Seminar für Orientalische Archäologie und KunstgeschichteMartin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Institut für Altertumswissenschaften
Seminar für Orientalische Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte
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Excavations at Tell Chuera, Syria

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Tell Chuera 1996
The 19th Campaign of Excavations

The 19th Excavation Campaign at Tell Chuera started at August, 18 and lasted until October, 19 1996. The team consisted of W.Orthmann as field director and the following members: U.Bock, I.Bösze, H.Brandl, D.Erbe, C.Falb, E.Fischer, M.Gütte, R.Heitmann, S.Jakob, K.Krasnik, R.Krautkrämer, M.Kudella, J.-W.Meyer, A. al-Murhaf, A.Pruß, W.-D.Stange, S.Stoyke, A.Wissing and J.Zech. The Directorate of Antiquities and Musea was represented by M. al-Halaf from Raqqa. Work was done in the areas:

Steinbau 2 and Steinbau 4

Plan scaled;

The excavations at the north and east of Steinbau 2 changed our view of the stratigraphic relation between Steinbau 2 and the adjacent squares. The Steinbau 2 was sunk into the blocking of level 4 rooms, which was already supposed earlier. What is new is the realization that some of the burnt buildings north of Steinbau 2 (the bakery and other rooms, published in Ausgrabungen in Tell Chuera I, insert 13) did not belong to level 4. They are contemporary with at least one phase of Steinbau 2.

This means that the older phase of Steinbau 2 existed together with the older phase of Steinbau 1. Propably, Steinbau 2 originally has been a rectangular building upon a terrace. Only later a second door in the west was added, transforming the buiding into a kind of propylon. Since level 4 is older than Steinbau 2, it can be assumed that it is contemporary with level 7 north of Steinbau 1. Both levels have in common that they were blocked with mudbricks and mudbrick pieces.

The level 4 rooms in the north-east of Steinbau 2 could not be fully investigated this year. They seem to belong to a kind of storage building. In these rooms a trench was sunk, sloping from east to west. This trench was filled with the burnt rubbish of level 3 buildings further north. Some big storage jars were thrown down into this trench. They were found together with the skeletons of two adults and two children and other skeleton parts. Similar skeletons of fallen humans have been found in earlier campaigns, they all came from this burnt level. These findings can be connected with a disaster marking a break in the development of Steinbau 1 and 2.

Steinbau 4 is, as far as we know now, a huge terrace constructed against a slope, belonging to level 3. Unearthed is the southern terrace wall, nearly 70 meters long. It consists of a massive limestone foundation with rising mudbrick walls. At its east a mudbrick wall connects Steinbau 3 with Steinbau 4, running at right angel to the terrace wall. In the area south of the edge some structures were visible which may be interpreted as belonging to a gate, possibly part of an inner city wall in a late phase of the third millenium sequence.

Inside the southwestern corner of Steinbau 4, a room of the older level 4 was excavated. Installations of this room were used for food production. A broad channel crosses the room from north to south. This may indicate a courtyard or a greater lane further north. Most ceramic finds came from level 4 context. These vessels belong without any doubt to period Chuera IC and confirm the relatively early dating of level 4. Metallic ware is well represented here, its share though never exceed 8%. Level 3 is characterized by the first appearance of flat base beakers, it belongs to the beginning of period Chuera ID.

In the southeastern part of Steinbau 4 were found some sherds typical for period IE, always from the uppermost strata. They belong to the latest third millenium settlement at Chuera. Most characteristic are high beakers with fine, separated rim, known from the excavation fields E (Steinbau 5) and F (Palace). A period IE settling at this spot can therefore be assumed.

"Kleiner Antentempel" (Area K)

The results of the 1995 excavations in area K posed the question of the origin of the thick ash layers in the western part of the area. Since many clay sealings with seal impressions were found in these layers during the campaigns of 1976 and 1982, a clarifying of this question was of special interest. It was intended in 1996 to recut the sections of the old field to obtain profiles in the west and south of the former excavated squares. It was furter intended to clear stratigraphy and structure of the buildings, since different architectural layers were documented together in 1982.

In all new trenches mighty ash layers were found closely below the surface. These relatively homogenous ashes overlay the uppermost building structures. Only in the south of the area the ashes were covered by mudbrick debris. Inside this debris, badly conserved mudbrick walls could be recognized. They were labeled level 1 in the newly established stratigraphy of Area K-West. A profile section drawn at this point shows a 1.4m thick deposition of ash layers beneath level 1. They were called level 2. To the north, the lower edge of this layer rises, it overlays amudbrick wall which is preserved up to 40cm below the surface. This wall belongs to level 3. The debris of this level can be divided into an ash layer containing broken mudbricks, sherds and pebbles (level 3a) and a layer containing the decayed mudbricks of the walls (level 3b).

