Tell Halaf

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"Halaf" redirects here. For the villages in Iran, see Halaf, Iran (disambiguation).
Tell Halaf
تل حلف
Part of the excavated ruins of Tell Halaf
Tell Halaf
Shown within Syria
Location Al-Hasakah Governorate, Syria
Coordinates 36°49′36″N 40°02′23″E / 36.8266°N 40.0396°E / 36.8266; 40.0396
Type settlement
Founded ca. 6,100 BC
Abandoned ca. 5,400 BC
Periods Neolithic
Cultures Halaf culture
Site notes
Excavation dates 1911—1929
Archaeologists Max von Oppenheim
Lutz Martin
Abd al-Masih Bagdo
Ownership Public
Public access Yes

Tell Halaf (Arabic: تل حلف‎) is an archaeological site in the Al Hasakah governorate of northeastern Syria, near the Turkish border, just opposite Ceylanpınar. It was the first find of a Neolithic culture, subsequently dubbed the Halaf culture, characterized by glazed pottery painted with geometric and animal designs. The site dates to the 6th millennium BC and was later the location of the Aramaean city-state of Guzana or Gozan. It was taken over during the "Syrian Civil War" by the People's Protection Units.

Discovery and excavation

The site is located near the city of Ra's al-'Ayn in the fertile valley of the Khabur River (Nahr al-Khabur), close to the modern border with Turkey. The name Tell Halaf is a local Aramaic placename[citation needed]}, tell meaning "hill", and Tell Halaf meaning "made of former city"; what its original inhabitants called their settlement is not known. It was discovered in 1899 by Baron Max von Oppenheim, a German diplomat, while he was surveying the area to build the Baghdad Railway. At the time, Syria was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. He returned to excavate the site from 1911 to 1913 and then again 1929, now under French stewardship following the creation of modern Syria. Oppenheim took many of the artifacts found to Berlin. In 2006, new Syro-German excavations have started under the direction of Lutz Martin (Vorderasiatisches Museum Berlin), Abd al-Masih Bagdo (Directorate of Antiquities Hassake), Jörg Becker (University of Halle) and Mirko Novák (University of Bern).

Von Oppenheim founded the Tell Halaf museum in Berlin to house his discoveries from the site. The museum was wrecked in a massive aerial bombardment in World War II, and many of the irreplaceable artifacts were damaged or destroyed, in what is considered one of the worst losses to have occurred in Near Eastern archaeology. However, eighty cubic meters of basalt fragments were later rescued and stored away in the Pergamon Museum. In 2001, a restoration project commenced in Germany that has made some headway in reconstructing many of the damaged artifacts. This project has now been completed.

Halaf culture

Main article: Halaf culture

Tell Halaf is the type site of the Halaf culture, which developed from Neolithic III at this site without any strong break. The Tell Halaf site flourished from about 6100 to 5400 BC, a period of time that is referred to as the Halaf period. The Halaf culture was succeeded in northern Mesopotamia by the Ubaid culture. The site was then abandoned for a long period.


Hunting scene relief in basalt found at Tell Halaf, dated 850–830 BC
This relief depicting a winged goddess was once in the palace of King Kapara. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

In the 10th century BC, the rulers of the small Aramaean kingdom Bit Bahiani took their seat in Tell Halaf, which was re-founded as Guzana. King Kapara built the so-called hilani, a palace in Neo-Hittite style with a rich decoration of statues and relief orthostats.

In 894 the Assyrian king Adad-nirari II recorded the site in his archives as a tributary Aramaean city-state. In 808 the city and its surrounding area was reduced to a province of the Assyrian Empire. The governor's seat was a palace in the eastern part of the citadel mound. Guzana survived the collapse of the Assyrian Empire and remained inhabited until Roman-Parthian Period.

In historical periods the mound itself became the citadel of the Aramaean and Assyrian city. The lower town extended to 600 m N–S and 1000 m E–W. The citadel mound housed the palaces and other official buildings. Most prominent are the so-called Hilani or Western Palace with its rich decor, dating back to the time of King Kapara, and the North-Eastern Palace, the seat of the Assyrian governors. In the lower town a temple in Assyrian style was discovered.

