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The Tell of Arqa

   Arqa looks like any other attractive village in the Akkar district, but in fact it possesses a special treasure - a tell or flat-topped hill. Many such tells are scattered around Lebanon, and most have ancient settlements buried beneath them. The tell at Arqa was no exception.

Starting in 1972 a team of French archeologists led by Prof. E. Will, former Director of the French Institute of the Near Eastern Archaeology, then by Dr. Jean-Paul Thalmann, has been at work here. So far they have found over five thousand years of history on this one spot.

The earliest level dates to the Neolithic period or New Stone Age (6,000 years ago). After that, people of the Early Bronze Age settled here. These were Canaanites -- later known as Phonecians--who developed a prosperous town at the Arqa site.

Arqa, which was known as Irqata in antiquity, was so important that it was mentioned during the 14th Century B.C. in the Egyptian Annals, and specially in the Tell al-Amarna Letters, found in Egypt. It was also mentioned many times in the Assyrian Annals and in the Bible. All these references provided clues to the city's history.

During the Hellenistic Period (3rd-1st century B.C.) the people of Arqa were apparently successful traders and the city grew crowded and prosperous.

A Roman Emperor Born in Lebanon

When the Romans ruled the Mediterranean area short time later, Arqa was called "Caesarea of Lebanon." Roman Arqa is also the birthplace of the Emperor Alexander Severus. Ruling from Rome between 222 and 235 A.D., Serverus turned out to be quite a successful emperor.

Almost all this information came from the tell of Arqa and surrounding area, where the archaeologists have found a nearly complete history of his ancient city.

When you visit the site of Arqa remember it is in three sections:
1) The tell itself.
2) The lower town, already in existence in the Phoenician period, but developed during Roman times.
3) The necropolis, south and southeast of the tell. Hundreds of rock-out tombs were found here. Some of these are as old as 5 000 years and were probably reused again and again over the centuries.

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