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New archeological discoveries in Amrit, and its Olympic stadium is the first in the world


Al-thawra newspaper 18/8/2005

The archeological city of Amrit is to the south of Tartous, about 7 km and now it is one of Tartous suburbs, a small river is going through it known as the Amrit river or the river of Martias, its area is about 6 square kilometers, and considered one of the most important cities of the Cannanite-phoenician coast.

The excavations prove that it was established and inhabited by the Amorites at the end of the third millennium B.C, and the beginning of the second millennium B.C.

It was under the rule of Arwad and formed with it an alliance that contained Paltos (Arab al mulk) , Palayna (Banyas)  , and Carna (al qarnien) , also it was an expansion to the Arwadians on the coast ,they established in it their houses, storerooms , factories and cemeteries as it was known from the spread ruins in its area, and the excavations refer that a port existed but was buried as a result of the sands and other materials which are gathered at firth of the stream.

Amrit was liberated from the control of the mother Arwad in 219 B.C .

Amrit lost its importance during the first Roman period, then it started to build its glory at the end of the Byzantine period, thats what the basic results of 1992 excavations showed, then it got neglected and crusaders started to use the stones of its structures to make immunizations to the cites of Tartous,Arwad and others.

The antiquities of Amrit exist in different museums of the world like: louver in France, in Lebanon in the museum of the American university and the Beirut museum, in Syria in Damascus national museum and in Tartous museum.

The immortals of Amrit:

1- The temple:
Which is a yard that was dig in the rocks and it has a hall and many pillars, also thresholds enhanced by balconies and between them there are gutters made in shape of lions heads in a Persian style. From them comes the water from the roof of the hall to the pool. In the middle of the building there is the main temple, which is enhanced by balconies and a curb of the Egyptian style that was built for the god Malkat, the one who cures from diseases.

The rove around the temple used to be in the hall, or by small boats in the pool around the temple.

The historian Lucian mentioned temple similar to this one in the city of Manbej (Herapolis), and in that temple were done a few excavations, in the result fictile pottery like Bergami dishes, enhanced jorums, sculptures, buttonholes of pots from Rodus , also pieces of glass , this temple is from the fifth of forth century B.C .

2- The hill of Amrit: one of the most famous hills in the Area, and considered the residency area, near it there are two springs one known as the drinking spring, and the other one is the spring of life.

3- The storeroom of the sacred things: its to the west of the temple nearby it, and it is a low hill known as the quarry. In it Mr. Morris Dennin in the year 1927 found a group of statues and parts of sculptured statues of limestone that were influenced by the Egyptian and Persian artalso the art of Cyprus.

4- The rock house: its known amongst the inhabitants as the church site, it is sculptured in the rocks, formed of three rooms and the limits between them are made from the same rock.

5- The stadium: it is about 300 meters from the north and eastern north of the temple, made of rocks and some of its parts are worn, even the eastern part of some of them was deleted in the shape of horseshoe that two paths pass through it to allow the contestants to get out and get in. also there is another path in the southern side in the shape of a tunnel.
The length of the stadium is 230 meters and the width of 30 meters. It has seven bleachers, it can hold 1200 people and it looks like the stadium of Alice city in Greece in its shape, but there are little differences in size, and the Amrit stadium is considered one of the most important Olympic stadiums in the ancient world, in which sportive games used to happen like (Running-bags-wagons races).

The Cemeteries

A- The spindles (Maghazel):
Which are giant memorials or tombstones which held the kings of Amrit and Arwad or their rich people and they come from sixth and fifth centuries B.C.

B-the cemeteries of Azar:
They are in the flat land between Amrit and Tartous on the western side of the road, they are covered under sand masses and they belong to the Phoenician, Roman and Greek periods.

New archeological discoveries

Considering the historical and archeological importance of the Amrit site, because its considered on of the most important sites on the Mediterranean Sea, which belong the ancient Phoenician periods. Amrit was registered as an archeological site for the first time according to ministry decision number 8 on 14/1/1959.
The decision contained the registration of the temple, the bleachers, the cemeteries and the excavations area, and prohibited building on this area about 10 square meters around each building, and building was prohibited absolutely in the excavations site on the real estate area.

C-Amrit was registered as an entire archeological site according the ministry decision number 149 / for the year 1988 and the decision determined the site of Amrit on a map that was attached to the registration and contained the temple, the stadium, the hill, the cemeteries, the spindles (Maghazel), an underground graveyard, the store room of sacred things, a graveyard with a cube looking stone, the Buzaq tower, and a house made of rocks.
The decision prohibited doing any changes or planting without the permission of the archeological authorities.

