A series of four campaigns in fourteen month were undertook by archeologist Pierre Mounted in Byblos. These excavations were continued by his fellow colleague in 1926 archeologist Maurice Dunand who stayed working on the site of Byblos till the 1950s. The excavations of Monsieur Montet revealed a very ancient Phoenician Royal Necropolis.
The excavation of the archaeological site of Byblos, which lasted for forty-three years, on about five and a half hectares, was total and the whole site has been excavated to the virgin soil. Due to the method of excavation used the evolution was slow since, for example, it took three years from the moment when a tip of an obelisk appeared to the time it was moved. It has been considered that there are no sterile layers because everything is considered human contribution and has its interest. There was a necessity to preserve to the maximum the information that the searches revealed. It has been avoided the exploration of the site by destroying it. Thirty-six strata have been recognized by some at the site of Byblos. We have now a remarkable amount of information on the various architectural states, accompanied by numerous observations on the characteristics of each masonry wall.
The survey of the structures were done by scrapping the site with horizontal layers of 20 cm thick called a levies (5 per meter) allowing an identical reconstruction of the entire strata of the site. The excavation is made in parallel strips. A grid of 50m by 50m is made of the whole site and a different color is attributed to each of the 5 levies. These squares are subdivided into 25 other squares. Then excavating in concentric circles like peeling an onion as the comparison was made, and stacking back the slices to reconstitute the bulb. Each lifted stones located at the same level is drawn, those not in a structure were eliminated. A built structure wasn’t dismantled before its deepest stone was reached. The walls were only disassembled and rebuilt elsewhere once the excavation reached the bottom of the foundations. This method preserves the memory of the architectural structures encountered. It solves the difficulty raised by the fact that the landscape is too hilly and was covered several times with alluvial deposits between one civilization and another and the walls of different eras were too entangled. The multiple archaeological strata are not horizontal and the thickness of the strata varies much from one location to another. Walls of some era were serving as foundations for another one. The foundations often perforate the floors of an earlier installation. A confusion is made between the notions of level, stratum and layer. A level is a horizontal plane. The stratum including vestiges from the same era is most often undulating and of varying thickness. This method has been called also of thin leaves.
Pierre Montet describing the temple of Baalat Gebal made the distinction between the two parts of the temple. The first part the so-called Egyptian temple called, also called the temple of the colossi, and the so-called Phoenician temple. The alignments of the facades of the two parts of the temple are strictly perpendicular. The large door of the Baalat Gebal temple as on the Macrin's coinage of Byblos is to be placed on the north face of the temple the colossi perpendicular to the alignment of the Roman Collonade. When one enters the building from the east and walks through it, one emerges into the great courtyard between the two temples and in front of him he finds the altar, as perhaps what Benjamin of Tuleda saw in his account of his trip to Syria. The convoy that passes through this entrance moving from east to west would be that of the king and the priests, not of the crowd of the faithful, those had only access to the large courtyard through the door on the north side. The Corinthian colonnade which is on top of the necropolis is parallel to the line of the colossi and therefore perpendicular to the north side of the temple. The axis which passes between the two columns of the north face door and through the Egyptian temple into the courtyard is parallel to the line of the Roman Colonnade . We put in one group, the colossi, the various constructions stretching behind them, the basin in front and the stone block in the extension of the roman colonnade. And in a second group, the two column bases of the north face entrance door. the pavements with steps and the square pedestal, and finally the door of the ureus. All these elements of the second group are approximately in the same horizontal plane and are built on the same axis parallel to the line ind Roman Colonnade and parallel to the face of the collosi, all those mentioned are part of the Egyptian temple. The second group remained in use until Roman times. The vast paved esplanade was originally supposed to connect the two sanctuaries the Egyptian Temple and the Phoenician Temple. This pavement is a very precise chronological demarcation between the Old and Middle Kingdoms of Egypt.
