History Files


Middle East Kingdoms

Ancient Syria





FeatureThe location of ancient Tuba is not known for certain, but scholars generally agree that the site of Tell Umm el-Marra, about fifty kilometres (thirty-one miles) to the east of the city of Alep in modern north-western Syria, is the prime candidate. First occupied shortly after 3000 BC, Tuba was a medium-size city, smaller than Ebla, but bigger than the average regional settlements, and archaeological evidence indicates it was the largest metropolis in the Jabbul Plain, an intersection of ancient trade routes which connected the eastern Mediterranean to locations as far afield as the Indus Valley culture. The earliest of its tombs are dated to the very beginning of its occupation, at a time when there may have been animal and even some human sacrifice in the city, although the latter is still a controversial assertion.

c.3000 BC

The first tombs at Tuba are constructed. The city develops to become the capital of a small kingdom during the third millennium, although no records have survived to document it at a time before which writing has entered ancient Syria.

c.2500 - 2200 BC

Tuba is at the height of its power and prosperity, and is mentioned in Ebla's royal archives. A complex of at least seven tombs is constructed and maintained within the city. Sacrificial animals, including puppies and decapitated donkeys, are placed in the tombs alongside their human occupants. A previously unseen form of writing on four small clay cylinders is also included. However, if the nobility of Tuba have a palace or temple, no signs of it have been found to date.

The dig at Tell Umm el-Marra
The mud brick tombs contained decapitated animals, with the skulls on an adjacent ledge, alongside tombs at Tell Umm el-Marra in Syria

c.2100 BC

Tuba is one of many cities affected at a time when the number and size of settlements in northern Syria is reduced. Parts of the city are abandoned, along with many nearby settlements. Possibly, the region undergoes an economic downturn, with only cities which control the trade routes to the south managing to survive at all.

c.1900 - 1800 BC

By this time a recovery is underway, but the Amorite tribes which have migrated into the region now control Tuba. The city becomes a major centre again, and serves as a subsidiary capital within the state of Yamkhad. A six-foot thick mud brick wall is built around the three and-a-half acre central area of the city, with a city gate on the north-east side.

c.1776 - 1600 BC

Following the break-up of the kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia, the state of Yamkhad reasserts itself to become the dominant force in north-western Syria, controlling Tuba among many other cities.

c.1340 BC

Tuba falls victim to an episode of substantial destruction. Some buildings are burned, with some of their household implements, luxury items, and other contents still inside. Suppiluliuma, the new Hittite ruler, takes control of northern Syria, causing destruction to some areas as he does so, and it seems likely that Tuba is one of his victims.

c.1200 BC

With the collapse of the Hittite empire, and the general instability which grips the region, Tuba is abandoned as a city, although the mound which covers the site is reoccupied from time to time.