site extending 2.5 km (1.5 mi.) into the Mediterranean Sea, 8 km (5 mi.) north of old Latakia (35°35′N, 35°44′ E). Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit) is 4.5 km (3 mi.) northeast, about 1.6 km (1 mi.) inland, and Cyprus is 100 km (62 mi.) across the sea. The cape is 0.4–1 km wide; its rocky western part, originally an island, was eventually connected with the coast by sand deposits. Two bays offer good harbors for small ships.
Hellenistic and Roman remains were noted as early as the eighteenth century. They include (Hellenistic?) moles in both bays and a large, built Late Hellenistic tomb with loculi. An archaeological mound was reported by Gabriel Saadé (1964). A Late Bronze Age tomb was accidentally discovered and subsequently excavated by the Directorate General of Antiquities of Syria In 1973. A joint Syrian and French expedition, headed by Adnan Bounni and Jacques Lagarce, with Elisabeth Lagarce and Nassib Saliby, began work In 1975, holding its twentieth season In 1995.
Excavation began on the southern slope and summit of the tell (9.40 m above sea level). The examination of walls in areas where modern buildings were under construction led to the discovery of a Hellenistic city wall (third century BCE). In 1977, work was initiated near the Bronze Age tomb, close to the northern coast of the cape; excavation has gradually been concentrated on that area.
In the thirteenth century BCE, the last century of the Late Bronze Age, a complex of palaces and residencies was built by a king of Ugarit. [See Ugarit.] The site offered excellent possibilities for controlling seaborne traffic. Two main areas have been excavated. The Southern Palace covers more than 5,000 sq m. [See Palace.] Its construction was an enormous undertaking: sand was dumped 4 m high on the natural rock, between the 1.80-meter-thick walls, to raise the levels of the floors. Despite the scarcity of finds, such a building could only be interpreted as a royal palace. On its northeastern limit, it is maintained and protected by an embankment faced with an ashlar wall.
The Northern Palace covers about 2,000 sq m. Its unusual plan allows only one obligatory way to circulate through the entire building (i.e., having entered a group of rooms, one must return to the main passage in order to reach any other group). Staircases lead to the upper story(ies). Each group of rooms around the main, paved courtyard seems to have a specific function: an office and archive on the east; a possible throne room with a two-columned porch on the north; and two areas devoted to metallurgical activities on the west. The eastern part of the palace also produced an administrative archive. To the east, another building, considered a satellite of the administrative building, held a bread-making workshop with two large ovens (tannurs) and a toilet provided with a seat.
The finds were few, but significant, and include two groups of tablets. The first group, mostly in Ugaritic, sometimes in Akkadian, illustrates nearly all types of texts attested in Ugarit, except contracts: letters to and from the king, the queen mother and officials; ritual, magical, and lexical texts; and administrative documents. [See Ugaritic; Akkadian.] They shed considerable light on Ugaritic culture and show that the Northern Palace belonged to a queen of Ugarit, perhaps to King ῾Ammishtamru II's (c. 1260–1230 BCE) mother. According to one of the letters, the city could have been called Biruti. The second group of texts is exclusively administrative: receipts and memoranda, “banking” practices apparently used a silver standard. A clay sealing bears ῾Ammishtamru II's name.
The ashlar-built chamber tomb matches the aristocratic sepulchers of Ugarit. A stepped dromos leads to a rectangular corbeled chamber. [See Tombs.] At the farther end is a closet, connected with the chamber only through a narrow hole. The purpose of this annex is not clear. Looted in antiquity, the tomb still contained local, Cypriot, and Aegean material of the fourteenth–thirteenth centuries BCE.
Workshops were numerous in this palace. One was devoted to cutting and polishing hard stone with emery. In the metal workshops, the main find was a mold for “oxhide” copper ingots—a large and thick slab of beach sandstone with the shape of the ingot hollowed in its upper surface. Based on analysis, the copper came from Cyprus. Oxhide ingots (rectangular with concave sides and elongated corners) have been recovered by the hundreds in the Mediterranean area. Copper was one of the staple commodities of LB trade, and considerable quantities were imported by Egypt from Alashiya (Cyprus?), Syria, and the Aegean. The Ras Ibn Hani mold, the only one ever found, is a document of utmost significance for the technology of ingots and the implication of Ugarit in the metal trade.
