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Viceroyalty of Carchemish / Kingdom of Carchemish

c. 1321 BC–717 BC
Carchemish among the Neo-Hittite states
Common languages Hittite, Hieroglyphic Luwian
Hittite-Luwian religion
Historical era Bronze Age, Iron Age
c. 1321 BC
717 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Carte du Mitanni.png Mitanni
Neo-Assyrian Empire Map of Assyria.png
Today part ofFlag of Turkey.svg  Turkey
Flag of Syria.svg  Syria

Carchemish ( /kɑːrˈkɛmɪʃ/ kar-KEM-ish), also spelled Karkemish (Hittite: Karkamiš; [1] Turkish: Karkamış; Greek: Εὔρωπος; Latin: Europus), was an important ancient capital in the northern part of the region of Syria. At times during its history the city was independent, but it was also part of the Mitanni, Hittite and Neo-Assyrian Empires. Today it is on the frontier between Turkey and Syria.

Hittite language an extinct Bronze Age Indo-European language

Hittite, also known as Nesite and Neshite, was an Indo-European language that had been spoken by the Hittites, a people of Bronze Age Anatolia who created an empire, centred on Hattusa, as well as parts of the northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia. The language, long extinct now, is attested in cuneiform, in records dating from the 16th to the 13th centuries BCE, with isolated Hittite loanwords and numerous personal names appearing in an Old Assyrian context from as early as the 20th century BCE.

Turkish language Turkic language mainly spoken and used in Turkey

Turkish, also referred to as Istanbul Turkish,, and sometimes known as Turkey Turkish, is the most widely spoken of the Turkic languages, with around ten to fifteen million native speakers in Southeast Europe and sixty to sixty-five million native speakers in Western Asia. Outside Turkey, significant smaller groups of speakers exist in Germany, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Northern Cyprus, Greece, the Caucasus, and other parts of Europe and Central Asia. Cyprus has requested that the European Union add Turkish as an official language, even though Turkey is not a member state.


It was the location of an important battle, about 605 BC, between the Babylonians and Egyptians, mentioned in the Bible (Jer. 46:2). Modern neighbouring cities are Karkamış in Turkey and Jarabulus in Syria (also Djerablus, Jerablus, Jarablos, Jarâblos); [2] the original form of the modern toponym seems to have been Djerabis or Jerabis, likely derived from Europos, the ancient name of the Hellenistic-Roman settlement. [ citation needed ]

The Battle of Carchemish was fought about 605 BC between the armies of Egypt allied with the remnants of the army of the former Assyrian Empire against the armies of Babylonia, allied with the Medes, Persians, and Scythians.

Babylon Kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia from the 18th to 6th centuries BC

Babylon was a key kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia from the 18th to 6th centuries BC. The name-giving capital city was built on the Euphrates river and divided in equal parts along its left and right banks, with steep embankments to contain the river's seasonal floods. Babylon was originally a small Akkadian town dating from the period of the Akkadian Empire c. 2300 BC.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

Geography of the site

Carchemish is now an extensive set of ruins (90 hectares, of which 55 lie in Turkey and 35 in Syria), located on the West bank of Euphrates River, about 60 kilometres (37 mi) southeast of Gaziantep, Turkey, and 100 kilometres (62 mi) northeast of Aleppo, Syria. The site is crossed by the Baghdad Railway that now forms the Turco-Syrian border. A Turkish military base has been built on the Carchemish acropolis and Inner Town, and access to that part of the site is presently restricted. Most of the Outer Town lies in Syrian territory.

Gaziantep Metropolitan municipality in Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey

Gaziantep, previously and still informally called Antep, is the capital of Gaziantep Province, in the western part of Turkey's Southeastern Anatolia Region, some 185 kilometres (115 mi) east of Adana and 97 kilometres (60 mi) north of Aleppo, Syria. It is probably located on the site of ancient Antiochia ad Taurum, and is near ancient Zeugma.

