Biblical Studies Archaeology and Material Culture of Aram and the Arameans
by
Dominik Bonatz
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 April 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0280

Introduction

At the end of the 2nd millennium BCE, the geographical term Aram appears for the first time in the annals of the Middle Assyrian kings and in connection with the ahlammû or ahlammu Arameans (or Aramaeans). At that time, the ahlammu Arameans were considered nomadic tribes who lived in the area between the Khabur and the Middle Euphrates, where they constituted a serious threat to the cultivated land and the Assyrian state. From the 9th century BCE on, when the Aramean tribes had already spread to other parts of Syria as far as to Mount Lebanon, it was more common to refer to the “Land of Aram” as the geographic designation for a large area that included several different ethnolinguistic population groups. The term is used by the Assyrians and in the Hebrew Bible, but only very rarely in local Aramaic written sources. Therefore, it is important to stress that Aram was mostly a foreign-constructed term that local dynasts adopted only in a few cases for political or territorial self-expression. Despite the fact that the Aramaic language, which includes several subdialects, gradually developed from the 9th to the 7th century BCE, there is no reason to assume an Aramean political or cultural identity for this period. This is confirmed by the material culture, which definitely shows no distinction between territories and states dominated by Aramaic-speaking population groups and others, such as the so-called Luwian states. Hence, the task to review the archaeology and material culture of Aram and the Arameans in this volume has to be cautious about any ethnic ascriptions. In fact, the Aramean states of the first half of the 1st millennium BCE, like Bīt Bahiani/Guzana, Huzirina, Bīt Adīni, Bīt Agusi, Sam’al-Ya’udi, Hamat/Lu’aš, and Damascus-Aram, were individually shaped political units with a strong sense of urban identity. They developed and interacted within the larger Syrian koine that emerged based on common cultural traditions and that continuously transformed its image until it was fully integrated into the Neo-Assyrian state. In this context, it is rather illuminating to investigate the cultural layout of a single state in order to depart from the fallacious idea of a conscious Aramean identity.

General Overviews

In the first comprehensive publication dedicated to the history of the Arameans, Dupont-Sommer 1949, archaeology and material culture are only very marginally touched upon. So, Sader 1987 is the first thorough attempt to integrate the evidence from excavations into the historical and linguistic perspective on Arameans. Lipiński 2000, too, provides rich historical information, but the contributions by Bonatz 2014 and Novák 2014 in Niehr 2014 are the first papers devoted explicitly to the art and architecture of the Arameans. Extremely useful introductions, which include a distinct archaeological perspective, are Dion 1995, Akkermans and Schwartz 2003, and especially Mazzoni 2014. Most recently, Blanchard 2019 presents masterpieces of Aramean art with helpful background information.

  • Akkermans, Peter M. M. G., and Glenn M. Schwartz. The Archaeology of Syria: From Complex Hunter-Gatherers to Early Urban Societies (ca. 16,000–300 BC). Cambridge World Archaeology. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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    In this book, the chapter on Iron Age Syria includes an insightful section on the Luwian-Aramean states, which takes aspects of material culture into consideration (pp. 366–377).

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  • Blanchard, Vincent, ed. Royaumes oubliés: De L’Empire Hittite aux Araméens. Paris: Lienard, 2019.

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    This well-illustrated and commented catalogue was published on the occasion of an exhibition in the Louvre Museum in which outstanding objects and artworks from the Aramean states, including the restored sculptures from Tell Halaf, were presented to the public.

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  • Bonatz, Dominik. “Art.” In The Aramaeans in Ancient Syria. Edited by Herbert Niehr, 205–253. Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 1, Ancient Near East, vol. 106. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2014.

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    A comprehensive overview of monumental art in architecture, free-standing sculptures, seals, and minor arts in the Aramean states of Iron Age I–II, with critical remarks on the problematic definition of an Aramean art.

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  • Dion, Paul-Eugène. “Aramaean Tribes and Nations of First-Millennium Western Asia.” In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Vol. 2. Edited by Jack M. Sasson, 1281–1294. New York: Scribner, 1995.

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    A short overview that focuses on the origin and spread of the Arameans in Syria and that also includes a section on their material culture.

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  • Dupont-Sommer, André. Les Araméens. Paris: Maisoneuve, 1949.

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    The first comprehensive but predominantly historical and philological study of the Arameans.

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  • Lipiński, Edward. The Aramaeans. Their Ancient History, Culture, Religion. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 100. Louvain, Belgium: Peeters, 2000.

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    This is the most comprehensive work so far on the history and political organization of the Arameans from the 12th to the 7th century BCE, which also includes the Chaldeans in Babylonia and the northern Arabian tribes. The author uses mainly textual sources and pays attention to linguistic features; archaeological evidences, however, are not taken into consideration.

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  • Mazzoni, Stefania. “The Aramean States during the Iron Age II–III Periods.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Levant, c. 8000–332 BCE. Edited by Margreet L. Steiner and Ann E. Killebrew, 683–716. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    A comprehensive and state-of-the-art introduction to the political, economic, and cultural development of the Aramean states during Iron Age II–III, with evidence taken mostly from the archaeological record.

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  • Niehr, Herbert, ed. The Aramaeans in Ancient Syria. Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 1, Ancient Near East, Vol. 106. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2014.

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    An updated encyclopedic compendium on the Arameans in ancient Syria that includes chapters on history, society (including law and the economy), language and script, literature, religion, art, architecture, Arameans outside of Syria, and Aramean heritage.

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  • Novák, Mirko. “Architecture.” In The Aramaeans in Ancient Syria. Edited by Herbert Niehr, 255–271. Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 1, Ancient Near East, Vol. 106. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2014.

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    A systematic consideration of urban elements in the Aramean states, including city planning, citadels and fortifications, palaces, temples, houses, and workshops.

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  • Sader, Hélène S. Les états araméens de Syrie depuis leur fondation jusqu’à leur transformation en provinces assyriennes. Beiruter Texte und Studien 36. Wiesbaden, Germany: Franz Steiner, 1987.

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    This study is still a valuable source for the history and archaeology of six Aramean states (Guzana, Bīt Adīni, Bīt Agusi, Sam’al, Hamat, and Damascus-Aram), although the year of its publication makes it necessary to consult updated works that take account of recent discoveries and research activities.