West of the Northern Palace another, similar building held two large kilns, one built into a platform (2 × 2 m) accessible via four steps. The palace had been nearly deserted before it was destroyed by heavy fire, early in the twelfth century BCE apparently by “Sea Peoples” whose precise nature is a debated question. On a part of the ruins that was leveled, small dwellings were built bordered by perpendicular streets. The painted pottery recovered, of types common on Cyprus and in Palestine in the twelfth century, are considered to be the last development of Mycenaean pottery, suggesting that this settlement was founded by the very sackers of the Ugaritic city.
Destructions and rebuilding phases alternate during the twelfth–tenth centuries BCE. New types of pottery show connections with Cyprus, but also with Hama on the Orontes River. With al-Mina, Ras el-Bassit, and Tell Sukas, Ras Ibn Hani is one of very few sites in the area containing information about this period, the Early Iron Age. [See Hama; Bassit; Sukas, Tell.] No architectural remains were recovered for the remainder of the Iron Age, but settlement was uninterrupted until the early fifth century BCE at least.
In the Hellenistic period, a fortified city, nearly 1 km long, was built on the cape. A list of mercenaries and Ptolemaic coins point to the Lagid king of Egypt, Ptolemy III (246–221 BCE), as its founder. In 246, he conquered Seleucia and Antioch. [See Seleucia; Antioch on Orontes.] The city at Ras Ibn Hani was probably meant to secure these new possessions against an attack from Seleucid Laodicea (Latakia). It demonstrates that the king's domination reached much farther south than had been thought. The city wall is rare testimony of the Hellenistic art of fortification in this region. Mainly the wall's eastern part has been studied by Pierre Leriche, a member of the Ras Ibn Hani expedition. It comprised an inner wall of large blocks, with massive foundations supporting coffered masonry, an outer wall of boulders, and a fosse. Alternately square and U-shaped towers protected the curtain and a gate opened into a circular area surrounded by columns.
Ras Ibn Hani probably returned to Seleucid hegemony under Antiochus III, in about 200 BCE. Life went on eagerly during the second and part of the first centuries BCE, as demonstrated by stamped amphora handles, bronze coins, clay figurines, and rich pottery finds. At some time in the first century BCE, a stronghold was built, reusing part of the ancient city wall. It was destroyed violently, perhaps the first decades of the Roman conquest of Syria, around 30 BCE. The site experienced a final revival from the time of Constantine (fourth century CE) to Justinianus or to the early seventh century CE. Remains of large houses, fishing and agricultural tools, small bronze coins, and a necropolis illustrate the life of a medium-sized city. The diversity of the pottery, with many imports, is nevertheless typical of the prosperity and overseas connections of this coastal area.
- Preliminary reports on the results of the excavations and on the texts have been published by members of the excavation team in French in the journal Syria: 53 (1976): 233–279; 55 (1978): 233–325; 56 (1979): 217–234; 57 (1980): 343–373; 58 (1981): 215–299; and 61 (1984): 1–23, 153–179; and in Comptes rendus de l'Académie des inscriptions et belles lettres (1978): 45–65; (1979): 277–294; (1980): 10–34; (1983): 249–290; (1984): 398–438; and (1987): 274–301; and in Arabic in Annales archéologiques arabes syriennes (1976): 27–64; (1977–1978): 23–84; and (1983): 31–59. Additional publications include the following:
- Dussaud, René. Topographie historique de la Syrie antique et médiévale. Paris, 1927. The first mention of Ras Ibn Hani in archaeological literature appears on pages 416–417.
- Lagarce, Jacques, and Elisabeth Lagarce. Ras Ibn Hani. Archéologie et histoire. Damascus, 1987. Brief and synthetic presentation of the site, primarily intended for visitors. With a similar version in Arabic by Adnan Bounni and Nassib Saliby.
- Lagarce, Jacques, and Elisabeth Lagarce. “Ras Ibn Hani au Bronze récent. Recherches et réflexions en cours.” In Acts of the Colloquium “Le pays d'Ougarit autour de 1200 av. J.-C.” Paris, 1995.
- Saadé, Gabriel. Histoire de Lattaquié. Vol. 1, Ramitha, problèmes des origines. Damascus, 1964. First mention and cursory description of the archaeological mound; see page 94, fig. 11, and pages 98–99.
Adnan Bounni and Jacques Lagarce