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The tell of Sultantepe seen from a distance, with the modern village Sultantepe Köyü at its base.
Sultantepe is located in Turkey
Shown within Turkey
LocationSultantepe Köyü, Şanlıurfa Province, Turkey
Coordinates37°03′01″N 38°54′22″E / 37.05028°N 38.90611°E / 37.05028; 38.90611Coordinates: 37°03′01″N 38°54′22″E / 37.05028°N 38.90611°E / 37.05028; 38.90611
Length100 m (330 ft)
Width50 m (160 ft)
Area0.5 ha (1.2 acres)
PeriodsLate Assyrian

The ancient temple-complex, perhaps of Huzirina,[1] now represented by the tell of Sultantepe, is a Late Assyrian archeological site at the edge of the Neo-Assyrian empire, now in Şanlıurfa Province, Turkey. Sultantepe is about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of Urfa on the road to Harran. The modern village of Sultantepe Köyü lies at the base of the tell.


Excavations have revealed an Assyrian city, with eighth to seventh century levels that were rebuilt after ca 648 BCE,[2] containing a hoard of cuneiform tablets, including versions of the Epic of Gilgamesh and school texts including exercise tablets of literary compositions full of misspellings. The complete library of some 600 unfired clay tablets was found outside a priestly family house. Contracts also found at the site consistently record Aramaean names, J. J. Finkelstein has remarked[3] The writings end suddenly simultaneously with the fall of nearby Harran in 610 BCE, two years after the fall of Nineveh. The tablets from Sultantepe now form the Assyrian library in the Archaeological Museum at Ankara. The site remained unoccupied during the subsequent Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods, to be re-occupied by Hellenistic and Roman times. [4] The modern village lies in an arc round the base of the mound on the north and east.


Sultantepe is a steep-sided mound over 50 m. high, with a flat top measuring 100 by 50 m.. Erosion on one side had exposed giant basalt column-bases, apparently belonging to a monumental gateway, which established the Assyrian level, at which, on another face of the mound, massive wall-ends projected, standing on the same level, some 7 m. below the top surface of the mound.[5] The temple was eventually identified as dedicated to Sin by a well-carved stele bearing his symbol of a crescent moon with its horns upwards on a pedestal in relief.[6]

A brief preliminary campaign at Sultantepe in May–June 1951 was followed by a series of soundings made in 1952 by Seton Lloyd of the British Institute or Archaeology at Ankara with Nuri Gökçe, of the Archaeological Museum, Ankara. Further work at the site was precluded by the seven-meter layer of Hellenistic and Roman era debris covering the remainder of the site.[7]

The Sultantepe Tablets[edit]

A series of publications of The Sultantepe Tablets have been edited and published in Anatolian Studies (British Institute at Ankara) from 1953 onwards by O. R. Gurney and others. The texts range widely. Some of the highlights are:

  • A series of tablets record the eponyms, or limmu officials, whose names were used by the Assyrians for dating their years, and so provide support for the standard Assyrian chronology during the period 911—648 BCE in the "Eponym Canon"
  • Forty lines of the Creation Epic, Enuma Elish, which were missing from the texts recovered in Assyria proper
  • A long section of the Epic of Gilgamesh apparently copied by a schoolboy from dictation, full of errors. There is also a fragmentary abraded and bent unfired tablet of the feverish dream of Enkidu.[8]
  • Sections of the composition called The Righteous Sufferer or by its incipit Ludlul bēl nēmeqi, with strong parallels in the Book of Job. The Sultantepe library furnished for the first time text of Tablet I, narrating the Righteous Sufferer's tribulations at the hands of men,[9]
  • The narû text (complete in 175 lines), a literary genre composed as if it were a transcription from an engraved royal stele, introducing the king by his titles, followed by a first-person narrative of his reign, concluding with imprecations against defacing the inscription and blessings for preserving it; in this case the narû text is the "Legend of Naram-Sin", associated to the famous Akkadian king's name but in no degree historical; the Sultantepe text completes and revises the interpretation of long-known fragmentary texts from Assurbanipal's library at Nineveh and Hittite archives at Hattusa and includes the fragment[10] previously known as "The Legend of the King of Cuthah".[11]
  • The complete text of a new Akkadian literary text, an example of a new genre, The Poor Man of Nippur (complete in 160 lines), a tale which originated no doubt at Nippur and in the mid-second millennium BCE, represented in a seventh-century recension that was published in Anatolian Studies 6 (145ff) and 7 (135f).[12]

Other texts of importance include rituals, incantations, omen readings, contracts[13] and vocabulary lists.


  1. ^ Huzirina is indirectly attested in cuneiform tablets at the site, and in the annals of Tukulti-Ninurta II, but O. R. Gurney pointed out that Huzirina in the royal annals was situated not more than a day's march west of Nisibis, whereas Sultantepe is some 130 miles farther west (Gurney, in Anatolian Studies 2 p. 30f).
  2. ^ Based on eponymous datings by limmu officials after the "Canon" that ends in 648 BCE. (Lloyd and Gokçe 1953:42).
  3. ^ J. J. Finkelstein, "Assyrian Contracts from Sultantepe" Anatolian Studies 7 (1957:137-145) p. 138, notes that Tell Halaf records also consistently bear Aramaean names at this period.
  4. ^ Seton Lloyd, Sultantepe. Part II. Post-Assyrian Pottery and Small Objects Found by the Anglo Turkish Joint Expedition in 1952, Anatolian Studies, vol. 4, pp. 101-110, 1954
  5. ^ The description of Sultantepe as it was in 1952 is Seton Lloyd's, in Anatolian Studies 24 (1974):197-220) p. 203.
  6. ^ Illustrated in Seton Lloyd and Nurı Gokçe, "Sultantepe: Anglo-Turkish Joint Excavations, 1952" Anatolian Studies 3 (1953:27-47) p. 40 fig. 6.
  7. ^ Seton Lloyd and Nuri Gokçe, Sultantepe: Anglo-Turkish Joint Excavations, 1952, Anatolian Studies, 3, 1953:27-47; Lloyd, in Anatolian Studies, 24 (1974):197-220 p. 203.
  8. ^ O. R. Gurney, "Two Fragments of the Epic of Gilgamesh from Sultantepe" Journal of Cuneiform Studies 8.3 (1954: 87-95).
  9. ^ W. G. Lambert and O. R. Gurney, '"The Sultantepe Tablets (Continued). III. The Poem of the Righteous Sufferer" Anatolian Studies 4 (1954:65-99).
  10. ^ In the fragment Naram-Sin's name does not occur.
  11. ^ O. R. Gurney, "The Sultantepe Tablets (Continued). IV. The Cuthaean Legend of Naram-Sin' Anatolian Studies 5 (1955:93-113).
  12. ^ O. R. Gurney, "The Tale of the Poor Man of Nippur and Its Folktale Parallels' Anatolian Studies 22, Special Number in Honour of the Seventieth Birthday of Professor Seton Lloyd (1972:149-158).
  13. ^ Finkelstein 1957:137-145.


  • O. R. Gurney, The Sultantepe Tablets, Anatolian Studies, vol. 3, pp. 15–25, 1953
  • O. R. Gurney, The Sultantepe Tablets (Continued): VII. The Myth of Nergal and Ereshkigal, Anatolian Studies, vol. 10, pp. 105–131, 1960
  • W. G. Lambert, The Sultantepe Tablets: VIII. Shalmaneser in Ararat (Continued), Anatolian Studies, vol. 11, pp. 143–158, 1961
  • Erica Reiner and M. Civil, Another Volume of Sultantepe Tablets, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 177–211, 1967

See also[edit]