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Archaeological Research History before 1940

The excavations of the German Oriental Committee in Zincirli between 1888 and 1902 and those of Max Freiherr von Oppenheim in Tell Halaf from 1911–1913 and 1927–1929 mark the beginnings of the archaeology of the Arameans. The impressive monumental sculptures from both sites were brought to the museums in Aleppo, Istanbul, and Berlin, where they still form the core of the Iron Age collections. The publication in Luschan, et al. 1893 of the inscriptions on the Hadad statue and the Panamuwa statue, both of which were found close to Zincirli, already clearly stated that Zincirli has to be identified as the seat of the Aramean kingdom of Sam’al-Ya’udi. The publication of the excavation results followed in Luschan, et al. 1898; Luschan, et al. 1902; Luschan, et al. 1911; and finally in Luschan and Andrae 1943. Wartke 2005 presents a well-illustrated retrospective of the German excavations in Zincirli. Oppenheim 1931, a basic publication on Tell Halaf, accepts the identification with the Aramean center Guzana, but still maintains that the sculptures are much older than this period. This position was clearly revised in the monographs Langenegger, et al. 1950; Moortgat 1955; and Hrouda 1962. Orthmann 2002 is a monographic retrospective on the particularly interesting excavations conducted by the extravagant “Baron” von Oppenheim in Tell Halaf. From 1931–1938, Danish excavations at Hama on the Orontes, which were sponsored by the Carlsberg Foundations of Copenhagen, revealed a very long stratigraphic sequence from the 5th millennium BCE to around 1400 CE. The level Hama E, which is rich in architectural and sculptural remains, is considered to represent the Aramean period when the city was called Hamat. The main publication on the architecture of phase E is Fugmann 1958. Until today, Hamat remains the southernmost Aramean center excavated, because archaeological investigations of the Aramean foundations in Damascus have never been realized.

  • Fugmann, Einar. Hama: Fouilles et recherches de la Fondation Carlsberg (1931–1938) 2,1: L’architecture des périodes pré-hellénistiques. Copenhagen: Nationalmuset, 1958.

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    This volume includes the most detailed description of Aramean period (Hama E) architecture excavated in Hama (pp. 150–269).

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  • Hrouda, Barthel. Tell Halaf IV: Die Kleinfunde aus historischer Zeit. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1962.

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    Publication on the small finds from the Aramean and Assyrian period collected during the Max Freiherr von Oppenheim excavations in Tell Halaf.

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  • Langenegger, Felix, Karl Müller, and Rudolf Naumann. Tell Halaf II: Die Bauwerke. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1950.

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    A comprehensive architectural analysis of the “palace” of Kapara and other Aramean and Assyrian buildings on the citadel as well as the “Kultraum” in the lower city of Tell Halaf.

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  • Luschan, Felix von, et al. Ausgrabungen in Sendschirli I: Einleitung und Inschriften. Ausgeführt und herausgegeben im Auftrag des Orient-Comités zu Berlin. Berlin: W. Spemann, 1893.

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    Introduction to the early German research in Zincirli and its surroundings, which includes the first publication on inscribed monuments such as the Asarhaddon stela from the inner city gate, the Hadad statue from nearby Gerçin, and the torso of the Panamuwa statue from the spring at Tahtali Pinar.

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  • Luschan, Felix von, et al. Ausgrabungen in Sendschirli II: Ausgrabungsbericht und Architektur. Ausgeführt und herausgegeben im Auftrag des Orient-Comités zu Berlin. Berlin: W. Spemann, 1898.

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    The basic publication on the architecture and associated finds from the citadel of Sam’al.

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  • Luschan, Felix von, et al. Ausgrabungen in Sendschirli III: Die Thorskulpturen. Ausgeführt und herausgegeben im Auftrag des Orient-Comités zu Berlin. Berlin: W. Spemann, 1902.

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    The basic publication on the carved orthostats from the outer and the inner city gate at Zincirli.

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  • Luschan, Felix von, et al. Ausgrabungen in Sendschirli IV: Bericht über die fünfte Ausgrabung 1902. Ausgeführt und herausgegeben im Auftrag des Orient-Comités zu Berlin. Berlin: W. Spemann, 1911.

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    Publication on the architectural and sculptural finds and inscriptions from the last German excavation campaign at Zincirli.

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  • Luschan, Felix von, and Walter Andrae. Ausgrabungen in Sendschirli V: Die Kleinfunde von Sendschirli. Ausgeführt und herausgegeben im Auftrag des Orient-Comités zu Berlin. Berlin: W. Spemann, 1943.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783111623030Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Publication on the small finds from the German excavation at Zincirli, which include interesting items of handicraft made of stone, metal, and ivory.

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  • Moortgat, Anton. Tell Halaf III: Die Bildwerke. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1955.

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    A detailed publication on the Aramean period sculptures from Tell Halaf, including the series of orthostats from the Kapara “palace,” the funerary statues, and the statues from the “Kultraum.”

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  • Oppenheim, Max Freiherr von. Der Tell Halaf: Eine neue Kultur im ältesten Mesopotamien. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1931.

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    A vivid and partly anecdotal account of Oppenheim’s excavations at Tell Halaf. Photomechanical reprint by De Gruyter, Berlin, 1966.

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  • Orthmann, Winfried. Die aramäisch-assyrische Stadt Guzana: Ein Rückblick auf die Ausgrabungen Max Freiherr von Oppenheims in Tell Halaf. Schriften der Max Freiherr von Oppenheim-Stiftung 15. Saarbrücken, Germany: Saarbrücker Druckerei und Verlag, 2002.

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    A compact overview of Oppenheim’s excavations at Tell Halaf and important finds from the Aramean and Assyrian periods.

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  • Wartke, Ralf-Bernhardt. Sam’al: Ein aramäischer Stadtstaat des 10. bis 8. Jhs. v. Chr. und die Geschichte seiner Erforschung. Mainz, Germany: Philipp von Zabern, 2005.

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    A colorful and well-commented book on the kingdom of Sam’al and its research history as far as the early German excavations are concerned.

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Archaeological Research History after 1945

After World War II, archaeological research on supposed Aramean sites was for a long time very scarce. The results of three excavation campaigns at Tell Rifa’at, which can be identified with Arpad, the capital of the Aramean state of Bīt Agūsi, were published only in short reports, the most informative of which is Seton-Williams 1967. Two sites that yielded more conclusive evidence of Aramean period occupations are Tell Ahmar, identified with Til Barsip in Bīt Adīni, and Tell Afis, identified with Hazrek in the state of Hamat-Lu’aš. Bunnens 1995 and Bunnens 2009 discuss the monuments and sources of the Aramean period in Til Barsip and their relations to Hittite-Luwian traditions and Assyrian influences. For Tell Afis, which provides the best-documented stratigraphic sequence for the Iron Age in western Syria, insightful reports on the architecture and material culture of the Aramean phase are given by Mazzoni 2001 and Soldi 2009. The history of the Arameans has received much new attention because of the chance find of the Neo-Assyrian statue of a provincial governor of Guzana at Tell Fekheriye in 1979. The statue bears a bilingual Akkadian-Aramaic inscription, which is considered the oldest text in pure Aramaic, dated around 850 BCE. The first complete edition of this inscription appeared in Abou Assaf, et al. 1982. An important stimulus for the renaissance of archaeological research on the Arameans started with the resumption of the excavations in Zincirli pursued by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago from 2006 until the present, and in Tell Halaf pursued by the Vorderasiatische Museum Berlin and the University of Tübingen from 2006 to 2010. The first monograph on the new excavation results from Zincirli is in preparation; preliminary overviews of the most important finds from the first campaigns are published in Schloen and Fink 2009a and Schloen and Fink 2009b. The series of final publications on Tell Halaf is also in preparation. A useful summary of the excavation results with a focus on the Aramean question can be found in Novák 2013. Few other excavations uncovered occupation layers from Iron Age II–III that theoretically can be ascribed to Aramean settlers. These are Qatna-Mishrife, recently resumed by Morandi-Bonacossi 2019; Tell Qarqur, summarized in Dornemann 2000; and Tell Mastuma, which represents the rare case of a small rural settlement, published in Iwasaki, et al. 2009. Therefore, the archaeology of Aram and the Arameans definitely needs more fieldwork to advance and adjust its approaches.

