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PREHISTORY   (1M- 3200 B.C)

Some million years ago, the first inhabitants of Lebanon settled along its coast which enjoyed a warm Mediterranean climate.

Their lithic tools, scarce during the Lower Palaeolithic (1M.-150.000 B.C.) were produced in large numbers during the Middle (150.000-40.000 B.C.) and Upper Palaeolithic (40.000-18.000 B.C.). because of the development of more elaborate cutting techniques which produced points, scrapers and burins. These hunters lived in caves and rock shelters from fishing and gathering. The emergence of the Microlithic flint tools of the Epipalaeolithic (18.000-9.000 B.C.) coïncides with the open air settlement which was made possible by the warming of the climate.

Traces of the first villages are attested at Dik el Mehdi and Labwe in the Beqaa (ca. 7500 B.C.) and at Byblos (ca. 7000 B.C.)

The Neolithic marks the beginning of an agro-pastoral economy characterized by plant and animal domestication and the use of pottery ((9.000-4000 B.C.).

This evolution will reach its climax around 4000 B.C. during the Chalcolithic with the appearance of copper, first witnessed by the fishing hooks of Byblos.

 

1- Idol, pebble
Byblos, Neolithic Period (9.000-4.000 B.C.)
This pebble is one of the earliest known human figures attested in Lebanon. The face is represented by two incised lines.

2- Point, flint

Byblos, Neolithic Period (9.000-4.000 B.C.)

This point is one of the hunting tools used during the Neolithic period by the people of Byblos. Its small size suggests that it was used for hunting small animals.

 

3- Hook, copper
Byblos, Chalcolithic Period (4.000-3200 B.C.)
Metal tools appear in Byblos during
the 4th. millenium B.C.

Fishing was one of the major activities of the people of Byblos as suggested by the presence of this type of hook.

 

THE BONZE AGE (3200 B.C- 1200 B.C.

The Bronze Age starts a new era with the development of urban civilization and the emergence of writing.

This period is divided into 3 phases: the Early (3200-2000), Middle (2000-1500) and Late (1500-1200) Bonze Ages.

During this period, the first villages in Lebanon became fortified cities which developped commercial and maritime activities. Byblos whose relations with Egypt go back to the 4th. millenium B.C. was the most prominent settlement.

The coastal cities stood at the heart of Eastern Mediterranean trade. Inland sites too, like Tell ‘Arqa in the ‘Akkar valley and Kamed el Loz in the Beqaa, played an important role in establishing trade relations with Syria, Mesopotamia and Palestine.

The history of the Bronze Age cities is documented by both texts and archaeology.
The written records of this period consist almost exclusively of Egyptian documents and of the diplomatic correspondence exchanged during the XIVth and XIIIth c. B.C. between the local kings and the Egyptian pharaoh, the so-called Tell el ‘Amarna Letters.

Archaeological excavations uncovered the fortifications, dwellings, temples and necropoles of these settlements.The rich funerary and religious material which was found in these monuments shed light on the daily life of the people, their religious beliefs and their industry .

Whether on the coast or inland, these cities were located at the crossroad of ancient civilisations. Master pieces of jewelry recovered from the tombs of Abi Shemou and Ip Shemou Abi, kings of Byblos, witness high skills in working silver and gold. The ivory make-up boxes found in Sidon and the ivory figurines from Kamed el Loz suggest the production of luxury items.

1- Sarcophagus of King Ahiram

with a phoenician inscription,
limestone Byblos, royal tombs, 10 century B.C.

Masterpiece of the National Museum, this sarcophagus is characterized by the reliefs and inscription decorating it. Traces of red paint can still be seen. On the long sides of the coffin, a funerary banquet scene is depicted showing the king seated on his throne receiving offerings from a long procession of people. On the narrow sides, women wailing in sign of mourning are represented.

The inscription starts on the coffin tub and continues on the cover: Coffin which Itthobaal son of Ahiram, king of Byblos, made for Ahiram his father, when he placed him for eternity. Now, if a king among kings, or a governor among governors or a commander of an army should come up against Byblos and uncover this coffin, may the sceptre of his rule be torn away, may the throne of his kingdom be overturned and may peace flee from Byblos. And as for him, may his inscription be effaced…

It is the oldest text written with the Phoenician alphabet. The Phoenicians spread this alphabetic script all over the Mediterranean which earned them the reputation, among the Greeks, of having invented the alphabet.

