a well-watered and extremely fertile plain more than 1,400 sq km (868 sq. mi.) in area, bounded on the north by the Taurus Mountains and on the west by the Kızıldağ extension of the Amanus Mountains. To the northeast the Kürt Daği rises to the Anatolian plateau; on the east and south the hills of Jebel Sima'an and Jebel ῾Ala rise to the Aleppo plateau; and on the southwest, behind the ruins of Antioch on Orontes, rises Jebel Akra. The ῾Afrin and Kara Su Rivers flow into the ῾Amuq from the east, where they reach a marshy area around the Lake of Antioch. That point is north of a major bend in the Orontes River that flows for more than 644 km (400 mi.) from the south and makes a sharp bend there to the sea. Major connecting roads traverse the area and are well documented throughout history—from the Aleppo area and points south and east, to the coast along the course of the Orontes River. Connections to the Anatolian plateau and Cilicia are made possible through the Bailan Pass through the Amanus Mountains.

The ῾Amuq plain is dotted with numerous tells, a strategic selection of which have been investigated. Archaeological remains before the Neolithic period are not well documented at present, but a series of rich cultural sequences continues from that period to the present. The archaeological sequence has been blocked out in phases by the excavations of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago carried out between 1933 and 1937 at the important sites of Tell Ta῾yinat (36°15′ N, 36°22′30″ E) on the Orontes 2 km (1 mi.) northwest of Tell ῾Atchana and 20 km (12 mi.) east–northeast of Antioch (36°17′ N, 36°22′11″ E); Tell el-Judeideh; Çatal Höyük, Tell Dhahab, and Tell Kurdu. The excavators designated phases A–Q from the Neolithic through the Hellenistic periods. The ancient capital of Alalakh was excavated by a British expedition In 1937–1939 and 1946–1949 that highlighted the occupation of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages (within phases K–L of the Oriental Institute excavation sequence). [See Alalakh.] The British expedition also excavated at Tabara el-Akrad, Tell esh-Sheikh, and al-Mina on the Mediterranean coast. The classical periods were documented primarily through the efforts of the Princeton University excavations at Antioch. [See Antioch on Orontes.] Excavations farther south along the Orontes at Qarqur and at ῾Ain Dara῾ to the east on the Afrin have yielded by assemblages very closely related culturally to the ῾Amuq in the specific periods that have so far been investigated there. [See Qarqur, Tell; ῾Ain Dara῾.]

The Neolithic sequence in the ῾Amuq begins with the Pottery Neolithic. The flint inventory and such pottery as coarse simple wares; dark-faced burnished wares with incised, impressed, and washed variants; and brittle and other painted wares characterize the assemblage. It is further articulated by period-typical pendants and stamp seals, stone tools, and worked bone.

The sequence continues through the Halaf and Ubaid periods, again well documented by rich ceramic traditions. A tremendous variety of monochrome and bichrome painted wares, characteristic of these phases, represents strong local traditions as well as typical Halaf and Ubaid painted traditions. The latter have wide-ranging connections to well-documented cultures across northern Syria, into the Assyrian heartland, and reaching south into southern Mesopotamia. The long tradition of dark-faced burnished ware ended in phase E, at the end of the Ubaid period. Small finds include both chipped and ground-stone tools, in a decreased quantity from before, and includes a significant quantity of well-made stone bowls, as well as stamp seals, beads, and pendants.

New ceramic and stone-tool traditions are present in ῾Amuq phase F, and metal objects are present for the first time and in significant quantities. Flint tools characteristic of the Canaanean industry occur from phase F through phase H. Characteristic ceramic indicators of foreign connections are included among the rich local assemblage of the fourth millennium. The beveled-rim bowls, triangular-lug handles, bent spouts, and other distinctive features of the Late Uruk-Jemdet Nasr period in Mesopotamia are clearly represented in ῾Amuq phase F and continue to be present at the beginning of phase G. In phase G the variety of pottery increases, as cultural connections become broader. In addition to the Mesopotamian ceramic influences already mentioned, there are cylinder seals and reserved-slip wares. In addition to the local stamp seals, locally produced cylinder seats also show Mesopotamian influence. Similar definitive features are found in a Gerzean context in Egypt, including multiple-brush painted pottery, incised and impressed wares, and ‘Syrian bottles.’ Palestinian connections are demonstrated with platter forms, red-surfaced wares with simple and patterned burnished decorations, and comb-impressed surface treatment on hard, high-fired wares.

The third-millennium sequence is represented in exceptional detail. The plain simple wares of phases G–J, including a variety of cup or goblet forms, are established with basic similarities but some geographic variation over a broad area of northern Syria. Red-black burnished ware with connections to southeastern Turkey, also known as Khirbet Kerak ware, is well represented in phases G–I. In phase I, and particularly in phase J, a new, sophisticated painted tradition, characteristic of the end of the Early Bronze Age, is well represented. A good sampling of small finds was also excavated in these phases, ranging from beads, a variety of stone tools, metal implements, and terra-cotta figurines to surprisingly sophisticated human figurines from phase G that were cast in copper by a lost-wax process.

