Location and description of the site

Ebla was the name of an ancient city located in North Syria situated  on the modern site of Tell Mardikh, near Saraqib in Idlib, about 50 kilometers south of Aleppo. The coordinates of the archaeological  site are: 35.798°N 36.798°E  

Ebla was certainly a large urban center, approximately reaching 60  hectares in size. The oval tell, surrounded by an external wall  (Rampart) conjoins four monumental city gates with inner  fortifications that led into four main roads gave access to the lower  city that surrounds the upper city also known as Acropolis which is  located in the middle of the tell. 

History of archaeological works

The site was visited first by Paolo Matthiae in 1962, after he had  seen in Aleppo Museum the fragments of a double basalt basin,  carved on three sides, and that encourage him to start the  archaeological work at the tell in 1964 heading by Italian Mission 

from the Sapienza University of Rome, but the excavation stopped  in 2010 due to the start of the war in Syria. 

Archaeological levels

The excavations at the site enabled the identification of several  levels that one can trace as follows, from the earliest till the latest: 

Late Chalcolithic Age covering the period (3500- 2900 B.C). Early Bronze Age (2900- 2000 B.C). 

Middle Bronze Age (2000- 1600 B.C). 

Late Bronze Age (1600- 1200 B. C). 

Iron Age (1200- 333 B.C) 

Classic Era (Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine- 333 B.C- 632 A.D).

Historical overview of the site

Ebla knew three prosperous periods across its rich and diverse  history, that could be mentioned as follows:  

1- the Early Bronze Iva (EB IVa 2400- 2250 B.C). 

2- the Early Bronze IV b (EB IVb 2250- 2000 B.C). 3- the Middle Bronze periods (MB 2000- 1600 B.C).  

Each of these main phases ended with a destruction level attested at  the site: the first one, around 2250 BC, was by the Akkadian army,  led by king Sargon, the second one, around 2000 BC, is unknown,  though it cannot be ruled out that the destruction may be related with  the expeditions by the kings of the IIIrd Dynasty of Ur to Syria, and  with the expansion of the Amorites, who were present in the region  from the early stages to the rule; the third, and final destruction,  around 1600 BC, was caused by Hittites and Hurrians armies which  were leaded by king Muršiliš I.

Archaeological discoveries

1- Architectures: 

A- The Palaces: 

– The Royal Palace G 

The Royal Palace G, which was discovered in 1975, was probably  founded in Early Bronze Age around 2400 BC, and was destroyed by the Akkadian King Sargon around 2250 B.C as attested from inscription and archaeological evidence. It was built on the  southwest slope of the Acropolis and stretched over a large part of  it. The palace which has multifunction building had three entrances,  all related with the Audience Court and Throne Hall, the ceremonial,  residential and administrative places and the handicraft, storage  quarters. 

The most significant in the royal palace G is the exceptional  Archives, with more than 17,000 inventory numbers, including 

complete tablets, large fragments and chips. These famous  cuneiform texts allowed to reconstruct not only the economy and  society of the great north inner Syrian Kingdom in ancient times,  but also they revealed aspects of history, religion and culture of a  larger region, reaching to Mari (Tell Hariri) in the Euphrates. 

– The Western Palace Q 

It is likely that this two-floors palace, which extends about 27,300  m2, was the residence of the Crown Prince, and was distinguished  as a multi-functional building that included a section for military,  

agricultural, commercial and administrative objectives. It has an  irregular rectangular shape, and its interior design is based on the  paving of adjacent and identical units around a celestial courtyard,  separated by parallel thickness walls. The Western Palace dates to  the Middle Bronze Age, it was built around 1900 B. C, and  discovered in 1978.  

It’s important to mention the discovery of the royal tomb that was  unearthed under the floors of this palace that was in use during the  last two centuries of the life of the city of Ebla. 

– The Northern Palace P

It has a trapezoidal shape, because its eastern and western outer  walls were built directly above the walls of the old palace. It extends about 3600 m2, and it was built in Middle Bronze Age around 1800  B.C. 

