| 3 December 2009
Bronze Age temple unearthed in Syria
The remains of a Bronze Age temple dedicated to the storm god Adda were discovered beneath Aleppo's Ottoman citadel. A massive citadel built atop a 150-foot-tall hill of solid rock looms over Aleppo's old quarter. Fortresses have risen above this northern Syrian city since Roman times. But at the heart of the citadel, a team of German and Syrian archaeologists is clearing debris from a large pit that shows this hilltop was significant long before the Romans arrived. Here, amid clouds of dust, a battered basalt sphinx and a lion - both standing seven feet tall - guard the entrance to one of the great religious centers of ancient times, the sanctuary of the storm god Adda.
Kay Kohlmeyer, an archaeologist at Berlin's University of Applied Sciences and the excavation codirector, has found that this temple was first constructed by Early Bronze Age peoples, then rebuilt by a succession of cultures, including the Hittites, the Indo-European empire-builders whose domain spread from Anatolia to northern Syria in the 14th century BCE. Through the millennia, as Syrian, Anatolian, and Mesopotamian cultures mixed and blurred at this ancient crossroads, Adda was known variously as Addu, Teshup, Tarhunta, and Hadad. But as artistic styles and languages came and went, the storm god's temple endured.
At the far end of Adda's sanctuary is a row of stone friezes of gods and mythical creatures still standing in a neat row. Their modest size (most are no taller than three feet), clear lines, and almost whimsical subjects - human figures in pointy shoes and hats, a bull pulling a chariot - seem more like a series of three-dimensional cartoon panels.
Kohlmeyer and his team were not the first to uncover the mesmerizing friezes, which were buried when the temple was abandoned in the ninth century BCE. Trenches that date to six centuries later show that Hellenistic people, perhaps digging for valuables, exposed some of the reliefs. Awed by what they found, and possibly fearful of desecrating an ancient holy site, they left the stones intact. Exposed for a century or so until it was swallowed again by debris, the temple may have been an early Near Eastern tourist attraction. And if archaeologists, preservationists, and Syrian government officials have their way, the site will soon offer visitors the rare opportunity to tread the floor of a 5,000-year-old place of worship.
Source: Archaeology (November 2009)
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