Syria Archeology Part II

By | December 17, 2021

New lights on the Hurrito-Mitannic civilization will undoubtedly come from the Swiss excavations (M. Wäfler) at Tell Ḥamidiyya: the site, which is located in the H̱ābūr region along the course of the tributary Ǧaġǧaġ, was located right in the central area of ​​the Mitanni kingdom and perhaps it hides the remains of the capital, Ta’idu. At the same time, Mitannic expansion towards the West can be traced along the course of the Middle Euphrates, in the important centers of Tell Ḥadidi-Azu and Meskena-Emar.

The northern Gezirah region, or more exactly the so-called H̱ābūr triangle, between Ra’s al-῾Ayn, al-Ḥasaka and al-Qāmišlī, has in the past been the subject of fruitful, but not systematic, research by M. Mallowan in Chagar Bazar and to Tell Brak and of M. von Oppenheim in Tell Ḥalaf at the beginning of the century, and of A. Moortgat to Tell Fāẖiriyya (the probable Mitannic capital Washshukkanni), Tell ῾Ailūn and Tell Khuera in the 1950s. Excavations and surface reconnaissance in the north-eastern Syria then intensified starting from the mid-1960s almost simultaneously with the label of ” salvage ” promoted by the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums with the patronage of UNESCO, for sites threatened by the construction of the Tabqa dam in the middle Euphrates valley. In the same years the English mission of D. Oates resumed excavations at Tell Brak (1976), where ample evidence was added for the proto-dynastic age (about 2800-2500 BC). The discovery, in 1960, of inscriptions of King Tukulti-Ninurtaii (890-884 BC) in Tell Barri, the ancient Kakhat, which confirmed the presence and building activity of the sovereign in Upper Mesopotamia, started a series of campaigns by of an Italian Mission led by PE Pecorella. Shortly before, Yale University (H. Weiss) had begun investigations east of the Ǧaġǧaġ River, at the Tell Laylān site, identified as the residence of the Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad, Shubat-Enlil. Excavations have revealed the Palace and a temple from the Shamshi-Adad era (circa 1812-1780 BC) and numerous seal impressions of royal officials demonstrating both the identification and administrative role of the city. For Syria 2011, please check

Of particular interest, in the context of knowledge of Middle Assyrian colonial expansion, is the archaeological work of the University of Tübingen at Tell Šayẖ Ḥamad, on the lower course of the H̱ābūr river. The center, which has its earliest mention on the Broken Obelisk and from which the annals of Assyrian kings up to the 9th century claim to receive tribute, is that of Dūr-katlimmu. Here resided an Assyrian governor mentioned in the numerous cuneiform tablets found during the excavation of a building in which the rooms on the ground floor had vaulted roofs. The documents, which bear imprints of Mitannic and Middle Assyrian seals, constitute a homogeneous archive referable, according to the eponyms, to the reigns of Shalmanassar i and Tukulti-Ninurta i. Among the most recent discoveries made at Tell Šayẖ Ḥamad, some tablets dated to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar ii, when the whole valley of the Middle Euphrates and the Gezirah had passed under Babylonian control.

They date back to the latter years of the geo-archaeological exploration of a team French CNRS and a team American-Danish (F. Hole-I. Thuesen), whose goal is to reconstruct the history of the population and the environment of S northeastern. The French project was launched by the epigraphists J.-M. Durand and D. Charpin who hoped to locate the cities mentioned in the tablets found in this area, in particular in Mari. The researches of both groups focused mainly on the pre-ceramic Neolithic period, still poorly known, and benefited from those underway since 1984 along the banks of the H̱ābūr, north and south of al-Ḥasaka.

The project for the construction of a dam on the H̱ābūr just south of al-Ḥasaka and of two other dams north-west of that city, has attracted the attention of the scientific world, as had already happened for the Tabqa dam. The appeal for the protection of about thirty sites destined to be submerged still involves a German mission of the Freie Universität Berlin, directed by H. Kühne and H. Pfälzner, at the Bdeiri site, a French one of I. Monchambert to

Mashnaqa, a Canadian in ῾Atij, a Belgian of M. Lebeau in Melebiye, and another Syrian at the site of Kashkashuk iii, an American from Yale University in Um Qṣeir, etc. The excavation results achieved so far are providing valuable information for the entire H̱ābūr valley, in particular as regards the Neolithic cultures: relevant is the information coming from the oasis of el-Kowm in the Syrian desert, object of systematic investigations. by a permanent archaeological mission directed by J. Cauvin. The peculiarity of this oasis undoubtedly lies in the exceptional concentration of prehistoric settlements: the almost continuous occupation from the Acheulean to the Bronze Age is certainly due to the existence of artesian aquifers of modest extent, but which were probably always active.

Syria Archeology Part II