Traveling a bit farther inland and to the north, one reaches Tell Atchana, the ancient Alalakh.
The uppermost levels VI-I of the site, the ones of most concern to us, depend solely on Egyptian chronology, and the dates for imported Late Cypriote and Mycenaean pottery, Hittite New Empire and Mitannian material.1 The four latter sets of material owe their dates solely to Egyptian chronology, and maintain them by floating on mysterious Dark Ages, which are archaeologically empty, or, at best, very obscure. It is thus an easy matter to find some 500-600-year puzzles of the type met over and over again in this paper. For the sake of brevity we will treat here only two.
During part of the period of the 18th Egyptian Dynasty, Alalakh was ruled by King Niqmepa. His royal palace is thus assigned to the 15th-14th centuries B.C. Only a short distance north of Alalakh lies the site of Zinjirli with its 5th-century palace.
According to H. Frankfort there are no monuments, in fact, no works of art to fill the gap between ca. 1200 and 850 B.C. in this part of the ancient Levant. He was nevertheless struck by the resemblances of the 8th-century palace of Zinjirli to the 14th-century palace of Alalakh.2 How was the tradition of monumental architecture kept alive for 600 years, if the Niqmepa palace was covered over and invisible by the 14th century, and if there is absolutely no continuity in this or any of the other arts between the two periods?3
Many large fragments of sculpted stone lions were also unearthed at Alalakh. These were found re-used in the last phase of the temple,4 but presumably guarded the doors to this structure at an earlier date. According to the excavator,5 these lions have great importance as monuments for the history of art. In the Syro-Hittite period gateway lions of this sort are so regular a convention as to be almost the hall-mark of North Syrian art. Such lions are normally assigned to the 9th-7th centuries B.C.,6 but because Egyptian chronology provides the absolute dates for Alalakh, now for the first time we have a series of lion sculptures which cannot be later than the fourteenth century B.C.
Should we view the Alalakh lions as early forerunners of the whole series of Syro-Hittite lions?7 Were they also the model for the guardian lions of Assyrian palaces, anticipating [both sets] by five hundred years?8 Could they have provided the inspiration for the 500-year-later sculptures?
If, by the 9th century B.C., the Alalakh lions were completely buried over by debris and long forgotten,9 and no similar lions exist to span the Dark Age in this region, how can we explain why the system of flanking gates with large, guardian figures and stone reliefs in the ninth-century Assyrian palaces resembles so much that employed10 here at Alalakh and other contemporary centers some 400-500 years earlier?