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EXCAVATIONS IN OPERATION K


 

The monumental building of the ‘Lower City Palace’ came to light in Operation K, under the Iron Age levels (see below).

The ‘Lower City Palace’ is contemporary with the Royal Palace and the ‘Small Palace’ on the acropolis (Operations G-H and C). We now know, the refore, that during the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1600-1300 BC) more than one palace co-existed in the ancient city of Qatna.

The ‘Lower City Palace’ lies some 10 m lower than the Royal Palace, 150 m to the north-east, in front of the Northern Gate. Excavation is not complete, but until now the palace extends over an area of 2,200 square meters and consists of at least 68 rooms. Only a few rooms have been excavated so far.

The plan of the ‘Lower City Palace’ is organised according to the strictest canons of Syrian palatial architecture, with very hard, thick concrete floors, plastered and painted walls, wide doors with basalt orthostats and column bases, a throne room and vestibule composing the “reception suite” of the palace, 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 (Operations G-H), 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, containing numerous Hurrian names, as well as more than 200 clay sealings, some 60 with impressions of cylinder seals or scarabs.

One cylinder seal shows a king standing behind two deities with raised hands, under the sun. A small palm grows between them; behind them are two sphinxes under a lion.

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, the beautiful human face in low relief of excellent quality here represented is evidently of royal character.

Besides local pottery, Mycenaean, Cypriot, Levantine and Mesopotamian ceramics are attested in the ‘Lower City Palace’. The Mycenaean vases were imported from the Argolid (Greece). Whereas the Royal Palace was destroyed by a fierce fire around the mid-14th century BC, the ‘Lower City Palace’ was abandoned during the second half of the 14th century BC.

The 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 city’s northern gate.

Future research will add much information to the data already available and will perhaps tell us who resided in this palace or, for example, where the luxury goods (such as the ivory) uncovered here came from.
The Iron Age levels above the ‘Lower City Palace’ (ca. 1200-800 BC), included a dwelling, with a workshop for metallurgy and jewellery production as well as a room for domestic cult and several stone artefacts.

 




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