  • Abou Assaf, Ali, Pierre Bordreuil, and Alan Millard. La statue de Tell Fekherye et son inscription bilingue assyro-araméene. Paris: Ed. Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1982.

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    The editio princeps of the Assyrian (Akkadian)-Aramaic inscription on the statue of Hadd-yith’i, the king and governor of Guzana and Sikan, which was found at Tell Fekheriye.

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  • Bunnens, Guy. “Hittites and Aramaeans at Til Barsib: A Reappraisal.” In Immigration and Emigration within the Ancient Near East. Edited by Karel van Lerberghe, 19–27. Festschrift Edward Lipiński, OLA 65. Leiden, The Netherlands: Peeters, 1995.

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    This paper reviews the old and new evidence for identifying an Aramean culture at Tell-Ahmar-Til Barsip.

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  • Bunnens, Guy. “Assyrian Empire Building and Aramization of Culture as Seen from Tell Ahmar/Til Barsib.” Dossier: Interaction entre Assyriens et Araméens. Syria 86 (2009): 67–82.

    DOI: 10.4000/syria.513Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An important contribution for understanding the changes in Til-Barsip/Masuwari from a first Luwian-, then Aramean-, and finally Assyrian-dominated town, based on the archaeological and textual evidence.

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  • Dornemann, Rudolph H. “The Iron Age Remains at Tell Qarqur in the Orontes Valley.” In Essays on Syria in the Iron Age. Edited by Guy Bunnens, 459–486. Louvain, Belgium: Peeters, 2000.

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    This paper provides comprehensive information on architecture and materials from the period when Tell Qarqur must have been an important political center in the state of Hamat-Lu’aš named Qarqar.

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  • Iwasaki, Takuya, et al., eds. Tell Mastuma: An Iron Age Settlement in Northwest Syria. Tokyo: Ancient Orient Museum, 2009.

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    A very informative and richly illustrated volume on Tell Mastuma that provides insights into the domestic architecture and life of a presumably Aramean rural community.

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  • Mazzoni, Stefania. “Tell Afis and the Lu’ash in the Aramaean Period.” In The World of the Aramaeans II: Studies in the History and Archaeology in Honour of Paul-Eugène Dion. Edited by P. M. Michèl Daviau, John W. Wevers, and Michael Weigl, 99–114. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001.

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    A comprehensive overview of the archaeological data from the Aramean period in Tell Afis, which can be linked to the history of the Aramean-dominated territory of Lu’aš.

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  • Morandi-Bonacossi, Daniele. “Iron Age Mishrifeh: An Aramean Specialized Production Center in the Hamath Kingdom?” In Research on Israel and Aram. Edited by Angelika Berlejung and Aren M. Maeir, 179–207. Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 34. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2019.

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    A recent analysis of the extensive architectural and material remains form the Iron Age I–II occupation at Mishrife, which especially discusses its role as a production center in the state of Hamat.

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  • Novák, Mirko. Gozan and Guzana: Anatolians, Aramaeans and Assyrians in Tell Halaf. In 100 Jahre archäologische Feldforschungen in Nordost-Syrien—eine Bilanz. Edited by Dominik Bonatz and Lutz Martin, 259–281. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 2013.

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    A very useful overview that takes account of the recent investigations at Tell Halaf and addresses the question of changing and overlapping ethnic and political identities in ancient Guzana.

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  • Schloen, J. David, and Amir S. Fink. “New Excavations at Zincirli Höyük in Turkey (Ancient Sam’al) and the Discovery of an Inscribed Mortuary Stele.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 356 (2009a): 1–13.

    DOI: 10.1086/BASOR25609345Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A useful introduction to the renewed excavations at Zincirli that also addresses the question of Arameans and Luwians in Sam’al.

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  • Schloen, J. David, and Amir S. Fink. “Searching for Ancient Sam’al: New Excavations at Zincirli in Turkey.” Near Eastern Archaeology 72.4 (2009b): 203–219.

    DOI: 10.1086/NEA25754028Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A comprehensive account of the first campaigns of the renewed excavations at Zincirli.

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  • Seton-Williams, M. V. “The Excavations at Tell Rifa’at, 1964. Second Preliminary Report.” Iraq 29.1 (1967): 16–33.

    DOI: 10.2307/4199819Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The only report that presents the archaeological finds from the Aramean level (IIc) and the Aramean-Assyrian level (IIb) at Tell Rifa’at.

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  • Soldi, Sebastiano. “Aramaeans and Assyrians in North-Western Syria: Material Evidence from Tell Afis.” Dossier: Interaction entre Assyriens et Araméens. Syria 86 (2009): 97–118.

    DOI: 10.4000/syria.516Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An updated summary of the excavation results from Tell Afis, with a focus on materials that relate to the Aramean and Assyrian presence at the site identified with the capital Hazrek.

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Urbanism and Architecture

An important aspect of the history of the Arameans is urbanism, since it is assumed that at the beginning of the 1st millennium BCE, formerly tribal communities changed to a sedentary life and finally founded new dynasties based in capital cities. This process, however, paralleled the re-foundation and new foundation of many Syro-Anatolian cities in the course of the Late Bronze to Iron Age transition, which also includes cities ruled by Luwian dynasties. In this respect, it is important to note that there is no difference between “Aramean” and “Luwian” town planning. In both contexts, the cities have similar features: a lower town enclosed by a city wall and a fortified upper town or citadel on which palaces and other representative buildings are located. Furthermore, it should be stressed that towns were not really planned, but rather developed their urban layout in reaction to changing sociopolitical conditions. The case of Zincirli, revealed by the current investigations, is illuminating in this respect. As indicated in Casana and Herrmann 2010 and partly in Pucci 2015, the circular outer city-wall was a later addition, long after the occupation of the citadel mound. The most informative and analytic article on the basic elements of Aramean and Luwian town planning is Mazzoni 1993, followed by a critical synthesis in Novák 2014 (pp. 256–261). Mazzoni 1997 provides a closer look at the city gates, which play an essential role in the urban layout and ideology. Pucci 2008 presents a detailed functional analysis of the architecture in Zincirli, Tell Halaf, and Tell Tayinat. Surprisingly, no temples have been excavated on the citadels of the major Aramean cities. The only remarkable exception is the temple in antis in Tell Afis, which is well described in Mazzoni 2014. The fact that the main temple of Sam’al-Ya’üdi was not located in the capital city but on the rocky hill called Gerçin about seven kilometers north of Zincirli may indicate different solutions in the use of religious spaces. Schloen and Herrmann 2016 points to this special aspect of urbanism in the Iron Age landscape. Also, specific architectural features do not allow any distinction between “Aramean” and “Luwian.” As pointed out in Novák 2014 (p. 271), and in Bonatz 2019 (p. 168), the tripartite Bīt Ḫilani palaces and the temples in antis are common building types, not Iron Age inventions. For Hamat in the south, too, Matthiae 2008 notes the influence of architectural traditions that are deeply rooted in the past.

