Saturday, March 03, 2007

Best of Blog (4): 'Ain Dara Temple

In my July 18 blog entry, I mentioned my student Laura F.'s visit to the Middle East last summer. Here are a few of the photographs that she took of the ancient temple at 'Ain Dara. 'Ain Dara was a city-state of NW Syria, part of a broader "Neo-Hittite" cultural area that stretched from SE Turkey to Damascus. The site is located northwest of Aleppo and the temple dates from the 10th to the 8th century B.C.E. Laura's pictures were of special interest to me, since I had used the temple and its iconography as evidence when I was working on Ezekiel's Hierarchical World.

At the extraordinary temple complex, rows of monstrous lions and sphinxes guard both the entrances and the holy of holies. You can see some of them here at the temple's front right. Processions of animals and some dignitaries formed a sculptural band around the exterior walls of the temple and the platform upon which it stood. Hittite conventions and themes are strongly evident in dress, proportions, and surface finish, particularly in the earliest sculptures. Local influence is, however, also clear in the animal bodies, the treatment of the heads, and the stances of the figures.

Ein Dara Temple

Meter-long footprints of the god were carved on the floor between the portico columns and on the door sills. The religious thinking here was obviously rather anthropomorphic. (The god was human in form, but gigantic in size.) Laura uses her foot as a point of comparison for the size of the prints carved into the stone. Interestingly, there are the remains of two columns on the sides of this stone slab, which supported the portico. These seem to parallel the two columns at the front of the first ("Solomonic") temple in Jerusalem. In fact, the 'Ain Dara temple as a whole is quite illuminating of the Jerusalem temple, being of roughly the same architectural plan, although somewhat larger.


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