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Zincirli Höyük
Archeological site of Sam'al
Samʾal is located in Turkey
Shown within Turkey
Alternative nameSam'al
LocationGaziantep Province, Turkey
Coordinates37°06′13″N 36°40′43″E / 37.10361°N 36.67861°E / 37.10361; 36.67861
Length40 ha
Site notes
Excavation dates1888, 1890, 1891, 1894, 1902, 2006-2017
ArchaeologistsFelix von Luschan, Robert Koldewey, David Schloen, Virginia Herrmann
ConditionIn ruins

Sam'al (Zincirli Höyük), is an archaeological site located in the Anti-Taurus Mountains of modern Turkey's Gaziantep Province. During its time under the control of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (c. 700 BC) it was called, by them, Sam'al.[1][2] It was founded at least as far back as the Early Bronze Age and thrived between 3000 and 2000 BC, and on the highest part of the upper mound was found a walled citadel of the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2000–1600 BC).[3] New excavations revealed a monumental complex in the Middle Bronze Age II (ca. 1800–1700 BC), and another structure (Complex DD) that was destroyed in the mid to late 17th century BC, maybe by Hititte king Hattusili I.[4] This event was recently radiocarbon-dated to sometime between 1632 and 1610 BC,[5] during the late Middle Bronze Age II (ca. 1700–1600 BC).[6] The site was thought to have been abandoned during the Hittite and Mitanni periods, but excavations in 2021 season showed evidence of occupation during the Late Bronze Age in Hittite times (ca. 1600–1180 BC).[7] It flourished again in the Iron Age, initially under Luwian-speaking Neo-Hittites, and by 920 B.C. had become a kingdom. In the 9th and 8th century BC it came under control of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and by the 7th century BC had become a directly ruled Assyrian province.


Historical map of the Neo-Hittite states, c. 800 BC, showing the location of Sam'al at modern Zincirli (3).

The site of Sam'al was occupied in the Early Bronze Age III/IV (c. 2700–2100 BC), and Middle Bronze Age II (c. 2000-1550 BC),[3] when it was sacked, probably by Hittite king Hattusili I.

Middle Bronze Age

At least from c.1700 to 1650 BC Zincirli Höyük was a trading hub with the production of wine transported in a specific type of vessel, the globular flask, being part of the trade centered in the nearby ancient Syrian region of Mamma.[8] Zincirli was located only 9 km north of Tilmen Höyük, possibly the capital of the Zalpa/Zalwar kingdom, which eventually became one of the twenty vassal small states of the Yamhad kingdom based on Aleppo.[9] Excavations by Chicago-Tubingen Expedition revealed that the bit-hilani palace of Hilani I in Zincirli (believed by the early German excavators to be from Iron Age Sam'al period) was actually a large broadroom temple from Middle Bronze Age II, lasting roughly from 1800 to 1650 BC, destroyed in mid- to late 17th century BC based on 10 radiocarbon dates.[10] Additional samples later produced a radiocarbon date of c. 1632–1610 BC for the destruction.[11] The archaeological site of Zincirli was not abandoned after Hattusili I's sack sometime around 1632 to 1610 BC, as there is recent evidence of Hittite occupation during the Late Bronze Age.[7]

In 2020, the site was "convincingly identified" with Zalpa, mentioned in the Hittite "Queen of Kanesh" myth.[12]

Iron Age

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (August 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Kingdom of Sam'al (in Samalian Yādiya or Ya'diya, in Aramaic Ya'udi) was a middle power of the Middle-East in the first half of the 1st millennium BC. It was near the Nur Mountains. Sam'al was the capital of the country.

The Aramean dynasty founder was king Gabbar, dated around 900 BC. Royal steles and stone tablets from the period of Kilamuwa and Panamuwa II are the main sources for historical data about this time period.

