IAP VII: Greater Mesopotamia

Reconstruction of its Environment and History


Work Package II: Archaeology in Context


WP II aims at studying cultural identity and social interaction in the region by combining the results of archaeological research conducted by the different partners, in collaboration with other national and international teams.



1. 4th – 3rd millennium in Upper Mesopotamia and the Levant


Tell Kannas, Syria (RMAH)


Tell Kannas / Habuba Kabira remains one of the only cities to have supplied us with the layout of a metropolis of the Uruk period. The wealth of material excavated on this site is kept in the RMAH and remains to be studied and published and will be a considerable progress in the understanding of the Uruk phenomenon.


al-Lehun, Jordan (RMAH)


The aim of the study of the Early Bronze Age pottery of al-Lehun in central Jordan is to make an important contribution to our knowledge of the history in this region. We must consider that ceramics have become the most common source for the study and interpretation of artefacts from ancient cultures. The results from the research of the ceramics from al-Lehun shed more light on the reconstruction of fortified sites, interrelations between means of productions, life style and subsistence resources.



2. Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age in the Levant


The transitional period of the Late Bronze - Early Iron Age is traditionally known as a Dark Age, characterized by profound transformations. Our previous studies have shown that a reinterpretation and better understanding of this crucial period is possible, but only through a collaborative venture.


Tell Tweini, Syria (KU Leuven)


In addition to the architecture, pottery, seals, coroplastic art, jewellery, weapons, religious symbols, loom weights and imported items were excavated. One of the implementation activities includes the recording of the material, its processing by means of special technological aids, comparing it to analogous bodies of evidence from other sites and uploading the evidence in a database. Such a study will also incorporate the subsequent conclusion about the chronology, provenance, technological characteristics and stylistic affinities as well as observations on the political and social organisation and possibly on the cultural and ethnic status of the population. The expected results include an accurate, complete and efficient presentation of the finds, as well as a new approach regarding its role within the Eastern Mediterranean region during the Bronze and Iron Age.


Numerous burials from the Middle and Late Bronze Age and Iron Age have been unearthed in Field A. Various burial types such as earth inhumations, jar burials and constructed tombs could be identified. The majority of the graves were found in an urban context; in most cases in a well-defined relation with domestic structures. So far, little is known or can be presumed in the matter of mortuary practices at Tweini. An intact collective grave of at least 58 individuals will be the subject of a comprehensive study. The preliminary results from the analysis of the Middle Bronze Age population from Tell Tweini provide a source of data to reconstruct some aspects of the biology and living conditions of this population. An increased number of burial excavations and further biological studies will enable a better understanding of the population history and validate/invalidate the hypotheses put forward. Elsewhere, isotopic analysis of human remains should illuminate some of these issues.


The study of the detailed stratigraphical contexts has offered interesting features on the Cypriote and Mycenaean ceramic material from the end of the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Preliminary studies from the last years provide evidence that Tell Tweini was inhabited throughout Iron Age I with only short interruptions.


After the destruction of neighbouring Late Bronze Age cities, several massive architectural structures dated to the Iron Age I seem to emerge at the site without an actual hiatus. The pottery assemblage displays a continuation of the local material into the Iron Age without the common imported Late Bronze Age wares from Cyprus or the Aegean world. Reassessing former excavated information against the background of this new evidence and studying new material from the A Field would allow a diachronic understanding of the transitional period of the Late Bronze and Iron Age settlements.


Tell Kazel, Syria (RMAH - AUB)


Tell Kazel is one of the largest mounds on the Syro-Palestinian littoral and has been under excavation by a team directed by Leila Badre of the Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut since 1985. Doubts are few that Tell Kazel is to be identified with the city of Sumur which played a prominent role in the history of the Levant from the 15th until the 8th century BCE as the capital of the kingdom of Amurru, a buffer zone between neighbouring areas controlled by the Hittite and the Egyptian crown. The excavations have uncovered impressive remnants of monumental architecture (military, palatial, religious and private). The Late Bronze Age temple in Area IV, one of the largest of its kind on the Levantine coast and a residential quarter in Area II possibly reserved for the passage of foreign ambassadors, have yielded unexpected amounts of finds illustrating the site’s relations with the kingdom of Ugarit in the north as well as with the central and southern Levant. Analyses of ceramics leave no doubt as to the privileged trade relations with Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean.


The Belgian component of the AUB archaeological mission is concentrating on the tell’s acropolis and exposed the oldest Phoenician temple on the Levantine coast, dedicated to Ba’al according to an inscription which also corroborates the northward propagation of the Phoenician alphabet in the 10th century BCE. Five recently excavated squares have exposed the layers representing the Late Bronze – Early Iron Age transition with very promising material to shed more light on this obscure period.



3. Late Iron Age international trade


Mleiha, United Arab Emirates (RMAH)


The site, ca 55 km east of the coastal city of Sharjah, is situated on an ancient trade route connecting the Gulf of Oman with the Persian Gulf and hence with Lower Mesopotamia, the Iranian Gulf Coast and Khuzestan. The oasis of Mleiha was an important centre since the 3rd millennium BC as demonstrated by the presence of Umm-an Nar type communal tombs. In the Hellenistic period it became the main settlement of SE-Arabia. Monumental tombs, an impressive fortress and a local mint demonstrate its pivotal role in the international trade during the Parthian period. The excavations focus on the development of Mleiha as a trade centre. Since 2009, a graveyard of the 3rd-2nd century BC with monumental tomb towers is being investigated. Among the finds reflecting the international trade are South-Arabian stone vessels, Indian, South-Mesopotamian, South-Iranian and Greek ceramics, including wine amphora from Rhodes.


Tyre, Lebanon (RMAH - AUB)


Members of the RMAH team join an archaeological mission directed by Leila Badre (American University of Beirut Archaeological Museum) in the excavation of Sector 7, located on the southern part of the island site. Work concentrates on an ancient Phoenician temple dating from the Persian and Classical Periods, discovered by the late emir Maurice Chehab. See the blog entry for more details.



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