Archaeological Site of Ebla – University of Copenhagen

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Idlib - Northern Syria


Archaeological Site of Ebla

Historical & archaeological value

One of the key sites in Syria, Ebla was a powerful Bronze Age kingdom which flourished in the period between 3000 and 1600 BC. The site was discovered in 1964 by an Italian archaeological mission and is located on modern Tell-Mardikh, around 55km to the south of Aleppo. Architectural remains at the site include palaces and temples dating to the Bronze Age, with a wonderful royal palatial complex, ‘Palace G’, dating to the Early Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC). During this period, Ebla was considered among the strongest kingdoms in Syria, alongside the kingdom of Yamḥad (believed to be modern Aleppo). Archival documents mentioned that Ebla troops controlled a large area and a peace treaty was concluded between the rulers of Ebla and the ruler of the kingdom of Mari (modern Tell Hariri) on the Euphrates. Alongside military might, Palace ‘G’ with its residential and administrative parts, as well as the portico, provides further evidence of the importance of the kingdom.

Excavations at Ebla have also uncovered temples dedicated to local Syrian deities such as the temple of Ishtar and temple of the rock dedicated to the city’s main deity, the storm-god Hadad. A very rich material culture was also discovered including a significant cuneiform tablet archive, a unique archive which date is contemporary with the date of ‘Palace G’ (ca. 2400-2300 BC). This archive included economic, political, administrative texts as well as literature. The scope of the archive covered various aspects of the early Syrian city’s life and contributed significantly to the linguistic field. The language of the archive, was called ‘Eblaic’ and it represented a local and independent, archaic stage of the Semitic languages used in the region. The array of rich finds from the site includes highly-developed pottery types, metal tools, weapons, jewellery, and cylinder seals, some made from precious stones. Numerous human and divine statues were also discovered and range from basalt stone figures to the golden statue of a bull-man. The site is also famous for its sculpted cultic basins, including one of a banquet scene depicting a ruler figure and high-ranking local officials, as well as the Ishtar stele which depicts scenes of religious life in ancient Ebla.

The archaeological site of Ebla was submitted to the tentative list of UNESCO in 1999.