Settlements > Ugarit

Ugarit

Background

Ugarit was an ancient port located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It was an independent city-state which strong connections to the Hittites, as well as Egypt, Ugarit (/ˌuːɡəˈriːt, ˌjuː-/; Ugaritic: 𐎜𐎂𐎗𐎚, ʼUgart; Arabic: أوغاريت‎) was an ancient port city, the ruins of which are located at what is now called Ras Shamra (sometimes written "Ras Shamrah"; Arabic: رأس شمرة‎, literally "Cape Fennel"),[1] a headland in northern Syria. Ugarit had close connections to the Hittite Empire, sent tribute to Egypt at times, and maintained trade and diplomatic connections with Cyprus (then called Alashiya), documented in the archives recovered from the site and corroborated by Mycenaean and Cypriot pottery found there. The polity was at its height from ca. 1450 BC until 1200 BC. Ras Shamra lies on the Mediterranean coast, some 11 kilometres (7 mi) north of Latakia, near modern Burj al-Qasab. Neolithic Ugarit was important enough to be fortified with a wall early on, perhaps by 6000 BC, though the site is thought to have been inhabited earlier. Ugarit was important perhaps because it was both a port and at the entrance of the inland trade route to the Euphrates and Tigris lands.[citation needed] The city reached its heyday between 1800 and 1200 BC, when it ruled a trade-based coastal kingdom, trading with Egypt, Cyprus, the Aegean, Syria, the Hittites, and much of the eastern Mediterranean.[2] The first written evidence mentioning the city comes from the nearby city of Ebla, ca. 1800 BC. Ugarit passed into the sphere of influence of Egypt, which deeply influenced its art. Evidence of the earliest Ugaritic contact with Egypt (and the first exact dating of Ugaritic civilization) comes from a carnelian bead identified with the Middle Kingdom pharaoh Senusret I, 1971–1926 BC. A stela and a statuette from the Egyptian pharaohs Senusret III and Amenemhet III have also been found. However, it is unclear at what time these monuments were brought to Ugarit. Amarna letters from Ugarit ca. 1350 BC record one letter each from Ammittamru I, Niqmaddu II, and his queen.[citation needed] Boar rhyton, Mycenaean ceramic imported to Ugarit, 14th–13th century BC (Louvre) From the 16th to the 13th century BC, Ugarit remained in regular contact with Egypt and Alashiya (Cyprus).[citation needed] In the second millennium BC, Ugarit's population was Amorite, and the Ugaritic language probably has a direct Amoritic origin.[3] The kingdom of Ugarit may have controlled about 2,000 km2 on average.[3] During some of its history it would have been in close proximity to, if not directly within the Hittite Empire.[4]

Bronze Age Collapse

The last Bronze Age king of Ugarit, Ammurapi, (circa 1215 to 1180 BC) was a contemporary of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma II. The exact dates of his reign are unknown. However, a letter[5] by the king is preserved, in which Ammurapi stresses the seriousness of the crisis faced by many Near Eastern states from invasion by the advancing Sea Peoples. Ammurapi pleads for assistance from the king of Alasiya, highlighting the desperate situation Ugarit faced: My father, behold, the enemy's ships came (here); my cities(?) were burned, and they did evil things in my country. Does not my father know that all my troops and chariots(?) are in the Land of Hatti, and all my ships are in the Land of Lukka?...Thus, the country is abandoned to itself. May my father know it: the seven ships of the enemy that came here inflicted much damage upon us.[6] However, no help arrived, and the city was burned to the ground at the end of the Bronze Age. By excavating the highest levels of the city's ruins, archeologists can study various attributes of Ugaritic civilization just before their destruction, and compare artifacts with those of nearby cultures to help establish dates. Ugarit also contained a many caches of cuneiform tablets, actual libraries that contained a wealth of information. The destruction levels of the ruin contained Late Helladic IIIB pottery ware, but no LH IIIC (see Mycenaean period). Therefore, the date of the destruction of Ugarit is important for the dating of the LH IIIC phase in mainland Greece. Since an Egyptian sword bearing the name of pharaoh Merneptah was found in the destruction levels, 1190 BC was taken as the date for the beginning of the LH IIIC. A cuneiform tablet found in 1986 shows that Ugarit was destroyed after the death of Merneptah (1203 BC). It is generally agreed that Ugarit had already been destroyed by the 8th year of Ramesses III (1178 BC). Recent radiocarbon work indicates a destruction date between 1192 and 1190 BC.[7] Whether Ugarit was destroyed before or after Hattusa, the Hittite capital, is debated. The destruction was followed by a settlement hiatus. Many other Mediterranean cultures were deeply disordered just at the same time, apparently by invasions of the mysterious "Sea Peoples."

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