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Coordinates: 36°48′43″N 41°57′21″E / 36.81194°N 41.95583°E / 36.81194; 41.95583 Hamoukar (in Arabic: حموقار) is a large archaeological site located in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border (Al Hasakah Governorate) and Turkey.

Hamoukar is located in Syria
Location in Syria
Coordinates: 36°48′43″N 41°57′21″E / 36.81194°N 41.95583°E / 36.81194; 41.95583


The Excavations have shown that this site houses the remains of one of the world's oldest known cities, leading scholars to believe that cities in this part of the world emerged much earlier than previously thought.

Traditionally, the origins of urban developments in this part of the world have been sought in the riverine societies of southern Mesopotamia (in what is now southern Iraq). This is the area of ancient Sumer, where around 4000 BC many of the famous Mesopotamian cities such as Ur and Uruk emerged, giving this region the attributes of "Cradle of Civilization" and "Heartland of Cities."[1] Following the discoveries at Hamoukar, this definition may have to extended further up the Tigris River to include that part of northern Syria where Hamoukar is located.[2]

This archaeological discovery suggests that civilizations advanced enough to reach the size and organizational structure that was necessary to be considered a city could have actually emerged before the advent of a written language. Previously it was believed that a system of written language was a necessary predecessor of that type of complex city. Most importantly, archaeologists believe this apparent city was thriving as far back as 4000 BC and independently from Sumer. Until now, the oldest cities with developed seals and writing were thought to be Sumerian Uruk and Ubaid in Mesopotamia, which would be in the southern one-third of Iraq today.

The discovery at Hamoukar indicates that some of the fundamental ideas behind cities—including specialization of labor, a system of laws and government, and artistic development—may have begun earlier than was previously believed. The fact that this discovery is such a large city is what is most exciting to archaeologists. While they have found small villages and individual pieces that date much farther back than Hamoukar, nothing can quite compare to the discovery of this size and magnitude. Discoveries have been made here that have never been seen before, including materials from Hellenistic and Islamic civilizations.


Excavation by a joint Syrian-American expedition (by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities) has been conducted since 1999.[3][4][5][6][7]

Excavation work undertaken in 2005 and 2006 has shown that this city was destroyed by warfare by around 3500 BC-—probably the earliest urban warfare attested so far in the archaeological record of the Near East.[8] Contiuned excavations in 2008 and 2010 expand on that. [9]

Eye Idols made of alabaster or bone have been found in Tell Hamoukar. Eye Idols have also been found in Tell Brak, the biggest settlement from Syria's Late Chalcolithic period.[10]


  1. ^ [1] Robert McCormick Adams, Heartland of Cities: Surveys of Ancient Settlement and Land Use on the Central Floodplain of the Euphrates, Univ of Chicago Press, 1981, ISBN 0-226-00544-5
  2. ^ John Oates et al., Early Mesopotamian urbanism: a new view from the north, Antiquity, vol. 81, no., pp. 585–600, 2007
  3. ^ McGuire Gibson et al., First Season of Syrian-American Investigations at Hamoukar - Hasekeh Province, Iraq, vol. 64, pp. 45-68, 2002
  4. ^ [2] Clemens D. Reichel, Hamoukar, pp. 65-77 in Oriental Institute 2005-2006 Annual Report
  5. ^ [3] Clemens D. Reichel, Hamoukar, pp. 59-68 in Oriental Institute 2006-2007 Annual Report
  6. ^ [4] Clemens D. Reichel, Hamoukar, pp. 76-82 in Oriental Institute 2007-2008 Annual Report
  7. ^ [5] Clemens D. Reichel, Hamoukar, pp. 77-87 in Oriental Institute 2008-2009 Annual Report
  8. ^ "Archaeologists Unearth a War Zone 5,500 Years Old"
  9. ^ [6], Clemens D. Reichel, Excavations at Hamoukar Syria, in Oriental Institute Fall 2011 News and Notes, no. 211, pp. 1-9, 2011
  10. ^ McGuire G. 2000, „Hamoukar - Early City in Northeastern Syria”, [in:] The Oriental Institute News and Notes, nr 166, Chicago, 1 – 8, 18 – 19.


  • Jason A. Ur, Surface Collection and Offsite Studies at Tell Hamoukar, 1999, Iraq, vol. 64, pp. 15-43, 2002
  • [7] Jason A. Ur, Tell Hamoukar, Volume 1. Urbanism and Cultural Landscapes in Northeastern Syria: The Tell Hamoukar Survey, 1999-2001., Oriental Institute Publication 137, Oriental Institute, 2011, ISBN 978-1-885923-73-8 (Associated Maps 1[8] 2[9] 3[10])
  • T. J. Wilkinson, Physical and cultural landscapes of the Hamoukar area, (Syria), Akkadica, vol. 123 (fasc.1), pp. 89-105, 2002

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