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Ancient Origins Tour IRAQ

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Reconstructed wall of Ain Dara Temple with cherubim relief in lower panel. Right, Giant or godly footprints at the gate. 	Source: Odilia/CC BY-SA 3.0, Right; homocosmicos/Adobe Stock

The Enigmatic Ain Dara Temple and the Giant Footsteps of the Gods

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Ain Dara is a small village in the northwest of Aleppo, Syria, which, until 2018, boasted a remarkable structure – the Ain Dara Temple, located just west of the village. The temple was discovered in 1955, when a colossal basalt lion was found, quite accidentally, in fact. Following this find, excavations were carried out in subsequent years. Sadly, in 2018, the whole remarkable structure was reduced to ruble by a Turkish airstrike.

This temple, believed to have been constructed during the Early Iron Age, boasted distinctive features such as its grand courtyard, elaborate basalt reliefs, and enigmatic carved footprints on its stone floor. With its monumental staircase and intricate layout, the temple bore striking resemblances to biblical descriptions of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, hinting at a broader cultural tradition that characterized the region during this period. Through its architectural magnificence and cultural significance, the Ain Dara Temple offered a captivating glimpse into the rich tapestry of ancient Near Eastern civilizations.

Ain Dara Temple: A Testament to Syro-Hittite Influence

The Ain Dara Temple was an Iron Age Syro-Hittite temple. The Syro-Hittites or Neo-Hittites were a group of political entities that emerged towards the end of the 2nd millennium BC. Following the collapse of the Hittite Empire, there was a power vacuum in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Syro-Hittite states filled this vacuum and became the dominant power in the region until their conquest by the Neo-Assyrian Empire at the end of the 8th century BC.

Although the Syro-Hittites are today distinguished from the Hittites, the former probably did not see themselves as different from their predecessors. This can be supported by the epigraphic evidence and the cultural continuity of the region. For instance, the styles of temples built during the Late Bronze Age continued into the Early Iron Age. One of these temples, believed to have been built during the Early Iron Age, was the Ain Dara Temple

Ain Dara Temple before the Turkish bombing destroyed it in early 2018. (Bertramz/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Ain Dara Temple before the Turkish bombing destroyed it in early 2018. (Bertramz/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Majestic Architecture: Temple Layout and Dimensions

To enter the temple, one would first have to go through a courtyard built with sandstones and paved with flagstones. A chalkstone basin, perhaps for ceremonial purposes is seen there. The temple, measuring 30 x 30 meters (98.42ft) and facing southeast, stood on a 76.2 centimeters (2.5 ft) high platform made of rubble and limestone and was lined with basalt blocks engraved with lions, sphinxes and other mythic creatures. A monumental staircase, flanked on each side by a sphinx and two lions, led up to the temple portico.

Ancient statue of a lion at Ain Dara, Syria. (Materialscientist/CC BY 2.0)

Ancient statue of a lion at Ain Dara, Syria. (Materialscientist/CC BY 2.0)

After the portico, one would reach the middle room, which measured 6 x 15.5m (19.68 x 50.85ft), followed by the main hall, which was 16 x 16m (52.49 ft) in size. At the end of this hall was the inner room/sanctum. The cult statue was probably housed in a niche in the back wall of the sanctum.   The building was once covered with rows of basalt reliefs of sphinxes, lions, mountain gods and large clawed creatures whose feet alone remain.

Symbolism and Purpose: The Significance of the Footprints

One of the interesting features of the Ain Dara Temple was the footprints carved into the stone floor of the temple. One pair of footprints can be found on the floor of the portico, followed by a single footprint, and another single footprint at the threshold of the main hall. The distance between the two single footprints is about 30 feet (9.14). A stride of 30 feet would belong to a person (or ‘god’) about 65 feet (19.81 m) tall.

It is not suggested here that the footsteps are real imprints made by a large person walking over the threshold of the temple, but rather that they were carved by the creators of the temple. The question is, why?

The 1 meter long (3.3 ft) footprints cut out in the doorstep of the Ain Dara temple. Left: The left footprint. Right: The right footprint. (Odilia/CC BY-SA 3.0), Odilia/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The 1 meter long (3.3 ft) footprints cut out in the doorstep of the Ain Dara temple. Left: The left footprint. Right: The right footprint. (Odilia/CC BY-SA 3.0), Odilia/CC BY-SA 3.0)

It is still unknown whose footprints these were meant to represent. Some scholars have suggested they are animal prints, while others have suggested they depict the footsteps of the gods. Perhaps, these footprints (measuring about a meter/3.28 ft in length) were meant to be an iconic representation of the resident deity. These footprints may have been carved to show the presence of the resident deity as they entered their temple and approached the throne in the inner sanctum.

Another interesting feature about the Ain Dara Temple is its similarities with the biblical description of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. It has been claimed that these two temples were similar in their floor plan, age, size, and decoration. Before jumping to the conclusion that one temple influenced the other, it should be mentioned that there are other temples in that region that are comparable to both the Ain Dara Temple and Solomon’s Temple. These temples include that of Ebla, Emar, and Munbaqa. Therefore, it may be suggested that these temples belonged to a wider cultural tradition that dominated the region during that time.

The virtually complete loss of this important piece of history due to hostilities in the region is another example of the importance of getting to ancient sites in troubled regions and recording them fully, in case they are lost forever.

