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This article was published 16/4/2009 (4569 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The excavation at Tell Tayinat, near the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea about 300 kilometres north of the Syrian capital of Damascus, has exposed "ornately carved" columns, "monumental" staircases and other remnants of a "powerful kingdom" destroyed by Assyrian invaders in 738 BC.
The discoveries at the site of the ancient city of Kunulua are believed to be evidence of the destruction of Calno -- invoked in the Bible by the prophet Isaiah as a warning to Israelites to follow the will of God or face a similar fate, says University of Toronto archeologist Tim Harrison, director of the project.
The ruins, located near another temple found by University of Chicago archeologists in the 1930s, appear to prove the existence of a "sacred precinct" that existed at the time of the Assyrian onslaught, he added.
"What we've encountered may be traces of that destruction," Harrison saidThursday. "We think that place is our site."
Harrison said that "we haven't put the jigsaw puzzle together, but we've got the pieces," noting the "nice convergence" between the dig site and the references in Chapter 10 of the Book of Isaiah and other texts from the pre-Christian era.
Describing the Assyrians as a tool of God's anger, Isaiah reminds his people of the awesome power that can "destroy and cut off nations" and direct invasion forces to "take the spoil" of conquered cities.
"Is not Calno as Carchemish?" begins Isaiah's litany of smashed kingdoms, cautioning that a faithless Jerusalem could fall next. "Is not Hamath as Arpad? Is not Samaria as Damascus?"
Harrison described Isaiah's warning about Calno and the other destroyed cities as having "an iconic representation in the ancient mind" -- something akin to the fall of Rome much later in human history.
Among the artifacts uncovered by researchers -- including University of Toronto students and various international scholars participating in the dig -- are fragments of decorative stone inscribed with hieroglyphics from an extinct Middle Eastern language.
Harrison suspects that the temple, located at a crossroads for various religious and linguistic tribes of the ancient world, may have once been a "melding" site where disparate peoples gathered.
Harrison said the temple was unearthed last summerAfter word of the find circulated among biblical-era scholars, pressure grew in recent months for the team to reveal some details.
-- Canwest News Service