A satellite image of Qatna with the archaeological sites marked
|Alternative name||Tell el-Mishrife|
|Location||al-Mishrifeh, Homs Governorate, Syria|
|Founded||c. 3300 BC|
|Periods||Bronze Age, Iron Age|
|Excavation dates||1924-1925, 1927–1929, 1994, 1999–2011|
|Archaeologists||Robert du Mesnil du Buisson, Michel Al-Maqdissi, Daniele Morandi Bonacossi and Peter Pfälzner|
Qatna (modern: Arabic: تل المشيرفة, Tell al-Mishrifeh) is an ancient city located in Homs Governorate, Syria. Its remains constitute a tell situated about 18 km (11 mi) northeast of Homs near the village of al-Mishrifeh. The city was an important center throughout most of the second millennium BC and in the first half of the first millennium BC. It contained one of the largest royal palaces of Bronze Age Syria and an intact royal tomb that has provided a great amount of archaeological evidence on the funerary habits of that period.
First inhabited for a short period in the second half of the fourth millennium BC, it was repopulated around 2800 BC and continued to grow. By 2000 BC, it became the capital of a regional kingdom that spread its authority over large swathes of the central and southern Levant. The kingdom enjoyed good relations with Mari, but was engaged in constant warfare against Yamhad. By the 15th century BC, Qatna lost its hegemony and came under the authority of Mitanni. It later changed hands between the former and Egypt until it was conquered and sacked by the Hittites in the late 14th century BC. Following its destruction, the city was reduced in size before being abandoned by the 13th century BC. It was resettled in the 10th century BC, becoming a center of the kingdoms of Palistin then Hamath until it was destroyed by the Assyrians in 720 BC, which reduced it to a small village that eventually disappeared in the 6th century BC. In the 19th century AD, the site was populated by villagers who were evacuated into the newly built village of al-Mishrifeh in 1982. The site has been excavated since the 1920s.
Qatna was inhabited by different peoples, most importantly the Amorites, who established the kingdom, followed by the Arameans; Hurrians became part of the society in the 15th century BC and influenced Qatna's written language. The city's art is distinctive and shows signs of contact with different surrounding regions. The artifacts of Qatna show high-quality workmanship. The city's religion was complex and based on many cults in which ancestor worship played an important role. Qatna's location in the middle of the Near East trade networks helped it achieve wealth and prosperity; it traded with regions as far away as the Baltic and Afghanistan. The area surrounding Qatna was fertile, with abundant water, which made the lands suitable for grazing and supported a large population that contributed to the prosperity of the city.
Daliah Third millennium texts do not mention the name Qatna; the archive of Ebla mentions the toponym "Gudadanum" (or "Ga-da-nu"), which has been identified with Qatna by some scholars, such as Giovanni Pettinato and Michael Astour, but this is debated.
Aside from an obscure passage in the 20th-century BC Egyptian Story of Sinuhe, where the name Qatna is not clearly mentioned, the earliest occurrence of the name comes from the Middle Bronze Age archive of Mari, where the city is mentioned as "Qatanum", an Akkadianized format (ālQa-ta-nimki). In Alalakh, the name "Qa-ta-na" was used, an Amorite format that was shortened into Qatna during the Late Bronze Age. The name is Semitic; it derives from the root q-ṭ-n, meaning "thin" or "narrow" in a number of Semitic languages such as Akkadian, Syriac, and Ethiopian. "Ga-da-nu" from the Eblaite archive may also derive from that root. The toponym "Qatna" is strictly related to waterways and lakes; this could be a reference to the artificial narrowing that created a lake from the springs located southwest of the city, since Qatna grew on the eastern shore of a now dried lake.
The city is located in the countryside, 18 km (11 mi) north of Homs. It was founded on a limestone plateau, and its extensive remains suggest fertile surroundings with abundant water, which is not the case in modern times. Three northward flowing tributary wadis (Mydan, Zorat and Slik) of the Orontes River cross the region of Qatna, enclosing an area 26 km (16 mi) north–south and 19 km (12 mi) east–west. The city lay along the central wadi (Zorat), surrounded by at least twenty five satellite settlements, most of them along the Mydan (marking the eastern border of the region) and Slik (marking the western border of the region) wadis. The wadis are now dry most of the year, but during the rainy season their discharge is disproportional to the size of their valleys, suggesting that the region was much more humid and water was more abundant in the past. The early city, dating to the Early Bronze Age IV (2200–2100 BC), was built in a circular plan; this circular site became the upper city (acropolis) of Qatna's later phases and was surrounded by a lower rectangular city.
