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Carchemish

Carchemish was strategically located on an important crossing of the Euphrates for caravans engaged in Syrian, Mesopotamian, and Anatolian trade. It was first occupied in the Neolithic period, and pottery finds date back to ca. 3000 BCE. Tombs at Carchemish date back as far as the end of the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2300 BCE).

The first written mention of Carchemish comes from the Mari letters, from the royal archives of Mari, ca. 1800 BCE (contemporary with the Twelfth Dynasty). At that time Carchemish was ruled by a king named Aplahanda and was a center for the timber trade, perhaps engaged in shipping timber from Anatolia down the Euphrates. In the Eighteenth Dynasty, Thutmose I erected a stela near Carchemish, celebrating his victorious campaign into Syria and across the Euphrates. Around the end of the reign of Akhenaten, the Hittite king Suppiluliumas captured Carchemish and established his son Piyassilis (also called Shar-Kushukh) as its king. When the Hittite empire fell to the Sea Peoples, Carchemish probably went with it. In 717 BCE it went to Sargon II of Assyria, and in 605 BCE an important battle was fought there by the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzer II when he expelled the Egyptians from Syria.

The city had thick double walls defending it, with towers and gates. On the citadel were orthostates, or stone slabs set at the bottom of mud-brick walls, that were carved in the eclectic style peculiar to northern Syria. Elements of Assyrian art, possibly brought by Hurrians from northern Syria, were also found at Carchemish.

The patron goddess of Carchemish was Kubaba. She played a minor role in Hittite religious texts, appearing mainly in the context of Hurrian gods and ceremonies. She was represented as a dignified woman wearing a long robe, standing or seated, and holding a mirror. Her name, but none of her other aspects, was later adopted by the Phrygians for their mother-goddess Cybebe (Cybele).

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