII comingfromLevel 1ofArea E2 (Degli Esposti 1998,p. 244; fig.15,1): thespecimenbelongs toawell known typologylabelledas “AlMina glazedware” (see Peltenburg 1969).

55. Albenda 1986, p. 35-36.

56. Fales & Postgate 1995,p. XV-XVIII; see inparticularText n? 21, p. 21. For archaeological evidence of glazed bricks atKhorsabad citygates, seeAlbenda 1986,p. 41.

57. Soldi 2005, p. 26 (whiteplasteredfloor6130,westward ofwall 5139). 58. Hawkins 1982, p. 425.

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Syria86 (2009) aramaeans and assyrians in north-western syria 113

More interestingitemscomingfrom thearea of thetempleare representedby a groupoffragments ofpaintedclayvessels,probablyused as incenseburners(fig.12a-b). These elementscomefromthe

areainfrontofthesouthernfa?adeofthetemplew,heresomefragmentsofthehornedfunnelsand someshapedbackedbrickshavebeenfound,close tothestonethreshold;theyallbelongtothelast

documented phase of the temple, i.e. the level underneath the topsoil. These vessels show a remarkable

surface are intwocolorsand burnishedT.he decorationof finishing, painted accurately plastic triangular

fringesand roundedpetals lead us to thinkof these itemsas cultic standskept insideor at thevery entrance of the temple. Interesting comparisons can be found at al-Mina Level 859,Tell Mastuma60 and

Zincirli61(fig.13a-e). The Zincirli and al-Mina comparisonsare particularlystrikingbecause of the bichromepaintingand thepresenceofpetals.Lehmannproposesa datefortheZincirliexamplesof the 7thcentury bc62. In Syria a new decorated example with black and red alternated bands has been found


7thto 6th which harmoniseswell with theAfis early century),

ina Late Iron III horizon placed Age

(late documentationT.heoriginforsuchmaterialscanbetracedbacktoaPhoenicianculticbackground,as

some attestation on theLevantine coast can confirm64.
More comparisonscanbe foundalsowith theIronAge culticstandsfromtheSouthernLevant65:two

examplesfromMegiddo IronIIAhavebichromiedecorationwithconcentricirclesandpendantsonthe exteriorof thebowl (fig.13f-g)66,liketheAfis examples.One more itemwithpendantson thestandhas been found in theIA IIB stratumfromTell es-Safi (fig.13h)67.

Some comparison with theAfis exemplars can also be sought in iconographie sources, as reviewed by Eric Gubel inhis proposal to identifyelementsof themarzeah ritewithin thereliefscenefrom

inan outdoor The scholar identifietshe setting. Belgian petals

Niniveh of
of the stand as a mark of a Levantine type of incense burner, well attested in Phoenicia and Palestine68.

kingAssurbanipal banqueting

Some elementswhich show a strongand directconnectionofAfis to theAssyrianmilieu are also presentat thesite.Three fritseals engravedinAssyrian stylehave been foundon theacropolis69;twoof themcomefromtheupper levelsofAreaA (fig.14a-b)70,althoughnotdirectlyrelatedtothefloorsof

thetemple;thethirdhas been foundon thesurfacebetweenAreas A andG (fig.14c-d)71.Two of them

present a typical Neo-Assyrian contest scene between an archer and a dragon, a type very common in theMesopotamian heartland as well as in thewestern provinces72. Mazzoni attributes these examples toan 8 -7A centuryhorizon,ata timewhen thiskindofmaterialarrivedinwesternSyriaduringthe


dominationof the It isworth thatthisclass of seals has not been found region73. noting

59.Lehmann1996,Taf.30: 179/1-2;seealsop.394.
60. Ibid.,Taf. 30:179/3.
61. Lehmann 1994, p. 114, . 5-6; Andrae 1943, 56, Abb. 64-65, Taf. 23: d-e.
62. Lehmann 1994,p. 115.
63.Morandi Bonacossi 2008,p. 121,fig.44.
64. Culican 1980,p. 85-86, fig. 1 (fromAkhziv); Vassos Karageorghis connectssome examplesfromCyprus toPhoenician

influencesinthereligiousritualson theisland(Karageorghis 1996,p. 78-79). 65.Amiran 1970,p. 304-306; n? 342, 341, 349 fromMegiddo, dated to IronAge I. 66. Grutz 2007, fig. 7.6.1: 1; 7.6.2: 5.
67. Ibid., fig. 7.7.2: 3.

