Ancient Syrian seals may have been incantations to ward off evil or as symbol of fertility

Pottery which appeared around 5500 B.C. spread with rapid growth into northern Mesopotamia and the plateau of Iran, and there, painted pottery which added color in the late Neolithic period, came to be made.  Especially in northern Syria, where , in particular  at Tell- Khalaf, an excellent style of pottery with its thin and fine body and bright colors was developed.

In the post Khalaf period, however, along with the development of production of pottery, the population density of the agricultural villages greatly increased.

When agriculture stabilized, people naturally expected to preserve their food for a long time. Therefore, they began to seal their food vessels with a stamp and later with a cylinder seal. These seals and designs used to imply some kind of incantation with a purpose to ward off evil spirits. Later, the use of these seals further developed and it began to indicate ownership and property. This development was the result of the stabilized state of agriculture and stock- breeding. In the Khalaf period, the population increased quickly and branch villages formed out of the mother- villages.

At that time, agriculture relied on rain, as the same situation remains  in northern Syria today, and food civilization spread  over a wider area. These mother and  branch villages did not operate separately, but formed a huge community and mother villages supplied products  to its branch villages. In  the pre-pottery period, ritual services, which were previously performed in private, began to be done in the village temple and the new cultivated crop was presented there to the gods.

These villages developed into cities with a temple as its nucleus. In this respect, the emergence of cities began in the late Neolithic era. Twenty years ago , upon doing  construction works at Thawra Dam in Tabaqqa, excavation was done by German, Belgian and Dutch teams. These archeologists unearthed a city constructed around a temple and surrounded by a rampart, as seen in the remains of Habuba Kabira  south Tell, Tell Cannas and Jabal Arud.

In Habuba Kabira on the banks of the Euphrates, which was excavated by a German team, clay pipes were found placed on one side of the road to draw up river water and to supply each house.  Habuba Kabira is located on the right bank of the middle reaches of the Euphrates, which is near Raqqa. When excavating for the construction of Thawra dam, research was immediately carried out by a German team from 1969 through 1975. The finds prove that it is the site of a small city ( including  18 hectares of town area),  built at the same time  as the second half of the Uruk period in Mesopotamia. Researches focused especially on discovering the original construction of the town.

However, many cylinder seals and impressions were unearthed in Habuba  Kabira which offer data suitable for studying the early cylinder seals of Syria. Most of the cylinder seals have Zoomorphic designs. Moreover, Tell Brak is a huge mount near the jaqjaq river which is a tributary of el- Khabour river running through northeastern Syria. The  Eye Temple in Tell Brak was constructed on a mound six meters in height. At the lower part of the mound, a layer  of grey bricks was found. This lawyer is thought to have been from the ruins of another temple which is older than the Eye Temple. It has been proved that this place  was a sacred area for a long period of time. Many stamps were unearthed in this layer.

Many of the figurines unearthed at the Eye Temple indicate that they were used as amulets and were discovered in great quantity at a corner  of the grey larger of the mound. They might have been returned to the temple after being used as votive objects. Grog-shaped figurines  were among  the most common ones found at Tell Brak. Form was considered a symbol of fertility and connected with rain. Compared to Mesopotamia which was an agricultural area that used irrigation water, Tell Brak, also an agricultural area, relied  on rainfall and has more from figures. It probably expresses a strong desire for rain.

The Eye Temple of Tell Brak consists of a main room with many other small rooms that run east to west. Similarities found in this temple and the temples excavated at Uruk and Eridu in Mesopotamia are: the temple layout, mosaic designs formed by clay on the walls, and the technique of building temples on a high mound constructed on top of older mounds as was the custom to rebuild sacred places  on the same spot.


Tomader Fateh