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Before 1600-1180 BCEBefore 1600-1180 BCE


Ancient World / Syria /
Ugarit




Ugarit

Ugarit
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Court of the royal palace in Ugarit.

Ugarit
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The surprisingly modest and narrow main gate to the city of Ugarit.

Ugarit

The modest remains of the Temple of Baal.

Ugarit
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Underground chamber.

Ancient city of western Syria Syrian, on the Mediterranean Sea. Its location corresponds to modern Ras Shamra, 16 km north of the city of Latakia, Syria.
Ugarit was never large nor very powerful, and its main fame today is related to its very important archaeological finds of cuneiform tablets.
The city was located about 1 km in from the coast, and covered an area of about 0,3 km². Its population around 1600 BCE has been estimated to between 6000 and 8000, making it a moderately sized town of this time.
Ugarit was a town of many official buildings and temples to deities like Baal and Dagan, together with a wide selection of libraries. Most important buildings were located around the walled off palace, a palace which also had its own direct gate directly out of town.
Thanks to the wide selection of cuneiform tablets, we know quite a bit on Ugarit — as an example, the estimate on inhabitants is derived from census information on such tablets. On the tablets of Ugarit there are recorded 4 languages (the local tongue Ugaritic, Akkadian, Sumerian and Hurrian), written in 7 different scripts. Ugarit was a Semitic language which in its earlier stages was written with 30 cuneiform signs, but by the 13th century BCE, 25 or 22 signs had become common. The Ugaritic writing is generally considered to be the world's oldest alphabet.
The tablets offer a unique example of Bronze Age literature. Texts include "Legend of Keret", "Legend of Danel", "Myth of Baal-Aliyan" and "Death of Baal" — all belonging to Old Canaanite mythology. For researchers of the Old Testament, Ugaritic texts have proven important, as they show that the old patriarchal stories of the Old Testament was based on written Canaanite documents.
Ugarit also offers its own art style, even if there are many examples of Egyptian influence. For the architecture, we see examples of Mycenaean influences, proving that Ugarit had a metropolitan culture.
What brought Ugarit down were destruction from the Sea People, probably together with earthquakes and famines.

History
Around 6500 BCE: Ugarit is first settled.
Around 1400: Ugarit becomes a vassal state under Egypt.
Around 1350: The vassal status is moved to the Hittites.
Around 1180: Ugarit is brought to an end, probably as a result of looting and destruction by the Sea People.
1929 CE: Excavations of Ugarit are begun under the direction of the French Claude F. A. Schaeffer.




By Tore Kjeilen