Posted by Fredsvenn on October 12, 2013
Hamoukar is a large archaeological site located in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border (Al Hasakah Governorate) and Turkey. The Excavations have shown that this site houses the remains of one of the world’s oldest known cities, leading scholars to believe that cities in this part of the world emerged much earlier than previously thought.
Traditionally, the origins of urban developments in this part of the world have been sought in the riverine societies of southern Mesopotamia (in what is now southern Iraq). This is the area of ancient Sumer, where around 4000 BC many of the famous Mesopotamian cities such as Ur and Uruk emerged, giving this region the attributes of “Cradle of Civilization” and “Heartland of Cities.” Following the discoveries at Hamoukar, this definition may have to extended further up the Tigris River to include that part of northern Syria where Hamoukar is located.
This archaeological discovery suggests that civilizations advanced enough to reach the size and organizational structure that was necessary to be considered a city could have actually emerged before the advent of a written language. Previously it was believed that a system of written language was a necessary predecessor of that type of complex city. Most importantly, archaeologists believe this apparent city was thriving as far back as 4000 BC and independently from Sumer. Until now, the oldest cities with developed seals and writing were thought to be Sumerian Uruk and Ubaid in Mesopotamia, which would be in the southern one-third of Iraq today.
The discovery at Hamoukar indicates that some of the fundamental ideas behind cities — including specialization of labor, a system of laws and government, and artistic development — may have begun earlier than was previously believed. The fact that this discovery is such a large city is what is most exciting to archaeologists. While they have found small villages and individual pieces that date much farther back than Hamoukar, nothing can quite compare to the discovery of this size and magnitude. Discoveries have been made here that have never been seen before, including materials from Hellenistic and Islamic civilizations.
Excavation work undertaken in 2005 and 2006 has shown that this city was destroyed by warfare by around 3500 BC., before writing was even invented, probably the earliest urban warfare attested so far in the archaeological record of the Near East. Contiuned excavations in 2008 and 2010 expand on that.
They were assaulted by a force armed with slingshots and clay balls. The attackers, possibly from a city named Uruk and perhaps motivated by Hamoukar’s access to copper, succeeded in taking the city, destroying part of it through fire.
Eye Idols made of alabaster or bone have been found in Tell Hamoukar. The eye is a recurrent and symbolic motif in the art forms from the pre-dynastic to neo-assyrian periods. However it is not possible to decide whether it is a decorative, magical or religious talisman. Eye symbols are found in nearly all ancient cultures, from the far flung corners of the globe. The emphasis of the all seeing eye, seems to portray in nearly all cultures, a sign of divinity and holiness.
The image of an eye has always been a powerful amulet in Mesopotamia and thousands of these eye idols, schematised humanoid figures have been found in and around the now called ‘Eye Temple’ at Tell Brak, the biggest settlement from Syria’s Late Chalcolithic period, dating to the late Uruk period.
These anthropomorphic lithic sculptures are fashioned from various materials, such as lime stone, soap stone, alabaster and baked clay. The simplest form of these graven images, is a flat trapezoid body, with a thin elongated neck, supporting an oversized pair of eyes. Other examples have multiple sets of eyes, some three eyes in a row, two pairs of eyes one above the other, and on occasions a smaller eye figure of a similar style is engraved within the trapezoid body. Family groups have also come to light. There are also more three dimensional versions which display a set of pierced eye forms on top of a conical body. This type are composed of natural stone and baked clay, and their broad bases enable them to stand upright unsupported.
Other eye talismans have been found depicting models of eyes cut into semi precious stones, these are known to date from Sumerian down to Neo-Assyrian periods. These artefacts are known as the ‘Eyes of Ningal’. The goddess Ningal was the wife of the god Nanna, also known as Sin and she was the mother of the sun god Shammash, who was worshiped at Ur. Her cult developed independently in Syria as early as the second millennium BC, where her name was changed to Nikkal. This form of her name was also used in Babylonia.
Other statuettes and figurines have been found, which depict worshipers, rather than Gods, looking into the heavens with wide staring eyes, at various other temple sites scattered across the Mesopotamian planes, throughout most periods. Although there is no evidence from any excavated materials that eye idols were made of perishable materials such as tamarisk wood, dough, bitumen or wax, this may have been done if the eye idols were votive offerings. However this practice is documented in cylinder seals and ritual inscriptions for other votive objects at other temple sites.
Note that eye idols of the form shown in figure 4 (below), would appear to display the horned cap denoting divinity. This form of head gear is seen on god figures from the early third millennium BC onwards. Originally it was a general indication of a divine status, its use as a symbol of a particular major deity was never consistent. The Kassite kudurrus contains an inscription that names this symbol as that of the supreme God Anu (An). However in Neo-Assyrian art it was transferred to the new national God Assur.
