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Zincirli (Turkey)

Neo-Hittite Iron Age Site of Zincirli


Kuttamuwa Stele, Zincirli, Turkey

Kuttamuwa Stele, Zincirli, Turkey. The text on a basalt slab found in southeastern Turkey reveals the belief that people in the region believed the soul was separate from the body.

University of Chicago

Zincirli is the modern name for the ruins of Sam'al or Ya'udi), an Iron age Neo-Hittite kingdom in Turkey. The 40 acre site is located east of the Amanus mountain range in southeastern Turkey.

Archaeological evidence indicates the site was first a Bronze Age Hittite city, reaching its heyday during the Iron Age under Luwian and Aramean kings. Historical documents indicate that the Assyrians conquered Sam'al about 630 BC, and the city was destroyed and abandoned later in the 7th century BC.

Ruins at Zincirli

Zincirli in the Iron Age was a large city of perhaps 100 acres in size, surrounded by a double fortification wall with three gates and 100 bastions. A large number of steles have been found at the site, with inscriptions in Aramaic, Phoenician, Luwian and Akkadian.

Zincirli and Aramaic

The earliest dedicatory inscriptions on stele in Zincirli are written in Phoenician, but the writing shifts to idiosyncratic Aramaic, called Samalian Aramaic, about the 9th century BC. Important inscriptions include the Hadad and Panumwa inscriptions, written in Samalian Aramaic. One stela discovered from a personal shrine during the 2008 field season, is the Kuttamuwa stele.

Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Assyrians in 8th century BCE. Samalian was one of five different dialects of old Aramaic. Aramean states such as Zobah and Damascus were organized as small independent kingdoms, mostly located in Syria, but extending to the Persian Gulf. Historical records in the Judeo-Christian Bible suggest that the Arameans date to the 4th millennium BC.

Archaeology and Zincirli

Zincirli was first excavated by the German Oriental Society in the late 19th century; modern excavations started in 2006, led by David Schloen of Chicago's Oriental institute.


The Kuttamuwa Stele, more on this fascinating discovery.

Bae, Chul-hyn 2004 Aramaic as a lingua franca during the Persian empire (538-333 BCE). Journal of Universal Language 5:1-20. Free download

Bonn-Muller, Eti. 2008. Insight into the Soul. Archaeology magazine online. November 19, 2008.

Zincirli (Turkey) University of Chicago project home page.

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