The inscribed statue of a bearded male, Hadad-Yis῾i, with hands crossed on the stomach, was discovered accidently In 1979 at Tell Fakhariyah in northeast Syria. The statue stands 1.65 m high. The subject is clothed in a shawl and a long tunic with a fringed border and his feet are clad in sandals.

The statue's bilingual inscriptions, in Akkadian and Aramaic, are divided into two parts. The Akkadian text, thirty-eight lines long, is engraved on the front of the tunic; the Aramaic, twenty-three lines long, is on the back. In the Aramaic text words are separated by two dots, occasionally three, vertically oriented. This text contains new paleographic elements, and the iconography of the statue has proven useful for dating.

The inscriptions are similar in structure: they are dedications to the storm god Hadad; the identity of the dedicator is Hadad-yis῾i, son of Shamash-nuri king of Gozan; they wish for a long, prosperous life; and they offer threats to anyone who would try to erase his name. A second inscription follows in both languages: the dedicator has increased his territory; restored or reengraved his dedications; and threatens whomever would erase his name from the property of the Temple of Hadad (the threatened punishment would be accomplished by Hadad and his consort, Shala/Sawl, supported by Nergal). Many of the phrases in the Aramaic version are more adaptation than translation, but it does contain elements that are not common to both versions.

In the version intended for their Assyrian masters, Hadad-yis῾i and his father Shamash-nuri are called governor of Guzana (šakin), but in the Aramaic version, intended for their underlings, they are called king of Gozan (mlk). In the Akkadian, the god resides at Guzana, in the Aramaic at Sikan. Perhaps at first two statues were erected, one at Guzana and one at Sikan, each inscribed with the Akkadian (ll. 1–18) and the Aramaic (ll. 1–12) texts. The second text (Akkadian, ll. 19–38; Aramaic, ll. 12b–23) may have been written later, after the annexation of Sikan and ῾Azran, no doubt with Assyrian help.

The threats, brief in the first part, are more detailed in the second. Were these copied from a vassal treaty linking the dynasty of Guzana to the king of Assyria? Some Aramaic words are borrowed from the Akkadian, and sometimes the word order copies the Akkadian with the verb at the end of the sentence. The inflection of nouns in the nominative plural (nšwn, “women”) and in the oblique case (l'lhyn, “for the gods”) recall the case system of classical Arabic. The last part of the Aramaic texts contains images present in the Bible: 1. 22, Aramaic, 1. 35ff., Assyrian (cf. Lv. 26:26).

The Aramaic writing does not preclude a date of about 1100 BCE (Naveh, 1987, pp. 214ff., 221), but the statue and the costume suggest a date within the ninth century BCE (Spycket, 1985, p. 67f.; Sader, 1987, pp. 26ff.). The latter date is supported by the following historical data: the Assyrian eponym for the year 866 BCE is Shamash-nuri, and in the eighth century BCE the succession of eponymous governors in Tusḫan and Guzana is frequent, as in 794–793, for example. If this custom existed in the ninth century, the eponym of 867 being governor of Tusḫan, that of 866 called Shamash-nuri could have been the governor of Guzana. Furthermore, some details of the Assyrian are characteristic of the period of Ashurbanipal (c. 850 BCE).

Some of the Aramaic letters are archaic (e.g., /D/ and /῾ayin/); others are known in the tenth century BCE, or even in the ninth (e.g., /B/, /Z/, and /Ḥ/), while others anticipate the writing of the eighth century BCE. The /W/ with a foot, the /L/ in the form of a question mark, the upright /M/, the /N/ with a right angle, and the /Ṣ/ are all unusual forms.

A new argument may be adduced dating the inscription to about 800 BCE: word dividers are identical to those of more ancient Greek inscriptions from about 750 BCE (Jeffery, 1982, fig. 104, pp. 820ff., 823). That fact also reinforces the traditional idea that the Greeks borrowed the Phoenician alphabet in the eighth century, probably by still-undiscovered northern channels. The Aramaic inscription from Tell Fakhariyah remains for the time being a unique example of this northern graphic tradition.

[See also Fakhariyah, Tell.]


  • Assaf, Ali Abou, et al. La statue de Tell Fekheryé et son inscription bilingue assyro-araméenne. Paris, 1982.
  • Fitzmyer, Joseph A., and Stephen A. Kaufman. An Aramaic Bibliography, part 1, Old, Official, and Biblical Aramaic. Baltimore and London, 1992. See pages 36ff.
  • Jeffery, Lilian H. “Greek Alphabetic Writing.” In The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 3.1, edited by John Boardman et al., pp. 819–833. 2d ed. Cambridge, 1982.
  • Naveh, Joseph. An Early History of the Alphabet. 2d ed. Jerusalem and Leiden, 1987.
  • Sader, Hélène. Les états araméens de Syrie depuis leur fondation jusqu'à leur transformation en provinces assyriennes. Beiruter Texte und Studien, vol. 36. Beirut, 1987.
  • Spycket, Agnès. “La statue bilingue de Tell Fekheriyé.” Revue d'Assyriologie et d'Archéologie Orientale 79 (1985): 67–68.
  • “The Tell Fakhariyah Bilingual Inscription.” Newsletter for Aramaic and Targumic Studies, Supplement 4 (1988): 1–7.

Pierre Bordreuil

Translated from French by Melissa Kaprelian