Plan scaled;

In the newly opened trenches parts of two domestic buildings of level 3 with several rooms and one court were found. Sometimes, but not everywhere, the older walls of level 4 were used as foundations. The level 3 hoses were abandoned and the area remains unsettled for some time, allowing debris layers to be accumulated. These ashy debris layers contained only few animal bones. If these layers were normal household waiste, one would expect a significantly higher number of bones. It is therefore likely that the debris comes from some craftsman's production.

This was also indicated by a kiln which was placed secondary in the eastern corner of one room. The firing chamber was of rectangular shape, re-using the eastern and northern walls of the room. The kiln was filled with the patly vitrified decay of ist walls. Due to the heavy destruction of the kiln, a reconstruction of its shape is not possible, maybe it was covered with a domed roof. The use of the installation is unclear, too. In the vicinity no ceramic waisters, typical for pottery production, were found. To the east of the kiln a lot of "casting ingots" of copper or bronze were found, though in disturbed context. A similar, but better preserved piece from area K was analyzed by A.Hauptmann of the Mining Institute at Bochum some years ago; the metallurgical context remained unclear. However, our kiln seems to be too large to be used for smelting ores or metals.

Level 3 remains are of special interest, since a lot of clay sealings and stoppers with seal impressions were found in its debris. In the ash layers of level 2, clay sealings are comparatively rare. One can assume that the sealings of the 1976 and 1982 campaigns mostly came from the same level. For instance, six impressions of a double-registered seal were found this year in levels 3a and 3b. Altogether 49 impressions of the same seal are known from the earlier campaigns.

Plan scaled;

Level 4 consists on the one hand of the majority of those remains called "upper level" in the 1982 season. On the other hand, newly excavated structures in a strip south of the old excavation area belong to this level. This level can be divided in several subphases, which are not counted yet, since there is no stratigraphic link between the northern and southern part until now. An uninterrupted wall separates the southern part - a court with two small rooms - from the court [80] an the rooms north of it. A sondage below the floor of Court [80B] showed the former existence of a street at this spot. At least in the excavated parts of level 4, this street was blocked by an entrance room and changed into a court. The two-room groups of [74]+[74A] and of [72]+[73], both erected most likely on top of older foundations, remind very much of the street fronts of the parcelled houses in area K-East. Originally these rooms seem to be the entrance corridor and the main romm of two houses, with the courtyards further north. It is not certain, wheather it would be able to find this structure in level 4, but it can be assumed for level 5.

Plan scaled;

Level 5 corresponds mainly the "lower level" of the 1982 excavation report. The rooms in the northern part could not be re-investigated, but in the southern part room [68] and the adjacent court [217] were excavated again. As supposed earlier, a typical corridor room [216] lies to the east of room [68], crossed by a water conduit running from the court [217] south to the street already mentioned. A strip, two meters wide, was opened to pursue the course of a second water conduit which appears in the west of room [66]. A row of three narrow rooms was found, which had no connection to both sides. The conduit runs through these rooms and finally reaches the street in the south.

The 95 seal impressions of this campaign were mostly applied to door sealings. Therefore, the seals belonging to these impressions were used locally, which is not sure in the case of jar sealings. A view at the seal impressions of earlier excavations in area K, stored in Raqqa, proved that a majority of them are door sealings, too. The impression 96.K.142 shows several animals in a figure-band scene. A gazelle with longed body stand with the forelegs on the ground, its hind legs are grasped by a lion and pulled up. The image of the lion is preserved only in the outlines. It stands across with a bull or bull-man. A very similar scene is visible on an impression found in 1976 in the same area. Both can be compared with south-Mesopotamian glyptic of ED IIb style.

The most common impression was made with a circular stamp seal. It shows a very simple rosette with a dot in the centre and seven similar dots around it.

The area K pottery corresponds with the repertoire of earlier seasons. The early stages of the Chuera sequence (period IC) are represented by level 5. From the courtyard [217] comes a semiglobular bowl with rounded base and S-shaped wall, a key shape of period IC. Near the level 3 kiln mentioned above, two bowls wth flat base and straight wall were found. The bowl 96.K.112 may have been used for pouring tar, since the interior surface is covered by tar and the exterior showspouring traces.

"Palace" (Area F)

Plan scaled;

Excavations at this area in the north-western part of the upper town were conducted since 1985. They exposed a habitation and workshop quarter of the Akkadian Period (level 1) and a palace-like building of terminal Early Dynastic Date (level 2) beneath. The 1996 excavations were aimed toward three goals: a stratigraphic clearing of level 1 remains, the search for the south-western corner of the level 2 palace and the investigation of the lower terrace in the northern part of the palace.

