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Alalakh (or Alalah, modern Tell Atchana near Antakyamarker (ancient Antiochmarker), Turkeymarker), is the name of an ancient Amorite city and its associated city-state of the Amuq River valley, located in the Hataymarker region of southern Turkeymarker, now represented by an extensive city-mound.


Alalakh was founded during the Middle Bronze Age in the 2nd millennium BC, as one of the first great cities of the Fertile Crescent. The first palace on the citadel of Alalakh was built c. 2000 BC, contemporary with the Third Dynasty of Urmarker.

The written history of the site may begin under the name Alakhtum, with tablets from Marimarker in the 18th century BC, when the city was part of the kingdom of Yamhad (modern Aleppomarker). A dossier of tablets records that King Sumu-epeh sold the territory of Alakhtum to his son-in-law Zimri-Lim, king of Mari, retaining for himself overlordship. After the fall of Mari in 1765 BC, Alalakh seems to have come once again under the authority of Yamhad. King Abba-ili of Aleppo bestowed it upon his brother Yarim-Lim, in a reorganization of his empire that seems to have followed a revolt, and a dynasty of Yarim-Lin's descendents was founded, under the hegemony of Aleppo, that lasted to the 16th century (according to the short chronology) at which time Alalakh was destroyed, most likely by Hittite king Hattusili I, in the second year of his campaigns.

After a hiatus of less than a century, written records for Alalakh resume. At this time, it was again the seat of a local dynasty. Most of the information about the founding of this dynasty comes from a statue inscribed with what seems to be an autobiography of the dynasty's founding king.

According to his inscription, in the 15th century, Idrimi, son of the king of Yamhad (modern Aleppo) may have fled his city for Emarmarker, traveled to Alalakh, gained control of the city, and been recognized as a vassal by Barattarna. The inscription records Idrimi's vicissitudes: after his family had been forced to flee to Emar, he left them and joined the "Hapiru people" in "Ammija in the land of Canaan", where the Hapiru recognized him as the "son of their overlord" and "gathered around him"; after living among them for seven years, he led his Habiru warriors in a successful attack by sea on Alalakh, where he became king.

However, according to the site report, this statue was discovered in a level of occupation dating several centuries after the time that Idrimi lived, and there has been much scholarly debate as to its historicity. Nonetheless, archeologically dated tablets tell us that Niqmepuh was contemporaneous with the Mitanni king Saushtatar, which would seem to support the statue's claim that Idrimi was contemporaneous with Barattarna, Saushtatar's predecessor.

The socio-economic history of Alalakh during the reign of Idrimi's son and grandson, Niqmepuh and Ilim-ilimma is well documented by tablets excavated from the site. Idrimi himself appears only rarely in these tablets.

In the mid-14th century, the Hittite Suppiluliuma I defeated king Tushratta of Mitanni and assumed control of northern Syria, including Alalakh, which he incorporated into the Hittite Empire. A tablet records his grant of much of Mukish's land (that is, Alalakh's) to Ugaritmarker after the king of Ugarit alerted the Hittite king to a revolt by the kingdoms of Mukish, Nuhassa, and Niye. Alalakh was probably destroyed by the Sea People in the 12th century, as were many other cities of coastal Anatolia and the Levant. The site was never reoccupied, the port of Al Mina taking its place during the Iron Age.


The remains of the city preserved by Tell Atchana were excavated by the British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley in the years 1935-1939 and 1946-1949, during which palaces, temples, private houses and fortification walls were discovered, in 17 archaeological levels reaching from late Early Bronze Age (Level XVII, ca. 2200—2000 BC to Late Bronze Age (Level 0, 13th century BC).

After several years' surveys, the University of Chicagomarker team had its first full season of excavation in 2003 directed by Aslihan Yener. In 2004, the team had a short excavation and study season in order to process finds.

In 2006 the project changed sponsorship and resumed excavations directed by Aslihan Yener under the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Mustafa Kemal University in Antakya.

Excavations at Alalakh have produced a body of written material that demands comparisons to that from Marimarker and Ugaritmarker. About five hundred cuneiform tablets were retrieved at Level VII, (Middle Bronze Age) and Level IV (Late Bronze Age). The inscribed statue of Idrimi, a king of Alalakh ca. the early 15th century BC, has given a unique autobiography of Idrimi's youth, his rise to power, and his military and other successes (now in the British Museummarker). Akkadian texts from Alalakh include a few word lists, astrological omens and conjurations, but primarily consist of juridical tablets, which record the ruling family's control over land and the income that followed, and administrative documents, which record the flow of commodities in and out of the palace.


  1. Leonard Woolley, Alalakh, An Account of the Excavations at Telle Atchana (Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London), Oxford, 1955
  2. [1] K. Aslihan Yener, Alalakh: A Late Bronze Age Capital In The Amuq Valley, Southern Turkey, Oriental Institute, 2001
  3. [2] K. Aslihan Yener, Tell Atchana (Ancient Alalakh) Survey 2001, in Oriental Institute 2001-2002 Annual Report, pp. 13–19, 2002
  4. [3] K. Aslihan Yener, Amuq Valley Regional Projects: Tell Atchana (Alalakh) 2002, Oriental Institute, 2003
  5. [4] Yener, Reliving the Legend: The Expedition to Alalakh 2003, Oriental Institute, 2004


  • Donald J. Wiseman, 1953. The Alalakh Tablets, (London:British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara); reviewed by Joan Lines in American Journal of Archaeology 59.4 (October 1955) , pp. 331–332; Reprinted 1983 in series AMS Studies in Anthropology ISBN 0-404-18237-2
  • Frank Zeeb, Die Palastwirtschaft in Altsyrien nach den spatbabylonischen Getreidelieferlisten aus Alalah (Schicht VII), Alter Orient und Altes Testament, no. 282. Munster: Ugart-Verlag, 2002.
  • Marlies Heinz, Tell Atchana, Alalakh. Die Schichten VII-XVII, Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1992.
  • Nadav Na'aman, The Ishtar Temple at Alalakh, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 209-214, 1980

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