An early state in Syria and its landscape

P r o j e c t .

The case of Ebla

Ebla is certainly one of the most favourable ones for enhancing our understanding of mechanisms of functioning of an early state. At this site in northern Syria, the discovery in 1975 of royal archives consisting of 17.000 cuneiform tablets dating to c. 2300 BC has supplied the scientific community with an invaluable mass of documents dealing with all aspects of state organization. Considerable progresses during the past two decades have been made at Ebla in seriating material culture assemblages, in interpreting the rich evidence retrieved for ancient visual communication and in exposing (until 2010) the urban structure of that period.

EblaChora project

An opportunity to test theories and models about the rise and structure of the early state by expanding the level of analysis to the landscape around a gateway site has been envisaged within the Ebla Chora Project (ECP, which was funded by an ERC Advanced Grant), with the aim of building a multi-tier explanatory pattern which can be applied to, or utilized for, other early foci of urbanization in the Near East or elsewhere. Since the 1960s onwards, a series of surface surveys has provided a basis for a detailed study of the landscape around Ebla and this has now been coupled with sophisticated remote sensing analyses (also using historical maps and aerial imagery of an environment which has since significantly changed).

The website

The current website – actually a work in progress – presents in a scientifically complete fashion the elaborations and studies carried out for characterizing the chora of ancient Ebla, supplying the scholarly community with an elaborate tool of unprecedented precision. We will continue updating the website,branching from the OrientGIS project, not only with new layers but also through galleries of images and other data useful for the characterization of the 3rd millennium BC landscape in the Ebla region.






We at the ECP believe in open access and sharing of scientific information: this website is about calling for a cooperation among scholars to explore and visualize our models on a historical landscape for which we do possess significant textual and archaeological data for a thin time-slice, i.e. that around 2300 BC. We do believe in networked science, in contrasting our differing views on the past with the aim of refining our understanding of social and economic processes. Engagement means believing in the value of digital outputs, of sharing ideas, of open discussions: for this reason, we are looking forward to cooperating with all scholars willing to confer – with due credit – their own materials and elaborations on the Eblaite chora to this website so that it becomes an open forum and a place in which experimenting different methodological approaches for the study of man-environment interaction (in an area where furthermore access on the field is barren by current tragic political situation).

OrientGIS map.


C r e d i t s .

The Ebla Chora Project (ECP) has been funded by an ERC Advanced Grant 2010-2014 (Grant Agreement no. 249394), with Paolo Matthiae of Sapienza University of Rome as the Principal Investigator of the ECP, and Nicolò Marchetti of the Alma Mater Studiorum-University of Bologna as the Beneficiary responsible for landscape studies.

The materials presented in this research website can be freely used respecting their licencing agreement (all our original elaborations are the copyleft of the Ebla Chora Project). All individual and corporate credits are listed under each image, with – where of interest – some technical explanations attached too. The cartographic materials are archival holdings of the Ebla Expedition at Sapienza University of Rome and have been georeferenced by the ECP team.

Satellite imagery has been downloaded or purchased and then elaborated or modified by the team of the DICAM Department in Bologna, led by Gabriele Bitelli with Emanuele Mandanici and Valentina Girelli. Simone Mantellini has been invaluable in designing the GIS shapefiles for the distribution of sites within the chora and in handling survey data.

This website has been conceived by Nicolò Marchetti (Scientific Editor), with Stefano Bassetto (Web Engineer) setting up the PostgreSQL and GeoNode server for the webgis and Valentina Orrù (Webmaster) designing in WordPress the home page, editing and managing the EblaChora webgis.

B i b l i o g r a p h y.


P. Matthiae – N. Marchetti (eds.) 2013 Ebla and its Landscape. Early State Formation in the Ancient Near East, Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek CA (now Routledge). [link]