  • Bonatz, Dominik. “The Myth of Aramaean Culture.” In Research on Israel and Aram: Autonomy, Independences and Related Issues. Edited by Angelika Berlejung and Aren M. Maeir, 159–177. Proceedings of the First Annual RIAB Center Conference, Leipzig, June 2016. Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 34. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2019.

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    A critical survey of scholarly positions that questions the concepts of an Aramean culture and identity.

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  • Casana, Jesse, and Jason T. Herrmann. “Settlement History and Urban Planning at Zincirli Höyük, Southern Turkey.” Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 23 (2010): 55–80.

    DOI: 10.1558/jmea.v23i1.55Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper presents results of a geophysical survey at Zincirli Höyük, which provided new insights into the production of urban space in the capital of the Iron Age kingdom of Sam’al.

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  • Matthiae, Paolo. “Une note sur l’architecture arameene de Hama et le problem de ses origins.” In Fundstellen: Gesammelte Schriften zur Archäologie und Geschichte Altvorderasiens ad honorem Hartmut Kühne. Edited by Dominik Bonatz, Rainer M. Czichon, and F. Janoscha Kreppner, 207–213. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 2008.

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    A review of the monumental buildings on the Aramean citadel of Hama and their architectural traditions.

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  • Mazzoni, Stefania. “Aramaen and Luwian New Foundations.” In Nuove fondazioni nel Vicino Oriente antico: Realtà e ideologia. Edited by Stefania Mazzoni, 319–340. Pisa, Italy: Giardini, 1993.

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    A key paper that discusses the prevalent characteristics of urban planning and development in Iron Age Syria and Southeast Anatolia.

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  • Mazzoni, Stefania. “The Gate and the City: Change and Continuity in Syro-Hittite Urban Ideology.” In Die orientalische Stadt: Kontinuität, Wandel, Bruch. Edited by Gernot Wilhelm, 307–338. Colloquien der Deutschen Orientgesellschaft 1. Saarbrücken, Germany: SDV, 1997.

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    This article discusses the relation between the city gates and their visual decoration and the production of political, social, and commemorative spaces in the “Aramean” and “Luwian” states.

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  • Mazzoni, Stefania. “Tell Afis in the Iron Age: The Temple on the Acropolis.” Near Eastern Archaeology 77.1 (2014): 44–52.

    DOI: 10.5615/neareastarch.77.1.0044Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A detailed description of the monumental temple with façade in antis, which was built over a terrace on the acropolis of Tell Afis and changed its layout several times during the Iron Age.

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  • Novák, Mirko. “Architecture.” In The Aramaeans in Ancient Syria. Edited by Herbert Niehr, 255–271. Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 1, Ancient Near East, vol. 106. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2014.

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    In this very useful synthesis of architectural elements in the Aramean as well as Luwian states of the Iron Age, the author stresses that a distinct Aramean architecture cannot be identified.

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  • Pucci, Marina. Functional Analysis of Space in Syro-Hittite Architecture. BAR International Series 1738. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2008.

    DOI: 10.30861/9781407301808Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A comprehensive study of the Iron Age architecture in Zincirli, Tell Halaf, and Tell Tayinat that provides a diachronic and comparative perspective on spatial organization and building functions.

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  • Pucci, Marina. “Founding and Planning a New Town: The Southern Town Gate at Zincirli.” In From the Treasures of Syria: Essays on Art and Archaeology in Honour of Stefania Mazzoni. Edited by Paola Ciafardoni and Debora Giannessi, 35–74. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2015.

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    A careful reevaluation of the old excavations at the southern town gate at Zincirli with modifications of the chronology and building history of this gate achieved through recent archaeological investigations.

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  • Schloen, J. David, and Virginia R. Herrmann. “Gercin Höyük.” In Gaziantep: Şehr-i Ayntab-ı Cihan. Edited by Ergun Özüslü, 310–319. Gaziantep, Turkey: Gaziantep Valiliği İl Kültür ve Turizm Müdürlüğü, 2016.

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    A short but updated article on the importance of the still unexcavated Gerçin Höyük in the historical and religious context of Sam’al-Ya’udi.

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Visual Arts

A hallmark of the cultural koine in Iron Age northern Syria is the production of a significant number of outstanding visual art objects that were embedded as monumental sculptures in the architectural layout of the cities and urban landscapes and were circulating as “minor” art objects between Luwian-Aramean states and beyond. In addition to their Middle and Late Bronze Age artistic traditions, these art objects entered into a mutual exchange with contemporary Phoenician and Assyrian pictorial traditions and visual practices. Visual arts in the context of Aramean-dominated territories can therefore be linked to the hybridity of continuing and conflating art traditions, but not to an Aramean cultural identity.

The Problem of an Aramean Art Style

The assumption that ethnic Arameans produced a distinct art style is definitely wrong. However, arguments in this direction were brought forward by various scholars, as in Unger 1923 (pp. 49–59), Akurgal 1949 (pp. 135–137), Kempinski and Tenu 2009 (p. 7), and most recently Sader 2010, all of which maintain that artistic stylistic elements can be taken to define an Aramean art or material culture. Symptomatic of the lack of consistence in this context is the focus of the art in Sam’al (Zincirli), which seems to be considered canonic for Aramean art, although this territory is situated at the northernmost end of Aramean influence and that the even Aramean ethnicity of the population in Sam’al can be questioned, for example by Schloen 2014 (pp. 35–38). Yet the idea of an Aramean art style can be refuted by the simple observation that the art in the centers of the Aramean and Luwian states shares the same stylistic and iconographic traditions and that specific thematic phenomena, such as the ancestral and funeral monuments collected in Bonatz 2000, are typical of both Aramean and Luwian territories. In this respect, art-historical terms like Late Hittite or Neo-Hittite mostly need to be rejected, as clearly stated in Pucci 2020 (p. 77), because they do not take account of the Syrian traditions that are prevalent in all of the art production centers south of the Taurus. The most critical review of the dilemma of assigning aspects of material culture, including art and architecture, to an Aramean identity or ethnicity is given in Bonatz 2019. This is in line with other works, such as Akkermans and Schwartz 2003 (p. 368) and Mazzoni 2014 (p. 683), which affirm that the material culture of Iron Age northern Syria appears to be so homogeneous that it shows no clear distinctions between states dominated by Luwians or Arameans. Rather useful, therefore, are investigations of the individual urban centers and their surroundings, which view them as distinct, unified archaeological cultures, indigenous to the territory in which they developed.

