AVM DS2 Transcript




The pause between seasons is like the pause at the end of a day: we take stock of the results, and gauge the problems raised by the very process of discovery. Our expedition sign welcomed our return: we were richer than on our first arrival, richer in answers, and in new questions. The answers were awaiting us in the ground, and they turned out to be so close to our expectations, that one might accuse us of having planted our finds--such is the relished pleasure of goal-oriented research!


To start where we left off last year: using solely typological correlations, we had postulated


that our second millenniun material from Terqa fitted, chronologically, between Mari around 1800 and, Nuzi around 1500 B.C. This evaluation was of considerable importance--if true--because the period between those dates was otherwise one of darkness in Near Eastern history: our material was the first major body of evidence which appeared to illuminate the dark segment in our archaeological scheme. But it remained-- a conjecture. We came back looking for a confirmation.


And we found it. As we were digging in the houses and streets of the kingdom of Khana, we came upon the most explicit signature which history can place on archaeological deposition: well-stratified, dated texts. This is a contract of sale of land, for 12 sheqels of silver, on the part of a woman, called "Lady Ili-dumiqi." A severe penalty, 10 pounds of silver, is prescribed for breach of contract,


payable to the palace. It was authenticated by two witnesses who had rolled their cylinder seals on the tablet itself and on a layer of clay which had been placed over the tablet to serve as an envelope: although shattered in antiquity, the dozen fragments represented one complete side. The fragment of another contract preserves the name of a new King of the Khana dynasty: Yaggid-Lim. This dynasty was known to have ruled Terqa, probably their capital, and the region of Khana. Until now, texts associated with this dynasty had never been found in a stratified context, so that they could not be matched against any corresponding assemblage of material culture.

Our new finds from Terqa change all this. Those of the 1976 Season were published shortly after the end of the excavations.


The returns had been rich, especially the pottery from a small room which appeared this way in 1976. As our ’76 plan


shows, the area seemed to extend to the West, away from the cliff face. So, naturally, that’s where we dug this year. And, that’s where, in the newly uncovered remains of the building complex, we found the Khana tablets. Structure A3 is the storage room uncovered in 1976. A1 is the room where the contract of Lady Ili-dumqi was found. The contract with the name of King Yaggid-Lim was found in debris overlaying strucuture B1. A street separates this city block from another shown in green. Looking down the street toward the river, we see a tiny fragment of the Khana kingdom, the only one brought to light so far: a corner of a residential area where one wealthy woman, some 3600 years ago, kept a record of her business transactions.


If we descend within the walls of the house, we gain a better understanding of what is meant by “well-stratified.” The spot where the contract of Lady


Ili-dumqi was found is well within the layer of burnt debris which had accumulated over the floor of the house. The debris was compacted when the house was reused after the fire, and the resulting new “floor” is a uniform and well-defined surface which effectively “seals” the older floor.


Everything preserved between these two floors may safely be considered contemporary and the contract found in the second millennium houses are mostly utilitarian: a strainer, a trough with depressions along the rim, distinctive button-base goblets which could be held in one hand, slightly larger jars regarding two hands and probably used for pouring, and large, wide-mouthed vessels from which the contents could be scooped with a ladle. The larger jars would rest on ring-shaped stands,


Sometimes found tucked away in corners with mixed collections of household items--tall jars, platters, grinding stones together with yet another cuneiform tablet!-- shown here on the blur cloth. Other objects which belong to the Khana period are figurines-- a woman disrobing, a quadruped, and, possibly, an owl. A beautiful stone grinder in granite reminds us of a piece of modern sculpture. The hold is to provide a better grip as the heavy piece was used to crush and grind food staples. Side by side with domestic objects, we have objects of war in bronze-- an arrowhead, a spear head. Other metal objects include an axe head and a knife with a serrated edge, possibly a saw, with an antler handle.


Burials, at Terqa, were dug next to, or within, residential areas.    


