Al-Andareen
A Gate into Syrian Culture, Art
and Archaeology
Ruaa AL-Jazaeri & Rasha Milhem
Famous for its archeological sites and rich history, al-Andareen or Androna as it was called in the Roman era, flourished in the Byzantine age and was the first defence line in the face of the Bedouin invasions in the Syrian Desert and one of the important sites where you can get acquainted with the Syrian cultural and architectural heritage.

Al-Andareen archaeological city is located 80 km north east of Hama, central Syria, and 100km south east of Aleppo governorate on the outskirts of the Syrian Desert.

The most important archaeological milestones which you can see on your way to the city are Bin Wardan Palace, a church and a military fort which has a distinguished architectural design called al-Abalak .

The city was famous for its fields of grapes and high -quality wine where it exported its products to local and foreign markets to the extent that it became well known in the Arabian Peninsula and even mentioned in the old Arabic poetry.

The city has a rectangular shape fortified with a pillared wall that contains many watchtowers.

It consists of a huge number of palaces, bathes, churches, mosques and houses, which have a distinguished architectural design representing an important model of the internal-yard house.

Basalt stones were used for building gates; corners and the most important parts of the buildings while bricks were used for the rest of them.

Al-Andareen includes a lot of water tanks in addition to huge basins ,which are similar to ponds surrounding the city. Water was drawn from far distances to these basins through certain canals.

Inside the city you can see two main cross streets in addition to other sub-roads and many gates, the most important of which was the western gate where the road to Hama ends.

There are twelve churches of different sizes spreading all over the city, built according to the Syrian architectural style and date back to the 6th century A.D, the most important of them is the Grand Bazlik Church that is located to the west of the Fort where some of its ruins are still in existence until the present day.

The square-shaped Fort was constructed at the center of the city with four watchtowers at each of its corners and at the center of its western and southern ribs there are two gates embellished with decorations and inscriptions indicating the great history of the building, which dates back to 564 A.D (Thomas' reign)

The way the structure of the Fort was built has protected it through the ages from natural disasters such as earthquakes by using basalt pillars with chains of brick.

The Fort consists of two stories, the first of which includes different stores and stables while the second one was used for accommodation.

Archaeological Discoveries:
Some of the archaeological discoveries unearthed at the site of al-Andareen are:
-A number of clay jars of different shapes and sizes.
-Some bronze coins dating back to the Byzantine era.
-Clay lanterns with a sign of cross-carved on them.
-Some of the clay pipes used to draw sewage.
- A number of marble and stone artefacts dating back to the Islamic age, which were unearthed at the Umayyad Bath.
-Coins on which Islamic phrases were inscribed.

POSTSCRIPT

An Archaeological French expedition has unearthed a number of important archaeological mosaic floors, pillars and inscriptions at the famous archaeological city of al-Andareen, 80 kms to the north east of Hama (Central Syria).

Director of Hama Antiquities Department Jamal Ramadan said "More than 1,000 archaeological sites have been discovered by the French expedition. The studies conducted on the unearthed clay pieces and the inscriptions showed that the sites date back to the Byzantine Era."

He added that the expedition have unearthed a number of archaeological mosaic floors, pillars and inscriptions in the village of Tal Abdul-Aziz, adding that the Hama Antiquities Department will take all the required measures to preserve the finds due to their cultural and historical significance.

He pointed out that the conducted archaeological surveys focused on studying the geographical environment of the unearthed sites and water resources, particularly the old water channels in addition to studying the various historical stages the area passed through from the Neolithic Age to the Ottoman Era.

He indicated that the most important archaeological discovery in the area is a 210-km archaeological wall dating back to the second half of the third millennium BC. The wall extends from Mount Apisan (north of Mount al-Ahas) to Mount Jamra in Lebanon passing through Mount Albelaas. The wall served as a dividing line between the desert and the urban areas.

The expedition has also conducted archaeological surveys at the archaeological sites on the dry margins of the desert extending to the internal drainage basin of the valleys which flow into the central part of the desert where the archaeological city of al-Andareen is located.

Studies have recently proven that most of the unearthed sites were not used as military sites during the Byzantine reign, but they were used as agricultural facilities for breeding animals.