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Byblos

Byblos was an early Phoenician settlement, associated with the history of the diffusion of the Phoenician alphabet. It was a maritime commercial city with strong trade relations to Egypt.

Phoenician remains on site include the Great Temple built in 2700 BC, the Temple of Baalat Gebal built in 2700 BC and the Temple of the Obelisks built ca. 1600 BC.

The town is believed to have been founded around 5,000 BC, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world. It was turned into a structured city with walls in about 2,800 BC.

Byblos is located on the Mediterranean coast of present-day Lebanon. It is attractive to archaeologists because of the successive layers of debris resulting from centuries of human habitation: neolithic, chalcolithic, Assyrian, Roman, muslim and Crusaders.

Map

Visit April 2012

Although Byblos (nowadays known as ‘Jbeil’) lies only 35 km north of Beirut, it took the rickety local bus number 6 more than 1.5 hours to get me there. As always in Beirut we got stuck in traffic, and then slowly proceeded through casino-town Jounieh until we reached the Mediterranean. Finally we were leaving the highrise buildings and American fastfood restaurants behind. The drive northwards along the coast is quite pleasant, though many good spots have been taken over by large beach hotels and exclusive fish restaurants. The bus driver dumped me at an overpass, from where I walked down into the city center of Byblos.

It is not difficult to find your way to the archeological site: just walk to the Crusader Castle, which is the highest building in the area. After paying the ´foreigners´ entrance fee of 8000 LBP (4 EUR), I started the long circuit of the complex. Paths lead to all corners of the site, with information boards in English, French and Arabic to explain what once was here. The origins of Byblos lie in the neolotihic and chalcolithic, so remains of this period are limited. Better preserved is the Roman heritage: a small theatre at a splendid location overlooking the sea, and a row of columns along a former Roman road. At the far end of the complex lies the Temple of the Obelisks, an Egyptian/Phoenician construction. A group of obelisks still is standing upright, which makes it look like a cemetery.

My walk ended at the Castle – the first Crusader Castle I have ever been to. I admired its sturdy construction. Inside a museum covers two of its floors. The best pieces that were found in Byblos are shown in the Lebanese National Museum however: the sarcophagus with the first Phoenician writing, the colossal Egyptian-looking Bronze Age statue that dominates the main hall, the little delicate, flat bronze statues that were used as votive offerings.

I spent about 1.5 hours on site, and enjoyed walking around it slowly. It was the busiest tourist site I have visited so far in Lebanon: there were about 30-40 other people, most of them in small tour groups. Before taking the bus back to Beirut, I had another good Lebanese lunch at Fenicia restaurant near the souk.

Community Reviews


Solivagant - June 2005

Byblos is apparently/claims to be the “oldest continuously inhabited town in the world”. The “idea” is however more impressive than the reality. It is a pleasant enough town with bustling little harbour overlooked by the remains of a crusader castle (photo) – much like many a small town around the Mediterranean. On the hill by the castle there is an archaeological site with a range of ruins from Roman times going back to Bronze Age and Neolithic but in all honesty there is not a lot to see. If you have made it to Lebanon however you should go up there – it is an easy trip out of Beirut either as part of a circuit up to the Cedars of Lebanon or as a return trip. It is all very relaxed and there are some good restaurants and pleasant cafes.


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Site Info

Full name: Byblos

Site History

Locations

The site has 1 locations.

  • Byblos

Connections

The site has 25 connections.

Constructions

History

  • Amarna Letters 
  • Assyrian Empire 
  • Babylonian Empire 
  • Neolithic age 
  • Oldest Buildings 5000BC "the site of Byblos has been continuously inhabited since the Neolithic period. The oldest human settlement, some 7,000 years old, appears to have been a fishing village whose numerous monocellular huts have been rediscovered" (UNESCO). "To the south of the site is the Neolithic...enclosure. The crushed limestone floors and low retaining walls can still be seen" (Lonely Planet). The French archaeologist Dunand excavated at Byblos between 1924-75 and discovered the Neolithic dwellings. This link provides descriptions and a discussion on dating which suggests that the habitation started c600 years earlier than 5000BC
  • Oldest continuously inhabited cities Byblos, Chalcolithic (3000 BC)
  • Phoenician world Phoenician city-state
  • Republic of Genoa 
  • The Crusades 
  • Via Maris 

Human Activity

  • Festivals Byblos International Festival
  • Sea Ports 
  • Writing systems Byblos is also directly associated with the history and diffusion of the Phoenician alphabet. (AB ev)

Individual People

Religion and Belief

  • Eastern Catholic Churches St John the Baptist Church is now Maronite
  • Mentioned in the Bible It is mentioned in the Bible in 1 Kings 5:18, referring to the nationality of the builders of Solomon's Temple, and also in Ezekiel 27:9, referring to the riches of Tyre.
  • Syriac Churches St John the Baptist Church is now Maronite

Timeline

  • Built in the 3rd Millennium BC Beginnings of the Phoenician civilization - "During the 3rd millennium BC, the first signs of a town can be observed, with the remains of well-built houses of uniform size. This was the period when the Phoenician civilization began to develop." (AB ev)

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