5. A Royal Palace in Transition: The Functions of the Archaic Palace of Ebla in Its Historical Context

Transitions, Urbanism, and Collapse in the Bronze Age - Essays in Honor of Suzanne Richard - Jesse C. Long, Jr.

Paolo Matthiae [+-]
La Sapienza University of Rome
Paolo Matthiae is Emeritus Professor of Archaeology and Art History of the Ancient Near East in Sapienza University of Rome, and Fellow of the Accademia dei Lincei (Rome), Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (Paris), Akademie der Wissenschaften (Wien), Royal Swedish Academy (Stockholm) and Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (Berlin). He received the Ad Honorem Doctorate from the Universities of Madrid and Copenhagen. In 1985 he received the highest honour of the Syrian Arab Republic and in 1996 he was nominated Knight of Great Cross of Italian Republic, the highest of the Italian honours. Between March 2001 and November 2004 he has been Dean of the Faculty of Humanistic Sciences in Sapienza University and between 2005 and 2008 he has been Vice-President of the same University for Cultural Initiatives. Since April 2001 till 2013 he was member of the Prize Committee of the International Foundation Balzan, Zürich-Milan. He is the discoverer of Ebla, Syria, where he started the excavations in 1964 and directed 47 work seasons till 2010. Since the beginning, in 1998 till 2018, he was the Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the International Congress of the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (1998 Rome; 2000 Copenhagen; 2002 Paris; 2004 Berlin; 2006 Madrid; 2008 Rome; 2010 London; 2012 Warsaw; Basel 2014; 2016 Vienna; 2018 Munich). Between his many publications (18 books and more than 300 articles in scientific journals): Ebla. An Empire Rediscovered (Doubleday 1978), Il sovrano e l’opera. Arte e potere nella Mesopotamia antica (Laterza 1994), L’arte degli Assiri (Laterza 1996), La storia dell’arte dell’Oriente antico, 2100-330 a.C., 3 vols (Electa 1996-2001), Ninive (Electa 1998), Prima lezione di archeologia orientale (Laterza 2006), Gli Archivi Reali di Ebla. La scoperta, i testi, il significato (Mondadori 2008), Ebla, la città del trono. Archeologia e storia (Einaudi 2010), Ebla and Its Landscape. Early State Formation in the Ancient Near East (with N. Marchetti, eds, Left Coast 2013), Studies on the Archaeology of Ebla, 1980-2010 (Harrassowitz 2013), Distruzioni, saccheggi e rinascite. Gli attacchi al patrimonio artistico dall’antichità all’ISIS (Electa 2015), Dalla terra alla storia. Scoperte leggendarie d’archeologia orientale (Einaudi 2018).


The Archaic Palace of the Lower Town North at Ebla was identified in a sounding opened in 1992 in Area P North ca. 7.00 m to the north of the northern edge of the Northern Palace of Middle Bronze II, and it was subsequently exposed laterally in 1993-1996 (Matthiae 1993: 638-39, fig. 14; 1995: 659-74, figs. 6-18; 1998: 564-68, figs. 5-6). The construction of this new palatial building (fig. 1) began in a terminal phase of Early Bronze IVB (ca. 2340/2320-2000 BCE), and it was halted by the destruction of the settlement at the end of this period (Matthiae 2006a; 2010: 396-99; in press a). However, the building was not abandoned at the beginning of Middle Bronze I (ca. 2000-1600 BCE); it was completed during Middle Bronze IA (ca. 2000-1900 BCE) with noticeable changes compared to the original project of the Early Bronze IVB (Matthiae 2006a). The Archaic Palace was likely used all through Middle Bronze IA, but perhaps in an early or, at most, central phase of Middle Bronze IB (ca. 1900-1800 BCE) there was a new series of remakes (Matthiae 2010: 298-99). During Middle Bronze IB, probably in a central phase and as a consequence of the collapse of some of the cavities of the limestone terrace on which the palace had been built, a new building, dubbed Intermediate Palace and seemingly never destroyed, was built above the central and south areas of the last Archaic Palace (Matthiae 1995: 674-76). Probably at the beginning of Middle Bronze IIA, for completely unknown reasons, the Northern Palace was built with a plan and an extension very similar to that of the Intermediate Palace. The Northern Palace was used until the end of Middle Bronze IIA-B up to the final destruction of the urban settlement at the end of Middle Bronze IIB (Matthiae 2006c; 2007a; 2009), when this building was set on fire (Matthiae 2010: 457-61; in press b). Being the last palatial building of Area P North in chronological order, within the sequence of palaces in Area P, the Northern Palace of Middle Bronze IIA-B is the better preserved one, just below the surface of what is today Tell Mardikh, except for the southwest and southeast corners (Matthiae 2010: 254-56, 457-58, fig. 246).

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Matthiae, Paolo. 5. A Royal Palace in Transition: The Functions of the Archaic Palace of Ebla in Its Historical Context. Transitions, Urbanism, and Collapse in the Bronze Age - Essays in Honor of Suzanne Richard. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Apr 2021. ISBN 9781781797204. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=37739. Date accessed: 02 Jun 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.37739. Apr 2021

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