At the beginning of the following period, the MBA I, a major modification of the urban layout of the city and its internal organisation mirrors a radical change in the regional and supra-regional role played by Qatna in the new geo-political scenario which emerged in Syria at the dawn of the second millennium BC. The small circular plan of the EBA IV city was transformed and replaced by a larger square layout, with the construction of a massive fortification system with ramparts and chambered city gates enclosing the vast area of 110 hectares.
Qatna’s townscape within the rampart fortifications also changed drastically. At the very beginning of the MBA I, a major modification in the function of the top of the acropolis’ central mound was introduced; the old crop processing, transformation and storage activities were given up in favour of a new public and productive function. This transformation was marked by the establishment on the summit of Qatna’s upper city of a monumental official building and a large pottery manufacturing area probably controlled by the former. Two basalt statues of enthroned Qatna kings, representing dead and deified royal ancestors, were probably originally located in the official building.
The nature and function of this large public building, with an annexed production area which manufactured mainly storage jars, probably under the direct control and on behalf of the institution which had its seat here, remains to be established.
The ceramic manufacturing area is the largest and most complete factory for the mass production of pottery known so far from second millennium BC Syria. All stages of the pottery manufacturing process have been documented: the preparation of the raw materials in large settling tanks, its levigation in smaller basins fed with water by a network of underground canals and storage in pits, the forming of vessels on the wheel, their drying and (especially) firing in various types of kiln.
Between 1900 and 1800/1700 BC, in the northern part of the acropolis several adult burials and the graves of newborns buried in jars were dug. Along the escarpment overlooking the northern lower city, three shaft graves had already been spotted by the French archaeologist Robert Du Mesnil du Buisson in the 1920’s. The burial typology with central chamber and two or more lateral chambers and the variety of funerary gifts recovered, mainly pottery vessels, pins and bronze weapons, suggest that the buried dead possessed high social status.
Thus in the first centuries of the second millennium BC in the northern part of the acropolis, where the future Royal Palace was to be built, there was a large cemetery containing monumental shaft graves of members of Qatna’s urban elite, as well as simple pit and jar burials of individuals of lower social rank and of newborns.