Zincirli Höyük - Ancient Sam’al


The archaeological site of Zincirli is located along the Karasu River, in the fertile 10 to 20 km wide Islahiye valley. The Amanus Mountains are to the northwest while a lower range of hills to the southeast separates this region from the Euphrates.


The site was strategically situated, guarding a major pass over the Amanus Mountains, while controlling the movement of caravan traffic from Mesopotamia and inland Syria heading westward to the Mediterranean.


Work at Zincirli began in the late 1800s with the excavation of the royal citadel of the Iron Age kingdom of Sam’al, as well as the city’s outer fortifications (Figure 1).  Rising nearly 15 m above the surrounding plain, the citadel contained the remains of a number of palaces and other monumental buildings, evidence of an impressive sculptural program, and several royal inscriptions carved in stone and written in West Semitic alphabetic script in Aramaic, Phoenician, and a local dialect called “Sam’alian”.


Zincirli was abandoned in the late 7th century BCE as the Assyrian Empire retreated toward its homeland and, other than a small Persian occupation on the citadel, remained largely unoccupied until the present day.


The Neubauer Expedition to Zincirli, directed by CRANE Project co-investigator David Schloen (University of Chicago), began a new campaign at Zincirli in 2006. The goal was to shed light on the city’s social and economic organization, the interplay of Levantine and Anatolian cultural influences, and the nature of urban life in the largely unknown lower town.


The Expedition is also attempting to establish a more precise chronology for Zincirli to better relate its settlement history and architectural changes to broader political and cultural changes of the Bronze and Iron Ages.


Work at Zincirli is ongoing and its impressive dataset, already entered in the OCHRE software platform, is currently being integrated with that of Tell Tayinat, located about 100 km to the southwest on the Amuq plain.