also known as Tell Ermah, site located in northern Iraq (36°15′ N, 42°37′ E), 13 km (8 mi.) due south of modern Telafar and 65 km (40 mi.) west of Mosul. Austen Layard, under the auspices of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, visited and described the site In 1850, and Seton Lloyd, under the auspices of the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, surveyed it. The walled city of the second millennium BCE enclosed an area about 600 m in diameter. British and American excavation teams, led respectively by David Oates and Theresa Howard-Carter, worked jointly from 1964 to 1966; the British worked alone there from 1967 to 1971.

Occupation of the site goes back to prehistoric times, although excavation did not reach the lowest levels. A building with pitched brick vaults was dated to about 2000 BCE and several cylinder seals, perhaps heirlooms, were found that are earlier than the Old Babylonian period (c. 1900–1600 BCE).

Early second millennium texts show that Tell er-Rimah benefited from the caravan trade passing between Aššur and central Anatolia. The temple was the central and highest feature of the city, which was walled. The temple may have been built by Shamshi-Adad I of Assyria. It sits on two massive terraces that are approached via a monumental staircase from a courtyard. The temple faced roughly eastward and was backed on its west side by a solid tower, or ziggurat. The shrine inside the temple could be reached directly from the main door by passing through a central courtyard. An internal stairway in the northeast corner of the building led to the roof, and perhaps also to a shrine on top of the tower. The exterior facades were decorated with semiengaged mud-brick columns imitating the trunks of two kinds of palm trees. Similar architectural decoration is known from Larsa, on the temple of the sun god; at Tell Leilan in the Upper Khabur; and on the so-called bastion of Warad-Sin at Ur. Clay tablets consisting of administrative letters and records were found in the temple of this phase and beside the main stairway. The temple may have been dedicated to the storm god Adad or to the goddess Geshtin-anna. In it were found two sculptured heads of Humbada and a stone relief of a goddess between palm trees.

A palace, perhaps contemporary with the temple, was built on virgin soil to the northeast of the temple. Most of one wing was excavated, which included a throne room with a dais. A small number of early Old Babylonian personnel lists was found in the wing. That palace was demolished almost to ground level and replaced by a new building that followed a slightly different alignment, perhaps soon after the death of Shamshi-Adad I. In it were found letters, records, and seal impressions indicating association with four rulers: Hatnu-rapi, a contemporary of Zimrilim of Mari, now identified from Mari texts as a king of Qaṭṭara; Ashkur-Addu, also contemporary with Zimrilim, identified from Mari texts as a king of Karana; Zimrilim, king of Mari, whose official seal was found impressed on two envelope fragments; and Aqba-Ḥammu, brother-in-law of Ashkur-Addu, whose wife Iltani was at the center of the main archive of letters and administrative records and who appears to have ruled the city as a vassal of Hammurabi of Babylon after the latter brought the reign of Zimrilim at Mari to an end.

The kingdom to which Tell er-Rimah belonged is now thought to have contained two major cities, Karana and Qaṭṭara, that were alternatively named according to the residency of the current ruler. Therefore, it is still uncertain from the Old Babylonian evidence whether the site is Karana or Qaṭṭara. A foundation inscription of a king of Razama, found out of stratigraphic context, may be loot from a siege of that neighboring city.

During the Nuzi period, in the third quarter of the second millennium, the site was still extensively occupied, with a large administrative building and domestic houses built over the old palace area. Much fine glass and frit work was found, especially in connection with a small domestic shrine, and many cylinder seals, but no inscribed material. Texts of the period found at Nuzi mention a Karana, but that may refer to another town with the same name on the Lower Zab, depending on the interpretation of the texts. The temple continued in use.

During the Middle Assyrian period, in the last quarter of the second millennium, the temple and domestic structures continued to flourish under the aegis of Assyrian kings. Business records found in the temple, mainly concerned with tin and barley, date to the reigns of Shalmaneser I and Tukulti-Ninurta I. The place name Qaṭṭara is frequently attested in them; Karana does not occur. In texts of this time from Aššur, both Karana and Qaṭṭara are found, but without indications for locating them.

The site was completely abandoned after the Middle Assyrian period. It was partly resettled in the Neo-Assyrian period, but the old temple was not restored. Under the Assyrian king Adad-Nirari III, it belonged to the province of Rasappa and was renamed Zamahe. There, the semi-independent governor Nergal- (or Palil-) Eresh set up a stela beside the altar in a small, new temple dedicated to Adad, built into the north side of the old temple mound. The new temple had a different alignment, and its entrance on the northeast gave direct access to the cella through a long hall. The entrance to the cella was decorated with stone pillar bases in the shape of lion heads with huge, protruding dagger-blade tongues; it featured a gigantic lion-headed bird made from a bitumen core. The stela recorded the titles and deeds of Adad-Nirari III, including his taking tribute from Syrian rulers and from Jehoash of Israel, as well as new settlements built in the vicinity by Nergal-Eresh; the latter part of the inscription was erased in antiquity. A tablet recording a real estate transaction by Nergal-Eresh also was found.


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  • Dalley, Stephanie. “Karanā.” In Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie, vol. 5, pp. 405–407. Berlin and New York, 1980.
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  • Oates, Joan. “Late Assyrian Temple Furniture from Tell al Rimah.” Iraq 36 (1974): 179–184.
  • Page, Stephanie M. “A Stela of Adad-Nirari III and Nergal Ereš from Tell al Rimah.” Iraq 30 (1968): 139–153. See Tadmor (below) for corrections.
  • Parker, Barbara. “Cylinder Seals from Tell al Rimah.” Iraq 37 (1975): 21–38.
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  • Tadmor, Hayim. “The Historical Inscriptions of Adad-Nirari III.” Iraq 35 (1973): 141–150.
  • Wiseman, D. J. “The Tell al Rimah Tablets, 1966.” Iraq 30 (1968): 175–205.

Stephanie Dalley