2- Pectoral of King Ip Shemou Abi

gold and semi-precious stones
Byblos, royal tombs, Middle Bronze Age

This pectoral was part of the funerary offerings placed in the tomb of the king of Byblos.  Clear Egyptian influence is attested in the representation of the falcon with spread wings as well as in the use of a cartouche inscribed with the name of the king written with Egyptian hieroglyphs.

3- Hippopotamus

faience
Byblos, Middle Bronze Age

These hippopotamus figurines were found among the offerings discovered in the Obelisk Temple. They represent an animal hated by the Egyptians because of its gluttony and the damages he caused to plantations.

Only the female hippopotamus was a symbol of fertility.


4- Fenestrated axe

gold Byblos,

Middle Bronze Age

These fenestrated axes we discovered together with other ceremonial weapons like daggers and arrows, in the Obelisk Temple of Byblos. These weapons were offerings presented to the warrior city gods, the god Reshef or the goddess Anat.

 

5- Goddess Hathor

ivory
Kamed el Loz,

Late Bronze Age

The Bronze Age starts a new era with the

development of urban civilization and the emergence of writing. This period is divided into 3 phases: the Early (3200-2000), Middle (2000-1500) and Late (1500-1200) Bonze Ages.

During this period, the first villages in Lebanon became fortified cities which developed commercial and maritime activities. Byblos whose relations with Egypt go back to the 4th. millennium B.C. was the most prominent settlement.

The coastal cities stood at the heart of Eastern Mediterranean trade. Inland sites too, like Tell ‘Arqa in the ‘Akkar valley and Kamed el Loz in the Beqaa, played an important role in establishing trade relations with Syria, Mesopotamia and Palestine.

6- Statuette

gilded bronze

Byblos, Middle Bronze Age

This figurine belongs to a group of offerings which were found under the Obelisk Temple in Byblos. These are usually male and nude figurines wearing a helmet or a conical headdress which resembles the Egyptian crown. This betrays close relationship between Egypt and Byblos.


7- Cosmetic box

ivory Sidon,

Late Bronze Age

This duck-shaped make-up box is a luxury item. It was carved in a hippopotamus tusk. It is a rare example of ivory from Lebanon, the

majority of these ivory products having been taken as booty by the Assyrian kings.

8- Musician with a lyre

ivory
Kamed el Loz,

Late Bronze Age

The Kamed el Loz ivory figurines attest the craftsmanship of local artisans during the Late Bronze Age. They also attest, together with other finds from the same site, the existence of luxury items.

 

THE BRONZE AGE (1200 B.C- 333 B.C)

The Iron Age coincides with the First Millennium B.C. and is divided into Iron Age I (XII-IX c.), II (IX-VII c.) and III (VI-IV c.).

During this period, and after an era of autonomy, the city-states of the area came under Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian hegemony. Under the latter, Phoenicia became part of the VIth satrapy (province) whose capital was Sidon. The Phoenician fleet was placed under the orders of the Great Persian King and participated in his military expeditions in the Mediterranean.

In Lebanon, the Iron Age coincides with the climax of the Phoenician civilization which culminated in its maritime expansion and the transmission of the alphabet which was attributed by the Greek legend to the Tyrian Cadmos.

The word Phoenician is a Greek designation meaning red or purple which referred to the people of the Levantine coast during that period. Tyre mastered the production of purple dye and her fame, wealth and power were immortalized by the prophet Ezekiel.

1- Statuette of a child

with a Phoenician inscription
This statuette was given by Baalshillem,
son of king Banaa, king of the Sidonians,
son of king Baalshillem, king of the
Sidonians, to his lord Eshmun of the
spring Yd[l]al. May he bless him
Marble, Sanctuary of Eshmun Bustan esh Sheikh (near Sidon), 5th c. B.C.

