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
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).