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Ebla

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, a king of Ebla. That identified the city, long known from Egyptian and Akkadian inscriptions. In the next decade the team discovered a palace dating ca. 2500 – 2000 BC. About 2,500 well-preserved cuneiform tablets were discovered in the ruins. 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.

It now appears that the building housing the tablets was not the palace library, which may yet be uncovered, but an archive of provisions and tribute, law cases and diplomatic and trade contacts, and a scriptorium where apprentices copied texts. The larger tablets had originally been stored on shelves, but had fallen onto the floor when the palace was destroyed. The location where tablets were discovered where they had fallen allowed the excavators to reconstruct their original position on the shelves. It soon appeared that they were originally shelved according to subject.

Ebla in the third millennium BC

It has been suggested that a possible explanation of the word "Ebla" is "white rock", referring to the limestone outcrop on which the city was built. Although the site shows signs of continuous occupation from before 3000 BC, its power grew and reached its peak in the second half of the following millennium. Ebla's first apex was between ca. 2400 and 2240 BC. Its name is mentioned in texts from Akkad from ca. 2300 BC.

Most of the Ebla palace tablets, which date back to that period, are about economic matters; they provide a good look into the everyday life of the inhabitants, as well as many important insights into the cultural, economic, and political life in northern Mesopotamia around the middle of the third millennium B.C. The texts are accounts of the state revenues, but they also include royal letters, Sumerian-Eblaite dictionaries, school texts and diplomatic documents, like treaties between Ebla and other towns of the region.

The fifth and last king of Ebla during this period was Ebrium's son, Ibbi-Zikir, the first to succeed in a dynastic line, thus breaking with the established Eblaite custom of electing its ruler for a fixed term of office, lasting seven years. This absolutism may have contributed to the unrest that was ultimately instrumental in the city's decline. Meantime, however, the reign of Ibbi-Zikir was considered a time of inordinate prosperity, in part because the king was given to frequent travel abroad. It was recorded both in Ebla and Aleppo that he concluded specific treaties with neighboring Armi, as Aleppo was called at the time.

Economy

At that time, Ebla was a major commercial center. Its major commercial rival was Mari, with whom it fought a lengthy war estimated as lasting 80–100 years. The tablets reveal that the city's inhabitants owned about 200,000 head of mixed cattle (sheep, goats, and cows). The city's main articles of trade were probably timber from the nearby mountains (and perhaps from Lebanon), and textiles (mentioned in Sumerian texts from the city-state of Lagash). Most of its trade seems to have been directed (by river-boat) towards Mesopotamia (chiefly Kish). The main palace at Ebla was also found to contain "antiques" dating from Ancient Egypt with the names of pharaohs Khafra and Pepi I. Handicrafts may also have been a major export. Exquisite artifacts have been recovered from the ruins, including wood furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl and composite statues created from different colored stones. The artistic style at Ebla may have influenced the quality work of the Akkadian empire.

 

L. Nasser

Syria the center of prehistoric civilization (2)

The results of excavations executed in Al-Aswad Hill since the early seventies of the past century to date include the discovery of agricultural tools like sickles and grinding stones prove good experience of agriculture. Technically there is evidence of good industrial products like flint, hunting weapon,  arrow heads, drills and erasers. In addition to bone tools like needles which prove that there was a textile production and clothe making. The natural environment of Damascus ghouta rich in swamps and lakes obliged people to build simple houses of light materials like mud and reeds baked mud.

Archaeological missions found evidences of the progress of human manual skills, in the period between 7000 and 6500 BC.   They discovered in Al-Aswad Hill several industrial tools made of precious polished stones like rubies and emeralds … etc. They found also large numbers of baked mud figures some of them are flat and some have rectangular shapes. Many mud figurines representing humans and animals were also discovered, most of them representing woman with naked shoulders and chests, primary artistic achievements of the ancient man in Syria.