Turkey Republic in Western Asia

Turkey, officially the Republic of Turkey, is a transcontinental country located mainly in Western Asia, with a smaller portion on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. East Thrace, located in Europe, is separated from Anatolia by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorous strait and the Dardanelles. Turkey is bordered by Greece and Bulgaria to its northwest; Georgia to its northeast; Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Iran to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the south. Istanbul is the largest city, but more central Ankara is the capital. Approximately 70 to 80 per cent of the country's citizens identify as Turkish. Kurds are the largest minority; the size of the Kurdish population is a subject of dispute with estimates placing the figure at anywhere from 12 to 25 per cent of the population.

Aleppo City in Aleppo Governorate, Syria

Aleppo is a city in Syria, serving as the capital of the Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 4.6 million in 2010, Aleppo was the largest Syrian city before the Syrian Civil War; however, now Aleppo is probably the second-largest city in Syria after the capital Damascus.

History of research

T. E. Lawrence and Leonard Woolley (right) in Carchemish, Spring 1913 Leonard Woolley (right) and T.E.Lawrence at the British Museum's Excavations at Carchemish, Syria, in the spring of 1912.jpg
T. E. Lawrence and Leonard Woolley (right) in Carchemish, Spring 1913

Carchemish has always been well known to scholars because of several references to it in the Bible (Jer. 46:2; 2 Chr. 35:20; Isa. 10:9) and in Egyptian and Assyrian texts. However, its location was identified only in 1876 by George Smith. Carchemish had been previously identified, incorrectly, with the Classical city of Circesium, at the confluence of the Khabur River and the Euphrates; [3] while some early scholars thought that Jarabulus could be Hierapolis Bambyce, that site is actually located at Manbij in Syria.

George Smith (Assyriologist) English Assyriologist

George Smith, was a pioneering English Assyriologist who first discovered and translated the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest-known written works of literature.

Circesium archaeological site

Circesium, known in Arabic as al-Qarqisiya, was a Roman fortress city near the junction of the Euphrates and Khabur rivers, located at the empire's eastern frontier with the Sasanian Empire. It was later conquered by the Muslim Arabs in the 7th century and was often a point of contention between various Muslim states due to its strategic location between Syria and Iraq. The modern town of al-Busayra corresponds with the site of Circesium.

Khabur (Euphrates) tributary to the Euphrates

The Khabur River is the largest perennial tributary to the Euphrates in Syrian territory. Although the Khabur originates in Turkey, the karstic springs around Ra's al-'Ayn are the river's main source of water. Several important wadis join the Khabur north of Al-Hasakah, together creating what is known as the Khabur Triangle, or Upper Khabur area. From north to south, annual rainfall in the Khabur basin decreases from over 400 mm to less than 200 mm, making the river a vital water source for agriculture throughout history. The Khabur joins the Euphrates near the town of Busayrah.

The site was excavated by the British Museum, between 1878 and 1881 through Consul Patrick Henderson and between 1911 and 1914 under the direction of D. G. Hogarth. In 1911 on the field there were D. G. Hogarth himself, R. C. Thompson, and T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"), from 1912 to 1914 C. L. Woolley and T. E. Lawrence, while a last campaign took place in 1920 with C. L. Woolley and Philip Langstaffe Ord Guy. [4] [5] [6] [7] Excavations were interrupted in 1914 by World War I and then ended in 1920 with the Turkish War of Independence. [8] These expeditions uncovered substantial remains of the Assyrian and Neo-Hittite periods, including defensive structures, temples, palaces, and numerous basalt statues and reliefs with Luwian hieroglyphic inscriptions. [9]

British Museum National museum in the Bloomsbury area of London

The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury area of London, United Kingdom, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection of some eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, having been widely sourced during the era of the British Empire. It documents the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. It was the first public national museum in the world.

David George Hogarth British archaeologist

David George Hogarth,, also known as D. G. Hogarth, was a British archaeologist and scholar associated with T. E. Lawrence and Arthur Evans. He was Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford from 1909 to 1927.

Reginald Campbell Thompson British archaeologist

Reginald Campbell Thompson was a British archaeologist, assyriologist, and cuneiformist. He excavated at Nineveh, Ur, Nebo and Carchemish among many other sites.