Inscription of King Barrekub

Also the Kilamuwa scepter has been found here in 1943. It is a small gold object inscribed in a similar old type of Phoenician alphabet.[13]

The kingdom became a middle power at the end of the 10th century BC. It had expanded from being a city state and gained territories from Carchemish, around Adana from Quwê and remained independent. It didn't become part of Cilicia. In 859 BC Alimus was saved with the help of Hayyanu, king of Sam'al. He didn't participate in the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC, but Assyria had been blocked in the Western area. Though the campaign of Assyria in 825 BC occupied the vital territories of Sam'al, Quwê had been defeated, but it had been reorganised as Denyen. After the death of Shalmaneser III, Ya'udi again became independent.

Some rulers of Sam'al had aggressive expansionist politics; others acceded to one of the anti-Assyrian Syrian coalition. Assyrian sources are not clear regarding Sam'al. Ya'udi was one of Assyria's satellite states in the annals of Shalmaneser III. Though around 830 BC Azitawadda, king of Denyen, states Ya'udi is his satellite country – at the same time, Kilamuwa mentions on his stela that he hired Assyria against Denyen. Other sources from the same period mention Ya'udi as a satellite state of Denyen and Assyria wanted to occupy this territory. Kilamuva might offer for Deyen to be a satellite state. Before this, he should defeat his greatest foe, Azitawadda. Assyrians won over Denyen and Sam'al in 825 BC. Sam'al became independent after the death of Shalmaneser III.

There is an alternative opinion which states that Ya'udi and Sam'al were originally separate royal houses and Sam'al, the younger of the two, fought against the Assyrians at Alimus in 859 BC, in 858 BC when Shalmanser III crossed the Euphrates for the first time, and again in 853 BC at the Battle of Qarqar. The Kingdom of Sam'al was founded by Hayyanu and his successor was Ahabbu of Siri'laya (Zincirli) in 854 BC. Whereas Gabar, the founder of Ya'udi, and his successors became a member of the Assyrian satellites. This makes clear why Shalmaneser III lists Ya'udi (Bit-Gabbari) but not Sam'al as a satellite state. The Kingdom of Ya'udi wanted to open a corridor between Assyria and Denyen. It was prevented by the unified Syrian forces. This unity had been dissolved in 825 BC. After the death of Shalmanezer III Denyen couldn't occupy it but the Samalians could. Sam'al annexed Ya'udi and moved into the palace of Kilamuva.

At the end, in 717 BC, Assyria occupied the country under the rule of Sargon II.


Reconstruction of the citadel

The site covers an area of about 40 hectares. It was visited by archaeologist Osman Hamdi Bey in 1882. In 1883 three German travelers collected and took photographs there. At that time orthostats were still visible at the surface.[14] It was excavated in 1888, 1890, 1891, 1894 and 1902 during expeditions led by Felix von Luschan and Robert Koldewey. Each of the expeditions was supported by the German Orient Committee, except for the fourth (1894), which was financed with monies from the Rudolf-Virchow-Stiftung and private donors. They found a walled heavily fortified teardrop-shaped citadel accessed by the outer citadel gate, which was surrounded by the as yet unexcavated town and a further enormous 2.5 kilometer long double fortification wall with three gates (most notably the southern city gate) and 100 bastions. Finds from the excavations are held in the Vorderasiatisches Museum Berlin and the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. The Louvre holds a carved orthostat and two sphinx protomes and some minor sculptures are held at museums in Adana and Gaziantep.[15][16] During the 1902 excavation at Zincirli Höyük the Kilamuwa Stela (Zincirli 65), a 9th-century BC stele of King Kilamuwa (c. 840–810 BC) in Phoenician language was found at the entrance to Building J. It is written in an Old Aramaic form of the Phoenician alphabet.[17]

At the foundation of Gate E of the inner citadel five basalt lion statues were found buried in a pit that ranged as deep as 4.2 meters. The date of the pit is unclear, though the excavators suggested the Middle Bronze age. The statues are in two different styles which the excavators placed as being from the late 10th century BC (Zincirli I) and c. 700 BC (Zincirli IV). These became known as the Sam'al lions.[18]

There were five excavation reports:

The field diaries of the excavation were lost during World War II.