Paleontological studies allowed us to know that grain and fruit were planted in Syria in the 8th millennium BC. We have confirmations of the existence of olive, fig, and palm trees; in addition to vines and hemp since the seventh millennium BC; as well as charred grains that can be used for laboratory analysis. They discovered in Al-Aswad Hill several species of wheat and barley where a number of agricultural villages grew in Damascus basin, where human aspects were discovered and categorized by archaeologists as the Damascene physiognomy a category that belongs to the middle Euphrates.

Many evidences were found,  showing the nature of ancient man beliefs in Neolithic age, especially ancestors worship. When a person dies he is buried in a pit in the embryo position, alone or with a child. For instance, in one pit there was a separate skull with a skeleton buried in embryo position under which there was a full skeleton with four separate skulls,  two of them going back to children and one to the mother. Alongside in the same pit, there has been found pearl beads,  four sickles, and two flint stone arrow heads; All those discoveries proves that the tomb was used several times and might belong to one family.

Ancestors Worship was not a ritual only performed in Al-Aswad hill, but also in Jericho and Bisamon in Palestine, and Himar valley south the dead sea. By means of skulls planted with human heads and buried in brick holes,  which indicates the existence of religious funerary rites prevailing in all the Levant showing the social and spiritual unity of the early inhabitants of Syria since Neolithic age.         

Another kind of veneration was human statues representing the mother goddess found in both Al-Aswad and Ghreqa Hills. Some of them represent the body of a woman standing with bulged bust and legs, or seated on a throne having a  plant form to indicate the importance of the role played by women in 7th millennium BC in ancient Syria.  Animal figurines were also discovered,  reflecting the economic importance of animals in addition to their venerating significance. For instance, many statues of bull heads were discovered from later ages,  confirming that bull worship had grown widely.

  Regarding, animal domestication it passed through several stages, before reaching the status of perfection. It had been realized that dogs were the first animals domesticated in the 9th millennium BC, followed by sheep, goats, pigs, cows, horses, camels, and donkeys.

 

Haifaa Mafalani

Tourism Industry, Syrian Trust for Development Sign MoU

DAMASCUS, (ST)- The Ministry of Tourism and Syrian Trust for Development recently signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the tourism potential and rehabilitate cadres working in the field of handicrafts and craftsmanship.

The Minister of Tourism, Bisher Yaziji, has underlined that the memorandum of understanding is an important step for the development of tourism development and young human resources working in the crafts that make up the rooted identity of theSyrian craftsmanship in addition to being a gesture to turn a new investment based on a scientific basis that depends on the development of youth potentials in conducting facilities and existing investments.

For his part, the Secretary-General of the Syria Trust for Development, Fares Qallass, pointed out that that development work will not be effective without the cooperation with public and private sectors to  support the traditional and manual occupations indicating that some of the traditional occupations are endangered and the civil society has an important role in developing and restoring life to this craftsmanship under the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism.

"Joint projects were prepared with the ministry for training, rehabilitation and protection of the Syrian heritage from extinction and submitting it to the Syrian community in a new way," Qallass said.

Under the memorandum of understanding, actual steps will be taken including providing centers for the practice of traditional crafts, selling their products and reviving the places of manufacturing of blowing glass in Damascus and all the provinces and the work on the restart in training of new artisans in addition to the participating in internal and external exhibitions by displaying  local products, traditional industries and crafts and participating in the coordination of festivals, which take care in supporting  environmental and heritage arena.

The memo also stipulated on the choice of some of the tourist places of archaeological and religious places and studying the possibility of investing them as tourist sites, holding conferences,  vocational and training workshops, exchange of expertise and developing private publications in addition to organize tourist tours to Arab and international delegations that will be invited by Syria Trust for Development.

Sh. Kh.

Syria the center of prehistoric civilization (1)

World news agencies were highly interested in the latest archaeological discoveries lately revealed by the Syrian-French excavation mission; which become the dominant subject of scientists and archeologists specialized in prehistoric eras especially that of the Neolithic age that witnessed the early development of agriculture and flying animals domestication. This epoch was characterized by the invention of several tools and large developments in various arenas, a matter that would change the future of humanity and upcoming civilizations. All those significant events took first place in Syria as early as the 9th millennium BC.