The site was first occupied during the Late Chalcolithic IV period (3300–3000 BC). This early settlement was concentrated on the central part of the upper town; its function is unknown and it ended in the late fourth millennium BC.[note 5] After a hiatus of several centuries, the site was reoccupied around 2800 BC during the Early Bronze Age III.
The last two centuries of the third millennium BC saw widespread disruption of urban settlements in Syria and the abandonment of many cities; however, Qatna seems to be an exception, as it continued to grow. During the Early Bronze Age IV, Qatna reached a size of 25 ha (62 acres); it included a dense residential quarter and facilities for the storage and processing of grains, especially a large multi-roomed granary similar to the one in Tell Beydar. The city may have been one of the urban centers of the Ib'al federation, perhaps the center of a king or prince. The early city occupied the acropolis, and none of its remains were found in the lower city. Most of the small settlements surrounding Qatna, 1 ha (2.5 acres) to 2 ha (4.9 acres), appeared during this period; this might have been connected with the emergence of a central institution in the city.
Kingdom of Qatna
|c. 2000 BC–c. 1340/1334 BC|
Qatna at its height in the eighteenth century BC
|Common languages||Amorite language|
|Historical era||Bronze Age|
|c. 2000 BC|
|c. 1340/1334 BC|
The Kingdom of Qatna was established around 2000 BC. At the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age I, the city expanded and covered an area of 110 ha (270 acres). This growth reduced the number of the small settlements as people were drawn into the expanded metropolis. It is probable that the earliest mention of "Qatna" by this name dates to the same period. According to Thomas Schneider, a city named Qedem, mentioned in a controversial passage in the Story of Sinuhe dating to the beginning of the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt (early 20th century BC), is most probably to be identified with Qatna.[note 6] Qedem in the Egyptian text is written "Qdm", and, in Egyptian, Qatna is written as "Qdn". If Schneider's interpretation is correct, then this is the first known written mention of the city. The text also mentions that the title of the ruler was Mekim (or Mekum), a royal title known from Ebla.[note 7] The theory of Schneider is debated: in Sinuhe's story, the protagonist turned back to Qedem after reaching Byblos; Joachim Friedrich Quack pointed out that the Egyptian verb "ḥs ̯i" used in the text was known to indicate that a certain expedition had reached its final destination and was now returning to Egypt, indicating that Qedem was south of Byblos, while Qatna is to the north of Byblos.
The next mention of Qatna after the Story of Sinuhe comes from Mari in the 18th century BC, during the reign of Išḫi-Addu of Qatna. However, a tablet found in Tuttul, dating to the early reign of the Mariote king Yahdun-Lim in the late 19th century BC, mentions a king named Amut-piʾel, who is most probably the father of Išḫi-Addu; this would make him the first known king of Qatna. Also during the reign of Yahdun-Lim, the kingdom of Yamhad in Aleppo and its king Sumu-Epuh enter the historical record through the texts of Mari.
Early in their history, Qatna and Yamhad had hostile relations; Amut-piʾel I, in alliance with Yahdun-Lim and Ḫammu-Nabiḫ (probably king of Tuttul), attacked the Yamhadite city of Tuba, which was a personal possession of Aleppo's royal family, and took a large booty. Later, Yahdun-Lim embarked on an expedition to the Mediterranean Sea that was used for ideological purposes, as it was meant to echo Gilgamesh's deeds; the journey likely had undeclared political motives as well, when seen in the context of the alliance with Qatna. The Mariote–Qaṭanean alliance, which was probably cemented by dynastic marriage,[note 8] must have provoked Yamhad, which supported rebellions in Mari to preoccupy Yahdun-Lim with his own problems. Despite the tension and battles, a full-scale war with Yamhad was avoided.
Qatna was at its apex during the reign of Išḫi-Addu. Mari was conquered by Shamshi-Adad I of Assyria, who appointed his son Yasmah-Adad as its king. Išḫi-Addu was allied with Shamshi-Adad and is attested corresponding with Mari for a period of six years between c. 1783 and 1778 BC. At its height, the kingdom extended from the upper valley of the Orontes to Qadeš in the west, while Palmyra was Qatna's easternmost city. It was bordered by Yamhad in the north, while the south was dominated by Hazor, a Qaṭanean vassal. The many kingdoms of Amurru, which controlled the central Levantine coast between Byblos and Ugarit, bordered Qatna from the west and were counted among Išhi-Addu's vassals. Also under the rule of Qatna were various cities in the Beqaa Valley and the cities in the region of Apum, in the modern Damascus Oasis.