In August 2006, the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago together with the Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies of the University of Tübingen began a new long-term excavation project at the site of Zincirli under the directorship of David Schloen and Virginia Herrmann.[19][20] Eleven seasons of excavation were conducted ending in 2017. [21] [22][23] Finds included the Kuttamuwa stele, in the Samalian variant of Aramaic and dated c. 740 BC.[24][25] A destroyed Middle Bronze Age II building was found at Area 2 on the eastern citadel. it is nearby and on the same stratigraphic level as the bit-hilani palace located by early excavators. That palace was present only in its stone foundations as the area was clear for construction of the Neo-Assyrian governors residence (Palace G) of the 7th century BC.[26] With the redating of the bit-hilani structure there is not a complete lack of monumental construction in Iron Age II until the time of Kilamuwa.[27]

Inscriptions found in the area

Multiple important historical inscriptions have been found in this area. They include at least seven inscriptions, as listed at the link above, including the Kuttamuwa stele found in 2008.

The German excavations on the citadel recovered large numbers of relief-carved orthostats, along with inscriptions in Aramaic, Phoenician, and Akkadian. These are on exhibit in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, and Istanbul. Also found was the notable Victory stele of Neo-Assyrian ruler Esarhaddon celebrating his victory over Egyptian pharaoh Taharqa in 671 BC.[28]

Three royal inscriptions from Ya'udi or Sam'al are particularly informative for the history of the area. The earliest is from the reign of King Panammu I, the others later at 730 BC. Their language is known as Samalian or Ya'udic. Some scholars including P.-E. Dion[29] and S. Moscati[30] have advanced Samalian as a distinct variety of Old Aramaic.[31][32][33] Attempts to establish a rigorous definition of "Aramaic" have led to a conclusion of Samalian as distinct from Aramaic, despite some shared features.[34][35][36]

Pancarli Hoyuk inscription

The site of Pancarli Hoyuk is located about 1 km southeast of Zincirli. A new hieroglyphic Luwian inscription has been discovered here in 2006, and published in 2016.[37]

The inscription is fragmentary, but nevertheless it appears to be of a royal character. Previously, all known inscriptions from this area were exclusively written in Northwest Semitic languages. According to the authors, the most probable conclusion is that PANCARLI inscription represents a ruler or a local king of the tenth or early ninth century BC.[37]

This inscription provides new information about the Early Iron Age of the Islahiye valley, and the history of the Aramaean dynasty of Gabbar.

If the inscription is considered to date to the 10th century BC, it may be the first solid evidence for a Luwian-speaking kingdom in the Islahiye valley, as possibly an offshoot of the Hittite rump-state at Karkemish.[37]


