Jerablus Tahtani 2000

Edgar Peltenburg

(University of Edinburgh, SCOTLAND-UK)


The dual aims of this seasonís work were to study material in preparation for final publication of the funerary record and to resolve outstanding stratigraphic problems on site by limited excavation.

In order to provide a framework for the publication programme, to discuss progress and how best to disseminate information, we held a Project workshop in Edinburgh for all major contributors. Bolger, Campbell, Ceron-Carrassco, Lunt, Mavros, Parris, Peltenburg, Philip, Prag and Watt took part. During the dayís meeting, contributors provided progress reports, common concerns about the database were raised, we agreed on the establishment of a web page and we finalised a revised schedule for submission of 1st drafts.

At our excavation house in Jerablus, all tomb objects were assembled by tomb groups, final pottery recording was undertaken, 80% of drawing and photography was completed and databases for this volume were refined and completed. Analysts are now receiving the results of this preparation and the pro-forma Catalogue publication chapter which will need their input. The balance of human bone, 14C samples and palaeobotanical samples were successfully exported and are now being dealt with by specialists.

Clarification of stratigraphic issues entailed excavation in deposits of two periods, 1A, the Local Late Chalcolithic, and 2B, the fort and its extra-mural occupation belonging to the Early Bronze Age. For terminology and location of areas, see Peltenburg et al. 2000.




Period 1A

During the 1999 season, it became evident that the Uruk Period occupation in Area III rested on Local Late Chalcolithic material of unknown depth. This season we showed that the latter consisted of shallow remains of activities situated directly on the natural silts of the Euphrates floodplain. They were examined in a 70 m2 area, but they were disturbed by Uruk pits, mainly below Building 2185.

Ephemeral remains include postholes, mudbrick walls, hearths and surfaces. It was not possible to define a coherent architectural unit, but we may nonetheless conclude that the site was founded in this precarious, riverside locale before Uruk pottery was used in the settlement.

The valuable ceramic sequence will be studied in a future post-excavation season.

Basal local Late Chalcolithic features in Area III



Period 2B


Outstanding issues were to attempt to date and characterise the initial occupation of the fort in Area IV, to clarify the development of the fortification system in Area I and to establish the chronological status of the Lower Sector lying to the south of the fort in Area II.


Area IV

In order to evaluate reasons why a fort was imposed on the earlier Early Bronze Age settlement, we required an exposure of the initial occupation of the fort and investigation of its relationship with the underlying occupation in Area IV. This probe would also provide much needed evidence concerning the chronology of the first phases of the fort.

To accomplish these goals, a 30 m2 sounding was effected in the base of our 1999 excavation between the fort wall and the south limit of excavation.

A dense array of built features including rooms, entrances, passageways and drains slowed operations in the sounding. This occupation phase was marked by higher proportions of possible slag. Below, we unexpectedly located what are most probably two earlier fort walls. It seems that what we had hitherto referred to as the fort wall (999) in Area IV was but an extension founded on material typical of the glacis thrown up against the fort walls in Areas I and III. On this basis, we may infer that the fort extension took place soon after the primary occupation when the whole interior was artificially raised and the free-standing circuit walls were strengthened by a broad glacis.The earlier fort walls, 3040 and 3152, are contiguous and on the same alignment as 999.

Glacis material abutted the northern faces, hence the fort on this part of the site had been strengthened by an additional wall or buttress before the glacis was erected against it. While this evidence represents a significant addition to our understanding of the history of the fort, the time that it took to unravel these deposits meant that we were unfortunately unable to reach the initial occupation as planned.

View of 3040, Area IV




Area I

Here we hoped to refine our understanding of three previously identified, linked architectural elements: fort, extension and annex. In the course of this work, it became clear that the narrow entrance through the annex wall probably led to an internal route which extends beyond the limit of excavation. So, we do not know how or if the route may have led to entrances through the extension and fort walls which lay further inside.

Definition of the inner face of the fort wall established that it was 4 m wide in this Area, far wider than elsewhere. The surviving 3 m high wall of compact yellow mudbricks stands on a stone bulwark 1.7 m in height. It is possible that the wall incorporates a mudbrick filled room or casemate.

No further work was carried out inside the extension containing specialised facilities between the fort and annex. All work was confined to relations with adjacent fortification components.

The annex was filled with domestic rooms down to the threshold of the narrow entrance just mentioned. This sequence confirms that the annex was used for additional living quarters, at least in its ultimate phases. Below the narrow entrance was possibly a much wider entrance or gate, but this had been disturbed by later building. We have, therefore, ascertained that a reduction in entrance size and possibly function took place, a sequence that corresponds with the successive diminution of size of the external passageway which led up to the fort complex.


Area II

Removal of a baulk at the southern end of the extra-mural passageways in the Lower Sector yielded a Period 3 inhumation burial, the first secure deposit recovered from the Iron Age. Amongst limited grave goods was a bronze omphalos bowl similar to those found at Deve Hò yòk.Several EBA graves were also cut into Passage 990, the latest of the sequence.

This area, therefore, became a burial ground after it had ceased to function as a route into the fort and presumably after phase 1 of high status Tomb 302. There were no burials in Tomb 302 after phase 1, so these satellite graves were clustered around a monument for the ancestors. In total, 8 graves were recovered from Area II this season.

Excavation of the revetment walls bordering the passageways were carried out in order to date passage-building events more closely. They were separated by intrusions of concentrations of water worn pebbles lying in sorted bands. This suggests that passages were subject to repeated riverine erosion.

Attempts were made to establish if the southern terminals of the passageways were attached to an outer wall that enclosed this low extra-fort zone. Erosion had severely damaged deposits here and no associated wall was located. One fairly intact mudbrick wall stratigraphically below the terminals had contemporary deposits with exclusive Uruk sherdage. This is approximately at the same absolute height as Uruk deposits below the South Terrace, hence Uruk period occupation may exist over an extensive and fairly accessible area to the south of the main tell.

View of entrance 2745, by the ranging poles, Area II



E. Peltenburg, E. Eastaugh, M. Hewson, A. Jackson, A. McCarthy and Tom Rymer, Jerablus Tahtani, Syria, 1998-9: Preliminary Report, Levant 32, 2000, 53-75


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