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IN light of recent events, here are ten artefacts from the British Museum to celebrate the ancient civilisations of Syria. Before the Ottoman Empire, the earliest discoveries of Syrian history begin at Ancient Levant (7500 BC-332 BC) comprising of modern Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Western Syria. Bronze Age Syria was divided in its culture and geography; Eastern Syria was culturally defined as Mesopotamian and the coastal region as part of the Levant. Only central Syria developed independently, forming its own unique identity and creating the two major cities of the region – Ebla in the north and Hamath in the south. Towards the end of the Bronze Age, Syria was split between the Egyptians in the south and the Hittites in the north. One of the largest cuneiform tablets discovered so far (2026 BC)

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During the third millennium, the languages of the Levant were written in cuneiform originating in Mesopotamia.

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 Statue of King Idrimi of Alalakh (1570 -1500 BC)    

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The statue is inscribed in cuneiform, telling the story of the King’s exile following a popular revolt. With his mother’s family, he first fled to Meskene on the Euphrates where he joined other refugees from Syria. He lived with the Hapiru and several years later joined an expedition by ship to later recapture Mukish where then became King of Alalakh.

Eye Figurines (Late Uruk period (3300 – 3000 BC)

Hundreds of eye figurines were placed within the foundations of the Eye Temple in Tell Brak, Syria.

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Statue of Gudea

Gudea, King of Lagash ruled in around 2150 BC. This statue would have been placed in one of the many temples and shrines depicting the leader as a pious, faithful worshipper.

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Lapis Lazuli carved in relief with a woman’s face (2500BC)  

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Silver rings were used as currency, by weight (2250 BC)

Tell Taya, Iraq, most likely a method used throughout the region

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Stone Tablet (875-850 BC)

This document records the grant of land awarded to a high official by the King Nabu-apla-iddina, North Babylonia.

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Letter from from Tushratta of Mitanni to Amenhotep III of Egypt negotiating a royal marriage (about 1350 BC), Northern Syria

Three lines of black ink undernearth are written in Egyptian

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Gold and Lapis Lazuli straw (about 2500 BC) 

Originally covered a silver tube most likely used for drinking beer  as it distilled the fermentation products floating within.

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Marble Basin from Ablutions fountain, Hama  (Not strictly ancient) 

Commissioned by Al Malik al Mansur who Ruled Hama between 1244 and 1284

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Noora Ismail

Photographs must not be used without explicit permission from Thaqafa Magazine.

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