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Ain Dara [Ayin-Dara]locked

  • J. D. Hawkins

Site on the west bank of the River Afrin in Syria, about 5 km south of the town Afrin. Attention was drawn to the ancient site by surface finds of sculpture, and a large Neo-Hittite temple of the early 10th century bc was located below five levels of later occupation. Excavations here by the Syrian General Directorate of Antiquities in 1956, 1962 and 1964 have been reported, but more recent work has not been published. Finds are in situ or in the National Museum in Aleppo.

Parts of the north-west and south-west sides, with a fragment of a south-east façade, have been excavated and published. The remains suggest a structure of regular rectangular plan measuring in total not less than 38×32 m. An exterior terrace wall seems originally to have been faced with continuous slabs of fine black basalt on a dressed plinth; some of these were found in situ. They were carved with lions (north-west wall) and winged sphinxes (south-west wall), but unfortunately the stone has suffered damage, and most slabs are badly flaked and splintered from the top. Within the terrace wall the outline of the inner shrine is visible, and the remains of three carved orthostats serving as pilasters on its outer wall remain in situ, showing the lower parts of a hero with bull, a throned figure and a palmette. On the fragment of south-east façade the slabs with lions and sphinxes are surmounted by badly damaged lion protomes. The only well-preserved sculpture comes from the interior of the shrine, apparently in situ, and consists of two sets of three small blocks, each with a central mountain-man flanked by pairs of bull-men, winged lion-men or winged griffin-men, all the figures being in caryatid posture, as if supporting a divine throne or something similar. Elsewhere on the site a well-preserved basalt portal lion was found out of context. The sculpture is rendered in the heavy, robust style recognized as the earliest Neo-Hittite, found elsewhere only at Carchemish in the Water-Gate sculpture, dating from the early 10th century bc. The profusion of this style at Ain Dara, and the promise of more, give the site its importance. Unreported discoveries are known to have been made, including the first inscribed fragments from the site.

It is probable that Ain Dara belonged to the kingdom of Unqi in the 10th century bc. It has even been suggested as the site of Kinalua, the capital city, but this seems more likely to have been Tayinat, Tell. In the absence of an elucidatory inscription, the status of Ain Dara will remain uncertain.

Bibliography

  • F. Seirafi: ‘The Excavations of Ayin-Dara, First Campaign 1956’, Annales archéologiques de Syrie: Revue d'archéologie et d'histoire syriennes, 10 (1960), pp. 87–102 [in Arab.]
  • F. Seirafi and A. Kirichian: ‘Recherches archéologiques à Ayin-Dara’, An. Archéol. Syrie, 15/2 (1965), pp. 3–20
  • W. Orthmann: Untersuchungen zur späthethitischen Kunst (Bonn, 1971)
  • A. Abou Assaf and W. Khayata: ‘Les Fouilles archéologiques à Ain Dara’, An. Archéol. Arabes, Syr., 33/1 (1983) [in Arab.]
  • A. Abou Assaf: ‘Septième Campagne de fouilles à Ain Dara’, An. Archéol. Arabes, Syr., 33/2 (1983) [in Arab.]
  • E. de Crombrugghe: ‘Un Huitième Relief de Ain Dara au Musée d’Alep’, Mélanges Paul Naste (Louvain-la-Neuve, 1984), pp. 13–20