The beginning and the end of civilization

The green dot indicates the location of Hamuokar: Map by planiglobe.com
The green dot indicates the location of Hamuokar: Map by planiglobe.com

Hamoukar in northeast Syria is one of the oldest cities in the world. Recent excavations have shed light on how it began… and how it ended.

Archaeologists have discovered a large field of obsidian near the city. Obsidian was used for making stone tools – in fact, researchers found evidence of tool manufacture right there on the site. Hamoukar was probably settled to take advantage of this natural resource. This goes against previous theories, which held that all early cities were founded on agriculture, and that Hamoukar was settled by farmers from the south.

Scientists also found evidence of the city’s demise. A fierce battle in 3500 BC leveled the city. Warriors at that time used clay stones in slings, and researchers uncovered evidence that the people of Hamoukar abandoned their usual jobs to make as much ammunition as possible. But it was to no avail: the city fell, and the southern city of Babylon became the region’s greatest power – forever changing the course of history.

To learn more about the Hamoukar excavations, go here,

To learn more about the battle that ended Hamoukar, go here.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:


The Science Museum is affiliated with a dig at Çatalhöyük, in Turkey. 9000 years ago, Çatalhöyük was one of the biggest human settlements in the world, home to 10,000 people. There's evidence of trade and toolmaking (including obsidian tools) at Çatalhöyük, but archaeologists definitely think it was an early agricultural site.

And so far, no evidence of tragic, city-ending battles!

posted on Thu, 01/18/2007 - 5:46pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i understand that damascus was the oldest continously inhabited city in the world. so that basically means that civilization basically started in syria

posted on Sat, 01/20/2007 - 5:27pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Not necessarily. As Liza notes, there was a much larger city in Turkey at 7000 BC.

Also, while there is evidence of settlement at Damascus in 6000 BC or earlier, the evidence that the city has been occupied ever since is sketchy. This list of ancient cities says Damascus has been continuously settled since 3000 to 4000 BC, and didn't really become a "city" until 1000 to 1100 BC.

Finally, even if cities did start in Syria, they were overrun by invaders from Mesopotamia. The civilization that we inherited comes from there.

posted on Sun, 01/21/2007 - 1:54am
Bassel's picture
Bassel says:

I just wanted to point out that Damascus is not the oldest city in the world but Damascus is the oldest CONTINUOUSLY INHABITIED city in the world.

posted on Sat, 04/05/2008 - 1:53pm
Bassel's picture
Bassel says:

By the way, I would appreciate if you show this comment:

Looking at the list of oldest cities of the world, I would like to comment that: Firstly, Jericho suffered times when it was not inhabited at all so it can not be top of the list. The city was left then rebuilt many times.
Secondly, Damascus dates older than Byblos. It is irrelevant if it was an important city or not or whether it was a city or a town but it is continuously inhabited which is the most important in including it in that list.
Thirdly, I do not think Byblos or Jericho or many of the places on the list were cities at the times. Should I check what is a definition of a city!!.
Fourthly, why is it such a big deal? All these cities were 1 country and 1 area which many knows what it is.

Thank for viewing my comment.

posted on Sat, 04/05/2008 - 2:09pm

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