The kingdom was sometimes threatened by nomads; a letter sent to Yasmah-Adad informs him that 2000 Suteans conducted a raid against Qatna. Relations with Yamhad worsened during Išḫi-Addu's reign and the conflict evolved into border warfare; Qatna occupied the city of Parga in the region of Hamath for a while before Sumu-Epuh retook it. In the south, Išḫi-Addu faced a general rebellion; the alliance with Assyria was cemented by the marriage of Išḫi-Addu's daughter to Yasmah-Adad in c. 1782 BC. The following year, after petitions by Qatna, Shamshi-Adad sent an army to help Išḫi-Addu deal with the rebellion.[note 9] The Assyrian troops avoided engaging Yamhad and did not participate in its war with Qatna, while Išḫi-Addu took up residence in Qadeš to oversee the suppression of the rebellion, which apparently was supported by Yamhad. After four years in the service of Qatna, Shamshi-Adad ordered his troops to return; this might have been connected to a peace treaty between Assyria and Yarim-Lim I, son of Sumu-Epuh. Išḫi-Addu, who in the past had declared that "even if Shamshi-Adad would conclude peace with Sumu-epuh, I will never make peace with Sumu-epuh, as long as I live!", was delivered a heavy blow, but Mari's sources are silent on how the king dealt with the situation, and by the time they resumed mentioning Qatna in c. 1772 BC, Išḫi-Addu was dead and succeeded by his son Amut-piʾel II.
The political and military balance in the region changed dramatically during the reign of Amut-piʾel II; Shamshi-Adad I had died by about 1775 BC, and his empire disintegrated, while Yasmah-Adad was removed from his throne and replaced with Zimri-Lim. Yarim-Lim I gained the upper hand and turned his kingdom into the supreme power in the Levant; Qatna was forced to respect the borders and interests of Yamhad. In Mari, Zimri-Lim, who was Yarim-Lim's protégé, married Amut-piʾel II's sister and Yasmah-Adad's widow Dam-Ḫuraṣi, and this seemed to satisfy the king of Qatna, as his relations with Mari were never hostile.[note 10] In 1772 BC, the Banu-Yamina tribes revolted against Zimri-Lim, who asked Qatna for help; Amut-piʾel II sent his troops to Dūr-Yahdun-Lim (probably modern Deir ez-Zor) to support Mari, but when he asked for Mariote military support at a later time, Zimri-Lim hesitated as Yarim-Lim I was expressly against such a dispatch. When Qatna tried to establish an alliance with Eshnunna, Mari, which was at war with Eshnunna, arrested the messengers on the pretext that Zimri-Lim feared for their safety; in reality, the king of Mari was probably acting on behalf of Yamhad to prevent Qatna from establishing such an alliance.
The archive of Mari reports a plan between Zimri-Lim, the king of Carchemish and the king of Eshnunna (who made peace with Mari), to attack Qatna. Such an alliance could not have been realized without the participation of Yamhad, overlord of both Mari and Carchemish; in the end, the plan was not pursued and the tense relations between Qatna and Yamhad eased toward the last years of Yarim-Lim's reign. In a letter written to Zimri-Lim, Yarim-Lim I agreed to establish peace with Qatna if Amut-piʾel II were to come by himself to Aleppo, thus acknowledging the supremacy of Yamhad; no proof can be shown for a meeting taking place between the two kings.[note 11] Just before his death in 1765 BC, Yarim-Lim called a meeting of his vassals, and Zimri-Lim traveled to Aleppo where he met messengers from Qatna and Hazor, indicating that Amut-piʾel II started recognizing the supremacy of Yarim-Lim, and that Hazor, Qatna's vassal, was now obeying Yamhad. Yarim-Lim's successor Hammurabi I arranged a peace with Qatna that probably did not require the Qaṭanean king to visit Aleppo personally, but indicated Qatna's acceptance of Yamhad's superiority. This apparent yielding seems a mere formality as Qatna continued its aspirations for power, as became clear in its behavior during the Elamite invasion of Mesopotamia in year ten of Zimri-Lim's reign. An Elamite messenger reached Emar and sent three of his servants to Qatna; Hammurabi I of Yamhad learned of this and sent troops to intercept them on their return. The servants were captured and questioned, revealing that Amut-piʾel II told them to tell their monarch that "The country is delivered to you, come up to me! if you come up, you will not be taken by surprise." The Qaṭanean king also sent two messengers to Elam, but they were probably captured in Babylon.
