Tell Leilan

Coordinates: 36°57′26″N 41°30′19″E / 36.95722°N 41.50528°E / 36.95722; 41.50528
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Tell Leilan
View of Tell Leilan
Tell Leilan is located in Syria
Tell Leilan
Shown within Syria
LocationAl-Hasakah Governorate, Syria
Coordinates36°57′26″N 41°30′19″E / 36.95722°N 41.50528°E / 36.95722; 41.50528
Founded5000 BCE
Abandoned1726 BCE
CulturesAkkadian, Assyrian
Site notes
ConditionIn ruins

Tell Leilan is an archaeological site situated near the Wadi Jarrah in the Khabur River basin in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria. The site has been occupied since the 5th millennium BC. During the late third millennium, the site was known as Shekhna. During that time it was under control of the Akkadian Empire and was used as an administrative center.[1][2] Around 1800 BC, the site was renamed "Shubat-Enlil" by the king Shamshi-Adad I, and it became his residential capital.[3] Shubat-Enlil was abandoned around 1700 BC.


The site is located close to some other flourishing cities of the time. Hamoukar is about 50 km away to the southeast. Tell Brak is about 50 km away to the southwest, and also in the Khabur River basin. Tell Mozan (Urkesh) is about 50 km to the west.

Leilan, Brak and Urkesh were particularly prominent during the Akkadian period.[4]


The city originated around 5000 BC as a small farming village and grew to be a large city c. 2600 BC, three hundred years before the Akkadian Empire. The city had a large wall by c. 2600 BC.[5] A number of finds from the Ninevite 5 period were found at the site.[6][7][8][9] 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 imperial city; analysis indicated that at around 2200 BC, a three-century drought was severe enough to affect agriculture and settlement.[10][11][12][13]


Kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia
Kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia
circa 1809 BCE–circa 1776 BCE
• circa 1809 BCE – 1776 circa BCE
Shamshi-Adad I
Historical eraBronze Age
• Established
circa 1809 BCE
• Disestablished
circa 1776 BCE
Succeeded by
Today part ofSyria

The conquest of the region by the Amorite warlord Shamshi-Adad I (1813–1781 BC) of Ekallatum 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.[14] 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. After the death of Shamshi-Adad, the city became the capital of Apum and prospered until king Samsu-iluna of Babylon sacked it in 1726 BC.[15] During this period various minor kings ruled there, including Turum-natki, Zuzu, and Haja-Abum. Qarni-Lim, king of nearby Andarig, maintained a large palace there.[16][17]