See also


  1. ^ Miller, Robert D., "The Barrakab Inscription", Covenant and Grace in the Old Testament: Assyrian Propaganda and Israelite Faith, Piscataway, NJ, USA: Gorgias Press, pp. 49-76, 2012
  2. ^ [1] Giusfredi, Federico, and Valerio Pisaniello, "The population, the language and the history of Yadiya/Sam’al", Beyond All Boundaries. Anatolia in the 1st Millennium BC (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 295), Peeters, pp. 189-223, 2021
  3. ^ a b Chicago-Tubingen Expedition to Zincirli, (2018). "Site and Setting", The University of Chicago.
  4. ^ Herrmann, Virginia, et al., (2020). "Iron Age Urbanization and Middle Bronze Age Networks at Zincirli Höyük: Recent Results from the Chicago-Tübingen Excavations", in ASOR 2020 Annual Meeting.
  5. ^ Herrman et al., (2023). "New evidence for Middle Bronze Age chronology from the Syro-Anatolian frontier", in: Antiquity, Volume 97, Issue 391, February 2023, p. 2: "....Here, we present evidence for the absolute and relative chronology of a late Middle Bronze Age (MB) II destruction event at Zincirli (Türkiye), a site on the border between the Syrian and Anatolian spheres. The destruction is dated with unusual precision by 11 short-lived radiocarbon samples from closed contexts, and the assemblage of pottery found therein affords key synchronisms with final Middle Bronze Age strata at other sites in the Northern Levant, Cilicia and Anatolia..."
  6. ^ Herrman et al., (2023). "New evidence for Middle Bronze Age chronology from the Syro-Anatolian frontier", in: Antiquity, Volume 97, Issue 391, February 2023, pp. 5–6: "...The assemblage of complete vessels from Zincirli Area 2 allows comparison with late MB II sites across the Northern Levant and Cilicia...[and] comparisons with the final MB II repertoires at Tilmen Höyük (Levels IIb–c), Alalakh (Level VII), Ebla (Mardikh IIIB2), Kinet Höyük (Period 16), Umm el-Marra (Period IIIa–c), Zeytinli Bahçe Höyük (Building VII) and Lidar Höyük (Phase 5/Level 8)..."
  7. ^ a b Herrmann, Virginia R., et al., (2022). "Comparing Bronze and Iron Age Urbanism, Economy, and Environment in Zincirli, Turkey: Results from the 2021 Excavation", 2022 ASOR Annual Meeting, Abstract Booklet, Boston, November 16–19, p. 88: "Among the discoveries this season was the first evidence of occupation at Zincirli during the Late Bronze Age under Hittite hegemony."
  8. ^ Morgan, Kathryn R., and Seth Richardson, "Wine from Mamma: Alluharum-Pots in 17th Century BC Trade Networks", Iraq journal, Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–27, 2020
  9. ^ Turkish Archaeological News, (9 March 2019). "Tilmen Höyük": "...Bahadir Alkım, in turn, hypothesised that Tilmen Höyük [Zalpa/Zalwar] was the capital of one of the twenty small states that together formed the kingdom of Yamhad..."
  10. ^ Virginia R. Herrmann and David Schloen, "Middle Bronze Age Zincirli: The Date of "Hilani I" and the End of Middle Bronze II", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, vol. 385, pp. 33–51, May 2021
  11. ^ [2] Herrmann, Virginia R., et al, "New evidence for Middle Bronze Age chronology from the Syro-Anatolian frontier", Antiquity, vol. 97 (393), pp. 1–20, 2023
  12. ^ The University of Chicago, (2018). "Annals of Ḫattušili I (mid- to late 17th cent. BC)", in Chicago-Tubingen Expedition to Zincirli, Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  13. ^ Editio princeps: Felix von Luschan, Die Kleinfunde von Sendschirli . Herausgabe und Ergänzung besorgt von Walter Andrae (Mitteilungen aus den orientalischen Sammlungen, Heft XV; Berlin 1943) 102, Abb. 124, Tf. 47f-g (the book was reviewed by K. Galline; in BiOr 5 fl948] 115–120)
  14. ^ Ralf-B Wartke, "Sam'al: Ein aramäischer Stadtstaat des 10. bis 8. Jhs. v. Chr. und die Geschichte seiner Erforschung", Philipp von Zabern, 2005
  15. ^ Felix von Luschan, "Ueber einige Ergebnisse der fünften Expedition nach Sendschirli", Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 34, pp. 379–80, 1902
  16. ^ Tropper, Josef, "Die Inschriften von Zincirli: Neue Edition und vergleichende Grammatikdes phönizischen, sam’alischen und aramäischen Textkorpus (ALASP 6)", Münster:Ugarit-Verlag, 1993
