Temple of the Storm God in the Citadel of Aleppo
The storm god is an ancient divinity that manifested itself in awe-inspiring thunderstorms and was important for agriculture. The god was venerated in many places in the Near East under different names, and the rock outcrop on which the Citadel of Aleppo was later founded presented an ideal location for a sanctuary. Lost under the Islamic settlement and forgotten over the centuries, it wasn’t until 1996 that excavations by Syrian and German archaeologists started to slowly uncover parts of the massive temple. The oldest remains of the structure date to the Early Bronze Age (3300-2200 B.C.). Among the most important finds of the excavation were Late Bronze Age reliefs carved out of basalt that depict various religious scenes. In one series, the storm god is shown climbing into a bull-drawn chariot, surrounded by an entourage of other divinities and mythical creatures. These reliefs have offered valuable information into the ancient religious traditions of the region. It is thought that elements of the worship of the storm god persisted into Late Antiquity, in the form of the worship of Zeus that followed the conquest of Syria by Alexander the Great.
How We Helped
After ten years of fieldwork, the excavation of the Temple of the Storm God was almost entirely complete. In June 2005 WMF helped organize a workshop on the long-term conservation of the temple. The participants eagerly discussed the issues arising from different options for the protection and presentation of the site. In addition to the archaeologists, they included members of Syria’s Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums and visiting experts representing various international institutions. Following the workshop, WMF helped the team of archaeologists implement the workshop’s recommendations for completing the excavation and is currently leading an effort to construct a shelter over the site of the temple. The shelter will protect the exposed ruins from exposure to the elements without the need to remove them to a museum. Guidelines for the design have already been developed following a phase of intensive study and consultation. In the meantime, WMF has provided assistance for emergency conservation of newly-exposed archaeological finds.
Why It Matters
Narrowly missed by a French archaeologist in the late 1920s, the Temple of the Storm God represents an exceptionally important archaeological discovery. By providing material evidence on Aleppo’s earliest known history it has allowed researchers to explore a previously unknown layer of the unique city, which was followed by continuous settlement in the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Zangid, Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Ottoman periods.