  • Akurgal, Ekrem. Späthethitische Bildkunst. Ankara, Turkey: Archaeological Inst. of the Univ. Ankara, 1949.

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    A systematic iconographic study on which the author’s later works are based and that remained influential for the definition of an Aramean art in the broader context of “Late Hittite” visual arts.

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  • Akkermans, Peter M. M. G., and Glenn M. Schwartz. The Archaeology of Syria: From Complex Hunter-Gatherers to Early Urban Societies (ca. 16,000–300 BC). Cambridge World Archaeology. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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    In this book, the chapter on Iron Age Syria includes an insightful section on the Luwian-Aramean states that takes aspects of material culture into consideration (pp. 366–377).

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  • Bonatz, Dominik. Das syro-hethitische Grabdenkmal: Untersuchungen zur Entstehung einer neuen Bildgattung in der Eisenzeit im nordsyrisch-südastanatolischen Raum. Mainz, Germany: Philipp von Zabern, 2000.

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    A comprehensive monographic study of the funerary and ancestor monuments in the Luwian- and Aramean-dominated states of the Iron Age.

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  • Bonatz, Dominik. “The Myth of Aramaean Culture.” In Research on Israel and Aram: Autonomy, Independences and Related Issues. Edited by Angelika Berlejung and Aren M. Maeir, 159–177. Proceedings of the First Annual RIAB Center Conference, Leipzig, June 2016. Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 34. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2019.

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    Within this paper, it is demonstrated that the available documentation does not offer any evidence of a specific Aramean style in visual arts and material culture.

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  • Kempinski, Christine, and Aline Tenu. “Avant-propos: Interaction entre Assyriens et Araméens.” Syria 86 (2009): 7–15.

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    An introduction to a compendium that includes several updated contributions on the interaction between Assyrians and Arameans in northern Syria.

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  • Mazzoni, Stefania. “The Aramean States during the Iron Age II–III Periods.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Levant, c. 8000–332 BCE. Edited by Margreet L. Steiner and Ann E. Killebrew, 683–716. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    A comprehensive and state-of-the-art introduction to the political, economic, and cultural development of the Aramean states during the Iron Age II–III, with evidence taken mostly from the archaeological record.

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  • Pucci, Marina. “Archaeological Research in Pre-Classical Syria and the Canon of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology.” In Testing the Canon of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology. Edited by Amy Rebecca Gansell and Ann Shafer, 66–89. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

    DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190673161.003.0003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An elaborate critical review of archaeological research and museum exhibitions that explicitly or implicitly promoted the idea of a canon of ancient Syrian art, including the fallacious juxtaposition of Aramean versus Late Hittite art.

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  • Sader, Hélène. “The Aramaeans of Syria: Some Considerations on their Origin and Material Culture.” In The Books of Kings: Sources, Composition, Historiography and Reception. Edited by André Lemaire, Baruch Halpern, and Matthew J. Adams, 273–300. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004177291.i-712.51Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this comprehensive paper, the author reinforces her opinion that an Aramean material culture existed in all the states dominated by Aramaic-speaking rulers and that it can be distinguished from Luwian material culture.

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  • Schloen, J. David. “The City of Katumuwa: The Iron Age Kingdom of Sam’al and the Excavation of Zincirli.” In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East. Edited by Virginia R. Herrmann and J. David Schloen, 27–38. Oriental Institute Museum Publications 37. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2014.

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    On the occasion of the presentation of the Katumuwa funerary stela from Zincirli at a museum exhibition, the author draws a thoroughly reflected picture of the multiethnic and multicultural society in Iron Age Sam’al.

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  • Unger, Eckhard. “Hettitische und Aramäische Kunst.” Archiv für Keilschriftforschung 1 (1923): 48–50.

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    The earliest archaeological and art-historical attempt to define criteria for the distinction between Hittite and Aramean art.

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Monumental Art

Several Aramean-dominated cities and their Luwian counterparts were embellished with monumental sculptural works. The outer faces of the walls along central urban axes were decorated with carved orthostats, and the gates were flanked with portal figures, mostly lions. Unlike Neo-Assyrian palaces, in which carved orthostats and monumental sculptures decorated the inner spaces of the buildings and thus had a rather restricted accessibility, the architectural setting of monumental art in the Syro-Anatolian cities made them publicly visible and communicable. A summary is given in Bonatz 2014 (pp. 208–225); the special role that these monuments played during ceremonies and the performance of urban ideologies is excellently described in Gilibert 2011. As for the chronology of the monumental art, the basic stylistic and iconographic study remains Orthmann 1971. Freestanding monumental sculptures and stelae can be regarded separately from monumental art in architecture, as exemplified in Bonatz 2014 (pp. 225–242), although the two categories interact within the urban spaces. The most coherent group are the funerary and ancestral monuments, which include representations of royals as well as members of the urban elite. Bonatz 2000 presents the most complete study of this group, which is reviewed also in Bonatz 2016. The discussion is also enhanced by the important find of the inscribed funerary stela of Katumuwa from Zincirli in 2005, which is extensively discussed in, for example, Strubel and Herrmann 2009. Remarkable is the large number of statues and stelae dedicated to the gods. Their iconography provides another example of the fusion of different regional traditions and processes of assimilation in the Aramean-dominated territories, as exemplified by the stelae from the Region of Tell Ahmar (Til Barsip) treated in Bunnens 2004. Another issue in this respect is the Assyrian impact, which, as Brown 2008 and Herrmann and Schloen 2016 show, occasionally fostered processes of emulation and elite enclave formation within the ruling classes.

  • Bonatz, Dominik. Das syro-hethitische Grabdenkmal: Untersuchungen zur Entstehung einer neuen Bildgattung in der Eisenzeit im nordsyrisch-südastanatolischen Raum. Mainz, Germany: Philipp von Zabern, 2000.

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    A comprehensive monographic study on the funerary and ancestor monuments in the Luwian- and Aramean-dominated states of the Iron Age.

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  • Bonatz, Dominik. “Art.” In The Aramaeans in Ancient Syria. Edited by Herbert Niehr, 205–253. Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 1, Ancient Near East, vol. 106. , The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2014.

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    A comprehensive overview of monumental art in architecture, freestanding sculptures, seals, and minor arts in the Aramean states of the Iron Age I–II with critical remarks on the problematic definition of an Aramean art.

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  • Bonatz, Dominik. “Syro-Hittite Funerary Monuments Revisited.” In Dining and Death: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the “Funerary Banquet” in Ancient Art, Burial and Belief. Edited by Catherine M. Draycot and Maria Stamatopoulou, 173–194. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2016.

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    A comprehensive reconsideration of the funerary monuments presented in Bonatz 2000, with a focus on the central theme of the mortuary banquet and additional information thanks to the discovery of the Katumuwa stela from Zincirli.