This statuette was discovered in a sanctuary dedicated to the healing god Eshmun. This offering was dedicated to the god by the parents, to thank him for the healing of their child


2-Pendant

gold and agate
Magharet Tabloun (near Sidon), 5th century B.C

3- Crater decorated

with ducks,

terracotta
Khalde, 9th-7th century B.C.
Because of the Cypriot influence on its decoration, the Khalde crater attests clearly the existence of important trade relations between the Phoenician cities and the Mediterranean during the 1st millennium B.C.

4- Anthropoïd sarcophagus,

marble
Ayn el Helwe (near Sidon), 5th century B.C.
This anthropoid sarcophagus which developed from the Egyptian mummy case, has a head sculptured in the Greek style on its cover. It belongs to the Ford Collection which was discovered in 1901 in Sidon.


5- Necklace decorated

with a gorgone’s head,

gold
Magharet Tabloun (near Sidon)
5th century B.C.

This jewellery was found in the tomb of a woman whose high social rank is attested by the good quality and the wealth of the objects buried with her.

 

6- Rhyton depicting head of a pig,

terracotta
Sheikh Zenad, 5th century B.C.

This type of pottery is a Greek import known as Attic ware because it comes from the region of Athens. Caracterized by its black glaze, it bears witness to the trade exchanges in the Mediterranean between the 6th and the 4th c. B.C.


7- Capital

with bull protomes marble
Sidon, 5th century B.C.

This capital belongs also to the Ford Collection and shows the strong influence of the Persian art of Susa and Persepolis in Sidon during the Late Iron Age.

THE HELLENESTIC PERIOD (333B.C.- 64 B.C.)

In 333 B.C., the decisive victory won by Alexander the Great over the Persian king Darius III opened the gates of Phoenicia to the Greek conqueror.

Tired from the Persian yoke, the Phoenician cities welcomed the Hellenic king. Only Tyre resisted but the island city was stormed after a long siege
After Alexander’s untimely death, his successors, Ptolemes and Seleucids, fought over the control of the territories. In 198 B.C. Phoenicia came under Seleucid rule. Monarchy was then abolished and the Phoenician cities were ruled by high officials bearing Greek names. They enjoyed however some autonomy and were given the right to mint coins.

Greek influence which had made its way to Phoenicia during the Persian period became now stronger: educated people spoke Greek and adopted a Greek lifestyle. In Kharayeb, local craftsmen copied figurines imported from the Aegean world.

This spreading hellenisation interacted with the local Semitic population substratum which remained faithful to its gods and its language. It resulted in an artistic and architectural symbiosis best illustrated in the ruins of Umm el ‘Amed and Bustan esh Sheikh.
1- Tribune

marble
Sanctuary of Eshmun,
Bustan esh Sheikh (near Sidon)
ca. 350 B.C.

This “tribune” which is considered by some scholars to be an altar is an example of Greek sculpture made in Phoenicia. It displays sculptured reliefs arranged in two registers: the upper one represents an assembly of the gods with Apollo in the center holding a cithera, while. the lower one represents a procession of dancers and musicians.

2- Funerary Stele of Robia

with a Greek Inscription:
Good Robia who never harmed anyone, farewell.
Painted limestone
Sidon, Hellenistic Period

This funerary inscription is dedicated to the memory of the woman represented on the stele. The relief follows the artistic norms used during the 2nd c. B.C.


3- Statue of Venus

marble
Beirut, Hellenistic Period

This statue was uncovered in Beirut Central District excavations. It clearly shows Greek characteristics which continued to influence local art until the 1st c. B.C.


4- Figurine of Eros

terracotta
Kharayeb (near Tyre), Hellenistic Period

 

5- Figurine of Hermes

carrying a ram,
terracotta
Kharayeb (near Tyre), Hellenistic Period

These figurines were moulded in the workshops of Kharayeb. They display a lively character which goes beyond the religious symbolism inherited from the Hellenistic art.


6- Funerary Stele of Baalshamar

with a phoenician inscription :

To Baalshamar, son of ‘Abdosir, commemorative stele, which ‘Abdosir, erected for his father, the chief of the porters
Limestone, Umm el ‘Amed, Hellenistic Period
The Phoenician inscription on the stele shows the persistence of the local language and cults despite the strong hellenization of the area during this period.