The hegemony of Yamhad affected Qatna's economy; the trade route connecting Mesopotamia and Mari to Qatna through Palmyra lost its importance, while the trade routes from the Mediterranean to Mesopotamia came under the full control of Aleppo, contributing to Qatna's loss of wealth. Following the destruction of Mari by Hammurabi of Babylon around 1761 BC, information about Qatna becomes scarce; in the late 17th century BC, Yamhad invaded and defeated Qatna during the reign of Yarim-Lim III. The political and commercial importance of Qatna declined quickly during the Late Bronze Age (LB I), around 1600 BC, as a result of growing Egyptian and Mitannian influences. Numerous small states appeared in the region and detached from Qatna.
It is not known when Qatna lost its independence. It became a Mitannian vassal in the 16th century BC, but the archive of Qatna proves that even in its final period during the 14th century BC, Qatna maintained a certain degree of autonomy. Early Egyptian military intrusions to the region occurred under Thutmose I (r. 1506–1493 BC– ). The name Qedem appears in an inscription found on a fragmented gateway from Karnak dated to the reign of Thutmose mentioning a military campaign in the northern Levant. The inscription suggests that the mentioned cities submitted to the king. The geographic sequence given in the inscription is Qedem ("Qdm"), Tunip ("Twnjp") and "Ḏj3 wny" (maybe Siyannu); Qatna (Qdn in Egyptian) would fit better in the geographic sequence and Alexander Ahrens suggested that the inscription might have meant Qatna. Any oaths of loyalty to Egypt taken by Levantine rulers were forgotten after Thutmose I's death. The Egyptians returned under the leadership of Thutmose III (r. 1479–1425 BC– ), who reached Qatna during his eighth Asiatic campaign, c. 1446 BC. Thutmose III did not rule directly in Qatna but established vassalage ties and attended an archery contest with the Qaṭanean king.
Towards the end of Thutmose III's reign, and under the influence of Mitanni, the Syrian states changed their loyalty, causing Thutmose's successor Amenhotep II (r. 1427–1401/1397 BC– ) to march north in his seventh year on the throne, where he fought troops from Qatna near the city.[note 12] The threat of the Hittites prompted Mitanni's king to sue for peace: Artatama I approached Amenhotep II for an alliance and long negotiations started. The talks lasted until after Amenhotep's death, when his successor Thutmose IV (r. 1401/1397–1391/1388 BC– ) finally sealed a treaty that divided the Levant between the two powers. Qatna and the states north of it, such as Nuhašše, fell into the sphere of Mitanni. Despite its reduced status, Qatna still controlled the Lebanon Mountains 80 km (50 mi) in the 14th century BC.
During the reign of Adad-Nirari of Nuhašše in the 14th century BC, Qatna may have become part of his kingdom. In 1977, Astour considered Qatna a constituent part of the lands of Nuhašše, and identified a king of Qatna named Adad-Nirari with the Nuhaššite king. Astour was followed by Thomas Richter in 2002, who considered Qatna to be a secondary city in the domain of the Nuhaššite king. The tablets of Qatna mention a šakkanakku (military governor) named Lullu, and Richter considered him an official of Nuhašše. The hypothesis of Richter is debated; a number of scholars accept it, for example Pfälzner, who suggested that the Nuhaššite king may have resided in Qatna's royal palace. Richter dated the rule of the Nuhaššite king to the period preceding the Hittite king Šuppiluliuma I's first Syrian war, during which Adad-Nirari of Nuhašše opposed the Hittites, was defeated, and, according to Richter, had his kingdom split between different Hittite puppets including Idanda of Qatna.