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  • Brown, Brian. “The Kilamuwa Relief: Ethnicity, Class and Power in Iron Age North Syria.” In Proceedings of the 5th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. Madrid, April 3–8, 2006, Vol. I. Edited by Joaquín Ma Córdoba, et al., 339–355. Madrid: UAM ediciones, 2008.

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    Using the Kilamuwa stela and its inscription from Zincirli as an example, the author argues in this article that various regional traditions, including Assyrian influence, were used to produce an Aramean group identity among the ruling class in Sam’al.

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  • Bunnens, Guy. “The Storm-God in Northern Syria and Southern Anatolia from Hadad of Aleppo to Jupiter Dolichenus.” In Offizielle Religion, lokale Kulte und individuelle Religiösität. Edited by Manfred Hutter, 57–81. AOAT 318. Münster, Germany: Ugarit-Verlag, 2004.

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    This article discusses the development and mixing of religious traditions and innovations based on pictorial representations of the storm god, with a special focus on the monuments from Tell Ahmar.

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  • Gilibert, Alessandra. Syro-Hittite Monumental Art and the Archaeology of Performance. Topoi: Berlin Studies of the Ancient World 2. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110222265Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This monograph offers an inspiring new perspective on the function and perception of monumental art in Carchemish and Zincirli in relation to large public performances and civic spectacles, which constituted a distinct way to assert power structures and urban identities.

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  • Herrmann, Virginia R., and J. David Schloen. “Assyrian Impact on Samʾal: The View from Zincirli.” In The Provincial Archaeology of the Assyrian Empire. Edited by John MacGinnis and Dirk Wicke, 265–274. McDonald Institute Monographs. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2016.

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    Based on new excavation results, the authors demonstrate how differently the elite in Sam’al reacted to Assyrian influences and hegemonic practices by following Assyrian models of royal self-representation in monumental art and palatial organization.

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  • Orthmann, Winfried. Untersuchungen zur späthethitischen Kunst. Saarbrücker Beiträge zur Altertumskund 8. Bonn, Germany: Rudolf Habelt, 1971.

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    A detailed stylistic and iconographic analysis of the art monuments labeled “Late Hittite” from the Luwian and Aramean states, which still is the main reference work on this corpus, despite several new finds that appeared after its publication date.

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  • Strubel, Eudora, and Virginia R. Herrmann. “An Eternal Feast at Sam’al: The New Iron Age Mortuary Stele from Zincirli in Context.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 356 (2009): 15–49.

    DOI: 10.1086/BASOR25609346Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article provides detailed information on the iconography and archaeological context of the Katumuwa stele from the lower town of Zincirli, which is one of the very rare examples of a monumental funerary stela found in situ.

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Seals

The problems involved in defining an Aramean glyptic art are discussed in Bonatz 2014 (pp. 242–245). Buchanan and Moorey 1988 is by the only scholars who have endeavored to systematically classify Syro-Palestinian stamp seals. They conclude (on p. 34) that, based solely on the seals’ iconography and form, it is impossible to distinguish between Aramean and Neo-Hittite (Luwian) groups. In contrast, Avigad 1997 (pp. 280–319) classifies 106 seals as Aramaic, using name inscriptions as the main criterion. However, a person’s name does not necessarily identify an ethnic or cultural identity. From an iconographic point of view, the Aramaic-inscribed stamp seals collected in Avigad 1997 rather show Assyrian-Babylonian influences, which may help to distinguish them from seals labeled “Phoenician” or “Hebrew,” but which does not allow us to view them as a homogenous group.

  • Avigad, Nahman. Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals. Revised and completed by Benjamin Sass. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1997.

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    A rich and very useful collection of Iron Age Levantine stamp seals that, based on their name inscriptions, are classified as Aramean, Phoenician, Hebrew, Ammonite, Moabite, and Edomite.

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  • Bonatz, Dominik. “Art.” In The Aramaeans in Ancient Syria. Edited by Herbert Niehr, 205–253. Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 1, Ancient Near East, vol. 106. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2014.

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    A comprehensive overview of monumental art in architecture, freestanding sculptures, seals, and minor arts in the Aramean states of Iron Age I–II, with critical remarks on the problematic definition of an Aramean art.

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  • Buchanan, Briggs, and P. R. S. Moorey. Catalogue of Ancient Near Eastern Seals in the Ashmolean Museum. Vol. 3, The Iron Age Stamp Seals. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988.

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    An important reference work on inscribed and uninscribed Iron Age stamp seals that includes a long chapter on Syro-Palestinan stamp seals.

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Ivories

The fact that large quantities of ivory circulated in many cities in Syria as both a raw material and a finished luxury product is indicated by the Assyrian annals that describe ivory as a coveted prize of war and a tribute during the westward expansion of the Assyrian Empire. The peak of Syrian ivory production was reached in the 9th and 8th centuries BCE, and it seems that the Aramean centers were significantly engaged in this production, as is stressed in Bonatz 2014 (pp. 245–249). In Winter 1976, Winter 1981, and Herrmann 1986, stylistic criteria are developed to distinguish a northern and southern Syrian group of ivories from the Phoenician production. However, scholars agree that several regional styles must have existed, but they are still hard to assign to specific production places due to the lack of excavated materials. Bunnens 1997 presents more recent ivory finds from Til Barsip, which suggest that large amounts of ivory goods were produced or at least “hoarded” in Bīt Adini. Wicke 2005 (pp. 95–96) argues for a regional northwestern Syrian style in ivory carving that was probably centered in Sam’al, and Winter 1989 points to the interplay between ivories as a genre of minor art and of monumental art, which also contributed to the development of regional characteristics.

  • Bonatz, Dominik. “Art.” In The Aramaeans in Ancient Syria. Edited by Herbert Niehr, 205–253. Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 1, Ancient Near East, vol. 106. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2014.

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    This synthesis includes a chapter on the stylistic properties of ivories, which were produced in the centers of the Aramean states, from where they were distributed to other regions in Western Asia, especially Assyria.

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  • Bunnens, Guy. “Carved Ivories from Til Barsib.” American Journal of Archaeology 101 (1997): 435–450.

    DOI: 10.2307/507105Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Twelve carved ivories from a domestic context in Tell Ahmar (ancient Til Barsip) are discussed in this article. The author assigns them to different Syrian workshops, shows parallels with what are called the Nimrud ivories, and makes assumptions about why ivories ceased to be carved in Syria in the 7th century BCE.

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  • Herrmann, Georgina. Ivories from Room SW 37, Fort Shalmaneser (Ivories from Nimrud IV). London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq, 1986.

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    A commented catalogue of the rich collection of northern and southern Syrian carved ivories from Fort Shalmaneser in Nimrud that includes an important discussion of the provenance and possible workshop centers of the ivories (pp. 47–53).

