UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

Tell Afis (Syria) Minunno, Giuseppe


Tell Afis is located in north-western inner Syria. The occupation of the site dates back to Late Neolithic and expanded in the Bronze Age, when the area was also exposed to Hittite political and cultural influence. The site, however, reached its peak in the Iron Age I-II, when the city became an Aramaean capital city named Hazrek (known as Hatarikka in the Assyrian sources and as Hadrach in the Bible). The ethnic components of the site population are difficult to identify, but probably included individuals of Aramaean, Luwian, and Phoenician origin. Several massive buildings of a probably religious character arose on its acropolis, and it is from this context that comes the Aramaic inscription of king Zakkur (ca. 790 BCE), now in the Louvre. Zakkur was a king of Hamath and Luath, whose homeland was possibly ‘Anah, on the middle Euphrates. In his inscription the king reports how the god Baalshamayn had saved him from the siege carried out by an enemy league led by the king of Damascus, Barhadad II. Zakkur may have been a supporter of the Assyrian power who refused to join the anti-Assyrian coalition. Although mainly concerned with the favour shown to him by the god Baalshamayn (divination is also hinted to), Zakkur's inscription appears to have been placed in the temple of the god Ilwer, who therefore is likely to be considered the main god of the town. Consequently, it is to his worship that the massive temple on the top of the Iron Age acropolis was probably dedicated. Although not much is known about Ilwer’s nature, he probably was a weather-god. Perhaps it was represented by a bronze statuette found during the excavations. The function of other buildings on the acropolis is debatable, but the acropolis seems to have been now reserved for ceremonial buildings. In 738 BC the town was conquered by the Assyrians and turned into a provincial centre, thus being intensely exposed to Assyrian cultural influence: findings from the site might point to a spread of the worship of the god Sin. Dog depositions seem to anticipate a phenomenon which reached its peak on the Levantine coast in the Persian age, a period which in Tell Afis is scarcely attested.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution 4.0 International