You are here:Excavation areas»Area A»Structures»Structures

Area A: Structures


Area A lies on the western summit of the acropolis of Tell Afis. Here a sequence of temples has been brought to light, which provides an important document of the sacred architecture of Syria in Iron Age I–III. This period, from the 11th to 7th–mid 6th cent. BC, attests to more than five centuries of continuous use and replanning of the main citadel temple and its gradual transformation into a sacred compound with annexes and installations for the cult. At the end of this development, in Iron Age III, it was a sanctuary covering the central part of the acropolis, with a clear articulation of cult structures documenting distinct functions for different rites. Two structures built one on top of the other (AIII.2 and AIII.1) belong to Iron Age I. Both consisted of a hall with entrance to the south, and probably two parallel lines of pillars or columns supporting the roof. A square plastered podium lies nearly in the centre of the later room. This temple was probably in antis. The materials found in the temples constitute a coherent assemblage of vessels for ritual functions. The earliest Iron Age I temple so far documented in Area A was probably dedicated to a weather god. In the course of Iron Age II a new temple (Temple AII) was probably built. Its stone foundations were superimposed on the eastern and western walls of the Iron Age I Temple. Later on, Temple AI was built directly above it and incorporated it within its substructure. Temple AI was a monumental building. Its external walls had massive and very deep foundations made of large limestone and basalt blocks, laid in different courses, which were separated by layers of cobblestones. It was a freestanding tripartite building, 38/32×28 m. Its entrance in the southern façade was framed by abutting heavy towers. The level of the inner central long room was 1.67 m above the level of the southern gate. Consequently, the inner and more sacred part of the temple must have been raised to a higher elevation than the rest of the structure. The longitudinal tripartite plan with the entrance on the short side axis belongs to a local tradition, while the side rooms and the towers in the front constitute a quite distinct variant, combining the native model with imported imperial traditions. It is most likely that the Solomonic temple in Jerusalem was based on temple patterns of this same intercultural character. The area of the vestibule was covered by a thick layer of debris, including a fragment of a stele with an Aramaic inscription citing the name of Hazael, probably the late 9th cent. BC king of Aram. A large corpus of pottery “funnels”, with an end covered by a bluish-whitish glaze and a horn-like handle found around the temple might have decorated the outer façades. The façade of Temple AI was certainly decorated with baked bricks. In front of the temple façade and along its western side was Plaza F. Its original floors were found covered by a quite regular and deep layer of material constituted by the collapse of the bricks of the perimeter walls of the temple. Plaza F, with its whitish plastered floor, extended for 30 m to the south of the temple. Plaza F was bordered by buildings and structures (Unit H) which constituted an annex to the temple. Unit H included two square rooms (H2 and H3), a large circular underground plastered silo (H1) made of mud-bricks and two circular, partially sunken structures (H4–5). To the east of temple AI was a freestanding structure which had a cultic function documented by findings and architecture. A street to the east of Temple AII separated it from a structure which has been labelled Terrace J, in area A2. For this building, two sub-phases (JII.1 and JII.2) have been recognised, both dated to the Iron Age II. In the first phase the mudbricks terrace measured 18.40x4.70 m. Its western and northern walls were reinforced by rows of limestone blocks, and limestone slabs decorated the southern face of the western wall. In the later phase the terrace was raised and enlarged with a mudbricks addition, extending to 6.60 m the total width of the terrace. On the terrace three ritual installations have been found. To the east and to the south of Terrace J lay two open areas, while another street ran along its northern side. To the north of area A1, in Area A3, four squares were excavated in 2003. Here two rooms, which opened onto an open space, were brought to light. One of the rooms included devices for textile activities, while in the open space activities relating to food preparation and cooking took place. This building, dating back to Iron III, remained in use until the transition to the Persian period.