Reconstruction of the Temple of Baalat Gebal of Byblos in 3D with its different phases through time
The most important temple in Byblos is the temple of Baalat-Gebal (3000 b.c) or the Lady of Byblos. The Goddess Baalat-Gebal with the sun disc on the head was represented on cylindrical seals found in Byblos and in Egypt. Fragments of alabaster jars with hieroglyphic inscription from the Pharaohs of Egypt were found in the excavation of the temple. Also objects related to this period were found in the temple and its vicinity, buried in sealed jars sometimes. Such of these objects are gold bead, birds figurines, small apes statuettes, inscriptions from the pharaohs of the second dynasty and others dynasties, jewelries, bronze artifacts and bronze scissor, human and animal figures, painted pottery. The buried sealed jars, called " Montet jars", upon the french archaeologist Pierre Montet, contained seals amulets, scarabs, cylindrical seals, pendants, bronze ornaments, over forty bronze and silver and other objects. Found were thirty six inscription bearing the named of the Paraohs of the sixth dynasty to honor Baalat-Gebal.
An Inscription found written with ink telling of the works undertook by King Yehawmelek of Byblos consisting of a ledger of a Phoenician temple explisiting the expenditures to builders, decorators, and wages paid to officers of the temple.
On an inscription of the 5th century b.c in phoenician, L is for divinity designating a single divinity, LM is followed by Astrate in the form BBT LM STRT rabbat in the house of the goddess L Astrate. We find also the syntax RBT GBL Lady of Byblos.
An inscription on a scarab dedicated to the goddess Astrate the Lady of Goubal or Gebal (meaning Byblos) mentions the granted favor of the goddess to her people.
Since the ancient empire the Egyptian Goddess Hathor has been identified with the goddess of Byblos. This assimilation will be less clear in the eleventh century. Isis will succeed Hathor in the Egyptian version of the Lady of Byblos. Astrate was associated with the idea of good.
Presence of an orientation pattern in temples dedicated to Astarte in Phoenician territories. The temple of Baalat Gebal follow a sun-rising or moon-rising orientation. One of eventual explanation of these orientations is that Venus shows always on the west and guide them in their journey in the sea. Astarte was the Phoenician goddess of nature, life and fertility. She had the title of Queen of the Heavens. Most of these temples have a long axis indicated by the entrance, show an east-west pattern, facing the east and back to the west. The temple Baalat-Gebal in Byblos has axe east-west from the main entrance to the east and a back entrance to the west or the sea.
The ruins of the Phoenician temple of Baalat Gebal in Byblos were unveiled over a length of 45 meters in the direction NS-NW and on an average width of 10 to 15 meters. This part of the ruins is located exactly south about 50 meters from the Crusader Castle on the south-east and less than 100 meters from the current shoreline of the sea. The masonry of the temple is of scarcely trimmed blocks with no bed-drawing.
The coin of the Emperor Macrin represents the temple of Baalat-Gebal . This is the only graphic representation we have of this temple. The temple is shown here as made of two distinct parts leaning against each other. The entrance, opens on one of the short sides. The great forecourt, which comes after the entrance, occupies the whole interior of the enclosure. The representation shows one of its walls built in blocks with large slit bosses. The whole stands on a platform. A stairway finally occupies the entire width of the facade.
The forecourt ,the largest open space we see today is witnessed on three sides: East, North and West. Then we see the main square. The location of place of worship, since all religious material were discovered there, indicate that it was in the middle of the square.
The temples had festivals corresponding to the changes of the seasons. They worshiped the energy shown by nature in destroying and reproducing life. It was a place for festivities. For instance dancing and singing formed one of the chief characteristics of worship. The air was full of perfume, and sounds of falling water and music.
The foundations of the L-Shaped Temple date back to early 3rd millenium BCE and was one of the longest lasting active religious sites at Byblos and was probably also dedicated to Baallat Gebal. The complex was composed of a sacred precinct, a forecourt, and two auxiliary sections to the northeast and west which may have been used as an accommodation for the priests or as ceremonial spaces. The precinct was the core of the complex, square in form with three chapels in the center. Two enormous obelisks were erected in the L-shaped Temple. The use of obelisks, or betyls, was in practice in Mesopotamia then (where they are known as massebot), but it may also have come from Pharaonic Egypt. Later in around 1900BCE the Temple of the Obelisks was built on top of the "L" shaped Temple.
In the main courtyard of the Temple en L raises a "Betyle" (stone representing the God) and is a characteristic practice of the pre-classical Levantine places of worship. The presence of betili / obelisks will become characteristic in Byblos.
The four terracotta basins inserted in the stone counter in the court of the north-eastern unit of the complex was common practice to perform liturgical and ritual actions in which liquids had a central function in the form of purifying ablutions or sacred libations.
