Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Ebla in the Third Millennium b.c.

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In 1964, Italian archaeologists began to excavate a mound in northwestern Syria known as Tell Mardikh. From 1975, work concentrated on an area they called "G." Here was discovered a palace dating to the second half of the third millennium B.C. Thousands of well-preserved cuneiform tablets were found in palace G demonstrating Ebla's close links to southern Mesopotamia, where the script had developed. In one of the palace rooms, over 14,000 tablets were excavated. The larger tablets had originally been stored on shelves but had fallen onto the floor when the palace was destroyed. The find spots of the tablets allowed the excavators to reconstruct their original position: they were stored by subject. The Ebla tablets record the cultural, economic, and political life of northern Syria. The majority of the tablets are inscribed in the local Semitic language, known today as Eblaite. Other artifacts provide evidence of Ebla's close relationship with the Mediterranean world and Egypt. Exquisite sculpture in the round was recovered. Composite statues had been created from different colored stones. Much of the artistic style preempts, and possibly influences, the quality work of the following Akkadian empire (ca. 2350–2150 B.C.). The sculpture and the royal archive were preserved by chance when Ebla was attacked and the palace contents were buried under the building's rubble. Sargon and Naram-Sin of Akkad, the conquerors of much of Mesopotamia, each claim to have destroyed Ebla, but the exact date of destruction is the subject of continuing debate.


The sculpture and the royal archive were preserved by chance when Ebla was attacked and the palace contents were buried under the building's rubble.

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  • A view of the acropolis at Ebla.

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Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A view of the acropolis at Ebla.