Jerablus Tahtani 1999

Edgar Peltenburg

(University of Edinburgh, SCOTLAND-UK)


Excavations at Jerablus Tahtani in 1999 were designed to explore occupations during Periods 1 and 2 of the site, the 4th and 3rd millennia BC. Work was conducted in all four Areas of the Project and in two new soundings. Traces of small Period 1 structures together with associated pits were located in two areas of the site. Most of this belongs to the Late Uruk period which seems to have succeeded an occupation of the local Late Chalcolithic. Period 2 excavations were focused on the Early Bronze Age fort and the extra-mural zone to the south where a high status tomb was previously uncovered. More Early Bronze Age burials were recovered.

These University of Edinburgh excavations were carried out from 22 March to 10 June within the Tishreen Dam international rescue programme. We are grateful to Prof. D. Sultan Muhesen, Director General of Antiquities and Museums, Dr Bassam Jamous, Director of Excavations and Dr Wahid Khayatah, Director, National Museum Aleppo for their advice and assistance. We benefited once again from the help of Mr. Mohammed Ali, the DGAMís representatative.

1 - Area 1:

This is located on the SE of the tell and comprises the EBA fort of Period 2B. Its wall here is multi-phased, and suggests that we have a fort, extension and annex.

Room 2024 in the annex, just inside the entrance through wall 108, was fully excavated this year. Another floor was located, this time with some in situ pottery. It confirms the domestic nature of the annex, in contrast to the more official character of the extension.

The 1.85m wide entrance 2746 of the annex has now been excavated to a depth of 3m. It has two successive thresholds with a drain 2688 partly embedded in the annex wall. Immediately outside were foreworks. Wall 2176 extended from the eastern jamb to retain the glacis on the east side of the entry.


2 - Area II:


This is now stratigraphically linked with Area I, so we are able to integrate developments in this southern extra-mural zone with the history of the fort. During the course of this seasonís investigations, it has become clear that the zone comprises a South Terrace which extends in front of the annex and lower, though important, activities at the base of the terrace.

The width of the South Terrace, from annex entrance 2746 to its retaining wall 587, is 12m.It rose c. 2.4m above the surrounding landscape. On it stood a series of domestic structures and a partly covered passage that led to the annex entrance. Part of one such structure, Room 2607, close to the annex wall was excavated in 1999. It belongs to a group of structures that seem to have been protected from upper glacis slopewash by large lateral drain 2119 that conducted water borne deposits away from the house walls and into the passageway.The wall of the South Terrace was pierced by a two leaf doorway that provided access from the lower sector to the annex entrance.


General view of South Terrace and Lower Sector, Period 2B

Two radically different periods of occupation are evident in the lower zone beyond the South Terrace. In the second, the whole area was redesigned when the high status T. 302 was built here together with a passageway at right angles to its entrance.

The first passage, 2700, is 3m wide and is bordered by substantial walls founded on boulders. It led from a southern entrance, 2745, flanked by two towers, c. 2 x 3.1m. It is unclear if these are part of a lower circuit wall or free-standing. Twelve metres long, this impressive approach sloped gradually up to the South Terrace doorway 2658.

Work was conducted beside Passage 2700 on the southwest corner of T. 302 mound in order to establish for the first time the external limit of the mound in the one area where it may have been protected from Euphrates overbank wash. This proved to have a succession of two southern stone kerbs, 2503 and 2649, belonging to different phases of mound construction. They demonstrate that in its latest phases, the southern mound was min. 2.8m wide and that the southwest corner of the mound façade was right angled.

During the course of this investigation, another T. 302 satellite burial, Gr 2618, was found, this time cut into the side of the mound after the latter had been partly swept away by flooding. Finds from Gr 2618, therefore, provide further evidence for dating these high Euphrates waters. They include bowls, globular jars, copper bracelets and toggle pins, and over 750 beads.


3 - Area III:



Investigations on the west of the site are designed to elicit information on Period 1 and on the primary occupation of the Period 2B fort.

Excavations were continued to natural in a sounding 2 x 3 beyond the fort wall. An unexpected sequence recovered in the lower part of the sounding demonstrates that the site may have been founded by people using local Late Chalcolithic chaff tempered pottery and not exclusively Uruk pottery as previously reported. Apart from ceramics, evidence of the LLC comprises postholes, a large oven and washed out mudbrick walls.

Uruk occupation subsequently eclipsed this material culture, a product replacement that is significant in terms of our understanding of relations between Uruk and native in this region of the Euphrates River valley.


Uruk pottery dump, 2396, located in Area III

Inside the fort, we recovered a third room of the primary occupation, Room 1980. Like the others, it was surrounded by thick walls with skins added to give more support for presumptive upper stories. And like Room 1555, it too was domestic, with a large oven and adjacent jar placed in the northwest corner.



4 - Area IV:


The aim of excavations on the north side of the mound is primarily to obtain a larger exposure of the initial phase of the fort in order to determine its character and evolutionThe fortís stone buildings that were investigated last season proved to be a radical re-organisation of space. While the passage that curved parallel with the fort wall also existed in earlier times, the space below the stone structures was heavily pitted and there were only traces of smaller mudbrick structures. These stone-lined passages, 2628-9, 2632, contained ecofactually rich drain deposits. Below these, ill-defined passages may have been paved with Uruk pottery.

The sounding showed that the glacis to the north was less than 12m wide, its full extent in the west. Two EBA burials were recovered from a very small exposure. Their presence raises the possibility that an extra-mural cemetery may exist to the north of the site. One of these, Gr. 2330, contained an adult on his left side. Grave goods include copper pendants and shell rings that are not found in contemporary graves inside the fort, hence there may be status, affiliation or other differences between mortuary populations. The superficial depth of these burials provides further welcome evidence for the level of the ground surface that surrounded the site in EBA times.

View of passage 1758, Area IV, from the east.


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