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Harran is a picturesque town of distinctive beehive shaped houses 44 kilometres south of Sanliurfa in southeast Turkey. Situated in the region watered by the series of new dams constructed under the major Southeast Anatolia Project, this historic town is today looking forward into the future rather than back into the past, and the atmosphere is lively. The fertile Harran Plain is abundant not only in grain but in archaeological sites. There are hundreds of ancient settlement mounds here, the most important of which is Harran Hoyuk, where finds have revealed that this site was inhabited without interruption from 5000 BC until the 13th century AD. Due to the town's position on roads linking Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean coast it was known in Sumerian and Akkadian as Harran-u, meaning journey or caravan. At the time of the kingdom of Babylon it was known as Uru-ki-kaskal-al Harran. The town also lay on the trade route between Assyria and Anatolia, and was a halting place for the Assyrian merchants who had close trading links with Anatolia. The   Ebla tablets discovered in northern Syria make   frequent mention of Harran, which is called   Ha-ran-an-ki, and provide valuable historic   information. Harran was a cult centre, and in   2000 BC was the second most important city after   Assur itself. One of the Mari tablets dating   from 1800 BC relates how, after a long period   of war, the Hittite king Suppillulima and Mitanian   king Mativaza signed a peace treaty in the name   of the moon god Sin and sun god Samas in the   temple of E-hul-hul (House of God) Sin dedicated   to the moon god in Harran. In the 6th century   BC, during the Late Assyrian period, Harran   briefly became capital before being conquered   by the Parthians, who called the city Carrhae   and ruled here until 54 BC. Monotheistic worship   originated in Harran during the time of Abraham, who lived in Harran for some years, and is said   to have married here. A temple was built in   his name in the city. Harran is also important in early Islamic history, since it was conquered by Omar in 640 AD. Under Arab rule Harran was a celebrated centre of learning, home to such famous scholars as the 9th century mathematician Sabit Bin Kurra, the physicist Cabir Ýbn-i Hayyan and astronomer Battani. Under the last Umayyad caliph Mervan II Harran became a capital city for the second time. Its golden age was under Eyyubid rule, when architecture, art and technology reached a zenith. After the city was razed by the Mongols in 1260, however, it never recovered its former importance. The ruins of ancient Harran attest to its former splendour. Among the monumental structures dating from various periods of history are the city walls, which are nearly four kilometres in length and five metres in height, city gates, and the keep, which is in a good state of preservation and consists of four structural layers, the earliest dating from the Hittite. On the north side of the settlement mound is the magnificent mediaeval Ulu Mosque, whose minaret is over 33 metres in height. There are six gates in the walls: the North Anatolia Gate, Lion Gate, Baghdad Gate, Mosul Gate, Rakka Gate and Aleppo Gate. Excavations, restoration and field surveys have been continuing here since 1983 under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, and the walls on either side of the Aleppo Gate have been completely uncovered. Archaeologists have also revealed the remains of an Islamic period city with adjoining rectangular plan houses whose rooms open onto courtyards. Tandir ovens, jars for storing grain and wells have been found in the houses, whose walls are built of brick or adobe over stone foundations. The floors are mainly laid with bricks fired at a high temperature, or sometimes of beaten adobe. This city possessed a sewerage system consisting of fired earthenware pipes. Basalt flour mill complexes worked by human power and dating from the Eyyubid period uncovered during excavations of the mound reveal how abundant the grain harvests must have been. Early finds include a bronze age terracotta figurine of a woman, an ancient Assyrian cylinder seal, cuneiform tablets dating from the  New Babylonian period referring to King Nabonid   and the Temple of Sin, and cuneiform offering   inscriptions belonging to the same temple. Eyyubid   period finds include glassware with coloured   figurative designs, a fragment of wood carved   with stylised motifs, coins, and pottery which   shows that this period was the heyday of ceramic   art in Harran. Harran's history is long and   complex, beginning with the Halaf, Ubeyd and   Uruk cultures, and followed by the Hittite,   Hurrian, Mitannian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Hellenic,   Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods. During   the latter Harran was ruled by the Umayyads,   Abbasids, Seljuks, Zengids and Eyyubids. Harran   Ulu Mosque is the oldest mosque in Turkey, built   by the Umayyad king Mervan II between 744 and   750. The oldest Islamic university was also   situated here. The fascinating artefacts excavated   at Harran can be seen at Urfa Museum.

Dr. Nurettin Yardimci is head of the archaeological   team carrying out excavations at Harran

Source: Skylife 01/2002

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