site located on the coast of Syria, about 26 km (16 mi.) from Latakia and 6 km (4 mi.) south of Gabla (35°20′ N, 35°55′ E). It lies on a fertile plain bordered by coastal mountains on the north, east, and south. Tell Sukas has a northern and a southern harbor, indicating that the site was an important port in antiquity. The ancient name of Sukas is known: it is Su-uk-su (Suksa), a town at the southern frontier of Ugarit and is mentioned in Egyptian, Ugaritic, and Hittite documents. No inscription with the name was found on the tell. In 1934 Emil O. Forrer, on behalf of the Bryn Mawr College Expedition to Cilicia, made two soundings at Tell Sukas that demonstrated the site's long history. The Danish archaeologist P. J. Riis excavated at Tell Sukas under the auspices of the Carlsberg Foundation in five campaigns (1958–1963).
The excavators' period A belongs to the late Middle Ages up to the present, B to the Crusader period, C to the Byzantine period, and D to the Roman period. In the publication of the excavations at Sukas (Riis et al., 1970–1986), periods A–D are not discussed in any detail. It is briefly stated that two phases of a medieval fortification existed, one, perhaps from the twelfth century CE, represented by a larger tower than the other. The structures from period E, the Hellenistic period, suffered greatly from later intrusive building activities. The evidence suggests that this was not a period of decline, however. Two phases were identified: E1 (Late Hellenistic II, c. 117–68 BCE), which was destroyed by the earthquake of 68 BCE, and E2 (Late Hellenistic I, c. 140–117 BCE), also destroyed by an earthquake, probably the one that occurred in 117. Period F (Neo-Phoenician) lasted from about 380 to 140 BCE.
Period G (mostly Persian) was divided in three phases: G1 (c. 552–498 BCE), G2 (c. 588–552 BCE), G3 (c. 675–588 CE). For almost one hundred years after its destruction at the end of the period G1, Tell Sukas was nearly desolate. When the tell was reoccupied, the new town was charactered by a completely different plan and building types and techniques. The settlers, who were Phoenicians rather than Greeks, did not follow the Hippodamian plan. Stone objects (statues of house gods) were recovered from many houses. Pottery, coins, and tombs belonging to the period were also excavated.
Following the site's destruction in 677 or 671 BCE by the Assyrians under King Esarhaddon, Greeks settled there, forming the majority of the population. The newcomers erected new buildings and in some cases rebuilt ruins. Private houses, temples (phase G2), and pottery (east Greek and Cypriot) were unearthed. The settlers were primarily peasants, but also fisherman. An iron sickle and basalt grinding stones illustrate the importance of agriculture; oxen, sheep, goat, and in one case deer (or gazelle) bones are further evidence for the population's diet. A fish hook, fish bones, a fragment of a tortoise shell, and mollusk remains were also recorded. Pig bones were represented only in phases G3 and G2. The excavators did not note any break in the phases of settlement by the Greek newcomers and Cypriot settlers. The Greek population may have lived on the central part of the mound and the Cypriots near the sea. To this period belong Greco-Phoenician graves to the south of the southern harbor.
Period H (Iron Age, c. 1170–675 BCE) is divided into two phases: Phoenician II (c. 850–675 BCE) and Phoenician I (c. 1170–850 BCE). The architectural remains of this period are poor and it was difficult to determine the house types. In complex V, the excavators were able to describe parts of a room, but no cult buildings were unearthed. A storage area had contained agriculture products and olives, oil, grain, oxen, sheep, goats, fish, and mollusks were identified as the settlement's most important foodstuffs. In this period the relationship between Sukas and Cyprus and the Aegean was good, as indicated by the imported Greek and Cypriot pottery. Sukas was partially destroyed in the Assyrian invasion of the Syrian coast in about 850 BCE. This destruction marked the transition between periods H1 and H2. About two hundred years later, Esarhaddon destroyed the town.
Periods K and J belong to the Middle (c. 2000–1600 BCE) and Late Bronze (c. 1600–1170 BCE) Ages, respectively. Later building activity, especially the construction of a new town in period F, seriously disturbed many phases of the Bronze Age layers. Its remains were found in G12, F8 (north, northwest) and F11 (northwest). Architectural remains are represented by the foundations of private houses. The most remarkable find from the period was the collective pit grave in GII (southwest) placed inside the settlement. At the end of its period of use—for a number of years by the same people—the pit was filled with earth and covered with stones. The excavators distinguished three levels of burials and unearthed typical MB metal, bone, and stone objects (pins, dagger, arrowheads), in addition to pottery. [See Grave Goods.] The presence of querns and the bones of oxen and sheep among the finds in the houses hints at the sustenance of the MB and LB inhabitants of Sukas. Evidently, Sukas was partially destroyed by fire at the end of the Late Bronze Age. However, the devastation there was not as widespread as at Ugarit. [See Ugarit.]
Period L (Early Bronze Age) and period M (Chalcolithic) are not represented in the publications of Tell Sukas volumes 1–8. Period N, the Neolithic (c. 6550–4800 BCE), is separated from the Chalcolithic level by a hiatus and is divided into three phases: Early, Middle, and Late local Neolithic. From the beginning of the Early local Neolithic to the end of the Late Neolithic, there seems to have been a continuous and gradual development. The Neolithic finds are comparable with those from Ras Shamra VA–BIV; Byblos Early Neolithic (Lower, Middle and Upper); and Tell Ard Tbaili (Lower and Upper). Some pottery sherds are comparable with sherds from ῾Amuq phase B (dark-faced burnished ware). [See Ugarit; ῾Amuq.]
- Riis, P. J., et al. Sukas: Publications of the Carlsberg Expedition to Phoenicia. 8 vols. Copenhagen, 1970–1986.
Ali Abou Assaf