Gernot Wilhelm saw no ground for Richter's assumption concerning the identification of the Nuhaššite monarch with the Qaṭanean king. This identification rests on the theory that Qatna belonged geographically to the region of Nuhašše,[note 13] but no solid evidence supports this assumption, and the Shattiwaza treaty between the Hittites and Mitannians clearly mentioned Qatna as a different realm from Nuhašše during the first Syrian war when the Nuhaššite king ruled. If Qatna was part of the Nuhaššite kingdom, its submission to the Hittites would not have been mentioned separately in the treaty. It is a fact that Qatna was ruled by Idanda during the first war and the Hittite documents do not mention a change of rulers in Qatna made by Šuppiluliuma, leaving no reason to suspect that Idanda ascended the throne as a result of the war. Jacques Freu likewise rejected Richter's hypothesis. Citing different arguments, he concluded that Adad-Nirari of Nuhašše was a contemporary of Idanda, the successor of the Qaṭanean Adad-Nirari.
Early in his reign, the Hittite king Šuppiluliuma I (r. c. 1350–1319 BC– ) aimed at conquering Mitanni's lands west of the Euphrates. Šuppiluliuma waged several campaigns to achieve his goal: the first Syrian foray, the second Syrian foray, the first Syrian war and the second Syrian war.[note 14] The events and chronology of the Hittites' subjugation of Qatna are debated. King Idanda was a Hittite vassal; a letter sent by the Hittite general Ḫanutti contains a demand that Idanda fortify the city. Freu believed that Idanda abandoned Mitanni and joined the Hittites as a result of Šuppiluliuma's first Syrian foray. The Mitannian king Tushratta retaliated by invading Qatna, and burning the royal palace; an event dated to around 1340 BC.[note 15] Wilhelm, on the other hand, believed that Idanda submitted to the Hittites as a result of the first Syrian war.
The events leading to the destruction of the royal palace did not cause the destruction of the whole city. The Shattiwaza treaty, which describes the events of the first Syrian war, mentions that Qatna was invaded and destroyed, and its people were deported during the war. However, Idanda's successor, Akizzi, was ruling in the second half of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten's reign following the first Syrian war, or shortly before the second Syrian war.[note 16] This discrepancy can be explained if the treaty did not mention the events in a chronological order; many scholars, such as Wilhelm, believe that the author of the document organized the text according to the principle of association, rather than following the sequence of events.
Translation of letter EA 55 written by king Akizzi of Qatna
describing the destruction of his kingdom.
Akizzi contacted Egypt and declared himself a servant to the pharaoh. An anti-Hittite coalition, probably organized by Akizzi, was established. Šuppiluliuma tried diplomatic means to solve the conflict but Akizzi rejected them. Hittite military intervention soon followed and Akizzi asked Egypt for troops, but received none. Šuppiluliuma himself came to Qatna, aided by Aziru of Amurru. The Hittite monarch took with him a statue of the sun deity, which had been given to Qatna by an ancestor of Akhenaten. This move symbolized the final capitulation of the kingdom.
Akizzi survived the destruction of his city and continued his communication with the pharaoh for some time; in an Amarna letter (EA 55), the king of Qatna described to Akhenaten the actions of Šuppiluliuma and his plundering of Qatna. Hence, the final sack of Qatna occurred after the royal palace was destroyed in 1340 BC, and before the death of Akhenaten, to whom the letter was addressed, in c. 1334 BC. Trevor Bryce suggested that Akizzi might have accepted Hittite overlordship again. In any case, he was the last known king. The city lost its importance following its sacking and never regained its former status.
The destruction of the royal palace constituted a break in Qatna's history; all other palaces were abandoned and the political system collapsed. A pottery workshop was built in the place of the southern palace, while the lower city palace was replaced by two adjacent courtyards surrounded by walls. Archaeological data suggest a much reduced settlement with no regional role. Following the 13th century BC, no archaeological evidence exists to prove the city was occupied; the toponym Qatna stopped appearing and the next occupation level dates to the late 10th century BC, suggesting it was uninhabited for three centuries.[note 17]
In the late 10th century and early 9th century BC, the site was reoccupied but its name during that time is unknown;[note 18] three human head sculptures made of basalt were discovered in the site; they probably date to the mid-9th century BC. At this time, the region was probably under the control of Palistin, with Qatna under the rule of Hamath, which was probably part of Palistin. The basalt heads bear similarities to a statue discovered in Palistin's capital, but there is not enough information to allow a general conclusion over the borders of Palistin and its extent into Qatna. The settlement was a small one; it included large buildings that were used both as residences and manufacturing facilities.