68. Gubel 1989, p. 48-50; Gubel 1992, p. 452-453; Niemeyer 1970, p. 98; see also Galling 1922, Taf. 14, 52-53. At the timeofwriting thefollowingbook was not available tome: B. M?rstadt, Ph?nizische Thymiateria.Zeugnisse des

OrientalisierungsprozessesinMittelmeerraum.OriginaleFunde, bildlicheQuellen, originalerKontext,AOAT, 354,M?nster, Ugarit-Verlag,2008.

69. See detailed analysis and comparisons inMazzoni 2008b, with bibliography.
70. TA.72.232. (Mazzoni 1990,p. 217-218; Mazzoni forthcominbg, fig. 3, d); TA.03.A.186 (Mazzoni 2008b, fig. 3). 71. TA.97.G.450 (Mazzoni forthcomingb, fig.4, b;Mazzoni 2008b, fig. 2a-b).
72. See examplesfromNimrud (Mallowan 1966,p. 297, n. 272), Tell SheikhHammad (D?r-Katlimmu) (Bonatz,K?hne &

Mahmoud 1998, p. 122, cat. . 114),Al Mina Level 8 (Woolley 1938, p. 161; Pl. XV: MN 360) andmore comparisons in Mazzoni 2008b, p. 156 (Assur,Tell Knedig, Tell Halaf, Tell Abou Danne).

73.Mazzoni 2008b, p. 156.

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s. sol1d1i4 Syria 86 (2009)

Figure 12a: Fragmentsofpainted incenseburnersfromTempleAI. S.Martelli? ArchivioMissione Archeologica aTellAfis.

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Syria86 (2009) aramaeans and assyrians in north-western syria 115

Figure 13 a-b: IncenseburnersfromAl Mina (fromLehmann 1996,Taf. 30, 179:1-2); c: TellMastuma (fromLehmann 1996,

Taf. 30, 179:3); d-e: Zincirli (fromLehmann 1994, 114,n. 5-6); f-g:Megiddo (fromGrutz 2007, fig. 7.6.1: 1; 7.6.2 :5); h: Tell es-Safi(fromGrutz 2007,fig.7.7.2: 3).

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116 S. SOLDI Syria86(2009)

inHama,probablyconfirmingthefactthaHtama isnotmentionedbetweenthenewprovincialcapitalsin theAssyrian empire74,whereas Hazrek/Hatarikka would have been the residence of a local governor75.

On thewestern sideof thetemple,underneaththefallenmud bricksof thewesternouterwall, a bronzecarinatedbowl has been found(fig.15). Itbelongs toa class ofAssyrianbronzebowlswhich had awide distribution fromAssyria to Syria and theLevant between the 9thand 7thcenturies bc76.

FromthecollectedevidenceitisclearthatthetempleofAreaA,which canbe regardedas a typical Syrian temple,was inuse duringIronAge III, andmight have been conservedand restoredby the

theirlocal Materialsfromtheareaofthe can a terminus Assyriankings through governors. temple give

ante quern for its last period of use, but until now no good evidence can furnish data on the date of its construction; we cannot exclude, as already stated by Matthiae at the time of the first excavations on

theacropolis ofAfis, thatthebuildingmight have been erectedduringan earlierdate,probably in the 8thcentury bc77,when Afis would have played a primary and independent role in the region.


We can now present a general picture ofAfis between the 8thand 7thcenturies as a lively urban centre in thecontextof a complexpolitical and culturalscenario.The cityof theAramaean Zakkur passed through times ofwars and struggles between Aramaean kingdoms and themilitary advent ofAssyria.

Archaeological recordstestifythatthetownwas stillflourishingand expandedduringAssyrian times and a large religious building was still active on its acropolis. Even though no architectural trace of an

Assyrian political residence has been detected yet, the archaeological evidence is now more harmonised withhistoricalrecordsA. sequenceof templesfromthelateIronAge I toIronAge III has been excavated onthewesternsideoftheacropolis,culminatinwgiththeimposingtempleinantisofthelatestperiod.

The erection of a temple was mentionned in Zakkur’s stele and we can now prove that an important

centredid indeedexiston the of where and stonedecorationswere religious acropolis Afis, inscriptions

once displayed.During thissameperiod thetownwas stillat itsmaximum extensionandwas one of the largest settlements in the region between Hama and Aleppo.

