Tell Atchana/Alalakh
The 2000 Survey Season

 

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As the Oriental Institute's Amuq Valley Regional Projects (AVRP) near Antakya (ancient Antioch) came into its sixth year of investigation, the increasingly successful surveys and surprising finds from the excavation of Chalcolithic Tell Kurdu prompted us to explore questions that would aid us in conceptualizing the significance of these and other sites within the broader Amuq Valley. A study season was scheduled for Tell Kurdu, while plans were put into place for the preparation of a second planned excavation site at Tell Atchana (AS 136) in the near future. At its inception, the research design in the Amuq was methodologically envisaged as a regional project, with concurrent excavations at a variety of different sites and environmental zones. From many perspectives this season was the right time to re-examine the relationships of the over 248 sites during specific periods of dense settlement and transition. One such pivotal period is the second millennium B.C., the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, a time of intense globalization and international relations. Thus in the summer of 2000 attention was focused on the survey of the last remaining previously excavated site, Tell Atchana, ancient Alalakh, the capital of the Amuq. The AVRP survey and study season ran between June 27 and September 1, 2000.

The site of Atchana is uniquely poised to answer a number of compelling issues some of which have been archaeologically elusive during earlier excavations by Sir Leonard Woolley in the 1930's and 1940's. For example, how this region, called the kingdom of Mukish as it was known in the Late Bronze Age, iterates with the Hittite empire when the only archaeological cognates so far consists of a few written documents and Hittite artifacts. Another question consuming most of my professional career has been the origin of complex technological (especially metallurgy) systems and how these systems changed and articulated with the rise of regional states. The geoarchaeological and archaeological surveys led by Tony Wilkinson suggested that by Phases H/I (the end of the third millennium B.C.) the main settlement of the plain exhibited a major shift towards the southern edge, dominated by Tell Tayinat and in the early second millennium, Tell Atchana--suggesting a move catalyzed by interregional exchange. This formed the core hypothesis of our investigations into economies based on wealth finance-that is traders, metallurgists and craft specialists.
Intensive Surface Survey at Alalakh

Two main objectives were targeted for the 2000 survey. The first was to determine the periods of occupation throughout the extent of the saddle-shaped 750 x 350 x 9 m mound, especially its latest period of occupation. Since Sir Leonard Woolley excavated only the northern third of the mound (levels XVII-0), the southern two thirds of the tell were as-yet unexplored. The second objective was to investigate the possibility of a lower town extending into the fields surrounding the site. Recent investigations in Turkey have found that outer towns are commonplace on large Bronze and Iron Age sites. This is especially true at Troy, Kultepe-Kanesh, Titris and Bogazkoy-Hattusha. Woolley, too, had earlier speculated about an outer town ramparts, but was unable to explore these ideas with excavations. A careful mapping of the density of artifact scatters in the fields surrounding the tell could potentially identify the presence of such a feature.

A number of tasks were successfully accomplished during the 2000 season at Tell Atchana. 1) All of Woolley's trenches and spill heaps were located and mapped, 2) the state of the architecture and the status of the site after 50 years of abandonment was documented with copious photographs, and 3) an intensive surface survey of the crop fields was conducted surrounding the site and the southern mound unexcavated by Woolley. With the understanding that any future investigation at Alalakh would involve a substantial conservation effort, a photographic record of the current state of the standing monuments was completed. Effort was made to illustrate the previously excavated rooms from the same directions as published photographs in the original reports. The Yarim-lim and Niqmepa palaces that housed the central administration and religious core of this kingdom are now in a dangerous state of collapse and any further research on this mound would need to address site preservation and careful mapping of the structures. The high rainfall has promoted the outgrowth of lush vegetation undermining the buildings constructed of mud brick faced with basalt and limestone orthostats.
The parallel transect survey of the mound and systematic counts of sherd scatters in fields surrounding the mound revealed denser concentrations of sherds on the north and northeast sides of the mound, in an area approximately 100 m out from the site. The area coincides with Woolley's observation that there may be an outer town wall running parallel on that side of the mound. While other erosional factors off the mound may produce such a field scatter, the evidence gathered by the OI survey is suggestive of the presence of a "lower town" in the fields below the mound now hidden by considerable alluvial accumulation. Intriguingly, examination of Corona satellite imagery from the early 1970's also reveals the dense sherd scatter as a dark feature north of the mound itself. A preliminary examination of the sherds collected in this area revealed that they were primarily Middle and Late Bronze Age, with a few Roman pieces.

Remote sensing teams from the Kandilli Observatory at Bogazici University in Istanbul led by geophyicist Cemil Gurbuz confirmed the existence of subsurface structures in the fields off site and pointed out new areas to be positioned for potential future excavation. Geomagnetic field gradient measurements using EDA Omni Scintrex Envimag Gradiometer, Georadar measurements using RAMAC/GPR as well as other geophysical methods were made available for this project. If indeed there is a lower town, then the site is potentially several times larger than was heretofore thought. Future processing of the sherd collections as well as an intensive assessment of the remote sensing data will amplify the periods of occupation and other site-size nuances.
In conclusion the AVRP program is now addressing problems that are missing in the earlier excavations, while continuing the projects begun since 1995. Some of these issues have compelling implications for other regions, including the important transition from the Early Bronze Age to the regional states and empires of the second millennium B.C. Attention is now turning to full analysis of surface collections and to a second phase of survey work on specific sites such as Tayinat and Atchana.

Acknowledgements:
The AVRP staff included the following people: Aslihan Yener (University of Chicago), project director; Tony Wilkinson (field director), Jesse Casana, Lisa Ann Miller (University of Chicago), Steven Batiuk, Heather Snow (University of Toronto), Rana Özbal (Northwestern University); Benjamin Diebold (Yale University); Cemil Gurbuz (Kandilli Observatory, Bogazici University, Istanbul). Hatice Pamir, Ozlem Dogan, Dilem Karakose (Mustafa Kemal University, Antakya); Ghinghi Trentin (Rome); Shin'ichi Nishiyama (Institute of Archaeology, U.K); Celia Berghoffen (New York); Fokke Gerritsen (Amsterdam Free University); Robert Koehl (Hunter College, New York); Ilhan Kayan, Ertug Oner, Levent Uncu (Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir). The Ministry of Culture was represented by Ahmet Beyazlar.