Daily Archives: August 28, 2011

Evidence suggests Qarqur (Qarqar) continued when other civilizations saw a period of collapse

Archaeologists from the University of Arkansas “have found evidence for the continuity of civilization across a time period when civilizations throughout the Middle East and elsewhere were collapsing. Their work occurred at Tell Qarqur, an important archeological site in the Orontes River Valley in northwestern Syria.” (I typically use the Anglicized spelling Qarqar.)

“This new evidence shows the survival of a city through this tumultuous period about 4,000 to 4,200 years ago,” said Jesse Casana, associate professor of anthropology. “Our discovery offers a rare glimpse of what cultures were during this transitional time and challenges ideas about the reasons for the collapse in the first place.”

The end of the third millennium B.C. — roughly 2200 to 2000 B.C. — is often described as a dark age because this period experienced the collapse of many major states, including the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia, Old Kingdom Egypt and the Harappan culture of the Indus Valley. Major cities and small towns across the Middle East that had been occupied for centuries were suddenly abandoned, leaving a gap in the archaeological and historical record.

Read the full news release here. Several photos from the album may be seen at Live Science here.

Matt McGowan, science and research communications officer at the University of Arkansas, has kindly granted permission for us to use this photo. It shows Tell Qarqur from the east. Qarqur is located in the Orontes River Valley in northwestern Syria.

Qarqur from the east. Photo by Prof. Casana, courtesy University of Arkansas.
Qarqur from the east. Photo by Prof. Casana, courtesy University of Arkansas.

You will see an archaeological trench cut in the side of the tell. This allows the excavators to go down to bedrock and get a slice of every civilization that occupied the site.

Notice a portion of a second mound on the right of the image. I had the opportunity to visit the area in 2002 during early May. At that time the fields were wet and the tells were green.

Tell Qarqar. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, May, 2002.

Tell Qarqar. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, May, 2002.

The Assyrian Empire ruled the ancient near east from the battle of Qarqar (853 B.C.) till the battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.) when they were defeated by the Babylonians. Nineveh had fallen seven years earlier. This was the time of the Divided Kingdom period in Israelite history, and Assyria had contact with a numerous biblical kings. Ahab, for example, fought against the Assyrians at Qarqar. Qarqar is north of Hammath (Hama). Both are on the Orontes River.

For a photo of the other side of the tell now being excavated, click here.

Finds from the excavation are said to be displayed in a museum at Hama. In light of the recent unrest in Syria, I suspect there won’t be many visitors there for a while.

HT: Joseph Lauer