Arslan Tash located in northern Syria about 30 km east of the Euphrates near the Turkish border. Its ancient name is known as Hadattu from Assyrian documents. First excavations at the site was carried out by François Thureau-Dangin in 1928, although site had already been noted by others in the past and some of the reliefs had been moved to Istanbul by Osman Hamdi Bey in 1880s. Although Hadattu is an Aramaic word ("new"), traces of the settlement's Neo-Hittite/Luwian past can be seen in its art as well as Luwian inscriptions, even after it came under Assyrian occupation by mid-9th century BCE.
The basalt double-bull statue base which is very similar to other Neo-Hittite examples from Karkamış and Kabahaydar may be dated to the late 10th century BCE. The base is about 1 meter high, 1.08 meters wide, 1.50 meters in lenght and currently in Aleppo Museum. Likewise a 1.45 meter high basalt stele that depicts a spear and bow holding warrior (Istanbul Ancient Orient Museum) and a 2-meter high basalt statue (Aleppo Museum) of a ruler from the nearby Ain al-Arab stylistically have been dated to around 9th century.
Numerous orthostats and three pairs of portal lions that once decorated the city gates and temple entrances mainly date to Assyrian period in the 8th century, although they display the north Syrian workmanship. Two pairs of basalt portal lion pairs of the east and west gates were roughly the same size with a heigt of 2.6 meters and length of 3.6 meters. East gate lions bear inscriptions in three languages Aramaic, Assyrian, and hieroglyphic Luwian on their rear flat side surfaces that once was stood against the wall. West gate lions were found in multiple fragments and had inscriptions in Aramaic and Assyrian carved on their body. All texts report on the construction of Hadattu's city walls and the erection of the gates with lions by Ninurta-bel-usur, the Assyrian governor of the city Kar-Shalmaneser. Kar-Shalmaneser was the Assyrian name of Til-Barsip (see Tell Ahmar), which was renamed after its conquest by King Shalmaneser III of Assyria in 856 BCE. In the Luwian text the city name is written as Hatata and the name of the governor is broken but his title is given as the "Masuwarean Country-Lord," which interestingly refers to Kar-Shalmaneser/Til-Barsip with its original Luwian name Masuwari. In early 1980s the north side lion of the east gate was moved to Aleppo Museum. Around the same years south side lions of both the east and west gates were erected in a park in the city of Raqqa with reconstructed parts. During the Syrian civil war in 2015 both of the lions in Raqqa were bulldozed into pieces. A few smaller parts of these and other fragmentary lions were in Aleppo and Raqqa Museums.
One of the pair of lions from the temple was excavated largely intact which is about 1.56 meters in height and 2.40 meter in length. This and the fragments of other lion are currently in Aleppo museum.
Two basalt portal bulls from the entrance of the Istar temple were found almost intact and in situ. They bear Assyrian inscription of King Tiglath-Pileser III and are today in the Louvre. Several other orthostats and steles are in the Ancient Orient Museum of Istanbul, the Louvre, and Aleppo Museum.
Click on pictures for a larger image.
|Pre-Assyrian period finds|
East gate lions
|West gate and temple area lions|
|West gate orthostats|
|Orthostats of tribute bearers|
|Portal bulls and others|
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Galter, H. "Die Torlöwen von Arslan Tash," Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 97, 2007: 193-211.
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Winfried Orthmann, 1971.
François Thureau-Dangin, 1931.
Vanity Cridland, 2009.
Ferrell Jenkins, 2002.
David Moster, 2014.