With the completion of mine clearing operations on the Turkish portion of the site, archaeological work was resumed in September 2011. [10] Excavations in the Inner and Outer Towns were carried out by a joint Turco-Italian team from the Universities of Bologna, Gaziantep, and University of Istanbul under the direction of Prof. Dr. Nicolò Marchetti. [11] The second season, from August to November 2012, brought several new art findings and archaeological discoveries, the most remarkable of which is Katuwa's Palace (c. 900 BC) to the east of the Processional Entry. The third season, from May to October 2013, extended the exposure of Katuwa's palace, retrieving a cuneiform tablet with an exorcism in the name of the god Marduk, as well as the ruins of Lawrence's excavation house in the Inner Town, from which literally hundreds of fragments of sculptures and hieroglyphic inscriptions have been retrieved. The fourth season started in May 2014 and continued through October 2014: in Katuwa's palace several orthostats exquisitely carved with a procession of gazelle-bearers have been found, some of them in situ, next to a courtyard paved with squared slabs. In the Neo Assyrian period that courtyard was covered by a mosaic floor made of river pebbles forming squares alternating in black and white color. Lawrence's excavation house was completely excavated. During the fifth season, April to October 2015, more significant discoveries have been made in the palace area, both for Late Hittite sculptures, and Neo Assyrian refurbishments, with tens of items—including two fragments of clay prysmatical cylinders inscribed with a unique cuneiform text by Sargon, intended for display, telling how he captured and reorganized the city of Karkemish—retrieved in a 14-m-deep well, sealed in 605 BC at the time of the Late Babyonian takeover. The sixth season, May to July 2016, saw a number of excavation areas opened also near the border, due to the added security represented by the construction of the wall (see below). Thus, in 2016 a complete stratigraphic record was obtained also for peripheral areas, greatly adding to our understanding of urban development between LB II and the Achaemenid period. In the seventh season, from 7 May to 18 July 2017, the major breakthroughs were the beginning of the excavations on the north-western end of the acropolis and the discovery in the eastern Lower Palace area of a monumental building dating from the LB II. Among the finds, in addition to new sculpted complete artworks from the Iron Age, fragments of Imperial Hittite clay cuneiform tablets and c. 250 inscribed bullae should be mentioned. Conservation and presentation works have now been completed in view of the opening on 12 May 2018 of an archaeological park at the site, thanks to the support also of Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality. Financial support has been received by the three Universities mentioned above, by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. [12] and the Sanko Holding, [13] with the technical support also of Şahinbey Municipality [14] and Inta A.Ş.

University of Bologna university in Bologna, Italy

The University of Bologna, founded in 1088 by an organised guild of students, is the oldest university of the world, as well as one of the leading academic institutions in Italy and Europe. It is one of the most prestigious Italian universities, commonly ranking in the first places of national rankings.

Archaeological investigations on the Syrian side have been conducted as part of the Land of Carchemish project: [15] investigations of the Outer Town of Carchemish were undertaken in conjunction with the DGAM in Damascus and with the funding and sponsorship of the Council for British Research in the Levant and of the British Academy, under the direction of the late Professors T. J. Wilkinson and E. Peltenburg. [16] The Outer Town area lying in Syria has been designated an endangered cultural heritage site and labelled “at risk” by the Global Heritage Fund, [17] due to the agricultural expansion and, especially, the urban encroachment. The field assessment of the Syrian part of the Outer Town documented that parts of the modern border town of Jerablus encroached upon the Outer Town. [18] In February 2016, a prefabricated security wall (thus with no foundations that could have damaged the ancient site) has been completed by the Turkish Army to the south of the railway, stretching between the Euphrates bridge and the train station of Karkamış.

Occupation history

Coordinates: 36°49′47″N38°00′54″E / 36.82972°N 38.01500°E / 36.82972; 38.01500

Map of Syria in the second millennium BC, showing the location of Carchemish, or "Karkemish." Syria2mil.JPG
Map of Syria in the second millennium BC, showing the location of Carchemish, or "Karkemish."

