Ain Dara Temple - Syria before the war / by khaled akil

Feb 2011, © khaled akil

Feb 2011, © khaled akil

The Ain Dara temple, located near the village of Ain Dara, northwest of AleppoSyria,  is an Iron Age Syro-Hittite temple noted for its similarities to Solomon's Temple as described in the Hebrew Bible.

According to the excavator Ali Abu Assaf, it was in existence from 1300 BC until 740 BC and remained "basically the same" during the period of the Solomonic Temple's construction (1000 - 900 BC) as it had been before, so that it predates the Solomonic Temple.

 

Feb 2011, © khaled akil

Feb 2011, © khaled akil

The discovery of the temple was the result of a fortuitous finding of a colossal basalt lion in 1955. Excavations in 1956, 1962, and 1964 were conducted by Maurice Dunand and Feisal Seirafi; beginning in 1976, Ali Abu Assaf continued the work. He discovered the temple and inferred that it was built in three structural phases in the period from about 1300 BC to 740 BC. The first phase was from 1300 BC to 1000 BC, the second phase from 1000 BC to 900 BC, and third phase from 900 BC to 740 B.C.E. This was preceded by the Catholic  period during the fourth millennium BC the tell remained occupied until the Ottoman period  (1517 -1917).

Feb 2011, © khaled akil

Feb 2011, © khaled akil

A pair of large, bare footprints, each about 3 feet (0.91 m) in length, are carved into the stone floors of the portico, followed by a single footprint carved beyond the first two, and another single footprint carved into the threshold, “marking the deity’s procession into the cella”.It is also conjectured who? that these foot prints could be of unidentified "immense clawed creatures". The inference is that the right footprint seen on the threshold, which is spaced at about 30 feet (9.1 m) from the first footprint, could be of human or goddess, 65 feet (20 m) in height. It has also been noted that the deities in all the Ain Dara temple reliefs have "shoes with curled-up toes". Hence, the source of the footprints, whether of gods or humans or animals, is debatable.

Feb 2011, © khaled akil

Feb 2011, © khaled akil

A courtyard built with sandstones provides approach to the temple. The courtyard is paved with flagstones where a chalkstone basin for ceremonial purposes is seen. The temple, 98 by 65 ft (30 by 20 m) in size, faces southeast. Its exterior contains a cherubim relief. The entrance porch, or portico, marked by two basalt piers or pillars, and a wide hall, were not roofed over and were part of an open courtyard. The entrance pillars appear to have architectural and cultic significance. sphinx and two lions decorate the temple portico flanking the three steps (out of four) made in basalt.