Top image: Reconstructed wall of Ain Dara Temple with cherubim relief in lower panel. Right, Giant or godly footprints at the gate. Source: Odilia/CC BY-SA 3.0, Right; homocosmicos/Adobe Stock

By Ḏḥwty

References

Biblical Archaeology Society, 2013. Searching for the Temple of King Solomon. 
Available at:  https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/temple-at-jerusalem/searching-for-the-temple-of-king-solomon/

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2013. Anatolia. Available at: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/22897/Anatolia/44354/The-neo-Hittite-states-from-c-1180-to-700-bc

Hodossy-Takács, E., 2014. The Role of Archaeology in Understanding Israelite Religion. 
Available at: http://www.uni-regensburg.de/Fakultaeten/phil_Fak_I/Evangelische_Theologie/pdfs/takacs.pdf

Monson, J., 2014. The New ‘Ain Dara Temple: Closest Solomonic Parallel. Available at:
http://www.michaelsheiser.com/PaleoBabble/Ayn%20Dara%20Parallel%20to%20Solomons%20Temple.pdf

Wikipedia, 2013. Ain Dara, Syria.  Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ain_Dara,_Syria
Wikipedia, 2014. Ain Dara Temple.  Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ain_Dara_Temple

Wikipedia, 2014. Syro-Hittite States. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syro-Hittite_states

 

Comments

Since there would've been association both positive and negative with the Assyrian and Hittites and the Neo-Assyrians with the Syro-Hittites. Then through some religious cross contamination, perhaps the foot steps could represent the king? The king of many Near Eastern cultures was typically larger than the commoners, when depicted in art. Gods were as well but since this temple is said to be related to Solomon's perhaps those are meant to be the steps of another great king dedicated to the upkeep of the temple?

Suggest you meant to say "first Hebrew temple"...

The first Christian temple was really just a tent that carried around a golden box that might be something like a radio for communication. Then when the people wanted a "temple" for permanence they were given very specific dimensions which just happen to be replicated in several other disconnected temples around the world. Why would that be? How would different civilizations around this earth get similar temples unless there was some method of moving a person from one spot to another, "wormhole-ish"? I have no idea HOW because if we knew how we would be doing it now. Just saying, your mind has to be really open...and yes, open enough that much of the grey matter might fall out :-)

I'm more inclined to believe its a "walk this way" sign than "time traveling gods".
How did you even manage to get to that conclusion?

Just thinking logically and not actually knowing anything about the temple, my first conclussion would be more something like "their mythology has a lot to do with "Journeys" or "Traveling", wether that be through life, through rituals, tasks or whatever".
Or possibly its a pilgramage site and has symbolic significance, the feet of the travellers would be weary and for what ever reason they thought that that was significant.

Time traveling gods :'D
If that were even remotly possible then where are they now?

Time Travel, from the second it springs into existance, would change the entire course of History and Time so as to include time travellers from the beginning
Think Douglas Adams HHGTTG or Dr Who, Time Vacations would be a real thing and the beginning and end of the universe favorite destinations, as well as historical moments.

Considering there is no proof that time travel exists or could exist, im going to say its impossible otherwise we'd be seeing time travellers all over popping in and out of Time Zones willy nilly.
It would be quite literally impossible to place laws or restrictions on the use of Time Travel, as the traveller can just travel back to the day before the law was created and do whatever it was they wanted to anyway, completly legally or travel to a time when there was no laws and use it as your base of operations.

If you say they are only tourists via nature of the universe and for whatever reason cant actually influence anything then it rules out the Gods as being Gods as they'd have no power to change anything in the first place, never allowing them to become known as Gods as they would be like some wierd form of The Silence from Dr Who.

Everything that is in the past, stays in the past and it can not be altered unless you accept the theory of ultimate dimensions springing up every time anything anywhere makes a choice of one thing over/as opposed to/instead of/with/without another.
If thats the case then Gods dont actually exist as the existance of Gods is actually only a Time Traveller from an alternate dimension, travelling into a universe that was created the second the Traveller travelled to it.
"Time Traveller induced Big Bang of Instantanious Universal Expansion and Creation" if you will.

However we know that this is not the case with our universe, as we know it took millions apon loads of years to form and in fact is STILL in the process of expansion.

Then theres the problem of:
A Problem arises ->
Dude gets bent out of shape about it and invents time travel ->
Dude goes back to fix the problem ->
A) He fixes it, which means the problem never existed in the first place so the Dude never invented Time Travel (paradox)
or
B) Dude couldnt change the past, because its impossible to change the past, only observe it
or
C) Dude travels into an alternate dimension (sideways rather than backwards or forwards) where either a) he was always part of the history of that dimension anyways or b) the dimension is moving at a different speed to ours and has only just reached the point in time to which he wishes to travel to.

Then again, im a salesman and not a theoretical physicist, so what do i know ;)

Maybe these temples are places where the Gods (those who from the heavens come) emerge from time travel and return to the same portal traveling from the different civilizations throughout the universe. We must keep our minds open to the endless possibilities in order to allow the facts to materialize.

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Frequently Asked Questions

A unique feature of the Ain Dara Temple is the carved footprints on the limestone threshold blocks. Each print is roughly one meter long and likely to represent the footprints of the deity. There are no known parallels in the Anatolian or North Syrian art.

There is only speculation as to whom the temple is dedicated. Ain Dara may have been devoted to Inanna, the female Mesopotamian deity of fertility and civilization. It also might have been dedicated to the male storm deity Hadad, or it might have been an oracle on a road known as the international coastal highway between the Syrian Desert and Mediterranean Sea.

 The Ain Dara temple, which was excavated between 1980 and 1985, is the most significant parallel to Solomon's Temple ever discovered. The Ain Dara temple helps us better understand several enigmatic features in the Bible's description of Solomon's Temple.

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Wu

Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods.... Read More

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