The site has been occupied since the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods [19] (pot burials), with cist tombs from ca. 2400 BC (Early Bronze Age). The city is mentioned in documents found in the Ebla archives of the 3rd millennium BC. According to documents from the archives of Mari and Alalakh, dated from c. 1800 BC, Carchemish was then ruled by a king named Aplahanda and was an important center of timber trade. It had treaty relationships with Ugarit and Mitanni (Hanilgalbat). In ancient times, the city commanded the main ford in the region across the Euphrates, a situation which must have contributed greatly to its historical and strategic importance.

Pharaoh Thutmose I of the Eighteenth Dynasty erected a stele near Carchemish to celebrate his conquest of Syria and other lands beyond the Euphrates. Around the end of the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten, Carchemish was captured by king Suppiluliuma I of the Hittites (c. 14th century BC), who made it into a kingdom ruled by his son Piyassili.

The city became one of the most important centres in the Hittite Empire, during the Late Bronze Age, and reached its apogee around the 11th century BC. While the Hittite empire fell to the Sea Peoples during the Bronze Age collapse, Carchemish survived the Sea People's attacks to continue to be the capital of an important Neo-Hittite kingdom in the Iron Age, and a trading center. [20] Although Ramesses III states in an inscription dating to his 8th Year from his Medinet Habu mortuary temple that Carchemish was destroyed by the Sea Peoples, the city evidently survived the onslaught. [21] King Kuzi-Tesup I is attested in power here and was the son of Talmi-Teshub who was a contemporary of the last Hittite king, Suppiluliuma II. [22] He and his successors ruled a "mini-empire" stretching from Southeast Asia Minor to Northern Syria and the West bend of the Euphrates [23] under the title "Great King". This suggests that Kuzi-Tesub saw himself as the true heir of the line of the great Suppiliuma I and that the central dynasty at Hattusa was now defunct. [24] This powerful polity lasted from c.1175 to 975 BC when it began losing control of its farther possessions and became gradually a more local city state centered around Carchemish. [25] [26]

The patron goddess of Carchemish was Kubaba, a deity of apparently Hurrian origins. [27] She was represented as a dignified woman wearing a long robe, standing or seated, and holding a mirror. The main male deity of the town was Karhuha, akin to the Hittite stag-god Kurunta.

In the 9th century BC, King Sangara paid tribute to Kings Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III of Assyria. It was conquered by Sargon II in 717 BC, in the reign of King Pisiri. In 2015, for the first time, the name of Sangara has been documented in a hieroglyphic inscription originally coming from the site itself (it is the top part of the stele drawn in 1876 by G. Smith, on whom see below, and transported in 1881 to the British Museum).

In the summer of 605 BC, the Battle of Carchemish was fought there by the Babylonian army of Nebuchadnezzar II and that of Pharaoh Necho II of Egypt and the remnants of the Assyrian army (Jer. 46:2). The aim of Necho's campaign was to contain the Westward advance of the Babylonian Empire and cut off its trade route across the Euphrates. However, the Egyptians were defeated by the unexpected attack of the Babylonians and were eventually expelled from Syria.

Kings of Carchemish

Yariri (r.) and Kamani (l.), resp. regent and future-ruler of Carchemish Yariri and Kamani 1.JPG
Yariri (r.) and Kamani (l.), resp. regent and future-ruler of Carchemish
RulerProposed reign (BC)Notes
Adni-anda (?)c. ? to 1786
Aplah-anda I c. 1786 to 1764son of Adni-anda
Yatar-Ami c. 1764 to 1763son of Aplah-anda I
Yahdun-Lim c. 1763 to 1745?son of Bin-Ami
Aplah-anda II c. 1745? to ?son of Yahdun-Lim?
Piyassili or Sharri-Kushukhc. 1315son of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I
[ ... ]sharrumason of Piyassilis
Shakhurunuwason of Piyassilis
Ini-Teshub Ic. 1230s
Talmi-Teshub c. 1200
Kuzi-Teshub c. 1170claimed the title of "Great King" after the fall of Hatti
Ini-Teshub IIc. 1100
Tudhaliya c. 1100either before or after Ini-Teshub II
Sapazitic. 1025
Uratarhundac. 1000
Suhi I c. 975
Astuwalamanza c. 950
Suhi II c. 925
Katuwa c. 900
Sangara c. 870–848
Astiru c. 830
Yariri (regent)c. 815
Kamani c. 790
Sastura c. 760
Astiru II (?)
Pisiri c. 730sthe last king, defeated in 717 by Sargon II

