Tell Leilan
Tell Leilan is an archaeological site
Archaeological site
An archaeological site is a place in which evidence of past activity is preserved , and which has been, or may be, investigated using the discipline of archaeology and represents a part of the archaeological record.Beyond this, the definition and geographical extent of a 'site' can vary widely,...

 situated near the Wadi Jarrah in the Khabur River
Khabur River
The Khabur River , , , ) is the largest perennial tributary to the Euphrates in Syrian territory. Although the Khabur originates in Turkey, the karstic springs around Ra's al-'Ayn are the river's main source of water. Several important wadis join the Khabur north of Al-Hasakah, together creating...

 basin in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. 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
Shamshi-Adad I
Shamshi-Adad I Shamshi-Adad I Shamshi-Adad I (fl. late 18th century BC (short chronology) was an Assyrian king. He rose to prominence when he carved out an empire encompassing much of Mesopotamia, Syria and Asia Minor...

 and it became the capital of his state of 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
Sediment is naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently transported by the action of fluids such as wind, water, or ice, and/or by the force of gravity acting on the particle itself....

 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
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

 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) 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
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. A collection of her last poems was published by her husband, Robert Browning, shortly after her death.-Early life:Members...

" in the Akkadian language
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

. 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 (222.4 acre). Shubat-Enlil may have had a population of 20,000 people at its peak. The city prospered until the king Samsu-iluna
Samsu-iluna was the seventh king of the founding Amorite dynasty of Babylon, ruling from 1750 BC to 1712 BC middle chronology. He was the son and successor of Hammurabi by an unknown mother...

 of Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

 sacked it in 1726 BC. Shubat-Enlil was never reoccupied.


The mound of Tell Leilan is being excavated by a team of archaeologists from Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

. The excavation started in 1979 led by Harvey Weiss
Harvey Weiss
Harvey Weiss is an archaeologist, famous for the discovery of Tell Leilan, and who teaches at Yale University as well as directing the excavations and surveys at Tell Leilan, Syria, during the summers...

 and the study of the site and the region is continuing. Among many important discoveries at Tell Leilan is an archive of 1100 cuneiform
Cuneiform script
Cuneiform script )) is one of the earliest known forms of written expression. Emerging in Sumer around the 30th century BC, with predecessors reaching into the late 4th millennium , cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs...

 clay tablet
Clay tablet
In the Ancient Near East, clay tablets were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age....

s 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
Deir ez-Zor Museum
The Deir ez-Zor Museum is a museum devoted to the archaeology and history of northeastern Syria, an area more commonly known as the Jezirah, or Upper Mesopotamia. The museum is located in Deir ez-Zor, the capital of Deir ez-Zor Governorate, Syria. It was founded in 1974 and housed in a gallery of...


Further reading

  • The Climate of Man — II: The curse of Akkad. Elizabeth Kolbert. The New Yorker. May 2, 2005.
  • Marc van de Mieroop: The Mesopotamian City. Oxford University Press 1999. ISBN 0-19-815286-8
  • Peter M. M. G. Akkermans, Glenn M. Schwartz, The Archaeology of Syria: From Complex Hunter-Gatherers to Early Urban Societies (c.16,000-300 BC), Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-521-79666-0
  • 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.

External links

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