By the 8th century, the site saw a revival in settlement; the city expanded and many houses, public buildings, and storage areas were built. The newly expanded settlement was a contrast to the earlier 10th/9th century one; the existence of official buildings and the emergence of many satellite settlements surrounding Qatna suggest that the city was a local center in the kingdom of Hamath. The official buildings were violently destroyed, probably at the hands of the Assyrian king Sargon II (r. 722–705 BC– ), who annexed the region in 720 BC. The site continued to be inhabited during the Iron Age III, following the Assyrian destruction, but the settlement shrank considerably, being reduced to a village comprising the central part of the acropolis. It was abandoned in the mid-6th century BC.
In the mid-19th century, a modern village (al-Mishrifeh) was built within the ancient site. Houses were built on top of the royal palace floors, damaging them to a certain degree, but also protecting the underlying ruins. In 1982, the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums resettled the inhabitants in a new village next to the ancient tell, thus making the site available for modern archaeological research.
The kingdom of Qatna had a predominantly Semitic Amorite population; all the personal names from Qatna in the Mari archive were Amorite. The royal family was also Amorite and it stayed as such during the Mitannian era, which witnessed the expansion of Hurrians; by the fifteenth century BC, Qatna had a sizable Hurrian element. The Arameans were responsible for the re-occupation of the site in the first millennium BC.
The Amorites in Qatna spoke their own language, but kings communicated with their counterparts using Akkadian, which was the language of writing in the city. Qatna's Akkadian became heavily influenced by Hurrian in the 15th and 14th centuries BC; Richter argued that a special Akkadian–Hurrian hybrid dialect developed in Qatna. Texts from Qatna exhibit many Hurrian elements, proving that Hurrian was prominent among scribes, but its predominance as a spoken language by the general public cannot be determined.
Details about the religious life in Qatna are not available due to the rarity of written evidence from the city; in general, many cults seems to have existed and mixed in Qatna, most prominently the royal ancestor cult, the cult of gods and the cult of the dead.
Belet-Ekallim (Ninegal) was a prominent deity in Qatna; the inventories of gifts presented to the gods found in hall C of the palace show that she was a prominent element in the royal liturgy, where she was called the "lady of the palace" and "Belet Qatna", making her effectively the goddess of the city. However, no trace of a temple or shrine has been found in the building.[note 19] The inventories also mention the "gods of the king"; it is debated whether this referred to deities or to royal ancestors. Jean Bottéro identified the "gods of the king" with the sun god Šamaš, whom Akizzi called the "god of my father" in his letter to Akhenaten.[note 20] Gregorio del Olmo Lete considered Šamaš the god of Qatna's dynasty, but the "gods of the king" probably included other deities as well. Jean-Marie Durand considers Addu to be the god of the city based on a seal dating to Išḫi-Addu's reign describing Addu as such. Another indication of the deities worshiped in Qatna comes from the archive of Mari; the daughter of Išḫi-Add was devoted to the goddess Ishtar and Zimri-Lim once invited Amut-piʾel II to Mari to take part in rituals for that goddess, indicating that the cult of Ishtar was prominent in Qatna.
The texts of Mari show that the cult of stones, especially the "sikkanum" (i.e., Betyles—sacred stones), was widespread in western Syria, and its practice in Qatna is plausible. Du Mesnil du Buisson named room F in the royal palace "Haut-Lieu" and considered it a shrine of Ašera. Research done after 1999 ruled out du Mesnil du Buisson's hypothesis and concluded that the room is a bathroom, but further research showed that the bathroom interpretation must also be wrong. Pfälzner, based on its architecture being suitable for containing sacred stones,[note 21] suggested that room F was the palace shrine for the cult of Betyles. Pfälzner concludes that "an ultimate proof, however, for the function of Room F at Qaṭna cannot be deduced from this parallel. Nor is there a clue as to the dedication of the possible Betyle-sanctuary at Qaṭna".
Ancestors were worshiped in Qatna; the royal hypogeum provided a large amount of data concerning the cult of ancestor worshiping and the practices associated with it. Two kinds of burials are distinguished; a primary burial intended to transport the dead into the netherworld, and a secondary burial that was intended to transform the deceased into their ultimate form: an ancestor. The royal hypogeum provides hints at the different rituals taking place during a secondary burial; a noticeable character is that skeletons were not complete, and no skulls are found for the majority of secondary burial remains. There is no evidence that skulls decayed as they would have left behind teeth, of which very few were found, indicating that the skulls were removed to be venerated in another location.
