This site was excavated
by the Syrians in the 1960s, and more recently has received
restorative treatment by a team of Japanese experts.
It is most famous
for the extraordinary Aramaean temple, which crowns its acropolis.
The temple, dating from 1300 to 740 BC, is of tripartite plan, with
a surrounding magazine and set in a precinct. Although Hittite
elements are apparent in the decorative art, the actual building
plan itself is thoroughly Semitic and has been used as a model for
reconstructions of the conjectural Solomonic temple in Jerusalem.
The temple is
constructed of black basalt and white limestone, creating striking
contrasts. A frieze of basalt deities, lions and sphinxes runs
around the facade of the temple, though many have been defaced.
Guarding the temple are two huge basalt lions. The frequency of the
lion and the sphinx in the decorative repertoire has led to the
suggestion that the temple was a cult centre of the goddess Ishtar.
'Ain Dara is not
just a temple site. A significant city covers the lower tell, with
the citadel on which the temple is situated rising some 30 metres
above the plain. Occupation at the site both predates the temple and
continues after it (with a break in the Roman period) until the 14th
Temple at ĎAin Dara
temple is one of the best-preserved dating from the Late
Bronze and Iron Age in the Levant. The dramatic use of
contrasting white limestone and black basalt is an
aesthetic feature of long-standing tradition in the
region, and can be seen in the local architecture through
the ages, into the Islamic periods.