Archeological site of Sam'al
|Location||Zincirli Höyük, Gaziantep Province, Turkey|
Sam'al (Zincirli Höyük) was founded at least as far back as the Early Bronze Age. It was largely abandoned during the Hittite and Mittani periods then flourished again in the Iron Age, initially under Luwian speaking Neo-Hittites, and by the 920 BC BC had become a kingdom. In the 9th and 8th century BC it came under control of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and by the 7th century BC it had become a directly ruled Assyrian province. It is located in the Anti-Taurus Mountains of modern Turkey's Gaziantep Province.
The site of Sam'al was occupied in the Early Bronze Age, and is thought to be part of the kingdom of Yamhad (Aleppo) early in the second millennium. It was then abandoned but later rose again in the Iron Age, eventually becoming a kingdom. With the rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Sam'al became a vassal state and later a province of that empire.
Kingdom of Sam'al
|1200 BC–609 BC|
Kingdom of Sam'al (in Aramaic Ya'udi) was a middle power of the Middle-East in the first half of the 1st millennium BCE. It was near the Nur Mountains. Sam'al was the capital of the country. Royal steles and stone tablets from the period, of Kilamuva and Panamuva II, are the main sources for historical data about this timeperiod.
It became a middle power at the end of the 10th century BCE. It had expanded from being a city state and gained territories from Carchemish, around Adana from Quwê and remained independent. It didn't become part of Cilicia. In 859 BC Alimus was saved with the help of Hayyanu, king of Sam'al. He didn't participate in the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC, but Assyria had been blocked in the Western area. Though the campaign of Assyria in 825 BC occupied the vital territories of Sam'al, Quwê had been defeated, but it had been reorganised as Denyen. After the death of Shalmaneser III, Ya'udi again became independent.
Some rulers of Sam'al had aggressive expansionist politics; others acceded to one of the anti-Assyrian Syrian coalition. Assyrian sources are not clear regarding Sam'al. Ya'udi was one of Assyria's satellite states in the annals of Shalmaneser III. Though around 830 BC Azitawadda, king of Denyen, states Ya'udi is his satellite country – at the same time, Kilamuwa mentions on his stela that he hired Assyria against Denyen. Other sources from the same period mention Ya'udi as a satellite state of Denyen and Assyria wanted to occupy this territory. Kilamuva might offer for Deyen to be a satellite state. Before this, he should defeat his greatest foe, Azitawadda. Assyrians won over Denyen and Sam'al in 825 BC. Sam'al became independent after the death of Shalmaneser III.
There is an alternative opinion which states that Ya'udi and Sam'al were originally separate royal houses and Sam'al, the younger of the two, fought against the Assyrians at Alimus in 859 BC, in 858 BC when Shalmanser III crossed the Euphrates for the first time, and again in 853 BC at the Battle of Qarqar. The Kingdom of Sam'al was founded by Hayyanu and his successor was Ahabbu of Siri'laya (Zincirli) in 854 BC. Whereas Gabar, the founder of Ya'udi, and his successors became a member of the Assyrian satellites. This makes clear why Shalmaneser III lists Ya'udi (Bit-Gabbari) but not Sam'al as a satellite state. The Kingdom of Ya'udi wanted to open a corridor between Assyria and Denyen. It was prevented by the unified Syrian forces. This unity had been dissolved in 825 BC. After the death of Shalmanezer III Denyen couldn't occupy it but the Samalians could. Sam'al annexed Ya'udi and moved into the palace of Kilamuva.
At the end, in 717 BC, Assyria occupied the country under the rule of Sargon II.
The site was excavated in 1888, 1890, 1891, 1894 and 1902 during expeditions led by Felix von Luschan and Robert Koldewey. Each of the expeditions was supported by the German Orient Committee, except for the fourth (1894), which was financed with monies from the Rudolf-Virchow-Stiftung and private donors.
They found a heavily fortified teardrop-shaped citadel, which was surrounded by the as yet unexcavated town and a further enormous double fortification wall with three gates and 100 bastions. Among the notable objects found at the site are five giant statues of lions carved from stone, which apparently had guarded the gates of the city, but may have been ritually buried together within the citadel. The German excavations on the citadel recovered large numbers of relief-carved orthostats, along with inscriptions in Aramaic, Phoenician, and Akkadian. These are on exhibit in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, and Istanbul. Also found was the notable Victory stele of Esarhaddon celebrating his victory over Taharqa. The field diaries of the excavation were lost during World War II.
In August 2006, the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago began a new long-term excavation project at the site of Zincirli under the directorship of David Schloen. Seven seasons of excavation have been conducted through 2012. 
Three royal inscriptions from Ya'udi or Sam'al are particularly informative for the history of the area. The earliest is from the reign of King Panammu I, the others later at 730 BCE. The dialectical peculiarities of these royal inscriptions from Sam'al (Ya'udi) have led to some scholars including P.-E. Dion. and S. Moscati advancing "Samalian" or "Ya'udic" as a distinct variety of Old Aramaic.
Kuttamuwa was an 8th-century BC royal official from Sam'al who ordered an inscribed stele, that was to be erected upon his death. The inscription requested that his mourners commemorate his life and his afterlife with feasts "for my soul that is in this stele." It is one of the earliest references in a Near East culture to a soul as a separate entity from the body. The 800-pound basalt stele is three feet tall and two feet wide.
In a mountainous kingdom in what is now southeastern Turkey, there lived in the 8th century BC. a royal official, Kuttamuwa, who oversaw the completion of an inscribed stone monument, or stele, to be erected upon his death. The words instructed mourners to commemorate his life and afterlife with feasts "for my soul that is in this stele."
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