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  • Wicke, Dirk. “‘Roundcheeked and Ringletted’: Gibt es einen nordwestsyrischen Regionalstil in der altorientalischen Elfenbeinkunst.” In Crafts and Images in Contact: Studies on Eastern Mediterranean Art of the First Millennium BCE. Edited by Claudia E. Suter and Christoph Uehlinger, 67–110. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 210. Fribourg, Switzerland: Academic Press Fribourg, 2005.

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    A detailed study of carved ivories that argues that specific stylistic criteria help to define a regional northwestern Syrian style in ivory carving. In this context, the author avoids calling this style Aramean.

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  • Winter, Irene J. “Phoenician and North Syrian Ivory Carving in Historical Context: Questions of Style and Distribution.” Iraq 38 (1976): 1–22.

    DOI: 10.2307/4200021Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The first and groundbreaking article in which the author approaches questions of regional styles and distributions of carved ivories in the Iron Age.

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  • Winter, Irene J. “Is There a South Syrian Style of Ivory Carving in the Early First Millennium B.C.?” Iraq 43 (1981): 101–130.

    DOI: 10.2307/4200140Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this article, the author continues to develop criteria for identifying larger stylistic groups of Iron Age carved ivory with a special focus on the production in southern Syria.

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  • Winter, Irene J. “North Syrian Ivories and Tell Halaf Reliefs: The Impact of Luxury Goods upon ‘Major’ Arts.” In Essays on Ancient Civilization, Presented to Helene J. Kantor. Edited by Albert Leonard Jr., 321–338. Chicago: Oriental Institute Publications, 1989.

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    This chapter highlights the otherwise underestimated role that transportable pictorial objects such as carved ivories might have played in the transfer of stylistic and iconographic concepts. The author also suggests that a center for carved ivory production was situated in Aramean Guzana.

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Metal Works

In Winter 1988, it is clearly recognized that northern Syria was a bronze-working center in the early first millennium BCE. The production includes bronze bowls, cauldrons, equestrian ornaments, and decorated plaques. However, few of these items have been found in excavated Syrian sites, which makes it extremely difficult to identify the centers of Aramean bronze-working. An exception is the elaborated and partly decorated bronze objects treated in Luschan and Andrae 1943. In contrast, several bronze objects from North Syrian workshops were found among the offerings in temples and cemeteries on the islands of the eastern Mediterranean, the Greek mainland, and Etruria. Few of them bear inscriptions, such as the bronze horse frontlet with the name of Hazael, probably identical to the eponymous Aramean king of Damascus, which was brought by sea traders to the Heraion on Samos. These finds are summarized in Braun-Holziger and Rehm 2005, while Seidl 1999 particularly discusses the provenance of the bronze sheets with relief decorations that were found in Olympia. The Aramaic name inscriptions on a number of the bronze bowls from the Northwest Palace in Nimrud confirmed Barnett 1967 (p. 4) in the view that it was possible to speak, for the first time, “of a group of products which might be termed an Aramean school of art.” Concerning the decorations on bronze horse blinkers and frontlets, Gubel 2005, too, tries to distinguish between a Phoenician and Aramean tradition.

  • Barnett, Richard. “Layard’s Nimrud Bronzes and Their Inscriptions.” Eretz-Israel 8 (E.L. Sukenik Memorial Volume, 1967): 1–7.

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    The author discusses cauldrons, bowls, and other metal objects from a bronze hoard in the Northwest Palace in Nimrud, which bear short Aramaic inscriptions and that lead him to speculate about the Aramean or Phoenician origin of these items.

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  • Braun-Holziger, Eva A., and Elen Rehm. Orientalischer Import in Griechenland im frühen 1. Jahrtausend v. Chr. AOAT 328. Münster, Germany: Ugarit Verlag, 2005.

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    The most updated and complete compilation of “oriental” imports in early 1st millennium BCE mainland and insular Greece that include horse bridle-harnesses, bronze mace heads, bronze vessels, statuettes, and carved ivories, and that originated mostly in North Syrian production centers.

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  • Gubel, Eric. “Phoenician and Aramean Bridle-Harness Decoration: Examples of Cultural Contact and Innovation in the Eastern Mediterranean.” In Crafts and Images in Contact: Studies on Eastern Mediterranean Art of the First Millennium BCE. Edited by Claudia E. Suter and Christoph Uehlinger, 111–147. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 210. Fribourg, Switzerland: Academic Press Fribourg, 2005.

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    The article focuses on the delicately decorated bridle-harnesses from the eastern Mediterranean, which are grouped as “Phoenician,” “Cypro-Phoenician,” and “Intermediate” or “North Syrian,” the latter implicitly associated with an Aramean tradition.

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  • Luschan, Felix von, and Walter Andrae. Ausgrabungen in Sendschirli V: Die Kleinfunde von Sendschirli. Ausgeführt und herausgegeben im Auftrag des Orient-Comités zu Berlin. Berlin: W. Spemann, 1943.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783111623030Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A publication on the small finds from the German excavation at Zincirli, which include interesting items of handicraft made of stone, metal, and ivory.

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  • Seidl, Ursula. “Orientalische Bleche in Olympia.” Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 89 (1999): 269–282.

    DOI: 10.1515/zava.1999.89.2.269Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this article, the author assigns the oriental bronze sheets from Olympia to three “Late Hittite” workshops, the first assumed to have been located in Carchemish, the second in Zincirli, and the third somewhere else in northern Syria.

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  • Winter, Irene J. “North Syria as a Bronze-Working Centre in the Early First Millennium B.C.: Luxury Commodities at Home and Abroad.” In Bronze-Working Centres of Western Asia. Edited by John E. Curtis, 193–225. London and New York: Kegan Paul International, 1988.

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    A comprehensive analysis of regional bronze-producing centers in North Syria that goes beyond typological categorizations and the context of excavated bronzes to discuss social and economic factors that influenced the development of the industry.

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Stone Vessels

The delicately carved and incised cosmetic or oil containers (pyxides), as well as the hand-lion bowls (or spoon bowls) that were probably used to present offerings during rituals, form very distinct classes of minor art production in the Luwian and Aramean area. The material, which comes from sites such as Carchemish, Zincirli, Tell Afis, Tell Deinit, and Rasm et-Tanjara, but also Hazor in the south, is reviewed in Mazzoni 2001 and Mazzoni 2005. Both the stone pyxides and hand-lion bowls are evidence of different artistic sources and production areas. Their carving styles and techniques can be linked to sculptures in monumental art, as well as to other object groups of minor art. They are not exclusively Aramean, but a typical outcome of what Mazzoni 2005 calls the “international orientalizing” style to which art production in the Aramean centers evidently made a great contribution (p. 62).

  • Mazzoni, Stefania. “Syro-Hittite Pyxides between Major and Minor Art.” In Beiträge zur Vorderasiatischen Archäologie: Winfried Orthmann gewidmet. Edited by Jan-Waalke Meyer, Mirko Novák, and Alexander Pruss, 292–301. Frankfurt am Main: Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität, 2001.

