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THE ‘LOWER CITY PALACE’

 

The urban landscape of the Qatna acropolis during the Late Bronze Age (1600-1200 BC) was distinguished by a structured hub consisting of public buildings distributed over a vast area; these included the Royal Palace, the ‘Small Palace’ of Operation C, and a productive area on the summit of the acropolis. The ‘Lower City Palace’ was located further north and downhill. All these public buildings seem to have been abandoned during the second half of the fourteenth century BC and were not replaced by other official buildings in the same areas. We now know, therefore, that during the Late Bronze Age more than one palace co-existed in the ancient city of Qatna.

The plan of the ‘Lower City Palace’ is organised according to the strictest canons of Syrian palatial architecture with very hard and thick concrete floors, plastered and painted walls, wide doors with basalt orthostats and column bases, a throne room and vestibule composing the palace “reception suite”, an internal water well, a monolithic basalt basin, a storage room, kitchens, a cellar for luxury beverages as well as a bathroom and a room with terracotta drainage pipes.
Some fragments of wall painting hint at the presence, as in the Royal Palace, of fresco-decorated rooms, with polychrome paintings strongly evocative of those of the Aegean (i.e. like Minoan frescoes).
Evidence of bureaucratic and administrative activities in the ‘Lower City Palace’ is provided by over 50 cuneiform tablets as well as more than 200 clay sealings.

More than 500 inlays of elephant ivory and deer antler have also been uncovered in two rooms within the ‘Lower City Palace’. The largest of the ivories, a beautiful human face in low relief and of excellent craftsmanship, is of evidently royal character. The same should be said for the terracotta head. Other evidence of the high status of the ‘Lower City Palace’  is given by the presence of plenty of metal weapons and tools.

The extent of the trade relationships controlled by the ‘Lower City Palace’ is testified by the variety  of ceramic imports recovered from it. Besides local pottery, Mycenaean, Cypriot, Levantine and Mesopotamian vessels were found.

The ‘Lower City Palace’ may have been the seat of a member of the royal family or of a high official of the kingdom, who, from this residence, controlled the administration of matters pertaining to Qatna’s ramparts as well as the transit of people and goods through the northern City Gate.

 


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