Occasionally they intersect one another; this exposed skeleton of the modern period, came to rest within inches of the Khana period burial on the lower left. This jar burial is of particular interest. When we first came upon it, we noticed two toy-wheels in the shaft next to the jar. Toy wheels-- or weights, as might be used for a loom or a fishing net. The burial itself might provide the answer. The two jars, placed rim to rim, contained the crumpled remains of the original burial, undisturbed. There was a small offering bowl (to the right, partially covered by the smaller jar), and the bones of a small child; the items found in the shaft were then indeed toy wheels, laid to rest next to the jars after these had been lowered into the shaft. The cloth material, in which the child was wrapped, survived remarkably well. It still shows the texture of the weaving material, the details of the weaving


as in this eyelet, the folds of the garments as it was wrapped, turban-like, around the head. The excavations of Khana period levels were concentrated in Area C, the residential quarter, while the infant burial was found in Area A.


The second major question we came away with in 1976 concerned the nature of a monumental structure of the third millennium. Was it a temple, a palace, or the City Wall? The resolution of this problem was as interesting as the question itself. How were we to proceed in order to arrive at a definitive interpretation of the remains we had been exposing? We came up with three lines of argumentation.


First-- the structural make-up, as revealed by our new excavations, excludes the possibility of its belonging to a single building however monumental. Second-- evidence was found of the same construction at various points along the perimeter of the Tell,


clearly indication that a unitary structure surrounded the entire city. And third-- the activities associated with the structure were of a type which does not support its use as either a palace or a temple. It was therefore-- a city wall. We will now illustrate these points one by one.


The structural make-up can best be appreciated by viewing a schematic section. A series of floors (in yellow) correspond to the inhabited levels of the city. The brick mass (in maroon) consists of two building portions: the narrower and older one is 5 meters in width and was protected against flood scouring by boulders placed at the base of the wall. The addition, on the left, is 8 meters in width, and it incorporates the boulders in its foundations. The profile of a human figure on the left gives an idea of the scale: the wall is about four times the height of the person. Here,


the scale is shown by people standing on top of the wall. From a different angle we see the entire mass of bricks with our guard and his tent on the top of the wall. The platform in the foreground has been recently created by erosion; the foundation boulders are in evidence at the base of the wall. From close up we can appreciate the enormous quantity of bricks that went into building the structure. This particular segment of the wall may have been a major juncture, a corner tower perhaps.


Elsewhere, too, we have found evidence of the city wall-- a trench has exposed a cross section of the wall, 18 meters wide. The photographer, seen from the base of the wall, seems to be floating in space-- much as an ancient defender of the wall might have looked to an attacker besieging the city from below.


A thick accumulation on third millennium floors (below the blue rope) abuts the city wall (to the right of the outstretched arm). A close-up


shows a detail of the smooth upslope of the floors against the rough texture of the brick, which have been stripped of their thick later of plaster.


Let us now look at the city wall in its relationship to the Tell. A contour map reveals the step edges of the Tell, marked by the narrowing of intervals between isometric lines, which define a high, oval mound. The segments of the wall still extant are shown in red. The dotted line represents one possible reconstruction of the ancient wall to its full extent. Another panorama is obtained from the highest point in town!-- the water tower, which rises from the edge of the Tell. We now have Ashara below us: moving clockwise, we see the cultivated fields, the desert terrace in the far-off distance, the Euphrates as it flows from the North, (with a public building in the foreground), the main street with the suq or the market, the square and


the houses sloping up behind it to the summit of the Tell, and finally the city park, on the edge of the Tell overlooking the fields and with the river flowing to the South.


We have explored the first two clues which led us to identify the monumental structure as a city wall-- its make-up, and its extent. We will now look at the third argument-- the nature of the stratigraphic remains immediately adjacent to the wall. The same area was used for storage facilities, manufacturing facilities, and as a burial ground. This implies a diverse stratigraphic sequence of functions and activities which are too incompatible to have been carried out at the same time, let alone within the same enclosed building. Once again, the third clue reinforces the interpretation that the monumental structure was a city wall. We will now take a closer look at these various activity areas uncovered within and adjacent to the wall.



On the river bank is where we have obtained maximum exposure of the city wall with its immediate context. Zeroing in on this context, we notice the lower left a semi-circular feature which is all that remains of a silo used for storage. To its left are the remnants of two rectangular features, probably storage bins for such staples as barley.


