Late Bronze Age mountain fortress, located on the right bank of the Euphrates River in Syria, about 60 km (37 mi.) south of Carchemish, at a narrows from which traffic along the river could be controlled and where the Tishreen dam is under construction. Excavations were conducted at el-Qitar In 1976 by the Milwaukee Public Museum under the direction of Rudolph Dornemann; from 1982 to 1985 by Thomas L. McClellan for the University of Melbourne; and In 1986–1987 by McClellan for the University of Chicago. Prior to excavation, large portions of the settlement's layout were visible on top of the mountain and on a lower eastern spur; their plans were recorded, utilizing kite photography and photogrammetry.
Ceramics and radiocarbon dates indicate that the main period of occupation was in the fifteenth century BCE, possibly under the loose suzerainty of the Mitanni. Reoccupation during the fourteenth–thirteenth centuries BCE of this military position was probably under Hittite direction. Earlier occupation from the Middle Bronze Age was largely masked by subsequent construction, but portions were excavated of what may have been an official residence, the Orthostat Building (its rooms were lined with limestone orthostats). Traces of Early Bronze IV material (third millennium) were also recovered within the lower settlement. During the Hellenistic period, four tumuli were constructed on the northern part of the mountaintop and graves were located nearby. A stone circle grave, probably from the Roman period, was found near the water's edge, in the lower settlement.
In the Late Bronze Age (and possibly earlier) the upper and lower settlements were connected by a rock-cut stairway. A fortification wall could be traced along the western and southern sides of the upper settlement that connected to a North Tower, the Lower West Gate, and a South Tower. Streets divide the settlement into several residential blocks.
Triangular in layout, the lower settlement was on a spur that jutted into the river. The mountain's steep slope protected the base of the triangle; the two other sides were defended by fortification walls, the northeastern portion utilizing the natural cliff line along the river. The settlement was divided into blocks of houses; some buildings were constructed against the fortification walls and opened onto streets that ran parallel to the walls and led to the River Gate.
The LB fortifications consisted of curtain walls, made of large, irregularly cut limestone blocks, as were towers and two city gates. Both the River Gate and the Lower West Gate were designed with two sets of shallow piers of limestone orthostats. The absence of public buildings is notable, although one structure (building 10) had two rooms that contained benches and platforms. Although originally identified as a temple or shrine, this interpretation is called into question by the many domestic houses nearby at Munbaqa with similar installations.
Objects from the Late Bronze Age included a Middle Assyrian cuneiform tablet with a Syro-Hittite sealing on it whose hieroglyphs may identify the site as Til-Abnu. It is an adoption contract in which more than twenty personal names are Hurrian. A silver cache weighing 2.5 kg contained bent and broken pins, medallions, and blanks.
Although neither the domestic architecture nor the artifacts hint at the site's military function, its mountain setting identifies it as a fortress. Among the faunal remains many species were present: seven domesticated species (including numbers of Equidae—the horse Equus caballus, donkey, mule, and wild half-donkey), nine wild mammals (including beaver, fox, wild boar, brown bear, and Indian elephant), and sixteen bird species. This large number of hunted animals, compared to other sites on the Middle Euphrates, may indicate the inhabitants' privileged or military status.
[See also Euphrates Dams, Survey of.]
- Archi, Alfonso. “A Seal Impression from el-Qiṭār/Til-Abnu (Syria).” Anatolian Studies 43 (1993): 203–206.
- Culican, William, and Thomas L. McClellan. “El-Qitar, 1982–83: A Preliminary Report.” Annales Archéologiques Arabes Syriennes 23.2 (1983): 289–297.
- Culican, William, and Thomas L. McClellan. “El-Qitar: First Season of Excavations, 1982–83.” Abr-Nahrain 22 (1983–1984): 29–63.
- McClellan, Thomas L. “The Second Season of the Australian Excavations at el-Qitar, 1983–84.” Annales Archéologiques Arabes Syriennes 23.2 (1983): 315–324.
- McClellan, Thomas L. “El-Qitar: Second Season of Excavations, 1983–84.” Abr-Nahrain 23 (1984–1985): 39–72.
- McClellan, Thomas L. “A Syrian Fortress of the Bronze Age: El-Qitar.” National Geographic Research 2 (1986): 418–440.
- McClellan, Thomas L. “El-Qitar: Third Season of Excavations, 1984–85.” Abr-Nahrain 24 (1986): 83–106.
Thomas L. McClellan