Tell Leilan is an archaeological site situated near the Wadi Jarrah in the Khabur River basin in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria, a region formerly a part of ancient Assyria. The site has been occupied since the 5th millennium BC. During the late third millennium, the site was known as Shekhna. Around 1800 BC, the site was renamed Shubat-Enlil by the Assyrian king, Shamshi-Adad I and it became the capital of Assyria in northern Mesopotamia. Shubat-Enlil was abandoned around 1700 BC.
The city originated around 5000 BC as a small farming village and grew to be a large city ca. 2600 BC, three hundred years before the Akkadian Empire. A 3-foot layer of sediment at Tell Leilan containing no evidence of human habitation offered clues as to the cause of the demise of the Akkadian imperialized city; analysis indicated that at around 2200 BC, a three-century drought was severe enough to affect agriculture and settlement.
The city of Shubat-Enlil
The conquest of the region by Shamshi-Adad I (1813–1781 BC) of Assyria revived the abandoned site of Tell Leilan. Shamshi-Adad saw the great potential in the rich agricultural production of the region and made it the capital city of his empire. He renamed it from Shehna to Shubat-Enlil, or Šubat-Enlil, meaning "the residence of the god Enlil" in the Akkadian language. In the city a royal palace was built and a temple acropolis to which a straight paved street led from the city gate. There was also a planned residential area and the entire city was enclosed by a wall. The city size was about 90 hectares (220 acres). Shubat-Enlil may have had a population of 20,000 people at its peak. The city prospered until the king Samsu-iluna of Babylon sacked it in 1726 BC in an attempt to maintain Babylonia's failing influence over Assyria. The Babylonians were defeated driven out of Assyria by the Assyrian king Adasi, however Shubat-Enlil was never reoccupied and the Assyrian capital was transferred to its traditional home in Ashur.
The mound of Tell Leilan is being excavated by a team of archaeologists from Yale University. The excavation started in 1979 led by Harvey Weiss and the study of the site and the region is continuing. Among many important discoveries at Tell Leilan is an archive of 1100 cuneiform clay tablets maintained by the rulers of the city. These tablets date to the eighteenth century BC and record the dealings with other Mesopotamian states and how the city administration worked. Finds from the excavations at Tell Leilan are on display in the Deir ez-Zor Museum.
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- Jesper Eidem, Lauren Ristvet and Harvey Weiss, The Royal Archives from Tell Leilan: Old Babylonian Letters and Treaties from the Eastern Lower Town Palace, Yale University Press, 2010, ISBN 0-300-16545-5
- Bonatz, Dominik; Kühne, Hartmut; Mahmoud, As'ad (1998). Rivers and steppes. Cultural heritage and environment of the Syrian Jezireh. Catalogue to the Museum of Deir ez-Zor. Damascus: Ministry of Culture. OCLC 638775287.
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- Marc van de Mieroop: The Mesopotamian City. Oxford University Press 1999. ISBN 0-19-815286-8
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- Weiss, Harvey, Francesca deLillis, Dominique deMoulins, Jesper Eidem, Thomas Guilderson, Ulla Kasten, Torben Larsen, Lucia Mori, Lauren Ristvet, Elena Rova, and Wilma Wetterstrom, 2002, Revising the contours of history at Tell Leilan. Annales Archeologiques Arabes Syriennes, Cinquantenaire. Damascus.
- Weiss, Harvey, ed., 2012, Seven Generations Since the Fall of Akkad. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
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