We come now, to the details of the kiln, of which only the fire chamber is preserved. Originally, it was constructed in two levels, with the fire chamber capped by an arched upper portion where the objects were placed. They rested on a grill-like platform, which allowed for the passage of air and heat. The intensity of the fire may be gauged by the clay burnt green at the back wall and in one of the flues. This kiln was clearly a major feature in this part of the city, as it had been repaired and reconstructed at least three times.



The most recent use of this area in the third millennium connects it with the burial activities. In the 1976 season we found one burial next to a rock cairn and this season we discovered an even larger burial complex also dated about 2400 B.C. A woman was laid to rest in a simple open shaft, wrapped in a straw matting of which only a few carbonized pieces have survived. She was accompanied by paraphernalia, of which offering vessels and her personal jewelry were preserved. A beautiful mother-of-pearl circlet was recovered near her head, which was probably worn as a pendant necklace, a later example of which is represented in a Mari painting. Two long pins, beads, and a ring were worn together as a fastening for a cloak-like garment. The pendant consisted of a glistening array of small beads inset in a small gypsum sphere. We have representations of this very arrangement of pieces of jewelry in Mari inlays.   


Both her girdle and her head gear were embroidered with dozens of beads. One exquisite luxury item she owned was an inlaid ostrich egg, found shattered, which had a pottery rim and base inlaid as well with triangular mother-of-pearl pieces. The burial vessels are imitations in pottery of metal vessels and are typical of the period.


Both the ways of life, then, and the ways of death, have left their stamp on the stratigraphy just within the city walls. At the opposite end of town, a bronze axe head was found on the surface to remind us that persisting dimension of human life, warfare, which has conditioned the growth of society for so long. Warfare undoubtedly was a major factor in fostering the establishment of larger urban settlements. Of these, Terqa is emerging as one of the earliest and best preserved examples.


Urban beginnings in the Near East, in


fact in the world, date to a period around 5000 B.C., which is known as the Protoliterate or Protohistoric. While Terqa shows no trace of occupation during this period, evidence of a protoliterate settlement was found at a nearby site, known today as Qraya, located some four kilometers up the Euphrates. The geomorphological configuration of the site is interesting: the river makes a band here which seems to respect the contour of the Tell. The current is flowing on one side and eroding the other, creating a promontory.


It is possible that the original settlement was located on a rock formation which now poses special resistance to the force of the water. Looking from the edge of the Tell down to the river bank we gain a view over the landscape similar to that from Terqa; here too there are houses on the flattened top of the Tell.


We opened a small sounding just above the level of the surrounding fields, and within the two meters of cultural stratigraphy


which were exposed, we found an uninterrupted sequence of protoliterate materials, including sizeable portions of architecture. The most typical object of this period is the so-called beveled rim bowl, a measuring vessel for rations, of which we found several intact, plus several thousand fragments, even in the small area excavated. Mold-made to insure standardization of size, these vessels are one of the first indicators of an industrial approach in the incipient urban centers of Mesopotamia: they were probably used to dole out identical rations to the large crews working on public projects.  Qraya is one of only three sites in Syria to exhibit this material, and the only one to have, in addition, evidence of the pre-historic period which immediately precedes the protoliterate, namely the Ubaid period, around 3500 B.C. We have thus a unique opportunity to complete for Syria a chronological sequence


which is important not only in itself, but also because it will help to clarify the background of Mesopotamian contacts against which the phenomenon of Ebla can best be understood.


Work at Qraya was undertaken with within the framework of what we call the Khana survey. We are conducting it with the support of special technical equipment, such as, for instance, a portable microfiche library. The nature of the material being discovered and the scope of institutional and individual participation in the project make it possible to couple our research with a training program: half of the staff members are students in a field school which is academically sponsored by UCLA. Thus it is that excavation techniques and laboratory analysis, plus the study of ethnography, and geography, provide the opportunity for the novice as well as the veterans to assimilate, not just fragments of knowledge, but rather a


global view of the culture of the past.