The style of the devine cap has changed from time to time according to fashion, it could be domed or flat topped as in the below examples, or may be depicted trimmed with feathers, surmounted by a knob or a fleur-de-lys. Caps today still seem to represent holiness and divinity, still worn by the pope and the cardinals of Rome, the Jewish scull cap and the turban, which are all modern day examples. It is hard to argue that they are not connected in some way to antiquity and mythology.
The basic iconography of the horned cap of divinity may be linked to the Bull of heaven the destroyer of worlds (a mythological Titan, given to ishtar/inanna by her father the great god Anu/An). Read “the epic of gilgamesh” for more details. Or linked to Bos primigenius (a wild species of beast) that roamed the planes of Mesopotamia, standing six feet at the shoulder, with enormous horns, hunted by the Assyrian Kings is probably where the mythology of the heavenly Bull first originated, also ‘the zodiac sign Torus’ ? the Apis Bull of Egyptian mythology.
There are no concrete theories as to the purpose of the eye temple and the reason for the numerous graven eye images that were found there and therefore they appeal to a very broad section of mankind. Some because they collect antiquities, some because they believe that these idols may be indicative of alien activity on the earth in ancient times
It is clear why collectors of antiquities, especially those whose interest is centred around the cradle of civilisation would like to have a decent specimen for their collection as they are truly both fascinating and mysterious.
In the eyes of a forger, they appear to be easy to manufacture and as they exchange hands for quite sizable sums in the ebay community. But there seems to be a big problem! I have spoken to the BM regarding eye idols. The man there told me that as far as he was aware, these idols did not come with the horned cap of divinty. The reason why there are so many idols with hair dos or caps of divinity presenting to the market is any ones guess.
Tell Hamoukar is an interesting site, dated to 3500 B.C., in eastern Syria near the border of Iraq and Turkey. With a central city covering 16 hectares, it is as highly developed as sites in southern Iraq such as Uruk and Nippur and seems to debunk the theories that ancient civilization developed in southern Iraq and spread northward and westward. Instead Tell Hamoukar is offered as proof that several advanced ancient civilizations developed simultaneously in different parts of the Middle East. [Source: Natural History magazine, Clemens Reichel of the Oriental Institute of Chicago]
Excavations indicate that Tell Hamoukar was first inhabited around 4000 B.C. perhaps as early as 4500 B.C. By around 3700 B.C. is covered at least 13 hectares and displayed signs of an advanced civilization: a 2.5-meter-high, 3.4 -meter-wide defensive wall, large scale bread making and meat cooking, a wide array of cylinder seals, presumably used to mark goods. Many seals were used to secure baskets and other containers of commodities.
The simplest seals had only simple markings. More elaborate ones had kissing bears, ducks and a leopard with 13 spots. Scholars believed that more elaborate seals were used by people of high status and indicate a hierarchically-ordered society. But as advanced as Tell Hamoukar and other places in the area were they are not regarded as advanced as those in southern Iraq, where writing developed.
Tell Hamoukar contains a 500-acre site with buildings with huge ovens, which offer evidence that people were making food for other people. The city seems to have been a manufacturing center for tools and blades that utilized obsidian supplies further north and supplied the tools throughout Mesopotamia to the south. Other sites being excavated in northern Syria include Tell Brak and Habuba Kabira, both of which appear ro be much larger than previously thought.
The oldest known example of large scale warfare is from a fierce battle that took place at Tell Hamoukar around 3500 B.C. Evidence of intense fighting include collapsed mud walls that had undergone heavy bombardment; the presence of 1,200 oval-sapped “bullets” flung from slings and 120 large round balls. Graves held skeletons of likely battle victims. Reichel told the New York Times the clash appeared to have been a swift, rapid attack: “buildings collapse, burning out of control, burying everything in them under a vast pile of rubble.”
No one knows who the attacker of Tell Hamoukar was but circumstantial evidence points to Mesopotamia cultures to the south. The battle may have been between northern and southern Near Eastern cultures when the two cultures were relative equally, with the victory by the south giving them an edge and paving the way for them to dominate the region. Large amount of Uruk pottery was found on layers just above the battle. Reichel told the New York Times,“If the Uruk people weren’t the ones firing the sling bullets, they certainly benefitted from it. They are all over this place right after its destruction.”
Discoveries at Tell Hamoukar have changed thinking about the evolution of civilization in Mesopotamia. It was previously though that civilization developed in Sumerian cities like Ur and Uruk and radiated outward in the form of trade, conquest and colonization. But findings in Tell Hamoukar show that many indicators of civilization were present in northern places like Tell Hamoukar as well as in Mesopotamia and around 4000 B.C. to 3000 B.C. the two placed were pretty equal.