Then Amrit, the Azar cemeteries and the Bayada cemetery were registered according the decision 214/ of the year 2005.

In 1745 the explorer Pocol visited Amrit and wrote down some of what he saw, also Ernest Rennin came to it in the year 1860 and did archeological investigations, and in the year 1926 Morris Dennin did archeological searches in the storeroom of sacred things and found a few statues.

The general principalship of museums and archeology which was represented by Dr. Adnan al bunni and Dr.Nasib Salibi , always was doing excavations ,then the Tartous branch of archeology continued different search operations in all Amrit and Azar cemeteries where statues of marble were discovered representing the god Bakhos , also found an ancient Phoenician family graveyard digged in the rocks , inside it were found a group of wooden and fictile coffins with streamlined shapes and were well made ( showed now in Tartous museum) in addition to a group of Phoenician tombstones in the area of the Bayada cemetery to the east of Amrit. Also a very important communal graveyard was found in 2003 on the sides of the road Tartous- Tripoli , where an interesting group of tombs was discovered , consisting of three stone coffins and two half-statues in a good situation, and now it is showed in the museum of Tartous with other group of archeological discoveries.

Also an archeological floor was found with a single tomb in the Azar cemeteries, added to other important discoveries in the year 2004.

The archeological excavations of the year 2005:
The national expedition now is doing many excavations like the following:

A- The camp of Amrit section 5:
Where some architectural landmarks were found, and they are consisting of a channel made of stones leads to rectangle shaped pools also made of stones and covered by lime mud, these pools are for layering maybe they belong to an industrial structure for grapes, in addition to walls belonging to this structure and a fireplace.

Also a stone formation covered by lime mud, from outside it has a hole in cylinder shape in the ceiling. And it is being discovered and studied now.

A few walls belonging to another to residential structures were found in another part of the fifth sector. Adding to them a group of important troves like: bronze currencies, glass lachrymals, fictile pieces in large amounts, a fictile imprint and fictile lanterns, all of these were also found there, and most likely they belong to the Hellenistic period.

B- The area of Azar cemeteries:
A group of communal graveyards were found and each one of them has its own character, some of them were built of refined sand stones which is made of many gutters that sometimes reach 33 gutters, they are made of three floors and some times its possible to get in through a door that can be locked in a wonderful way and stairs that lead to a hall with gutters spread around it, and others are made as a hollow in the rocks and used as a cemetery.

A group of troves were found: fictile pieces, parts of fictile coffins and lead coffins with plant trappings, skeletons, leaves of gold, imprint of glass, medical equipment of bronze, parts of fictile and the excavations are still working to discover more about these cemeteries which most likely belong to the Roman period.

C- The temple and the stadium of Amrit:
They were cleaned of the intensive mass of grass which covered all the architectural signposts and the work is still going in all of the sites, where the needed amount till then was prepared and reached 1800000 S.P.

The university of Damascus made a camp for the archeology college in Amrit, where the students did some excavations, which till now they are still in progress by the intendance of the national excavations expedition, and the branch of archeology in Tartous.

The ministry of culture is holding in cooperation and coordination with Tartous governorate, an annual festival in the Amrit site in the period between 28 till 31 of this month. The festival was called (Amrit festival for culture and arts) its now in its second year.
Its purpose is to put Amrit in the spotlight and show its important antiquities and archeological sites, the events of the festival contain: poetry contest, heritage colloquiums, evening of literature, exhibitions of arts, theatre for adults and children, cinema and artistic shows for children, folkloric singing concerts, political colloquiums for the big Syrian and Arab thinkers, also folkloric exhibitions will be held in the old city where the culture of the ancient past will hug the glorious present and a literal from the governorate will be honored .

Ayda Ayub


(The following explanations are not part of the original text):

The following pictures and comments are for some of the archeological discoveries that were mentioned in the article, from the part the archeological excavations for the year 2005, the comments about the pictures are taken literally from the article.

"Rectangle shaped pools also made of stones and covered by lime , these pools are for layering maybe they belong to an industrial structure for grapes."

The fireplace al tanoor

Few walls belonging to this ground structure.

A stone formation covered by lime mud, from outside it has a hole in cylinder shape in the ceiling. and  it is being discovered and studied now. The local inhabitants call it the French safe, it has a story we will tell it later.


In Azar Cemetery

Others are made as a hollow in the rocks and used as a cemetery.

A family graveyard built of refined sand stones which is made of many gutters that sometimes reach 33 gutters they are made of three floors and some times its possible to get in through a door that can be locked in a wonderful way

Translated by: Anas Abbas