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    The first article, in which the author draws attention to a particular class of minor art objects that are compared with artistic orientations in monumental art and ivory carving.

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  • Mazzoni, Stefania. “Pyxides and Hand-Lion Bowls: A Case of Minor Arts.” In Crafts and Images in Contact: Studies on Eastern Mediterranean Art of the First Millennium BCE. Edited by Claudia E. Suter and Christoph Uehlinger, 43–66. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 210. Fribourg, Switzerland: Academic Press Fribourg, 2005.

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    A comprehensive study of the pyxides and hand-lion bowls from excavated sites in the northern Levant, for which it is argued that they fit into the coherent picture of Syro-Hittite art from the 10th to the 8th century BCE.

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Other Aspects of Material Culture

In earlier publications, such as Seton-Williams 1967 (p. 22), local pottery assemblages are occasionally labeled “Aramean.” Pottery, however, cannot be taken as evidence of an Aramean identity, because of its homogeneity and because of the persistence of local traditions throughout the Iron Age. In the case of Tell Barri at the Upper Khabur, for example, D’Agostino 2009 clearly states that, based on material culture evidence, especially pottery, Aramean presence is not detectable (p. 36). Lehmann 1998 (pp. 9–14) and Mazzoni 2014 (pp 694–697) both give very useful overviews of the development and characteristics of local pottery traditions in Iron Age Syria. Well-stratified pottery assemblages from sites in the Aramean heartland come from Tell Abu Danne, treated in Lebeau 1983; Tell Afis, treated in Cecchini 1998; and Tell Qarqur, treated in Dornemann 2003 (pp. 41–59).

  • Cecchini, Serena M. “Area G, the Iron I-III Levels: Architecture, Pottery and Finds.” In Tell Afis (Siria): Scavi sull’acropoli 1988–1992. Edited by Serena M. Cecchini and Stefania Mazzoni, 273–296. Pisa, Italy: ETS, 1998.

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    This overview article summarizes the architectural and material finds, including pottery from the excavated levels on the acropolis of Tell Afis, that are an important stratigraphic point of reference for the periodization of the Iron Age in Syria.

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  • D’Agostino, Anacleto. “The Assyrian-Aramean Interaction in the Upper Khabur: The Archaeological Evidence from the Tell Barri Iron Age Layers.” Dossier: Interaction entre Assyriens et Araméens. Syria 86 (2009): 17–41.

    DOI: 10.4000/syria.507Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this illuminating article, the material evidence from the Iron Age levels in Tell Barri, which includes a continuous pottery sequence, is evaluated in terms of the Aramean and Assyrian influence at the site.

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  • Dornemann, Rudolph H. “Seven Seasons of ASOR Excavations at Tell Qarqur, Syria, 1993–1999.” In Preliminary Excavation Reports and Other Archaeological Investigations: Tell Qarqur, Iron I Sites in the North-Central Highlands of Palestine. Edited by Nancy Lapp, 1–141. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 56. Boston, MA: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2003.

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    A comprehensive overview of the results of the excavations at Tell Qarqur (ancient Karkara), which includes detailed descriptions of the Iron Age architectural and material remains, especially pottery.

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  • Lebeau, Marc. La céramique de L’Âge du fer II–III à Tell Abou Danné et ses rapports avec la céramique contemporaine en Syrie. Paris: Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1983.

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    A monographic publication on the Iron Age II–III pottery from Tell Abu Danne that is still an important reference for the development of pottery traditions through this period.

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  • Lehmann, Gunnar. “Trends in the Local Pottery Development of the Late Iron Age and Persian Period in Syria and Lebanon, ca. 700 to 300 B.C.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 311 (1998): 7–37.

    DOI: 10.2307/1357422Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An important comprehensive study of the development of local pottery traditions in Syria from c. 700–300 BCE, which is relevant because it considers assemblages that were produced in the Aramean states and that were sealed in the destruction layers left by the Assyrian conquest.

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  • Mazzoni, Stefania. “The Aramean States during the Iron Age II–III Periods.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Levant, c. 8000–332 BCE. Edited by Margreet L. Steiner and Ann E. Killebrew, 683–716. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    A comprehensive and state-of-the-art introduction to the political, economic, and cultural development of the Aramean states during Iron Age II–III, with evidence taken mostly from the archaeological record.

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  • Seton-Williams, M. V. “The Excavations at Tell Rifa’at, 1964: Second Preliminary Report.” Iraq 29.1 (1967): 16–33.

    DOI: 10.2307/4199819Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The only report that presents the archaeological finds from the Aramean level (IIc) and Aramean-Assyrian level (IIb) at Tell Rifa’at.

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Aram and Israel

The interrelations between Aram and Israel are of ongoing interest for scholarly research. Recently, historical and archaeological contributions to this topic have been compiled in the edited volume Berlejung and Maeir 2019. However, despite the historical fact that Hazael, the king of Aram-Damascus, was able to establish a short period of hegemony over the southern Levant in the 9th century BCE, this “Aramean interlude” has left extremely few archaeological traces. Lehmann 2019 reviews the archaeological evidence and confronts it with biblical and historical sources. Vice versa, Kleiman 2019 argues that the destruction of the late Iron Age I cities in the northern Jordan Valley can be linked to the formation of the state of Aram-Damascus. Unfortunately, the lack of archaeological evidence from this Aramean state makes it difficult to judge the development of material culture in the southern part of the Aramean word.

  • Berlejung, Angelika, and Aren M. Maeir. Research on Israel and Aram: Autonomy, Independences and Related Issues. Proceedings of the First Annual RIAB Center Conference, Leipzig, June 2016. Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 34. 159–177. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2019.

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    The proceedings of a conference in which twenty-seven contributions discuss recent issues in the research on Israel and Aram. Included are two sections that provide archaeological perspectives on the Arameans in the northern Levant and Aramean-Israelite interrelations in the southern Levant.

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  • Kleiman, Assaf. “Invisible Kingdoms? Settlement Oscillations in the Northern Jordan Valley and State Formation in Southwestern Syria.” In Research on Israel and Aram: Autonomy, Independences and Related Issues. Edited by Angelika Berlejung and Aren M. Maeir, 293–311. Proceedings of the First Annual RIAB Center Conference, Leipzig, June 2016. Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 34. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2019.

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    In this article, the author summarizes oscillations in the continuity and discontinuity of settlements in the northern Jordan Valley from the Late Bronze Age to the late Iron Age IIA, which finally can be related to the emergence of Aram-Damascus.

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  • Lehmann, Gunnar. “Hazael in the South.” In Research on Israel and Aram: Autonomy, Independences and Related Issues. Edited by Angelika Berlejung and Aren M. Maeir, 277–292. Proceedings of the First Annual RIAB Center Conference, Leipzig, June 2016. Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 34. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2019.

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    Taking King Hazael’s campaign to the southern Levant as his starting point, the author presents a thorough review of the archaeological evidence of Aramean activities as far as to Philistia and the Negev in the southern periphery of the Levant.

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