  17. ^ Schmitz, Philip C., "The Phoenician Words mškb and ʿrr in the Royal Inscription of Kulamuwa (KAI 24.14–15) and the Body Language of Peripheral Politics", Linguistic Studies in Phoenician, edited by Robert D. Holmstedt and Aaron Schade, University Park, USA: Penn State University Press, pp. 68-83, 2013
  18. ^ Gilibert, Alessandra, "Zincirli", Syro-Hittite Monumental Art and the Archaeology of Performance: The Stone Reliefs at Carchemish and Zincirli in the Earlier First Millennium BCE, Berlin, New York: De Gruyter, pp. 55-96, 2011
  19. ^ J. David Schloen 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, vol. 356, pp. 1–13, November 2009
  20. ^ Schloen, J David; Fink, Amir S., "Searching for Ancient Sam'al: New Excavations at Zincirli in Turkey", Near Eastern Archaeology, vol. 72, iss. 4, pp. 203–219, 2009
  21. ^ [3] Virginia R. Herrmann and David Schloen, "Excavations at Zincirli Höyük in Turkey: 2015 Season", Oriental Institute of Chicago, 2016
  22. ^ Kathryn R. Morgan and Sebastiano Soldi, "Middle Bronze Age Zincirli: An Interim Report on Architecture, Small Finds, and Ceramics from a Monumental Complex of the 17th Century b.c.e.", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, vol. 385, pp. 33–51, May 2021
  23. ^ Schloen, J. David, and Virginia R. Herrmann, "Zincirli Höyük Excavations 2015", Kazı Sonuçları Toplantısı 38/3, pp. 173–186, 2016
  24. ^ [4] Virginia Rimmer Herrmann and J. David Schloen, "In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East", Oriental Institute Museum Publications 37, Chicago: The Oriental Institute, 2014 ISBN 978-1-61491-017-6
  25. ^ Pardee, Dennis, "A new Aramaic inscription from Zincirli", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 356.1, pp. 51-71, 2009
  26. ^ Herrmann, V. R., and Schloen J. D., "Zincirli Höyük, Ancient Sam’al: A Preliminary Report on the 2015 Excavation Season", In: B. Horejs, C. Schwall, V. Müller, et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 10th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, 25–29 April 2016, Vienna (Wiesbaden), pp. 521–534, 2018
  27. ^ Herrmann, Virginia R., and David Schloen, "Zincirli Höyük, Ancient Sam’al: A Preliminary Report on the 2017 Excavation Season", Proceedings of the 11th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East: Vol. 2: Field Reports. Islamic Archaeology, edited by Adelheid Otto et al., 1st ed., Harrassowitz Verlag, pp. 129–40, 2020
  28. ^ Leichty, E., "The Royal Inscriptions of Esarhaddon, King of Assyria (680–669 BC)", Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Assyrian Period 4, Winona Lake, 2011
  29. ^ P.-E. Dion, La langue de Ya'udi (Waterloo, Ontario 1974), in: RSO 53 (1979)
  30. ^ Moscati 1964, S.—: An Introduction to the Comparative Grammar of the Semitic Languages, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden.
  31. ^ Klaus Beyer The Aramaic Language, Its Distribution and Subdivisions 1986– Page 12 3525535732 "In addition the three "Ya'udic" royal inscriptions from Zinjirli in northern Syria (c. 825, 750, 730 B.C.) witness to early Ancient Aramaic: KAl 25, 214, 215; TSSI -, 13, 14; J.Friedrich, Phoni- zisch-punische Grammatik, Rome 1951, 153–162; ..."
  32. ^ Angel Sáenz-Badillos, John Elwolde A History of the Hebrew Language 1996 0521556341 Page 35 "According to some scholars, after 1400 BC the languages which would later develop into Ya'udic and Aramaic...."
  33. ^ Joseph A. Fitzmyer A Wandering Armenian: Collected Aramaic Essays 1979 – Page 68 080284846X "This is partly because he refuses to see Ugaritic as Canaanite and partly because he prefers to treat so-called Ya^udic as distinct from Aramaic — if I understand him correctly.89 "
  34. ^ Huehnergard, John (1995). "What is Aramaic?". ARAM Periodical. 7 (2): 261–282. doi:10.2143/ARAM.7.2.2002231.
  35. ^ Kogan, Leonid (2015). Genealogical Classification of Semitic. de Gruyter.
  36. ^ Pat-El, Na'ama; Wilson-Wright, Aren (2019). "The subgrouping of Samalian: Arguments in favor of an independent branch". Maarav. 23 (2): 371–387. doi:10.1086/MAR201923206. S2CID 257837134.
  37. ^ a b c Herrmann, Virginia R.; van den Hout, Theo; Beyazlar, Ahmet (2016). "A New Hieroglyphic Luwian Inscription from Pancarlı Höyük: Language and Power in Early Iron Age Samʾal-YʾDY". Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 75 (1). University of Chicago Press: 53–70. doi:10.1086/684835. ISSN 0022-2968. S2CID 163613753.