 

THE ROMAN PERIOD (64 B.C.- 395 A.D)

In 64 B.C., the military expedition of the Roman general Pompey put an end to the anarchy prevailing in the Seleucid empire and Phoenicia became part of the Roman world. But it is only after 31 B.C., under the reign of Augustus, that the pax romana extendeed over the area.

An era of prosperity began for Tyre, Sidon, Berytus and Baalbek-Heliopolis which profited from imperial generosity

Urban planning and development, a major feature of Roman policy, led to a substantial extension of the cities territory. They were endowed with both religious and civil monuments (temples, basilicas, forums, porticoed streets). Spare-time activities were accessible to all people with theatres, hippodromes and gymnasiums. Aqueducts provided the cities (houses and villas) as well as public fountains (nymphea) and baths (thermae) with running water. Separated from the world of the Living, the necropoles extended along the roads outside the city gates.

The pax romana favoured trade exchanges and local crafts like silversmith, glass, textile and ceramic industry developed

Famous philosophers, geographers and jurists were natives of Tyre, Sidon and Byblos. Yet, the intellectual elite continued to learn Greek and in Beirut, legal texts were translated from Latin into Greek. The Law School was founded at the end of the third century A.D.


1- Human figure

Detail from a painted tomb
Burj esh Shemali (near Tyre), 2nd century A.D.

Discovered in 1938, this tomb was part of the Roman necropolis of Tyre. In order to preserve it, it was removed and reconstituted in the National Museum of Beirut. The walls of the tomb are painted with mythological scenes related to the realm of death.


2- Vase
glass
Tyre, 4th. century A.D.

The fame the coastal Phoenician cities enjoyed for their glass production was so important that Plinus, the Roman historian, attributed them the discovery of glass. These wares were used in everyday life. They were also traded as well as in funerary contexts

3- The abduction of Europe

mosaic
Byblos, 3rd century A.D.

The abduction of Europe is a very popular theme which widely spread in both Italy and Africa. The emblema represents Europe, the daughter of the Tyrian king, being abducted by Zeus in the shape of a bull. The Greek legend says that her brother Cadmos went looking for her and transmitted the Phoenician alphabet to the Hellenes during his journey.


4- Dionysius, marble
Tyre, Roman Period

The god Dionysius is represented here as the young beardless Hellenic god with horns in his hair in reference to the ram or the bull, both his animal symbols. This representation of the horns to symbolize the animal will give birth to the horned Dionysus type

5- Hygeia health goddess

marble
Byblos, Roman Period

This statue stood in one of the niches of the Nympheum (public fountain) of Byblos. The snake around Hygeia’s shoulders symbolizes the healing virtues which are inherent to her status as health goddess.

6- Sarcophagus with the legend of Achilleus
 marble
Tyre, 2nd c. A.D.

Scenes from the Iliad representing episods of the Trojan war were often used to adorn the sarcophagi of the Roman necropolis of Tyre. Of excellent workmanship, this relief is in the tradition of classical Greek art.

 

THE BYZANTIN PERIOD (395 B.C.- 636 A.D.)

After the death of Theodosius in 395 A.D., the Roman empire was divided into a western and an eastern empire. The Lebanese cities were attached to the latter and converted to Christianity which became state religion in 392. They followed the imperial order to destroy pagan temples but heathen cults like those in honor of Adonis and Jupiter Heliopolitanus remained alive among the population and survived for several centuries.

Basilicas with floors covered with rich mosaïcs representing religious themes were erected along the coast in Beirut, Khalde, Shehim, Zahrani (near Sidon) and Tyre. Others were built in the mountains, in Beit-Mery and Ghine, and in the Beqaa, in Baalbek.

Urban development which started in the Roman period continued under Byzantine rule and the hinterland too witnessed an era of prosperity with the development of agriculture, mainly oil and wine production, and of silk, glass and purple industry. As a result of this prosperity, rich villas decorated with mosaïc or marble floor were built in Jnah, Ouzaï and Baalbek.

The Beirut Law School was the focus of the country’s intellectual life and it attracted students from all over the empire. In 551, an earthquake followed by a tidal wave destroyed Beirut and other coastal cities
The reconstruction process was slow and the land was still healing from this terrible blow as the Arabs victoriously marched into Lebanon.