See also


  1. Max Freiherr von Oppenheim: Der Tell Halaf. Eine neue Kultur im ältesten Mesopotamien. F. A. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1931. (reprint de Gruyter, Berlin 1966
  2. Bailey, Martin (29 July 2009). "New life for ancient Syrian sculptures". The Art News Paper. Retrieved September 2, 2012. 
  3. Ghossoun (February 5, 2011). "Aramean Gods of Tell Halaf in Syria Rises from Rubble in Berlin". Syrian Arab News Agency. Retrieved February 6, 2011.  through Internet Archive


  • Abd el-Mesih Baghdo, Lutz Martin, Mirko Novák, Winfried Orthmann: Ausgrabungen auf dem Tell Halaf in Nordost-Syrien. Vorbericht über die erste und zweite Grabungskampagne, Harrasowitz, Wiesbaden 2009. ISBN 978-3-447-06068-4.
  • Abd el-Masih Baghdo, Lutz Martin, Mirko Novák, Winfried Orthmann: Ausgrabungen auf dem Tell Halaf in Nordost-Syrien. Vorbericht über die dritte bis fünfte Grabungskampagne 2008-2010. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2012, ISBN 978-3-447-06828-4.
  • Jörg Becker: Tell Halaf. Die prähistorischen Schichten - Neue Einblicke. in: D. Bonatz, L. Martin (eds.): "100 Jahre archäologische Feldforschungen in Nordost-Syrien - eine Bilanz. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2013, S. 45-64, ISBN 978-3-447-10009-0.
  • Mirko Novák: Gozan and Guzana. Anatolians, Aramaeans and Assyrians in Tell Halaf. in: D. Bonatz, L. Martin (eds.): "100 Jahre archäologische Feldforschungen in Nordost-Syrien - eine Bilanz. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2013, S. 259-281, ISBN 978-3-447-10009-0.
  • Hijara, Ismail. The Halaf Period in Northern Mesopotamia London: Nabu, 1997.
  • Axe, David. "Back from the Brink." Archaeology 59.4 (2006): 59–65.
  • Winfried Orthmann: Die aramäisch-assyrische Stadt Guzana. Ein Rückblick auf die Ausgrabungen Max von Oppenheims in Tell Halaf. Schriften der Max Freiherr von Oppenheim-Stiftung. H. 15. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2005. ISBN 3-447-05106-X.
  • U. Dubiel – L. Martin, Stier aus Aleppo in Berlin. Bildwerke vom Tell Halaf (Syrien) werden restauriert, Antike Welt 3/2004, 40–43.
  • G. Teichmann und G. Völger (ed.), Faszination Orient. Max Freiherr von Oppenheim. Forscherm Sammler, Diplomat (Cologne, Max Freiherr von Oppenheim-Stiftung 2003).
  • Nadja Cholidis, Lutz Martin: Kopf hoch! Mut hoch! und Humor hoch! Der Tell Halaf und sein Ausgräber Max Freiherr von Oppenheim. von Zabern, Mainz 2002. ISBN 3-8053-2853-2.
  • Bob Becking: The fall of Samaria: an historical and archeological study. 64–69. Leiden 1992.
  • Gabriele Elsen, Mirko Novak, Der Tall Halāf und das Tall Halāf-Museum, in: Das Altertum 40 (1994) 115–126.
  • Alain Gaulon, "Réalité et importance de la chasse dans les communautés halafiennes en Mésopotamie du Nord et au Levant Nord au VIe millénaire avant J.-C.", Antiguo Oriente 5 (2007): 137–166.
  • Mirko Novak, Die Religionspolitik der aramäischen Fürstentümer im 1. Jt. v. Chr., in: M. Hutter, S. Hutter-Braunsar (ed.), Offizielle Religion, lokale Kulte und individuelle Religion, Alter Orient und Altes Testament 318. 319–346. Munster 2004.
  • Johannes Friedrich, G. Rudolf Meyer, Arthur Ungnad et al.: Die Inschriften vom Tell Halaf. Beiheft 6 zu: Archiv für Orientforschung 1940. reprint: Osnabrück 1967.

External links

  • Web site of current excavations
  • Project page for Tell Halaf and statue reconstruction
  • Gods stitched up: von Oppenheim; photos of original finds and reconstructions

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