The Aramaean town does not seem to come to an end with the arrival of Assyrian armies and

the reductionof this region to anAssyrian province in 738 bc under king Tiglath-pileserIII. Royal inscriptions mention Hazrek/Hatarikka as one of the provinces of the Empire: several mentions, from

thetimesofSargonIItoSennacheribandEsarhaddontestifythaHtatarikkawas ruledbyagovernorand contributed in several ways to the life of theEmpire. We know from texts that the governor ofHatarikka

participatedwith hisworkers in theconstructionof thecapital of Sargon II inKhorsabad78; the stele from Tell Acharneh, a large site north-west of Hama, indicates that Sargon II erected one of his victory

stele inHatarikka afterthedefeatofHamath in720 bc79and theEponymChroniclementions thename of a governor forHatarikka in 689, during Sennacherib’s reign80. Evidence which has emerged from the

74.Mazzoni 2008b,p.156;onHamaandMansuate inAssyriantimesseeHawkins1995a,p.97;anAssyrianizedseal witharcherandwingedhuman-headedbullhasbeenfoundinTellRifa’atLevel 2,usuallyidentifiewdithAramaeanArpadand

transformedinAssyrian province in theyears around 740 bc underKing Tiglath-pileserIII (SetonWilliams 1961, p. 74-75;

PI. XLI, 1; on thereductionofArpad toAssyrian province, see recentlyKahn 2007, p. 84-85). 75.HatarikkaisstilmlentionedasadministrativdeistrictintheEponymChroniclein689atthetimeofkingSennacherib

underasatrapnamedGahilu/Gihilu(Ungnad1938,p.427;p.447;Luckenbill 1968,II,p.438); itisalsoattestedinEsarhaddon’s

times(Hawkins 1982,p. 425; see also Fales & Postgate 1992,p. 125).
76. See examplesfromAssur graves (Miglus 1996,Taf. 67, c); see alsoHamilton 1966,p. 3-7. This shape stretchesto late

IronAge and Persian period (see exemplarsfromDeve H?y?k inMoorey 1980,p. 36-37 ;fig. 6: 104-109). 77. Matthiae 1979, p. 4.
78. See above, note n. 56.
79.Frame2006,49; p.52.

80. See above, note n. 75

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Figure 15:Neo-Assyrian bronze bowl fromthecollapse of thewesternmud brickwall ofTempleAI M, M. Necci, S.Martelli ? ArchivioMissione Archeologica a Tell Afis.

latest excavations show how Afis was effectively still a lively centre during theAssyrian domination of western Syria81, although no epigraphic record from this period has come to support the work of

In the face of the scarcity iconographic and epigraphic documents we are leftwith thematerial

culture with which to evaluate the level of interaction between Aramaean and Assyrian components

at the site.Whereas pottery does not support our aim because of itshomogeneity and because of the

persistence of local traditions throughout the period82, we can identify traces ofAssyrian elements such as the seals and the bronze bowl, and traditions typical of western regions, such as the painted incense burners and the religious architectural plan. The coexistence of these different elements and the presence for the first time at the site of glazed materials employed as architectural elements can point towards an

issue of a certain cultural interaction during the last period of the town.

If our interpretation of the archaeological records coming from the area of the temple is correct, we are dealing here with a religious monument belonging to theAramaean town which was not dismissed

81. Other sites seem to suffera reductionin size and developmentafterthedestructionofHama by Sargon II; see the case ofMishrifeh,whichfroma flourishingIronII sitehas amore sparseouterwall occupationattestedby IronIIImaterials (Morandi Bonacossi 2006, p. 108); a similarphenomenonoccurs inTellAcharnehwhere theCanadian expeditionhas identified occupationlayerswithmaterialsfromIronIIand lateIronII-earlyIronIII,butnoevidenceforIronIIIandAssyrianpresence

(Cooper& Fortin2004,p.22;p.48). 82. Mazzoni 2000b, p. 54-55.

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118 S. SOLDI Syria86(2009)

inAssyrian times, but was always restored and kept in perfect order. The typical Syrian plan is a clear indicator of local traditions across the centuries, whereas some elements ofmaterial culture testify to

its still prominent role inAssyrian times. The coexistence of these two traditions, elsewhere clearly evidentfromiconographieand artisticelementsor fromepigraphicand linguisticrecords,could be an

witness of thenew culturaland koin? of the when the last interesting political Neo-Assyrian empire,

elements of acculturation and mutual influence between Aramaeans, absorbed in a new political system, and Assyrians, absorbing new cultural influences from various regions of the Empire, give rise to a new ecumenical inter-cultural mix.

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