Emar (modern Tell Meskene, Syria) was an ancient Amorite city on the great bend in the mid-Euphrates in northeastern Syria, now on the shoreline of the man-made Lake Assad. It has been the source of many cuneiform tablets, making it rank with Ugarit, Mari and Ebla among the most important archeological sites of Syria. In these texts, dating as far back as 2500 BC,Fact|date=May 2008 and in excavations in several campaigns since the 1970s, Emar emerges as an important Bronze Age trade center, occupying a liminal position between the power centers of Upper Mesopotamia and Anatolia-Syria. Unlike other cities, the tablets preserved at Emar, most of them in Akkadian and of the thirteenth century BC, are not royal or official, but record private transactions, judicial records, dealings in real estate, marriages, last wills, formal adoptions. In the house of a priest, a library contained literary and lexical texts in the Mesopotamian tradition, and ritual texts for local cults.

The initial salvage excavations in advance of the rising waters of the Syrian Tabqa Dam project were undertaken by two French teams, in 1972-76, under the direction of Jean-Claude Margueron. [Margueron published findings at Emar between 1975 and 1990, beginning with "Les fouilles françaises de Meskéné-Emar", in "Comptes-rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belle-Lettres" 1975:201-213; Daniel Arnaud published the cuneiform texts, 1985-87.] Excavations revealed a temple area comprising the sanctuaries of the weathergod Ba’al and possibly of his consort Astarte of the Late Bronze Age (thirteenth and early twelfth century BC).

After the conclusion of the French excavations the site was left unguarded and was systematically looted, bringing many cuneiform tablets onto the antiquities gray market stripped of their context. In 1992, the Syrian Antiquities Department took charge of the site, and a fresh series of campaigns revealed earlier strata, of the Middle and Early Bronze Ages (second half of the third millennium and the first half of the second millennium BC) the "Imar" that was mentioned in the archives of Mari and elsewhere.


Emar was strategically sited as a trans-shipping point where trade on the Euphrates was reloaded for shipping by overland route. In the middle of the third millennium BC Emar came under the influence of the rulers of Ebla; the city is mentioned in archives at Ebla. In Mari texts of the eighteenth century BC, (Middle Bronze Age) Emar was under the influence of the neighboring Amorite state of Yamhad. For the thirteenth and the early twelfth centuries BC (Late Bronze Age), there is written documentation from Emar itself, mostly in the Akkadian language, and also references in contemporaneous texts from Hattusa, Ugarit and in Assyrian archives; at the time Emar was within the Hittite sphere of influence, subject to the king of Carchemish, a Hittite client-king.

Archeological and written documentation come to an end in the later twelfth century BC as a result of the Bronze Age collapse. The site remained desolate at the unstable eastern borders of the Roman Empire, resettled nearby as Barbalissos. In 253, it was the site of the Battle of Barbalissos between the Sassanid Persians under Shapur I and Roman troops. Its Byzantine history can be followed at Barbalissos.


*Arnaud, Daniel 1985/87 "Emar: Récherches au pays d'Aştata VI: Textes sumériens et akkadiens" (Paris)

External links

* [http://www.ieiop.com/emar/en/index.html Bibliography of Emar Studies] (IEIOP-FU)
* [http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/emar/en/index.html History of Emar; state of current research, excavations] (Tübingen University)
* [http://www.urgeschichte.uni-tuebingen.de/index.php?id=210 Archaeobotany at Emar] (Tübingen University)

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