Beginning in 1979 the mound of Tell Leilan was excavated by a team of archaeologists from Yale University, led by Harvey Weiss.[18][19][20] The dig ended in 2008. Among many important discoveries at Tell Leilan is an archive of 1100 cuneiform clay tablets maintained by the rulers of the city.[21][22] These tablets date to the eighteenth century BC and record the dealings with other Mesopotamian states and how the city administration worked.[23] Finds from the excavations at Tell Leilan are on display in the Deir ez-Zor Museum.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Ristvet, Lauren, Thomas Guilderson and Harvey Weiss, "The Dynamics of State Development and Imperialization at Third Millennium Tell Leilan, Syria", In Orient Express, vol. 21, no. 2, 2004
  2. ^ [2] F. de Lillis Forest, L. Milano and L. Mori, "The Akkadian Occupation in the Northwest Area of the Tell Leilan Acropolis", KASKAL, vol. 4, 2007
  3. ^ Eidem, J., "Old Assyrian Trade in Northern Syria. The Evidence from Tell Leilan. In J. G. Dercksen (ed.), Anatolia and the Jazira during the Old Assyrian Period", pp. 31-41, Publications de l’Institut historique et archéologique néerlandais de Stamboul 111. Leiden., 2008
  4. ^ Margreet L. Steiner, Ann E. Killebrew, The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Levant: C. 8000-332 BCE. OUP Oxford, 2014 p398
  5. ^ [3] Risvet, L., "The Third Millennium City Wall at Tell Leilan, Syria: Identity, Authority and Urbanism", in J. Bretschneider, J. Driessen and K. Vanlerberghe, eds., Monumental Public Architecture in the Bronze Age Near East and Aegean. Leuven: Peters, pp. 183-212, 2007
  6. ^ [4] Weiss, Harvey, "Ninevite 5 Periods and Processes.", In The origins of North Mesopotamian civilization: Ninevite 5 chronology, economy, society. Brussels: Brepols. E. Rova and H. Weiss, editors. 2003
  7. ^ [5] Parayre, Dominique, "The Ninevite 5 Sequence of Glyptic at Tell Leilan", In The origins of North Mesopotamian civilization: Ninevite 5 chronology, economy, society. Brussels: Brepols. E. Rova and H. Weiss, editors., 2003
  8. ^ [6] van Gijn, Annelou, The Ninevite 5 Chipped Stone Assemblage from Tell Leilan: Preliminary Results", In The origins of North Mesopotamian civilization: Ninevite 5 chronology, economy, society. Brussels: Brepols. E. Rova and H. Weiss, editors., 2003
  9. ^ [7] Wetterstrom, Wilma, "Ninevite 5 Period Agriculture at Tell Leilan: Preliminary Results", In The origins of North Mesopotamian civilization: Ninevite 5 chronology, economy, society. Brussels: Brepols. E. Rova and H. Weiss, editors., 2003
  10. ^, Harvey Weiss et al., The genesis and collapse of Third Millennium north Mesopotamian Civilization, Science, vol. 291, pp. 995-1088, 1993
  11. ^, H. M. Cullen, Climate change and the collapse of the Akkadian empire: Evidence from the deep sea, Geology, vol. 28, pp. 379-382, 2000
  12. ^, M. Staubwasser and H. Weiss, Holocene Climate and Cultural Evolution in Late Prehistoric-Early Historic West Asia," in M. Staubwasser and H. Weiss, eds., Holocene Climate and Cultural Evolution in Late Prehistoric-Early Historic West Asia. Quaternary Research (special issue) Volume 66, Issue 3 (November 2006), pp. 372-387.
  13. ^ [8] Ristvet, L. and H. Weiss 2005 "The Hābūr Region in the Late Third and Early Second Millennium B.C.," in Winfried Orthmann, ed., The History and Archaeology of Syria. Vol. 1. Saabrucken: Saarbrucken Verlag.
  14. ^ Harvey Weiss, Tell Leilan and Shubat Enlil, Mari, Annales de Recherches Interdisciplinaires, vol. 4, pp. 269-92, 1985
  15. ^ L. Ristvet, "Resettling Apum: Tribalism and Tribal States in the Tell Leilan Region, Syria.", In N. Laneri, P. Philzner and S. Valentini (eds.), Looking North: the Socioeconomic Dynamics of Northern Mesopotamian and Anatolian Regions during the Late Third and Early Second Millennium BC. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, pp.37-50, 2012
  16. ^ Eidem, Jesper. 2008. The Royal Archives from Tell Leilan: Old Babylonian Letters and Treaties from The Lower Town Palace. Yale Tell Leilan Research, Vol. 2. London and New Haven: Yale University Press.
  17. ^ Pulhan, Gül. 2000. On the Eve of the Dark Age: Qarni-Lim’s Palace at Tell Leilan. Ph.D. Dissertation, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Yale University, New Haven, CT
  18. ^ [9] Harvey Weiss, Excavations at Tell Leilan and the Origins of North Mesopotamian cities in the Third Millennium B.C., Paléorient, vol 9, iss. 2, pp. 39-52, 1983
  19. ^ Harvey Weiss et al., 1985 Excavations at Tell Leilan, Syria, American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 94, no. 4, pp. 529-581, 1990
  20. ^ [10] Weiss, Harvey, "Tell Leilan 1989: New Data for Mid-Third Millennium Urbanization and State Formation.", Mitteilungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft zu Berlin, vol. 122, pp. 193-218, 1990
  21. ^ [11] Claudine Adrienne Vincente, "The 1987 Tell Leilan Tablets Dated by the Limmu of Habil-kinu: Volume 1 and 2", AMI, 1992
  22. ^ [12] Van De Mieroop, Marc, "The Leilan Tablets 1991 a Preliminary Report", Orientalia, NOVA SERIES, vol. 63, no. 4, pp. 305-344, 1994
  23. ^ Jesper Eidem, with a contribution by Lauren Ristvet and Harvey Weiss: The Royal Archives from Tell Leilan. Old Babylonian Letters and Treaties from the Lower Town Palace East (PIHANS 117). The Netherlands Institute for the Near East, Leiden, 2011.
  24. ^ 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.

Further reading[edit]

  • Vincente, C.-A., "Tell Leilan Recension of the Sumerian King List.", NABU 1990, no. 11, pp. 8–9, 1990
  • [13] Weiss, Harvey, Sturt Manning, Lauren Ristvet, Lucia Mori, Mark Besonen, Andrew McCarthy, Philippe Quenet, Alexia Smith, Zainab Bahrani, "Tell Leilan Akkadian Imperialization, Collapse, and Short-Lived Reoccupation Defined by High-Resolution Radiocarbon Dating", in H. Weiss, ed., Seven Generations since the Fall of Akkad. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz., pp. 163–192, 2012
  • The Climate of Man — II: The curse of Akkad. Elizabeth Kolbert. The New Yorker. May 2, 2005.
  • van de Mieroop, Marc (1999). The Mesopotamian City. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-815286-8.
  • Akkermans, Peter M. M. G.; Schwartz, Glenn M. (2004). The Archaeology of Syria: From Complex Hunter-Gatherers to Early Urban Societies (c. 16,000-300 BC). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-79666-0.
  • [14] 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, vol. 45, pp. 59–74
  • Weiss, Harvey, ed., 2012, Seven Generations Since the Fall of Akkad. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz ISBN 9783447068239
  • [15] Harvey Weiss, "Rediscovering: Tell Leilan on the Habur Plains of Syria", The Biblical Archaeologist, ASOR, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 5–34 (Mar 1985)

External links[edit]