Level 1 can be divided in 3 phases. The oldest phase 1c is characterized by the re-using of some palace rooms, the building of small rooms in the old courtyards and the presence of pottery workshops. Phase 1b is for the most parts only a rebuilding of 1c structures, but with only few palace rooms still in use. Phase 1a lies immediately under the recent surface of the tell. It is therefore heavily eroded in the most parts. The ground plans differ in many cases from those of phase 1b.

In level 2 the whole mound of area F was occupied by a large public building which is called "palace". Due to the uneven ground it was built in a terraced way. In a first building phase (2b2) the building measured ca.45 x 45m, later it was enlarged to the west by ca. 20m (phase 2b1). In this period the "palace" was used according to its original conception. This changed in level 2a, in which the rooms of the lower terrace came out of use. In the upper part a whole row of rooms was blocked with mudbricks, other rooms were used as workshops.

The sout-western part of the "palace" was until now only partially excavated. In this year the south-western corner of the building could be exposed. The southern wall runs straight in west-northwestern direction until it reaches a massive crossing wall. A similar wall was cut further north already in 1990; the wall now found may be the southern continuation of this wall. Since this western wall runs further south, the theory of a inner city wall is supported. This wall is at the same time the western wall of the "palace". The southwestern rooms of the building were used for economic purposes. The use of fire is proved by several ovens and thick ash layers on the floors of these rooms. It is still unclear, if this part was a big kitchen or a workshop area.

The small, nearly quadratic room [45] belongs certainly to a kitchen section. It is accessible only through a small door in the eastern wall and is carefully paved with big limestone slabs. In the southeastern corner a big storage jar was installed, with its outer surface decorated by a web-like application. Already in antiquity it was repaired with bitumen, indicating a use a drinking water container. The room was propably also used for washing and preparating food. Further north some rooms of a domestic wing were uncovered. One of them is a bathroom with water-resistant plaster and drainage. The economic wing was thus restricted to an area of ca. 12 x 18m in the south-west of the "palace".

Covered in a baulk was until now the passage from court [8] to room [12], which was for sure the main entrance to the "throne room" [12]. This very broad door has a big limestone slab as treshold and is stepped from the north. Since the podest at the eastern end of room [12] is surely its most important structure, the whole entrance situation follows a bent-axis scheme.

Room [19] is alredy part of the lower terrace, most propably a living room. It is preserved more than 2m high. In 1996 the previously unexcavated western part of the room was uncovered. The filling belongs mostly to level 1c, proving that room [19] was still open at this time. Especially remarkable ist a completely preserved, vaulted door in the north-east of the room. The stratigraphic relation between this room and the upper terrace could not be cleared this year.

To level 2a belong two basins covered with gypsum, which were succeedingly built at nearly the same place in one of the rooms of the economic wing in the south-west. The younger basin, better preserved, measures ca.2 x 3m. A reconstruction as bathroom seems not convincing, since the basin was open at three sides. Due to the small depth of the structure an interpretation as a place for the preparation of potter's clay is also unlikely. The basin thus must have been used in a not yet determinable process of work.

Beneath the excavated floor levels of level 2b2 exist, at least in the centre of the "palace", no more floors of level 2. The state intended at the building of the "palace" is therefore reached now. This is visible in the section of a pit, which was dug from level 1b about 2 meters deep, cutting several palace rooms. But it seems, that alredy during the time of level 3 (period Chuera ID early, ED III), a great public building existed in area F.

The pottery of area F, again found in larger quantities, corresponds mostly to the shapes and wares found during previous campaigns. The level 2 building was erected during period Chuera ID; due to the abandonment of the "palace", this level is scarcely represented in the pottery collections.

In level 2a, the use of the building was alterated, and parts of it were used as potter's workshops. Even the number of pottery waisters gives a good idea of the occuring shapes. It were relatively thick-walled beakers and bowls with separated, flat base and slightly everted rim. In this period the production of thin-walled beakers with concave base and separated fine rim seem to start. They can be considered as the key shape of period Chuera IE. In some instances, they were found together with the shapes described above on the same floors.

The workshops of level 1 produced a few standardized shapes of pottery, mostly the long known beakers and bowls with fine, separated rim and concave base. Characteristic for Period IE pottery are also thin-walled bottles with ovoid body and high, cylindrical neck. For the first time, an unbroken example of this shape could be uncovered. Beside the locally produced common ware, some imported luxry wares, as a "Syrian Bottle" coming from the west, were found in the houses apart of the workshops.

The seal 95.F.307 of soft shelly limestone was found already in 1995 inside a level 2b1 wall. This season it was cleaned and conserved. It is cut in a local, linear north-Syrian style. It shows a four-wheeled chariot, drawn by an equid to the left side. In the rear part of the wagon stands a person, holding a standard-like object. Behind the chariot stands another person.

