The Alalakh Expedition


Alalakh is the name of an archaeological site found in a region of the northern Levant known as "the Amuq." The Amuq is a broad, fertile valley situated near the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea. Through it flows the lower Orontes River, whose floodwaters have deposited a thick layer of alluvium. The Amuq is part of the Hatay province of the Republic of Turkey. It is bordered on the south and east by the Syrian Arab Republic.

The Amuq is perhaps best known historically as the hinterland to the east of the classical metropolis of Antioch on the Orontes (modern Antakya), which was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. But the valley has been densely occupied since at least 6000 B.C. The large concentration of ancient sites from all periods since the Neolithic makes it an attractive region for archaeological investigation. In the 1930s archaeological surveys and excavations were carried out by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and by the British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley. The Oriental Institute returned to the Amuq in 1995, initiating new archaeological projects. These projects consisted of the Amuq Survey, an exploration of ancient landscape features and settlement patterns throughout the entire valley, and large-scale excavations at the site of Alalakh (modern Tell Atchana).

Alalakh is located in the southern part of the Amuq, close to where the Orontes River bends west towards the Mediterranean Sea. The site measures 750x325 meters (22 hectares) and rises nine meters above the present-day level of the plain, although the plain is much higher now than it was in antiquity. Alalakh was excavated by Leonard Woolley from 1937 to 1939, and again from 1946 to 1949. He discovered cuneiform texts which show that during the second millennium B.C. it was the capital city of a kingdom that was more or less coterminous with the Amuq and its adjacent highland regions. He also discovered a series of superimposed palaces and temples that have shed light on the ancient culture, politics, and religion of the region.

The Oriental Institute conducted excavations at Alalakh in 2003 and 2004 under the direction of Aslihan Yener (Associate Professor of Anatolian Archaeology) and associate director David Schloen (Associate Professor of Syro-Palestinian Archaeology). In 2005, the Institute suspended its work at this site and initiated a new excavation project at the site of Zincirli, 60 miles north of Alalakh, under the direction of David Schloen.

ORIENTAL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORTS OF THE AMUQ SURVEY AND RELATED PROJECTS