Tell Jerablus Tahtani

Beside Carchemish there is a small tell, Jerablus Tahtani, which was occupied from the Chalcolithic period through the Early Bronze Age. Then, after a hiatus, it was occupied from the Iron Age though the Islamic period. It was excavated from 1991 to 2000 by the British as part of the Syrian government's Tishreen Dam rescue project. As of 2000 the site was still not underwater. [28] [29] [30] [31] There is also a town, Jarabulus Tahtani which may or may not be at that location.


  1. "Kargamiš." by D. Hawkins in Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie. Walter de Gruyter (1980).
  2. Location of Carchemish
  4. David George Hogarth, Hittite problems and the excavation of Carchemish, H. Frowde, 1911 (Nabu Press, 2010, ISBN   978-1-171-63699-1)
  5. D.G. Hogarth, Carchemish I: Introductory, The British Museum Press, London 1914, repr. 1969
  6. C.L. Woolley, Carchemish II: Town Defences: Report on the Excavations at Jerablus on Behalf of the British Museum, British Museum Press, London 1921, repr. 1969, ISBN   0-7141-1002-7
  7. C.L. Woolley & R.D. Barnett, Carchemish III: Excavations in the Inner Town: Report on the Excavations at Jerablus on Behalf of the British Museum, British Museum Press, London 1952, repr. 1978, ISBN   0-7141-1003-5
  8. H.G. Güterbock, Carchemish, in Journal of Near Eastern Studies 13/2 (1954), pp. 102–114
  9. Wright, William. The Empire of the Hittites: with Decipherment of Hittite inscriptions, Nisbet, 1886
  10. Ancient city to rise in SE Turkey area cleared of mines. Daily News & Economic Review 31.03.2011
  11. Nicolò Marchetti et al., Karkemish on the Euphrates: Excavating a City’s History, in Near Eastern Archaeology 75.3 (2012), pp. 132–147
  15. Edgar Peltenburg, Euphrates River Valley Settlement: The Carchemish Sector in the Third Millennium BC, Oxbow Books, 2007, ISBN   1-84217-272-7
  16. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-11. Retrieved 2015-08-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  17. T.J. Wilkinson and E. Peltenberg. 2010. "Carchemish in Context: Surveys in the Hinterland of a Major Iron Age City." Bulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant, Volume 5, Number 1, November 2010 , pp. 11–20(10)
  18. Langer, William L., ed. (1972). An Encyclopedia of World History (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 9. ISBN   0-395-13592-3.
  19. Federico Giusfredi, Sources for a Socio-Economic History of the Neo-Hittite States, Winter Verlag, 2010, pp. 35-51.
  20. Gary Beckman, "Hittite Chronology", Akkadica, pp.119–120 (2000), p.23
  21. K.A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, William B. Eerdsman Publishing Co, pp.99 & 140
  22. Kitchen, op. cit., p.99
  23. Trevor R. Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites, Oxford University Press, p.384
  24. Kitchen, op. cit., p.100
  25. Giusfredi, op.cit., pp. 37-44
  26. Manfred Hutter, “Aspects of Luwian Religion”, in H.C. Melchert (ed.), The Luwians, Brill, 2003, pp. 211-280
  27. E. Peltenburg, Jerablus-Tahtani, American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 98, pp. 106-7, 1994
  28. E. Peltenburg, S. Campbell, P. Croft, D. Lunt, M. Murray & M. Watt, Jerablus-Tahtani, Syria, 1992-4: Preliminary Report, Levant, vol. 27, pp. 1-28, 1995
  29. E. Peltenburg, D. Bolger, S. Campbell, M. Murray and R. Tipping, Jerablus-Tahtani, Syria, 1995: Preliminary Report, Levant, vol. 28, pp. 1-25, 1996
  30. E. Peltenburg, Report on Jerablus Tahtani 1998, Levant, vol. 31, pp. 315-316, 1999

See also

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