1- Chancel of a church

marble
Beirut, Byzantine Period

This architectural element was used in Byzantine churches to delimit the area reserved to the clergy. It consists of a pillar and a stone slab ending with a wild goat. There must have been another identical element on the other side of this area.


2- The “Jealousy” Mosaïc

with a Greek Inscription
Beirut, Byzantine Period

This mosaïc decorated the entrance of a rich house located at the heart of Byzantine Beirut. The purpose of the inscription, Envy is an evil; it has beauty however/ it eats out the eyes and the heart of the envious, was to protect the inhabitants against envy and evil.


3- Unguentarium

glass
Tyre, Byzantine Period

This elongated vase illustrates the craftsmanship of the Phoenicians in the production of glass vessels. During the 1st c. B.C., the Phoenicians invented the blowing technique which revolutionized the industry of glass. This industry witnessed a very important development during the Byzantine and Islamic periods and it still survives in some Lebanese towns.


4- Low relief David and the lion

marble
Beirut, Byzantine Period

These reliefs depicting historical scenes probably belonged to a piece of furniture. They represent biblical scenes like the struggle between David and the Lion and the sacrifice of Abraham’s son.

5- Jewellery

gold, perls and semi-precious stones
Beirut , Byzantine Period
1- Ring, gold and semi-precious stones
2- Bracelet with ibex headed, gold
3- Earrings, gold, perls and semi-precious stones

These jewels belong to a treasure dated to the end of the 5th c. or the beginning of the 6th c. A.D. They were hidden in a jar buried under the floor of a byzantine villa in Beirut which has been probably reconstructed after the strong earthquake of 551 A.D.
FROM THE ARAB CONQUEST TO THE MAMLUK PERIOD (635 A.C. 1516 A.D.)

Baalbek was the first city to fall into the hands of Abu ‘Ubayda in 635 A.D. and the Arab conquest of Lebanon was completed in 637 A.D. The expansion of the coastal cities which had slowed down after the earthquakes of the VIth century revived during the Omayyad period. Their harbours and shipyards regained their activity and the hinterland witnessed irrigation works which promoted agriculture. The Omayyad city of ‘Anjar bears witness to this revival with its fortifications, streets, shops, palaces and mosque.

Lebanon was directly affected by the various episodes of dynastic changes which brought to power successively Omayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, Seljuks, Ayyubids and Mamluks

During this long period, Islam spread and Arabic became the language of the administration. It progressively replaced local dialects.

Between 1099 and 1289, Arab rule was replaced by that of the Crusaders. They built citadelles along the coast, from Tripoli to the land of Tyre, while the inland remained in the hands of the Ayyubids

The offensive of the Mamluk sultan Baibars put an end to this Crusader interlude. Great builders, the Mamluks left a large number of civil and religious buildings: mosques, madrasas, khans, hammams. The mamluk city of Tripoli bears witness to this development of Islamic architecture.


1- Jewellery

gold, enamel and semi-precious stones
Lebanon
Mamluk Period ((1289-1516 A.D.).
1- Necklace, gold
2- Bracelet, gold and semi-precious stone
3- Ring bearing an inscription, gold
4-Necklace, gold and enamel
5- Buckle, gold

This jewellery shows the skill of the goldsmiths of the Mamluk Period. These objects combine geometrical and figurative patterns with calligraphy. Different techniques were used in the jewellery production, namely filigree and “repoussé” techniques.

2- Coin

gold
Tyre, Salah-ed-Din al Ayyoubi, Ayyoubid Period

This golden coin was minted in Cairo in 642 H. (1245-1246 A.D.) under the reign of Saladin al Ayyubi. On the obverse, it bears the Shahada and the Souate 9/33; on the reverse, the Basmala.
3- Glazed deep bowls

terracotta
Tyre, 12th-13th c. A.D

Known as sgrafiato, this pottery is slipped, incised and then glazed with various colors. Floral, geometrical and figurative patterns were used for decoration. This ceramic type was found on several Lebanese sites and developped from the Crusades until the Mamluk period.


4- Jug bearing

an arabic inscription : blessing formula, terracotta
Tyre, Mamluk Period

This jug which is decorated with patterns arranged in compartments is inscribed with popular blessing formula written in a cursive script. This type of inscriptions appears on objects used in everyday life.