Bones in the secondary burial were arranged without respect for anatomical order; it is plausible to assume that the distribution process was the result of symbolic rituals that indicated the changing of the deceased's role by incorporating him or her into the group of royal ancestors. Pottery vessels were deposited next to the secondary burial remains; they were fixed on top of food offerings meant as a food supply for the dead, giving evidence for the performance of Kispu (nourishing and caring for one's ancestor through a regular supply of food and drink). Hundreds of pilled vessels provide evidence that the living participated and dined with their ancestors, venerating them. Pfälzner argues for a third burial process which he calls the tertiary burial; the eastern chamber of the hypogeum was used as an ossuary where human remains and animal bones left from the Kispu were mixed and pilled. Pfälzner conclude that bones left in that chamber were deposited there because they had become useless in funerary rituals, thus the chamber was their final resting place. Bones in the eastern chamber were stored with no respect for the unity of an individual, indicating that the persons buried were now part of the collective group of ancestors; this did not mean that the individuals were no longer cared for, as the many bowls in the chamber indicate the continuation of food offerings to those ancestors.
According to Pfälzner, a final burial stage can be noticed, which he calls the quaternary burial. Tomb VII, which most probably contained remains taken out of the royal hypogeum, seems to have worked as a storage for the remains of individuals whose Kispu cycle came to an end; very few bowls were found in that tomb. The Kispu was important for demonstrating the legitimacy of the king, thus it needed to be public and visible to a large crowd; Pfälzner suggests that hall A in the royal palace was the place for the public Kispu and that the antechamber of the royal hypogeum was dedicated for private Kispu that included only the king and the spirits of his ancestors.
Due to its location in the middle of the trade network of the ancient world, the cultural and social landscape of the city was complex, as the inhabitants had to deal with traders and envoys who brought with them different customs from distant regions. The inventories of gifts presented to deities from the royal palace indicate that Qatna used the sexagesimal numeral system.
Textiles dyed with royal purple, a symbol of social status, were found in the royal hypogeum. Judging by the royal statues found in the royal hypogeum antechamber, a king of Qatna wore clothes different from those worn in Mesopotamia; his robes would have reached his ankles and the hem on his shawl would have been in the shape of a thick rope, while his beard was short and his headdress consisted of a broad band. For royal primary burials, several steps were followed: constructing the burial container, anointing the body with oil, heating the body, leading the burial procession, laying the sarcophagus floor with textiles, burying the body with another layer of textiles, and finally depositing a layer of plants and herbs. Elephants, which lived in western Syria, were esteemed in Qatna and connected to the royal family; they were apparently hunted by the royals and the king himself, as there is evidence that their bones were displayed in the palace; thus, elephants were part of the royal ideology and hunting an elephant was a symbol of prestige that glorified the strength of the king.
An international style in art did not exist in Qatna;[note 22] instead, a regional hybrid style prevailed where international motifs appear along with regional ones, yet all the pieces reveal enough features to trace them to Qatna. The volute-shaped plant is one of the most widespread international motifs;[note 23] many pieces from the royal hypogeum were decorated with the motif, but Qatna had its own typical volute, where the crown is a single long lobe with dotted pendants branching out of the corners of the upper volute. The wall painting in Qatna's royal palace attests to contact with the Aegean region; they depict typical Minoan motifs such as palm trees and dolphins.
Qatna also had a distinctive local craftsmanship; the wall paintings in the royal palace, though including Aegean motifs, depict elements that are not typical either in Syria or the Aegean region, such as turtles and crabs. This hybrid style of Qatna prompted Pfälzner to suggest a "craftsmanship interaction model", which is based on the assumption that Aegean artists were employed in local Syrian workshops. Local workshops modeled amber in Syrian style; many pieces were found in the royal hypogeum including 90 beads and a vessel in the shape of a lion head. Ivory was connected to the royal family and the pieces discovered reflect a high level of craftsmanship that was influenced by Egyptian traditions. Jewelry was made to fit local tastes even when the origin of the concept was foreign; an example would be the scarabs, traditional Egyptian objects, that were modified in Qatna by engraving them with local motifs and encasing them with gold, which is atypical for Egyptian specimens. Aside from two golden beads that seem imported from Egypt, no jewelry discovered was of foreign origin.
