Ugarit in the eye of an archeologist

Ugarit, Ras Shamra, is the most important and world-wide famous capital of the  ancient world . It lies hidden among a hill of orange trees overlooking the sea at a distance  of 10 kilometers from the city of lattakia. Its world reputation stems  from the fact of being an everlasting source of myths, a theatre  for the Canaanites Gods and a home for the alphabet  which is  the greatest historical event in humanity.

Promoted by the greatness  of the site and its contents, Professor Charles Virolleaud- a scientist of ancient writings- who managed to solve the symbols of the Ugaritian writings in cooperation with scientists Hans Baur and Edward Dhome said : " the invention  of the alphabet has proved to be  the most exiting human innovation and the greatest historical event, because it emerged from the simplified writing which could be learnt easily by a child. Therefore, many peoples of those who never dreamt of getting rid off illiteracy were helped to become educated.''

Archeologist George Peru said in the same  context, commemorating  the significance of Ugarit 's alphabet  that : the invention of the alphabet was a very important vent that could not be compared with any other event in the history of mankind."

Several American dailies, magazines and art supplements conducted studies and several surveys about the world 's ten important innovators whose discoveries are  of benefit to humanity as a whole since the beginning  of written history. Number one on the list came the man who invented the Alphabet of Ugarit because he helped in conveying  and disseminating  thinking and knowledge which have been transferred through times and beyond boundaries.

The site " Ras Shamra" was discovered by a Syrian farmer and digging works were done under the supervision of the French archeologist  Claude Shiver.

Ever since 1929, excavations  were made annually every spring for one month.

Upon gaining independence in 1946, the government has set up the general department for archaeology and museums, which permitted the French mission to resume excavations at the site as from 1948.

It was found out that the site contains the ruins  of five successive civilizations : the  fifth layer belongs to the Neolithic stone age 7,000-6,000 B.C, the fourth layer dates 4500-4000 B .C, the third went back to 3500- 2100 B.C, the second to  2100, 1600 B.C and the first layer to 1600- 1200 B.C.

The kingdom of  Ugarit  was discovered in the first layer. Among the most important of  the findings was the royal palace which occupies an area of 10,000 square meters. It contains several rooms for the accommodation of the king, his offices, advisors, guards, servant carriages and horses. The palace has seven gate-ways with doors and columns, a big reception hall of stones seats and a special section for written documents " diwan".

The whole palace was built of carved stone and the ground was covered  with floorboards. The sewage system worked in a fine order under the ground.

From the artistic  and architectural point of view the palace is regarded as one of the biggest and most magnificent among palaces of the ancient Near East, with its unmatched " ambassadors " hall.

The clay tablet whose length does not exceed that of a finger was found in the secretariat hall of the palace in the excavations of 1948 's season.

Many other tablets  concerning  the state of Ugarit foreign relation including  letters exchanged by the kings of Ugarit and their counterparts were also found at the palace " Diwan". Also among the discovered were a legal office to keep contracts undersigned by citizens, a secretariat for account books; a department for goods and a warehouse which  files diplomatic documents.

An oven for baking clay tablets  and the statue of God Baal and the Ivory  Head were also found. Added to these was the grave  of Priest "Rapanou", north to the royal palace. It was built of seven pieces of intersected stones to protect the statute from earthquakes and other natural resources.


Tomader Fateh