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Ain Dara Hittite Temple

Ain Dara is located in northern Syria, about 49 km (by road) northwest of Aleppo and 7 km south of the town of Afrin, on a mound at the east bank of the Afrin River. The site was first noticed in 1954 upon the discovery of some sculptured works. It was excavated in 1956, 1962 and 1964 by a team under Feisal Seirafi, and in 1976, 1978 and 1980–1988 under ʿAlī Abū ʿAssāf. The site consists of a flat lower city and a high citadel mound at the southwest corner of the city.

The main feature of the site is the temple that stands on the north end of the citadel mound. It covers a rectangular area of 38 by 32 meters with an entrance on its southeast facing side. The temple has a rectangular antecella, a square cella, and a surrounding gallery on three sides. The building was constructed and extended in multiple phases and decorated with numerous statues and orthostats mostly made of dark basalt stone. Due to lack of written sources, dating of the temple has been problematic. Particularly the iconography of the reliefs from the inner rooms of the temple strongly indicate a date in the Hittite Empire period, while the outer reliefs probably date to a later phase, sometime around 1100 BCE. Thus a date between 1300 and 1100 has been suggested for the art work, while the site likely to have had a temple even before these dates. The reliefs from the podium base and some of the other orthostat, stele and sculpture fragments that were not found in situ are in the Aleppo Museum.

A unique feature of the Ain Dara Temple is the carved footprints on the limestone threshold blocks. Each print is roughly one meter long and likely to represent the footprints of the deity. There are no known parallels in the Anatolian or North Syrian art.

During civil war in Syria roughly half of the temple area has been reduced to rubble in January 2018 due to aerial bombing. The colossal lion statue outside the temple is reportedly have been taken away by rebel groups in 2019.


Click on the pictures for larger images.


The Site
Satellite view of the Ain Dara mound  - Google Earth, 2018 Satellite view of the citadel mound  - Google Earth, 2008 The temple plan - after M. Novak, 2012 View of the temple from from the south - B. C. Coockson 2004 View of the temple from from the south - D. Osseman, 2010 View of the temple from the southwest - D. Osseman, 2010

Southwest facade
Southwest facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southwest facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southwest facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southwest facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southwest facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southwest facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southwest facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southwest facade - B. C. Coockson 2004

Southeast facade
South corner - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southeast facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southeast facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southeast facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southeast facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southeast facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southeast facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southeast facade - D. Osseman, 2010 Southeast facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southeast facade - D. Osseman, 2010 Southeast facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southeast facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southeast facade - B. C. Coockson 2004 Southeast facade - B. C. Coockson 1992 Southeast facade - D. Osseman, 2010 Southeast facade - D. Osseman, 2010 Southeast facade - D. Osseman, 2010

Northeast and northwest facades
East corner - D. Osseman, 2010 Sphinx reliefs at the northeast facade - D. Osseman, 2010 Northwest facade - A. Abu Assaf, 1990 Northwest facade - D. Osseman, 2010

West and east wings of the entrance and the footprints
West wing of the entrance - B. C. Coockson 2004 West wing of the entrance - B. C. Coockson 2004 East wing of the entrance - B. C. Coockson 2004 East wing of the entrance - D. Osseman, 2010 Footprints at the threshold of antecella - B. C. Coockson 2004 Footprints at the threshold of antecella - B. C. Coockson 1992

Antecella west
West wing of the antecella - D. Osseman, 2010 West wing of the antecella - B. C. Coockson 2004 West wing of the antecella - B. C. Coockson 2004 West wing of the antecella - D. Osseman, 2010

Antecella east
East wing of the antecella - D. Osseman, 2010 East wing of the antecella - B. C. Coockson 2004 East wing of the antecella - B. C. Coockson 2004 East wing of the antecella - B. C. Coockson 1992 East wing of the antecella - B. C. Coockson 2004 A statue base(?) - B. C. Coockson 2004

Cella and the reliefs from the podium base (E1–E7)
Entrance to the cella - D. Osseman, 2010 Right footprint at the threshold of the cella - I. Sebastian, 1997 Cella - B. C. Coockson 2004 West side of the cella - D. Osseman, 2010 Cella - B. C. Coockson 2004 Podium base relief, E1 - A. Abu Assaf, 1990 Podium base relief, E2 - A. Abu Assaf, 1990 Podium base relief, E3 - A. Abu Assaf, 1990 Podium base relief, E4 - A. Abu Assaf, 1990 Podium base relief, E5 - A. Abu Assaf, 1990 Podium base relief, E6 - A. Abu Assaf, 1990 Podium base relief, E7 - A. Abu Assaf, 1990

Reliefs from the gallery
Gallery relief, F3 - A. Abu Assaf, 1990 Gallery relief, F7 - A. Abu Assaf, 1990 Gallery relief, F13 - I. Sebastian, 1997 Gallery relief, F15 - A. Abu Assaf, 1990 Gallery relief fragment, F28 - D. Osseman, 2010 Gallery relief, F15 - A. Abu Assaf, 1990

Other reliefs and fragments
Fragments of sphinxes - B. C. Coockson 1992 Fragments of sphinxes - B. C. Coockson 1992 Decorated base - T. Bilgin, 2020 Relief of Ishtar - Novak/Orthmann Relief and Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription - J. D. Hawkins, 2000, Photo: Paul Zimansky An empire period relief of a Hittite king(?) - B. C. Coockson 1992 Relief fragment - A. Abu Assaf, 1996 Fragment with inscription - A. Abu Assaf, 1996

Portal lions
Portal lion - B. C. Coockson 2004 Portal lion - D. Osseman, 2010 Portal lion - D. Osseman, 2010 Portal lion - B. C. Coockson 2004 Unfinished portal lions - B. C. Coockson 2004 Unfinished portal lion - D. Osseman, 2010



Literature:
Abū ʿAssāf, A. Der Tempel von ʿAin Dārā, Mainz am Rhein, 1990.
Abū ʿAssāf, A., "Zwei neue Stelenfragmente aus ʿAin Dārā," FsHrouda, 1994: 1–6.
Abū ʿAssāf, A., "Die Kleinefunde aus ʿAin Dārā," Damaszener Mitteilungen 9, 1996: 47–111 and Taf. 15–26.
de Crombrugghe de Looringhe-Sneyers d'Attenhoven, E. "Un huitième relief de ʿAin Dara au Musée d'Alep," FsNaster2 1984: 13–20.
Hawkins, J. D. Corpus of Hieroglyphic Luwian Inscriptions, Vol 1, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2000: 385–86 and plt. 206.
Novak, M. "The Temple of ʿAin Dāra in the Context of Imperial and Neo-Hittite Architecture and Art," in J. Kamlah (ed) Temple Building and Temple Cult, Wiesbaden 2012: 41–54 and Taf. 10–12
Orthmann, W. Untersuchungen zur späthethitischen Kunst, Bonn, 1971.
Orthmann, W. "Zur Datierung des Ištar-Reliefs aus Tell ʿAin Dārā," FsNeve 1993: 245–51.
Zimansky, P. "The 'Hittites' at ʿAin Dara," GsGüterbock, 2002: 177–91.

Image sources:
Google Earth, 2008, 2018.
Ben Claasz Coockson, 1992, 2004.
Dick Osseman, Ain Dara - Syria, 2010.
Alī Abū ʿAssāf, 1990, 1996.
Ignacio Sebastian, 1997.
J. David Hawkins, 2000.