Further reading

  • Boyd, Samuel L., Humphrey H. Hardy, and Benjamin D. Thomas, "Two New Inscriptions from Zincirli and Its Environs", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 356.1, pp. 73–80, 2009
  • Casana, Jesse, and Jason T. Herrmann, "Settlement history and urban planning at Zincirli Höyük, southern Turkey", Journal of Mediterranean archaeology 23.1, pp. 55–80, 2010
  • Cornelius, Izak, "In Search of the Goddesses of Zincirli (Samʾal)", Zeitschrift Des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins (1953-), vol. 128, no. 1, pp. 15–25, 2012
  • Cornelius, Izak, "The Material Imagery of the Sam’al (Zincirli) Monuments and ‘Aramaean Identity’", Die Welt Des Orients, vol. 49, no. 2, pp. 183–205, 2019
  • [5] Deckers, Katleen, et al., "An estate at Zincirli? Land use and resource exploitation at the Middle Bronze Age monumental building Complex DD in Zincirli, Gaziantep Province of Turkey", Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 15.1, 2023
  • Jessie DeGrado and Madadh Richey, "An Aramaic-Inscribed Lamaštu Amulet from Zincirli", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, vol. 377, pp. 107–133, May 2017
  • Virginia R. Herrmann, "Appropriation and Emulation in the Earliest Sculptures from Zincirli (Iron Age Samʾal)", American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 121, no. 2, pp. 237–74, 2017
  • Herrmann, Virginia R., et al., "Assyrian impact on the Kingdom of Sam'al: the view from Zincirli", The provincial archaeology of the Assyrian Empire, pp. 265–74, 2016
  • [6] Faist, Betina, "Die keilschrifttafeln aus Sam’al (Zincirli)", State Archives of Assyria Bulletin 20, pp. 33–46, 2014
  • VR Herrmann, "Urban organization under empire: Iron Age Sam'al (Zincirli, Turkey) from royal to provincial capital", Levant, vol. 49 (3), pp. 284–311, 2017
  • Herrmann, Virginia Hudson Rimmer, "Society and Economy under Empire at Iron Age Sam'al (Zincirli Höyük, Turkey)", Ph.D Disertation, The University of Chicago, 2011.
  • Simon B. Parker, "Appeals for military intervention: stories from Zinjirli and the Bible". The Biblical Archaeologist 59(4), pp. 213–224, 1996
  • Eudora J. Struble and Virginia Rimmer 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, vol. 356, pp. 15–49, 2009
  • U. Bahadir. Alkim, "The Road from Samal to Asitawandawa: Contributions to the Historical Geography of the Amanus Region", Anadolu Arastirmalari, vol. 2, pp. 3–41, 1965
  • Ussishkin, David, "The Syro-Hittite ritual burial of monuments". Journal of Near Eastern Studies 29(2), pp. 124–128, 1970
  • Ussishkin, David, "‘Der Alte Bau’ in Zincirli", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 189, pp. 50–53, 1968
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