This article was first published in the October 2003 ABR Electronic Newsletter.
It will be part of a larger regional project conducted in tandem with the University of Chicago, which will be digging at nearby Tel Atchana (Alalakh).
Ta'yinat is located in the 'Amuq Plain approximately 25 miles east of Antioch (Antakya) among a cluster of ancient sites. It lies on the banks of the Orontes River near what was once an ancient lake that existed as late as the 1930s before being drained.
The site itself is comprised of an upper and lower mound and is the largest from the Iron Age in the area at 35 hectares (86 acres). The University of Chicago conducted large-scale excavations over four seasons between 1935 and 1938. Their activity was focused on the upper mound and revealed occupation during the third millennium followed by a long period of abandonment. The city later revived and reached its largest size in the Iron Age and was continuously inhabited from approximately 1200-500 B.C.
Three monumental buildings from three successive phases were exposed on the central area of the upper mound, one of which preserved a north Syrian bit hilani ground plan. The bit hilani is a palatial structure with a tripartite arrangement that featured three rooms aligned along a central axis. They have been found over a wide area of Anatolia, Syria, Mesopotamia and Israel. At Megiddo, building 1723, dating to the tenth century, follows the plan, and descriptions of the Solomonic Temple fit it as well. The Phoenician provenance of the design of the Temple in Jerusalem is indicated by 1 Kings 5:8. Later building phases included a megaron-style temple, a long, narrow building with a deep porch and large central room, and the appearance of a large building resembling an Assyrian provincial palace.
A large number of inscriptions were discovered in Akkadian, Aramaic, and most frequently in Neo-Hittite, or Luwian. One of these latter came from a colossal statue and bore the name of a Halpa-runta-a-s (a), probably one and the same as a King Qalparunda who paid tribute to the Assyrian King Shalmaneser III during the middle of the ninth century. This strengthens the identification of Ta'yinat as the ancient city of Kunulua, capital of the kingdom of Patina/Unqi. Incidentally, this was the same Assyrian monarch to whom Jehu, king of Israel (841-814 B.C.) paid tribute as depicted on the Black Obelisk.
Two other significant inscriptions correlate to two subsequent building phases. The first appeared on fragments of a small bowl. The Aramaic letters K-N-L-H form a close approximation to Kunulua. The third building period, associated with Assyrian occupation, is represented by a Neo-Assyrian dedication "for the life of Tiglath-pileser, King of Assyria," found on an ornamental copper disc.
In summary, there appear to be a succession of three cultural periods at Iron Age Ta'yinat consisting of Luwian, Aramaean, and Assyrian phases. The latter two were well known by the Israelites as they frequently clashed with the Northern Kingdom. Future excavations will no doubt provide more data on these Biblical peoples and their respective kingdoms and also reveal further parallels to Biblical architecture, especially to the much-maligned monarchy under David and Solomon.
Recommended Resources for Further Study
Dever, William G.
1990 Recent Archaeological Discoveries and Biblical Research. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
2001 Tell Ta'yinat and the Kingdom of Unqi. Pp. 115-32, in The World of the Aramaeans II; Studies in History and Archaeology in Honour of Paul-Eugene Dion, ed. P.M.M. Daviau, et al. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 325. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic.
1993 Megiddo. Pp. 1003-24 in New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land 3, ed. Ephraim Stern. New York: Simon and Schuster.