Excavation on the "High Mound" Excavation in the Lower Town The Tombs Regional Surveys and Excavations Remote Sensing

Field School

2008 Season 2009 Season

Excavation in the Lower Town

Surface Collections

Our work in the lower town and lower town south has involved both "non-invasive" data collection methods such as surface surveys and remote sensing mapping, as well as excavations.

Topographic Map with surface collection units.

Topographic map with relative density of pottery from SC units.

Our surface collection units consisted of circles with a radius of 2.82 m (or a total area of 25 m2) spaced at 30 m intervals along a series of transects from the inner fortification wall (approximated by the main mound's 10.5 m contour) to the outer wall, with cross-transects in areas where we judged artifact densities to be particularly high. In all we laid out and collected a total of 90 circles or 2250 m2, which, assuming a lower town of 30 ha, would represent less than 1% of its total area. In the lower town south we laid out one east-west transect along the south side of the outer fortification wall, and two parallel transects 50 and 100m farther south. We collected 14 units of 25 m2 units each, at 50 m intervals along each of the three transects. In all, we collected 42 circles or a total of 1050 m2, which would represent 1% of the total area, based on our estimate of the size of the lower town south as ca. 10 ha.


Our surface collections have provided some evidence for specialized activity areas. Chipped stone density is high, particularly in relationship to pottery density, in SC Unit 69 to the northwest, suggesting a stoneworking area, though our evidence is not as convincing as the specialized stone working area found in Titris Houmlyuumlk's eastern suburb (Algaze, et al.1995: 26). We recovered kiln wasters in SC Units 81 and 11 to the east and southeast, suggesting the existence of pottery kilns in those areas. We subsequently confirmed the existence of kilns in the vicinity of SC Unit 81.

As in the lower town, we recovered pottery and chipped stone from all of the collection units in the lower town south, and the few diagnostics were all consistent with a late third millennium date. Artifact densities in the lower town south were much lower than densities in the lower town, but they are, nevertheless, much higher than the sherd densities that Wilkinson took as evidence of manuring (1982). We concluded that the lower town south was occupied in the late third millennium, a conclusion born out by subsequent geomagneitc mapping and excavations.

Topographic Map with relative density of chipped stone from SC units.



Operation 4

Our excavations in Operation 4 uncovered three building episodes in a single occupation phase datable to the end of the 3rd millennium (and,so, contemporary with Operations 1, 20 and 12's Phase 4). The earliest Operation 4 remains consisted of an oven sealed by a later wall and a series of pits cut from virgin soil. The oven and pits may have been associated with the construction of the building in the succeeding level. The second or intermediate level included the remains of a large, relatively well-preserved building oriented north-northeast by south-southwest, as well as three rooms and an open space on the southeast. The latest level included the fragmentary remains of are construction of that building.



Operation 9

As in Operation 4, we found evidence for several building episodes in a single, short occupation phase which seems to correlated with our main occupation phase on the high mound (Operations 1, 20 and 12, Phase 4). The earliest remains consisted of pits and jars cut into virgin soil. The second, and principal, level included parts of three buildings (hereafter referred to by their locations in the operation as the NW, NE and S Buildings) and outside spaces associated with them. A prominent feature of the second level was a stone-lined water conduit that snaked from the southwest to the northeast through the operation.

The buildings and water conduit under went modifications and reconstructions during the course of their existence. The third level included miscellaneous features and walls, some seemingly associated with the earlier architecture of the second level, e. g., a basin and an isolated wall corner in the southern end of the operation, and others, such as the pebble paved surface in the northwest quadrant of the operation, apparently unrelated to any of the buildings.


Operation 16 and Operation 23

Though Operations 16 and 23 were separated by some distance, the kilns recovered in the two excavations make it sensible to describe the results of work in the two areas individually, but back to back. We found evidence for several occupation phases in the little more than 1 m of accumulated living debris in Operation 16, but correlating them with the sequence of occupation on the high mound remain problematic. The first and earliest phase consisted of fragments of abandoned walls such as that below Locus 16.5; an isolated segment of a stone-lined water conduit (under Locus 16.6); and, miscellaneous trash pits and fireplaces. The second occupation phase included relatively well-preserved architecture. The walls, oriented northwest to southeast, defined six spaces, and showed evidence of at least one rebuilding. The third occupation phase represented a marked change in the use of the area and consisted of pottery kilns set in shallow pits or depressions. The latest evidence of human activity in the area included pits cut from the surface subsequent to the area's abandonment.