The Temple in L built with antis typology and was an architectural tradition widely adopted in the Lebanese religious architecture around the middle of the 3rd millennium BC.
The temple of the Obelisks is dedicated to the Reshef the god of warfare built around 1900 b.c. There are a group of 26 obelisks in the temple with sizes ranging from a bit over than 50 cm to a bit less than 2 m. They have the rudeness of the rock. In the middle of the temple rises a big rectangular stone which is a god representation called also a "betyl" sine the Phoenicians had a tendency towards a non-figural representation of their gods.
One Obelisk bears a hieroglyphic inscription in two vertical versus with the name of Herishef, the god equivalent to Reshef in Egypt, supplications to the god to protect Abi-Smou the King of Byblos. On another Obelisk are inscriptions bearing the name of Ramses II of Egypt.
The temple was built over the Temple in "L" and moved to a near location during the French excavations.
Some artifacts going back to the 2nd millennium b.c found in the temple are the bronze gold plated human figurines of Byblos, which are famous and one of the symbols of Byblos. These figurines are 30 cm or less and were given as offerings.
In the basements of the original temple of the obelisks other artifacts were found, daggers with gold plating, small statuettes of animals and other small crafts.
The cella was located there at the centre of a broad courtyard . The cella was a room of around 5×5 m. A pedestal made of stones was discovered at its centre. It was probably perhaps a baetylus. The cella was preceded by an ante-cella on its eastern side. The access was on the east, by the way of a short staircase and a narrow passage through the ante-cella. Various obelisks and standing stones were present in the courtyard, especially in its western part, behind the cella. Access to the court was through an antechamber, located just in front of the access of the cella. The antechamber probably had some cultic function, since a "Betyle" was found in it. Next to the antechamber was the Annexed Chapel. This chapel was characterized by a small stone bench and two offering tables. The eastern part of the Obelisk Temple complex was probably more utilitarian, a small door give possibly to a chapel or shrine commissioned by Ramses II. Thutmose III’s chapel would have been dismantled and replaced or reused under Ramses II.
The royal cemetery or royal necropolis has yielded 9 royal tombs in the times of the middle and the recent Egyptian Empire. 4 go back to the 12th dynasty in Egypt (1900 b.c). The necropolis continued to be used for 700 years. 5 tombs have been violated in antiquity.
Found in the royal necropolis in byblos artifacts showing symbols of upper and lower Egypt dating from the 12th dynasty in Egypt such as egyptian vases, bronze artifacts and jewels
The tombs are constituted of opening cut in the bedrock with at the bottom a lateral chamber in recess where the sarcophagus was placed. The face of the opening had no lining and it was a clear and precise vertical cut with no ornament, plastering or inscriptions.
The simplest sarcophagus were of great size and of good proportions. The sarcophagus was cut in a single rock block. The lids of the sarcophagi were of one stone block sometimes of different type or color than the sarcophagus itself. Some of the lids are rising into a ridge in the centre and the section is triangular.
The first group tombs I–IV dates to the Middle Bronze Age. Some of these tombs were intact and yielded a wealth of often precious objects, including Middle Kingdom Egyptian imports and Egyptianizing local productions. The tombs of the second group (tombs V–IX) are later, all had been looted in antiquity, and it is difficult to date them precisely.
A few hints suggest that at least some of them could date to the end of the Middle Bronze Age and the beginning of the Late Bronze Age. One tomb, known as the tomb of king ahiram, could date to the Late Bronze Age II, that is around the time of Ramses II.
King Abi-Shemu 1- tomb 1 - 1840-1820
King Ipy-Shemu-Abi-tomb 2 - 1820-1800
King Yakin-El - tomb 3 -1780-1760
King Yakin-Amou - tomb 4 -1760-1740
King Ilima-yapi - 1740-1720
King Abi-Shhemu 2 - 1720-1700
Necropolis K is located in the eastern part of the archaeological area of Byblos and discovered in 1971. This necrOpolis is outside the city walls and dates back to the Hyksos time (1750-1550 BCE). It is constituted of many subterranean rooms. These rooms are all connected with one another. Access was through a well. The most relevant feature of the necropolis is the abundance of Middle Bronze Age Mycenaean and Cypriot vessels. Four Egyptian scarabs were found in the necropolis, two of the Hyksos type, one with the name of Thutmose III, and one with that of Amenhotep III.