Archaeological missions excavating in Tal Al-Aswad hill, dating back to past century, found molded human skulls dyed in red with eyes holes filled with black tar, indicating evidence of certain funerary rites and ancient theological beliefs predating the 7th millennium BC.

Rites and beliefs related to our ancestors who had left behind several ancient agriculture tools like sickles, knives, arrows heads and charred grains; confirm that ancient inhabitants of the place had practiced agriculture and domesticated animals.

Archaeological studies and researches executed in several areas in and around Damascus confirmed that the period between the 8th and 9th millennium BC, was very rich as it witnessed significant human lifestyle alteration. For instance, leaving caves to found built villages and changing towards stable settlements in an established area. Those villages by themselves represented the great achievement of deliberate development of life principles in Syria before any other part in the world.

Moving towards an organized productive economy was a giant step in the history of humanity; it paved the way for later civilizations to progress and prosper, that why scientists called it the Neolithic revolution. Water abundance and land fertility in Damascus and around it, helped man to settle in that area since old ages. Therefore, technical and ideological development in ancient Syrian villages was accorded to villages like Al-Aswad, Al Rammeds, Al Mureibet, Baqrass's and Abu Haere's Hills. All excavations executed in the aforementioned sites confirm these facts.

Al-Aswad Hill in Damascus ghouta, is located in an area of swamps between two lakes, with superficies of 270x225 m. The site exploration and examination has proven that human settlement started between 7790 and 6690 BC. The site was proven to date back to the first Neolithic age which preceded pottery industry era, by means of comparing stone items and tools discovered in Al-Aswad Hill with discoveries of other sites. Moreover, the hill counted in a crowed quarter of round shaped houses full of ashes and burnt plants, having cylindrical silos that might had been used for storing grains. Houses were connected in most cases, evidences revealed that older houses were linked with newer ones.

Excavation found large numbers of bricks made of mud mixed with hay. Each brick has a flat bottom and a concave top with traces of human fingers; pieces of them were found burnt and charred among the ruins, in addition to well-arranged ones. 2006 discoveries proved that Al-Aswad Hill was a village of small round cottages built extensively near each other.

Mud was used to make low platforms, whereas the upper part of the cottage was built of light materials easy to catch fire, since findings showed that houses were burnt several times. It is also worth mentioning that the surrounding environment obliged the village dwellers to use light materials like reeds usually grow in sumps Lakes Utaibe and Hijaneh were rich in fish which used as the main food stuff.   

(To be continued)

 Haifaa Mafalani

Tourism Ministry, DPASE Sign Memo

DAMASCUS, (ST) - The Ministry of Tourism and the Development and Promotion Authority of Syrian Exports (DPASE) recently signed a memorandum of understanding to identify the economic products and tourism promotion within a joint action plan.

Following the signing of the memo, Deputy Minister of Tourism, eng. Abdullah Ziyada, clarified that the memo requires the participation in international fairs within an action plan, noting that the Syrian House Project, which the two parties are sharing in its foundation in cooperation with the concerned bodies, aims to identify economic and traditional products and tourism promotion abroad.

For his part, the Director of the Authority, Ehab Ismandar, pointed out that the memo based on a set of points of convergence between the two sides and mutual benefits "because tourism exports directly affect the export, noting that the authority organizes a range of programs outside Syria that will contribute to the establishment of outlets for the promotion of tourism, especially in the post-crisis period.

"The Syrian House Project will be a mechanism to promote products and Syrian culture and can be used to establish the Office of the definition of tourism in Syria, pointing out that the study of the project began almost a year ago and the appropriate places were chosen in some states to be the first experiment in Iran,” Mr. Ismandar added.

For his part, the Director of Planning and International Cooperation in the Ministry of Tourism, engineer Kassem Darwish, said that the memo is the result of an integrated work between the two sides and that the plan aims to attract foreign consumers of the tourist gate which contributes to the increase in small and medium enterprises and to reduce costs and achieve a good economic revenue.

Sh. Kh.