Our study of the Operation 16 pottery is only in its preliminary stages. However, metallic ware sherds from the excavations may indicate that the first and/or second occupation phases were contemporary with the tombs we uncovered in 1993 and 1995 and probably date to the third quarter of the third millennium. The kilns then were likely contemporary with or post-date the settlement's main or urban phase of occupation (and therefore date to the late 3rd or early 2nd millennium).

We recovered few traces of standing architecture in Operation 23, but did locate a circular kiln in the southeast quadrant of the square. The kiln, measuring ca. 2.5 m in diameter, was set in a shallow bowl-shaped depression cut through earlier occupational debris and into virgin soil. Only the lower chamber (firebox) of what would likely have been a two chamber, up draught kiln, was preserved.


Operation 17

We recovered few remains in our excavations in the northern part of the lower town. We found only a few stones and series of pits cut from a surface eroded or plowed away before we reached virgin soil ca. 50 cm below the surface. We recovered a number of whole (or nearly complete) pots from the pits. The pots included simple and metallic wares. The simple wares included a small bowl with a plain rounded rim; medium-sized globular jars with rounded or flattened bases, low to medium necks and plain rims, one of which had an incised vegetal motif on the shoulder; a large globular jar with a short neck thickened rim (subrectangular in section) and crude incising on the upper body and shoulder; a teapot or globular spouted vessel with plain everted rim; a crude bag-shaped jar with a beveled rim and applied crescent-shaped ledge on the upper body; and, two miniature jars. The single metallic ware vessel was a squat globular jar with rounded base, relatively high neck and plain everted rim. Comparanda suggest a date in the third quarter of the third millennium, suggesting that the northern part of the lower town was already occupied by that time and in any case earlier than our Operation 1, Phase 4.

Outer Fortification Wall

We uncovered segments of the settlement's outer fortification wall in two 1993 excavations on the northwestern side of the lower town (Operations 15 and 18), as well as in a slit trench (Operation 25) acros sits eastern course.

Operation 25

We exposed a sequence of three major occupation phases in Operation25. The earliest phase consisted of portions of two buildings abutting each other.

The second phase included the outer fortification wall, which was built on the leveled off remains of the earlier buildings. The eastern wall was apparently an earthen rampart 18.50 m wide. It was faced on the outside with a sloping stone revetment and supported on the inside with a 1.15 m wide retaining wall that consisted mud brick set on substantial stone footings three to four courses high.


The third occupation phase consisted of a building or building, several phases of which were preserved, constructed against the inner faceof the fortification wall.

Though we have not yet studied the ceramics, our preliminary field observations have led us to conclude that the earliest phase dates to the third quarter of the third millennium. The construction of the outer fortification wall was contemporary with the major occupation of the settlement and dates to the end of the third millennium. The third occupation phase postdates the construction of the outer fortification wall, but by how long a period of time remains uncertain.

Lower Town South

In 1993 we undertook excavations in the lower town south to determine if in fact the area had been inhabited in the late third millennium. We laid out our Operation 19A, a 3 by 5 m trench, approximately 30 m south of the outer wall, in an area where the geomagnetic mapping picked up negative and positive magnetic anomalies adjacent to each other. Finds included pottery and a seemingly random scatter of stones, but no unequivocal evidence for occupation. We halted the excavations 50 cm belowthe surface. We located Operation 19B approximately 40 m south of Operations 19A. It was initially laid out as a 3 by 5 m trench, but was later expanded. We put the trench across the remains of stone footings discovered in our 1991 survey. We recovered the fragmentary footings of a substantial (1.5 m wide) wall, running in a north-south direction, and traced them for more than 6 m, before we halted work. The sherds from Operations 19A and 19B were in general small and heavily eroded. The few diagnostics that we recovered were consisted with the shapes from the1970's Area IV excavations.

We are now convinced that the area south of the outer wall was occupied at the time of the site's floruit (a conclusion which our 1995 magnetic mapping supports), making Tell es-Sweyhat in the late third millennium almost 40 ha in size. Whether the area was densely settled or contained discontinuous occupation remains an open question. Sweyhat's lower town south might have been the location of a trading enclave (Akkadian karum). Alternatively (and perhaps more realistically), the area might have been similar to Titrish Houmlyuumlk's suburbs and the locus of specialized production (Algaze et al. 1995: 26), a conclusion that the results of our magnetic mapping seem to support. Whatever its nature, the settlement outside the walls, like the settlement in Titrish Höyük's suburbs, was apparently short-lived, and erosion and plowing have now largely destroyed the remains of the occupation.


Return to The Jezireh Regional Project

All Content © 2006-2010 Michael Danti
All rights reserved.