The Tower temple is not far from the edge of the hill, near the sea and just above the bay at the South of the site, where the ancient harbor may have been located. The temple dates to the end of the 3rd millennium BCE. This temple worked as a point of reference on the coast, and perhaps as a lighthouse. One of the features of this temple is the presence of stone anchors integrated within its masonry. The imposing staircase and the thick walls indicate that the temple was probably a tall building, possibly similar to a tower. It was proposed that the ceiling was 6m high.
Byblos defence walls have been reworked and enhanced over and over since the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC (2700BCE, Early Bronze II). In Early Bronze III (around the end of the 3rd millennium) a buttress (the rempart a redans) has been added to the North Wall and reinforced by a red earthen glacis with a slope of 40 degrees. The face of the earth reinforcement of the wall was capped with a stone lining. The “Hyksos” added on the previous wall in the MB II (1750BCE) within a further refurbishing and reinforcement of the wall an earthen fill laid against the outer face of the preceding wall and covered it with stone blocks to form a 60 degree slope . Since the first erection of the walls in early 3rd millenium BCE two main gates provide access to the inner city enclosed within the walls and theses gates remained during the MBA, these gates are the “Port Gate” and “the land gate to the east. The glacis was reconstructed at least three other times during the following Late Bronze (1200BCE) and Iron Ages later. In the Persian Period (550 BCE) they reinforced again the East Wall with a renewed glacis against the previous one with a wall built with large stone blocks that we still see today.
Images the Northern Defense Wall of Byblos, from:
THE MIDDLE BRONZE AGE STONE GLACIS AT BYBLOS (Maura Sala)
During the Persian era in the reign of King Yehawmilk of Byblos in 450 BCE the wealth of the city was important as can be shown from the ledger he left on the expenses made on the Temple of Baalat Gebal or the Lady of Byblos. Byblos minted large quantities on coins in the Persian Era.
Byblos had to strengthen the power of the Persian Empire by participating in all its military campaigns. Elpaal king of Byblos had his name and royal title inscribed on his silver coins. This was the first time a Phoenician king had proclaimed his royalty in this manner on his coinage. Also Ozbaal king of Byblos proclaimed his kingship ostentatiously by having inscribed it on his coins.
Images from: The Lion’s gate and the Persian wall in Byblos ( Simone Garagnani)
In the Early Bronze IA ,Énéolithique Recent (recent Eneolithic) in Byblos around the 3300 BCE the Enceinte Sacrée (sacred precincts) represents the earliest cult temple. The temple is enclosed in curvilinear masonry wall and probably including the spring. Part of the floor is made of gravel and white mortar. The chamber is a rectangular building of may be Breitraum. The temple is preceded by a stone-paved courtyard. Circular open-air stone platforms are a distinctive cult device of the Early Bronze Age sanctuaries. The temenos wall of the Enceinte Sacrée has a rectangular inner buttresses. The main entrance to the the temple is opened across the temenos to the south-east where the settlement stretched out during this period. The settlement has stone-paved street. The stones used in the walls of the temple and in its enclosure were mostly field stones of medium and small size and also pebbles. The temple of the Enceinte Sacrée continued to be used in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE. This temple shows a cultural continuity between the Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze I at Byblos.
In the Eneolithic necropolis of Byblos, the grave goods in burial jars were abundant with an average of 3 objects per tomb and a total of 3652 objects were found in 255 tombs. The grave goods include seals, ceramics, metal, stone artifacts, weapons tools, ivory or bone necklaces. bracelets. rings and beads. Pendants ceramics are the most abundant type of artifacts. Several series of pots. goblets. bowls. and cups were retrieved.
The metal objects found in the burial jars are mostly in copper and little in silver and mostly are daggers. Some other objects were in obsidian. Flint flakes were frequently found. Art objects and ornaments some made from silver, limestone, cornelian, bone, ivory, shells and obsidian were recovered. Different elements of ornamentation are frequently encountered and in particular discoidal, biconical and spherical shapes. Some art objects are small figurines, notably figurines made of stone or ivory. Also found clay cylinders seals. and stone or ivory seals.