Typical western Syrian architectural traditions are seen in the eastern palace, which has an asymmetrical plan and tripartite reception halls. The lower city palace also shows typical second-millennium Syrian features, being elongated and lacking the huge courtyards that were a traditional Mesopotamian feature; instead, the palace had several small courtyards spread within it. Qatna's royal palace was unique in its monumental architecture; it had a distinctive foundation and the throne room walls were 9 metres (30 ft) wide, which does not occur elsewhere in the architecture of the ancient Near East. The period following the destruction of the royal palace shows a clear break in culture, evidenced by the poor building materials and architectural techniques.
Finds in "Tomb IV" indicate that Qatna was engaged in long distance trade since its early history. The city's location on the edges of the Syrian steppes turned it into a strategic stop for caravans traveling to the Mediterranean Sea from the east. The countryside surrounding the city provided the key for its success in the Early Bronze Age IV; those lands were capable of supporting both agriculture and pastoralism. Despite the modern scarcity of water, geoarchaeological research on the wadis of the region confirm the abundance of water during the Bronze Age. The land was abundant in pasture lands; when drought struck Mari, Išḫi-Addu allowed its nomads to graze their flocks in Qatna.
The written sources do not offer deep insight on the economy of the kingdom; it counted mainly on agriculture during the Middle Bronze Age but, by the Late Bronze Age, it became based on trade with surrounding regions. Securing raw materials scarce near the city was an important concern for the rulers; basalt was an important building tool and it was probably acquired from the Salamiyah region or Al-Rastan. Calcite was provided from either the Syrian coast or Egypt, amber came from the Baltic region, while regions in modern Afghanistan provided carnelian and lapis-lazul.
The main routes passing Qatna were from Babylon to Byblos through Palmyra, from Ugarit to Emar, and from Anatolia to Egypt. Taxes on caravans crossing the trade routes allowed the city's royalty to get rich; an insight into Qatna's wealth can be acquired from the dowry of Išḫi-Addu's daughter, who was endowed with 10 talents of silver (288 kg) and 5 talents of textiles (worth 144 kg of silver). White horses were among Qatna's most famous exports, in addition to high-quality wines, woods from the nearby Lebanon mountain, and goods, such as chariots, from a highly skilled craft industry.
Many Egyptian imports were found in the city, including the "sphinx of Ita", which represents a daughter of the Egyptian pharaoh Amenemhat II, and a vessel with the name of Senusret I inscribed on it, plus around 50 stone vessels in the royal hypogeum. Two units of weight and payment measurement are prominent in Qatna: the mina and the shekel. The mina had different values from region to region but it seems that in Qatna the preferred value was 470 g, while the preferred value of the shekel is hard to figure.
The existence of agricultural facilities on the acropolis during the EB IV early city indicates that a central authority oversaw the production process; perhaps the city was a center of one of the princes of Ib'al. Another piece of evidence is "Tomb IV", which contained the remains of 40 people, 300 pottery vessels, weapons and ornaments. The tomb probably belonged to the elite or the ruling family of the city. In the kingdom of Qatna, the crown prince had the city of Nazala as his domain. The palace was mainly a political and administrative institution devoid of religious functions, in contrast to the palace of Mari.[note 24] In the realm of Hamath, Qatna was an administrative center probably in control of the kingdom's southern regions. During the Assyrian period, Qatna lost its administrative role and even its urban character until its abandonment.
|Išḫi-Addu||c. 1783 BC|
|Amut-piʾel II||c. 1772 BC|
|Naplimma||c. 1450 BC|
|Idanda||c. 1340 BC|
Du Mesnil du Buisson led excavations starting in 1924, and annually from 1927 to 1929; the third millennium BC remains provided scarce samples and most of the data come from Tomb IV. In 1994, a Syrian mission led by Michel Al-Maqdissi conducted several surveys and surface excavations, then, in 1999, a joint Syrian–Italian–German mission was formed that was headed by Al-Maqdissi, Daniele Morandi Bonacossi and Pfälzner. Due to the development of the excavations, the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums split the mission into Syrian (headed by Al-Maqdissi), Syrian–German (headed by Pfälzner) and Syrian–Italian (headed by Morandi Bonacossi) missions in 2004.
Research was focused on the upper city while the lower city remained largely untouched; by 2006, only 5% of the site's total area had been excavated. The royal palace was split into two excavation areas: operation G covering the western part and operation H covering the eastern part. Operation J covers the summit of the acropolis, while the lower city palace is covered by operation K. One of the most important discoveries came in 2002, when the archive of king Idanda was discovered, containing 67 clay tablets. As a result of the Syrian Civil War, excavations stopped in 2011.
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