Qarqar (Karkar)

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Qarqar is the name of an ancient town in northwestern Syria, known from Neo-Assyrian sources. It was the site of one of the most important battles of the ancient world, the battle of Qarqar, fought in 853 BC when the army of Assyria, led by king Shalmaneser III, encountered an allied force comprising military units from 11 local kingdoms. The leaders of this ad hoc alliance were Hadadezer (Ben Hadad) of Damascus and King Ahab of Israel. Shalmaneser's Assyrian forces had been victorious over Iruleni, the King of Hamath. However, a coalition of Phoenicians and Syrians with Israel was waiting for Shalmaneser when he advanced south, leading to a second battle at Qarqar itself.

The best historical source regarding the battle and the town of Qarqar is The Kurkh Monolith, erected by Shalmaneser. The text lists the kings he fought, the number of soldiers and chariots each of these kings supplied, and describes the battle itself. It is interesting to note that the monolith states that Shalmaneser fought an alliance of 12 kings, but lists only 11. Numerous other scribal errors have been noted on the monolith.


The ancient town of Qarqar has generally been associated with the archaeological site of Tell Qarqur, located in the Orontes River Valley of western Syria. This has been the site of an ongoing, American Schools of Oriental Research sponsored excavation since 1993. To date, the excavations have unearthed materials dating to many periods of the site's long occupational...
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