Domestic units in Byblos of the proto-urban phase, Early Bonze I, Eneolithic, are rectangular usually with an inner partition at two thirds of their length, and are regularly juxtaposed around central courtyards shared by different houses hosting various devices. This shows an individuation of the rectangular domestic unit with two pillars.
The economic system in this phase was a house economy where economic affairs were done from the house as well as storage and production from inside the house.
Circular and oval-shaped houses in the Énéolithique Récent (Recent Eneolithic).
A strong parallelism has be made between Elba and Byblos in Early Bronze II around 2900 BCE. It was proposed that the townof Byblos is divided into seven quarters by main streets at a short distance from the Baalat Temple between the temple of Baalat and the the temple in "L". A general pattern for which a round shape was proposed not only in the general pattern but also in the organisation of the settlement texture with concentric streets cut more or less in perpendicular by other streets leading towards the centre of the site.
Another point seems to relate the Eblaic and Byblian (Byblos) ideas of town planning during the late Early Bronze Age. It was proposed that the Royal Palace was located in the lower town and the main temple stood most probably alone on top of the Acropolis. In the lower town there would be one second cult place dedicated to the same deity probably a male deity associated with the kingship that could be the temple in "L" dedicated to a male diety Baal.
Phoenician art in Byblos is a perpetual mixture of Egyptian and Assyrian. It was from Egypt that by far the most was borrowed. The Assyrians appeared later on the scene. It was Egypt that set the fashions. The life of Phoenician art into three phases, into three successive movements depending on three successive eras. It was towards the first millennium that the style of Egypt recovered its vogue. From the end of the sixth to the end of the fifth century, Phoenician modelers were to imitate the types from Greece and in the Doric and Ionian cities of Asia Minor. Phoenician art was never content to draw its inspiration from a single source. Mixture of Egyptian and Asiatic elements. Phoenician art had a third epoch, an epoch full of originality and creation. For seven or eight centuries the Phoenicians had a monopoly in the manufacture of vessels in copper, bronze, silver and gold, which, were partly engraved and partly beaten out. In the Phoenician industry the most authentic are the works in metal. The artist made very good use of the Assyrian models. Bronzes from the very birth of metallurgy is of Phoenician origin. Bronze was more ductile and is more easily ornamented.
Phoenician designers used extensively animals mainly that of the Hon and the lion. Other animals, play but a small part. Phoenicia made portraits of animals more than of men. They used griffins and sphinxes a lot. Phoenician artists often represented their deities on thrones. They are distinguished with making seated figures. They used a lot hieroglyphs for the decoration. Hieroglyphs with meanings are rare on Phoenician monuments. Symbols are composed together without any signification. It is hard to bring like order into the long list for the objects they did. The Phoenician workman had pattern-books from which these designs were taken, and every object was accustomed to the client taste. No two artifacts would be similar. The objects are beaten out and chiseled, and then finished with the burin. The staples used for the assembly were clipped. They used extensively geometrical designs for the decoration. The decoration can be a combinations of straight and curved lines. Designs were in good proportions
Mycenaen Crete influence from the fifteenth to the eleventh century was artistic. The far more extensive influence of the Mycenaean civilisation on Phoenician Pottery in Byblos covers several hundred years. The forms of pottery are grouped in some half-dozen main types : dishes, plates, bowls, lamps, small amphorae with one or two handles, jugs with globular bodies, large amphorae with vertical side-handles, globular bottle with long neck with or without handles, two-handled globular amphorae. The commonest variety is the reddish clay ware, sometimes plain, or painted with geometric figures in red, blue black and or white. The commonest patterns are zigzags, wavy lines, straight lines, chequers and lozenges, network patterns, and concentric circles. The influence of the Mycenaen style called the sub-Mycenaen style stayed till the pottery Graeco-Phoenician period (about 700 to 300 B.C).
Is it possible that the ancient port of Byblos has been dredged or a dug port in antiquity? We can see here the close similarity between the port of Portus and the port of Byblos. The hexagonal basin of Portus is the most famous dug port and is the most representative example of dugged ports. Its initial depth was two meters just as for the port of Byblos. Archaeology defines cothon or kothon port like a basin port hollowed out by people and open to the sea through a channel with a kind of fort enhancement to the mouth of the canal. The hollowed-out cothon is a characteristic port of the Phoenicians.