A drastic change occurred in the ῾Amuq at the beginning of the second millennium BCE with radical political and cultural shifts. The flourishing EB cultural tradition, well represented at Tell Ta῾yinat, ended, and the nearby site of Tell ῾Aṭchana rose to prominence. The ceramic traditions changed significantly at that time. Comb-incised decoration became the most commonly used, though beautiful pieces of painted “Cilician ware” jars, jugs, and bowls are present in limited quantity. Spectacular remains from the middle of the second millennium BCE were preserved at Tell ῾Aṭchana, the site of ancient Alalakh, capital of a region within the kingdom of Yamḫad that had its capital at Aleppo. [See Aleppo.] Palace complexes were excavated in levels VII and IV. The level VII palace dates to the end of the Middle Bronze, primarily to the eighteenth century BCE and is attributed to Yarimlim by C. Leonard Woolley (1955), the site's excavator. The level IV palace dates to early in the Late Bronze Age, primarily in the late fifteenth and early fourteenth centuries BCE, and was labeled the palace of Niqmepa by Woolley, (1955). Rich artistic remains were preserved in the palaces and associated temples, as well as significant archives of cuneiform tablets and the inscribed statue of the seated king Idrimi. This written documentation gives an insight into the history, diplomacy, trade, administrative structures, and many other details of the culture of the period. [See Alalakh Texts.]

The long, continuous sequence of temples was located adjacent to the palaces and not far from a major city gate that is best preserved in level VII and covered by a fortress in levels III–II. Interestingly, the architectural traditions represented in the temple plans changed radically in its rebuildings. Typical Syrian direct-access temples occur but others, including some that seem to have Anatolian inspiration, are also present.

International connections are also demonstrated in the decorated Nuzi and “῾Atchana” pottery found in levels IV–II and in the imported Mycenaean and Cypriot wares in the same time range and later. Also, imported Egyptian, Cretan, and Anatolian objects were found in these contexts. The well-built palaces once stood several stories high and were decorated with frescoes. Basalt or limestone orthostats faced the walls of major rooms and courtyards, and wood was heavily used in the construction. The half-timber construction in the level IV palace is particularly well documented.

When Alalakh was destroyed at the end of the Late Bronze Age, political power in the region shifted and again became established at nearby Ta῾yinat, as it had apparently shifted from Ta῾yinat to Alalakh earlier. The transition period in the twelfth–eleventh centuries BCE is not well represented at either site but is well documented at Tell el-Judeideh and Çatal Höyük. Aegean influence is very clear in the painted pottery of phase N, particularly in its very distinctive shapes and painted designs. There is some development within this pottery tradition down to the eleventh century BCE, but another tradition, characterized by red-washed and burnished pottery, became dominant in about 1000 BCE. That new tradition is also well documented to the south at Tell Qarqur and to the west at ῾Ain Dara῾. At Ta῾yinat it occurs through several phases of a citadel complex characterized by a series of typically Syrian ḫilani buildings and a small temple of direct-axis type but proportioned longer than wide. Luwian hieroglyphic and other inscriptions date the complex to the Neo-Assyrian period, continuing well beyond the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III. Eight- and seventh-century BCE Egyptian, Greek, and Cypriot pottery are better documented in the latest layers of this complex than earlier. In another area of the site a palatial Assyrian building of the seventh and sixth centuries BCE was excavated by the Oriental Institute expedition (Haines, 1971, pp. 61–63, pls. 84, 85, and 109) and “Assyrian palace ware” was among the ceramic materials found in its remains.

The British expedition to Alalakh also excavated a site on the coast that was considered to be the outlet to the sea for the ῾Amuq area in the Iron Age. This site, al-Mina, was occupied primarily from the mid-eighth century BCE until the beginning of the Hellenistic period, but also subsequently in the Byzantine and later periods. Iron Age storerooms at al-Mina contained quantities of imported Aegean and Cypriot wares that are also represented in the ῾Amuq, but not in the same quantities. As in the ῾Amuq, the sequence continues unbroken into the Hellenistic period.

The founding of the city of Antioch by Seleucus I In 300 BCE caused a major political shift in the area. As the city grew to become one of the most important in the ancient world, the ῾Amuq plain clearly shifted to a supporting but integral role in its success. The ῾Amuq plain was now known by a new designation, the plain of Antioch. The rich culture of the area relied on the newly constructed ports of Seleucia and Laodocia. Antioch was renowned for its beauty in antiquity, though its physical appearance was altered several times by major earthquakes. The Princeton Expedition to Antioch has provided a hint of the greatness of this center in the rich architectural and artistic remains that are part of the cultural materials that were uncovered (Downey, 1961). Antioch continued beyond the classical period as an important Byzantine and then Crusader city. Its fortunes only declined drastically after the destructions suffered at the hands of Muslim and Mongol forces in the thirteenth century.


  • Braidwood, Robert J., and Linda S. Braidwood. Excavations in the Plain of Antioch, vol. 1, The Earlier Assemblages, Phases A–J. Oriental Institute Publications, 61. Chicago, 1960. Major resource detailing the archaeological assemblages of the ῾Amuq from the Neolithic through the Early Bronze Age.
  • Downey, Glanville. A History of Antioch in Syria: From Seleucus to the Arab Conquest. Princeton, 1961. Excellent summary of the history of Antioch, reviewing the finds of the Princeton Archaeological Expedition in their historical context.
  • Haines, Richard C. Excavations in the Plain of Antioch, vol. 2, The Structural Remains of the Later Phases. Oriental Institute Publications, 95. Chicago, 1971. Final architectural study of the later phases excavated by the Oriental Institute.
  • Smith, Sidney. Alalakh and Chronology. London, 1940. Basic publication and commentary on the cuneiform texts found at Alalakh.
  • Woolley, C. Leonard. A Forgotten Kingdom. London, 1953. Interesting discussion of the excavations at Tell ῾Atchana, for a general audience. Must be used with caution because the chronological discussion for the period prior to 2000 BCE has been completely revised.
  • Woolley, C. Leonard. Alalakh: An Account of the Excavations at Tell Atchana in the Hatay, 1937–1949. Oxford, 1955. Major documentation of the archaeological materials and architecture excavated at Tell ῾Atchana, but also must be used with caution for the discussion of materials dated before 2000 BCE because the chronology has been completely revised.

Rudolph H. Dornemann