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Azar Cemeteries
 

 Azar Cemeteries are located in the level land between Tartous and Amrit, on the western side of the road under the sand dune. Dated back to the Phoenician and the Hellenistic periods Azar cemeteries are the cemeteries of Amrit and Arwad inhabitants and they were used in the Greek then the roman periods.

All the historic information about Azar cemeteries mentioned in this text are taken from the Syrian Archeological Annals folders issued by the Directorate of Antiques and Museums in Damascus.

Azar cemeteries are 5 kilometers, south of Tartous. 2 kilometers from the Ancient Amrit to the north. kilometers from the seaside. This is shown in (illustration no.1).

 

(illustration no.1)

No one knows the origin of the name Azar - of that area covered with sand dune 3-5 m range height.

Some spaces in the cemeteries are rich in pottery fragments.
The responsible people for constructing Tartous port were in need for sand since 1965 so they were taking it from that area. No one knew that there was a cemetery under the sand stretched along unlimited distance.

With the increase in moving the sand, new features of the cemeteries started to appear. It is widely believed that the cemeteries are related to Arwad island inhabitants facing this site. This idea has come because there is no sign of cemeteries in Arwad dated back to the same era of the mentioned cemetery according to the Archeologist Ernest Renan studies 1862.
 

A Brief overview about Azar Cemeteries:

 (Illustration no 3&4)

 The cemetery is composed of three kinds of tombs:
1- The single tombs with stony sepulchers.
2- The single tombs with clay coffin (tomb 2, tomb3).
3- The Family Tombs (tomb D).
4- Other tomb samples were excavated by the existing mission.

The Single Tombs:

The tomb is made of big sand stones. It can be found among other Tombs. A complete skeleton was found in one of them and it is now endanger due to using bulldozers to remove the rubbish (from the dump place that has been placed on that area).
 

Ilustraciones 3,4
 
The single Tombs with clay coffins:

Two near tombs were found. The corpse was put inside the coffin with gypsum layer. This thing cannot be found in other cemeteries like Om Horan, Homs, and Palmyra.

The Family Tombs:
The excavated Family Tombs are four up till now. The following illustration illustrates them vertically and horizontally.
 

Illustration (5&6)

 
They are composed of a stair carved in rock that leads to the vault, an internal hall square shape surrounding rooms that consist 2 floors, each floor consist of 11 tombs for putting the corpeses in wood or leaden ones. Some of abraded wood coffins have been found.
The vaults roof is made of carved stones with an archly shape.
Some of these roofs collapsed because of drifting the sand by bulldozers.
The main door is carved in square rock 107 cm/109 cm. The upper part of it is a kind of half-circle channeled shape connected by two halls at the upper part in order to receive the sling.
 
Illustration (6&7)
 
It is revealed that the vault which the leaden coffins found in, is dated back to the 5th century B.C.
The skeleton of the dead which is related to an old person was found in one of the Family Tombs inside an abraded wood coffin. At the beginning of the tomb there is a coned clay jar which has notched surface and high neck.

 
(Illustration no.8)
 
   Among the findings, there was a pedestal inscribed by 13 Greek lines. Professor Paul Ricoreh is specialized in Grecian writings and an expert in such a domain.
Professor Adnan AlBuni translated them into Arabic.
The text means (by a decision from the senate. This sculpture had been presented to the port of purple catchers who are habitants in the city as a kind of reward and trust.)

While the process of removing the sand, a marble medium undressed sculpture of Bacchus God has been found holding a long loose garment in his left hand with two pieces of grapes holding them to his chest. The sculpture is missing a head. It can be found in Tartous museum.
 
 

(Illustration no.9)
 
  
It is noteworthy to say that the findings in Azar cemetery are so important so that the sculpture (Bacchus god) and many local findings were shown in the exhibition halls in Damascus during the holding of the Classical Archeological Conference1969.

A general overview about the kinds of there findings:

(Rare iron metals, clay kettles of zigzag surface, coppered pots, golden leaflet and a golden pin)
They were found beside the dead in the burial ground.
These findings enabled us to know the various industries in the museums all over the world.
What attracts your attention is that these Family Tombs took a long effort and time for building because it was a kind of our habitant belief in their eternal civilization and that it is the way to the eternal life.

We are still aiming at eternity in spite of the different ways of believes, while their blood following in ours.
We are still building the stones of our new civilization above our ancient one.
What was happened to our Phoenician ancestors- (in the Hellenistic period) many years ago in Azar cemetery is an honor that could not be found in the world.
Our ancestors who gave their civilization and alphabet to the whole world, discovered the sea navigation ways, and contributed in building the Syrian civilization, but rubbish now are covering their tombs and bones under the ground.

Nowadays, after stopping the aforementioned dump place, bulldozers are collecting the rubbish and removing them in order to reactive the site. There were many destroying features of the cemetery in a brutal way that the parts of the tomb and the crashed clay jar were found here and there above the archaeological hill.
We kindly ask for saving this site under the supervision of the Directorate of Antiques and Museums because of the importance of the historical cemeteries that have a unique geometrical touch. These cemeteries are suffering from robbery and violations.

Let us keep our civilization and save these Family Tombs.
If we damage one aspect of this civilization, this means that we are damaging all of it.

We captured the following photos from our visit to Azar cemeteries. They are self speaking photos.
 
 
A single archaeological tomb surrounded by the dump place.

An archeological pedestal surrounded by rubbish.

The traditional Phoenician jar. Bulldozers broke it during the expanding of the dump place.

 
 

The archeological hill which is suffering from drifting and damaging in order to put rubbish in it (the upper small hall is the remains of the jar in the previous picture).

Concerning the importance of Amrit and its unique cemeteries -Azar), we (a group of young people who are interested in the civilization of the homeland) made a study about Amrit city and its cemeteries. We started with one of the important places (Azar cemeteries) which are suffering from negligence and robbery.
They are located 2 km to the north of Amrit. They are the cemeteries of Amrit and Arwad habitants. They go back to the Roman, Hellenistic, and Phoenician period and include single and double familial cemeteries.

 
A part of a Family Tomb. The national excavation mission is working now in it.

Family tomb composed of three layers

Many archeological excavation workshops are working now in Azar under the supervision of the national excavation mission. We are trying and doing our best to give them all support. In spite of all difficulties which are facing this mission especially the lack of security and equipments, it is still continuing its work motivated by its national sense supported by families and societies of Tatous.

 

Translated by: Majd Kara