The younger types of terracotta figurines occur much more frequently than the older ones. A few of them were found in level 2a, but the majority comes from level 1b and 1c. Most of the anthropomorphic figurines depict women. Therefore, two male figurines of the 1996 campaign are remarkable. But are comparable to fgurines from the Syrian Middle Euphrates, but they differ from them in the rendering of beard and long hair, falling on the shoulders, respectively.

The head of the figurine 96.F.201 is worked extraordinary fine, showing a woman wth bent-up hair knot. Her "coffee-bean eyes" can be compared with figurines from the Habur region.

Middle Assyrian Settlement (Area G)

Plan scaled;

Aim of this year's work was the clearing of questions on the stratigraphy and building history of the Middle Assyrian gouvernor's palace (level 3) and on its relation to the subsequent privat houses (level 2). The whole excavated area and the sections were cleaned and documented again. The excavation area was enlarged only to the south and west to find out the extent of level 3 in these squares. The works described are not yet finished, the results are thus still preliminary.

Until now, level 2 was divided in several building phases. Judging from the 1996 results this is not necessarily the case. Rebuilding of several structures can be assumed, but no sequence of complete new buildings. The whole area seem to be terraced towards the east. This is visible in the east-west sections, too, showing that level 2 walls were partly placed directly on top of older structures.

Some structures, labelled as mudbrick pavements in earlier years, were also investigated more closely. At least in the re-excavated parts they are found to be the complete blocking of several older rooms. Generally can be stated, that many level 3 rooms were blocked just before the founding of level 2. The mudbrick surface created was used as foundation for the new houses. Altogether, level 2 shows a relatively large extent of single, multi-roomed houses on both sides of a lane, rising from south-west to north-east. The houses consist of a court, often with pavement and installed kilns, and several adjacent rooms. To the already known burials under the floors of these houses some earth and pot burials were added. One earth grave of a juvenile girl was provided with especially rich gifts (see below).

In level 3 some walls were investigated by the re-cleaning of plana and profiles. The exact outline of some walls could be cleared, especially in areas of the mentioned "mudbrick pavements". These blockings can be divided in several building activities of different date. For instance, the wall between room 2 and court 3 has certainly not existed in the older phase of level 3. Here was a broad, U-shaped kiln, open to the north. The whole area is thus to be interpreted as a court. The cuneiform table summary="(table formats the page)"ts found south of the kiln in 1992 were propably stored origianally at another place. Often, walls were pressed aside, with facing mudbrick walls added later. Sometimes these rooms were filled up completely.

To the south of this complex, another room (11/12) follows, completely blocked with well set mudbricks. On the floor, several ash filled pits were detected, connected by narrow channels. Especially in the western part of the room, these channels form a web-like structure, belonging to a pit which contains pieces of bronze slag. Certainly a workshop area was partly uncovered, propably spreading further to the east. The area further to the south is difficult to understand. The southern wall of the workshop area is deeply founded and reaches the older levels of the third millenium. There are indications for a disposal area at this place, open to the slop in the west.

The western border of the level 3 building could be excavated in 1996. Corresponding to the natural slope, it has a stepped facade. Smaler channels and watercourses lead from the western rooms to the exterior.

In the east of the building, the so-called entrance area was investigated again. The two bastions were used as foundations for level 2 buildings. Some rests of these houses could be traced. The brickwork is preserved only three layers high and founded on a level 3 floor. A partial removal of this brickwork reveals a wall of northeast-southwest direction as its core. This wall should be considered as the eastern end of the gouvernor's palace. It remains uncertain, if the entrance was really in this area; in the older phase at least, the wall seems to be uninterrupted and only crossed by a water channel.

Since the work in the Middle Assyrian Settlement was restricted to a re-investigation of previously excavated structures, finds are relatively rare. No greater ceramic ensembles were found. The registered pieces came from both levels 2 and 3 and represent the common repertoire of Standard Middle Assyrian pottery. The most common shape is a bowl with bent wall, made of a course, chaff-tempered ware.

A hint for a possible detachment of military units at the site are weapons which are occasionaly found. A projectile point of bronze was found in a level 2 pit. Nearly 10cm long, it was too heavy to be an arrowhead and should be considered as a spearhead. At least in level 2, iron objects are no longer rare. Tools, weapons and bracelets were made of this material. Grave 96.G.001 of level 2 contains also iron objects, in this case a pair of ankle-rings. The bracelets of the 10 to 13 years old girl were made of bronze. A large number of beads may originally have belonged to two or more necklaces. Most of the beads are made of faience or carneol, shaped cylindrical or cigar-like. A long pendant is made of an obsidian core (possibly a much older piece) unsuitable summary="(table formats the page)" to press further blades. In the grave, a small spouted bowl of light blue faience was found, too. Very remarkable are ten golden earrings which were found near the head and the chest of the dead girl. They are very similar to each other: A lunular core of gold sheet is covered with three doubled rips.

Compiled by A.Pruß

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