The entrance of the palace is on the western side, the wing of services is on the northern side, and the food stores are on the eastern  side. It is possible that the palace was used for official ceremonies,  especially for public rituals related to the priestly role of the king as  the guardian of the goddess Ishtar. This palace differs from the other  two royal palaces G and Q in Ebla, because it did not have an upper  floor and residential rooms, but it seems that it planned to the royal  reception requirements and nothing else 

– The Royal Palace E

Its construction dates back to the Middle Bronze Age, only its  northern wing, which reached about 15,000 m2, was revealed. It may  have been the residence of the king or the room of the central  administration, or a place for storage and goods under the control of  the palace. It was built on the northern end of the Acropolis, in the  middle of it is a rectangular courtyard, its western and northern walls  are wider than the other two walls, surrounded by rooms on the north  and east and a porch on the south, indicating that the palace is large. 

– The Southern Palace FF

This palace is located south of the low city, and extended over an  area of approximately 1000 m2. The owner of this place was the  official who took care of the caravan passage and the of the  messengers (or apostles), and the archaeologist found in it large  rooms containing ponds that may have been used as animal stables,  or tanneries. 

B- The Temples: 

– Ishtar’s Temple (Temple D) 

It was built on the slop of the Acropolis and was closely associated  with the royal palace G. It likes most of the temples in Ebla, it was  constructed according to tripartite plan and an entrance which was  located in the southern part of it and leads to a corridor then to anti 

cella and a long cella. On the back wall of the cella there was a niche  meant to host the Ishtar goddess’s cult statue, which was in her  quality as patron deity of the whole town 

– Temple B2 

The other main temple, in fact the largest temple at Ebla, was located  in the Lower Town North, and was part of a large cult complex,  Ishtar’s Cult Area وin the Lower Town (Area P). It was located by  the edge of a wide-open space, the Cisterns Square, where  ceremonies took place. 

– Shamash’s Temple (Area N)

It located east of Ishtar’s Cult Area, the smaller Shamash’s Temple  (Area N) stood, dedicated to the Sun God, which also featured one  long cella. This cult place, which several hints lead to believe was  attributed to the god of justice, was meaningfully oriented to the  East, where Sun rises in the morning. 

C- Royal Tombs

The Excavations in the Western Palace led the mission to discover the royal cemetery dating back to the Middle Bronze Age, and four  ground burials were discovered in the central area of the palace, and  there are three other tombs that excavator believes have been constructed for funerary functions. 

The three royal tombs located in the middle of the palace were  composed of caves connected with each other, and the initial  discoveries indicate that the Tomb of the Princesses (1800 BC)  located in the south is the oldest of the three burials, and it is  followed by the funeral burial located to the east of the first. The  name is the Tomb of the Lord of the Goats (1750 BC), while the one  located to the west is the most recent of them, and it was called the  tomb of the Cisterns (1700 BC). 

D- The rampart and Gates 

The rampart of the imposing defensive system and was pierced by  four gates, to the: 1- North-West Gate – Aleppo Gate – is actually  below the modern path leading into the site, and only one side outer  sector of it was brought to light: a massive semi-circular wall. 2- 

North-East Gate – Euphrates Gate – is preserved only in the northern  side. It featured the classical monumental tenaille structure, with a  strong development in length marked by three successive pairs of  buttresses and two rooms; it is quite likely that this entrance, like  Damascus Gate, also had an advanced gate. 3- South-East Gate or  Steppe Gate is the least preserved: the walls were nearly all pillaged,  but is quite likely that it was also the least monumental of the four,  as it led towards a direction not basic for the commercial and  political life of the urban center. 4- South-West Gate or Damascus 

Gate is the most monumental and best preserved one. Nearly 50 m  long it really includes two entrances: the innermost sector, with a  main gate with three pairs of buttresses and two rooms, and by an  outer sector with a second shorter gate, with two pairs of buttresses  and only one room. The two main entrances to the Old Syrian town  

2- Artifactes

Ebla provided us with significant artistic and urban discoveries. Not  to mention its major ritual archives, among the important founds we  have a small statue of wood charred due to the fire that the royal  palace was exposed to, representing one of the kings of Ebla and  dating to the third millennium BC, and a statue of a wild bull with a  human head in the royal palace G is made of wood and covered with  gold. 

As for the pottery industry, it was prosperous and highly developed,  and the discoveries of the royal palace and the Western Palace came  during the Middle Bronze Age attest to outstanding products of the  ancient Kingdom. 


  1. Matthiae, Ebla: An Empire Rediscovered, 1980.
  2. Matthiae, Ebla, la città rivelata, 1995.


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