site located less than 2 km (1 mi.) east of the Orontes River and about 7 km (4 mi.) south of Djisr Choghour, the major crossing point on the Orontes for the road from Aleppo to Latakia, Syria (35°44′N, 36°20′E). The fertile Orontes Valley at this point is about 10 km (6 mi.) wide. Tell Qarqur is situated at the northern end of the portion of the valley known as the Ghab. The Ghab was once a marshy area that extended south for about 42 km (26 mi.) to Asharneh. According to inscriptions on temple walls at Luxor, in antiquity Egyptian New Kingdom pharaohs hunted elephants in the marshy area. Much later, the Carthaginian Hannibal trained soldiers there in the art of using the elephant in warfare.

Tell Qarqur has been equated with Karkara/Qarqar mentioned in the records of Shalmaneser III (958–824 BCE) and Sargon II (721–705 BCE) of Assyria. The texts mention that the site was destroyed several times. In Shalmaneser III's monolith inscription it is called the royal residence of King Irhuleni of Hamath. In the annals of the second year of Sargon II it is mentioned as the favorite city of Iaubi'di, king of Hama. Both Assyrian rulers fought battles in the vicinity of Karkara/Qarqar and confronted the king of Hama and a coalition of armies from states in Syria and Palestine. The coalition of twelve kings against Shalmaneser included Ahab of Israel, Ba'asa of Ammon, and a contingent of Arab camel riders.

The equation of Tell Qarqur with Karkara/Qarqar is still not confirmed. Excavations were undertaken by the American Schools of Oriental Research In 1983 and 1984 under the direction of John Lundquist and resumed In 1993 under the direction of Rudolph H. Dornemann. They indicate quite clearly that Tell Qarqur was a major site during the ninth and eighth centuries BCE, the period that includes the two Assyrian rulers mentioned above. The total 55 acres covered by the site may have been occupied then. Iron Age II material was found close to the surface on the highest part of the mound, in area B, in area C (on the western side of the tell), in area A (in a gateway area), and in area D (on the lower portion of the mound).

The tell consists of two portions, a high, 20-acre southern tell and a lower, 35-acre northern tell. Excavation has been limited to the four areas mentioned. Pottery from the Ayyubid, Umayyad, Byzantine, Roman, Hellenistic, and Persian periods has been found scattered over the entire surface of the mound; however, only limited architectural remains of any of these periods have been encountered so far. The most extensive excavations have concentrated on the gateway area (area A), where several Iron IIA phases have been encountered as well as other substantial wall foundations. Inside the gateway a 2-meter-wide stone-paved street has been traced to 15 m beyond the gateway; the street is covered in places by 3 m of later erosional deposits washed into the area. The ceramic inventory parallels very closely the ῾Amuq phase O materials of the ninth and eighth centuries BCE. Red-burnished platters and characteristic jar and cook-pot rims are well represented, as are typical painted wares and imported Cypriot pottery.

Bronze Age walls were found downslope in area A, but the most extensive evidence for earlier occupation on the site comes from pottery found in fills associated with the gateway complex. MB II pottery is present in addition to a very complete third-millennium sequence. This raises the possibility that the name of the site may have continued for many millennia and that the reference to a Qarqar in Egyptian execration texts may prove to be associated with Qarqur as well.

A few sherds indicate still earlier material on the site. Dark-faced burnished and impressed sherds of the Neolithic period are contemporary with phases A–B on the ῾Amuq plain to the north; painted sherds demonstrate the Ubaid tradition of ῾Amuq phases E–F; and beveled-rim bowl rims and triangular lug handles indicate the ῾Amuq phases F–G range of the Uruk through Early Bronze I periods.

EB remains include ceramic materials well known from the ῾Amuq area, from the early reserved-slip wares, cross-combed metallic ware sherds, and diminutive ring bases that go with cyma-recta profiled cups, to later plain simple and scrabbled wares with distinctive washes and painted and incised bands. Also well represented are sherds of red and black burnished or “Khirbet Kerak” ware with its typical range of colors and shapes and incised and molded decoration.


  • Dornemann, Rudolph H. “The 1993 Excavations at Tell Qarqur.” Annales Archéologique Arabes Syriennes (1994), in press.
  • Dornemann, Rudolph H. “Excavations at Tell Qarqur, 1994.” Annales Archéologique Arabes Syriennes (1995), in press.
  • Dornemann, Rudolph H. “Comparisons in the Bronze and Iron Age Inventories between Orontes Valley Sites, Ugarit and Ebla, from the Point of View of Tell Qarqur.” In Proceedings of the International Colloquium, Aleppo and the Silk Road, Aleppo, Syria, September, 1994. Annales Archéologique Arabes Syriennes (1995), in press.
  • Lundquist, John. “Tell Qarqur—The 1983 Season.” Annales Archéologique Arabes Syriennes 33.2 (1983): 273–288.

Rudolph H. Dornemann