The 2008 Excavation Season
The fifth season of excavations at Alalakh (Tell Atchana) took place
from June 28-September 15, 2008 and was directed by K. Aslihan Yener,
with Senior Field Supervisor, Murat Akar. The site is located twenty kilometers
east of Antakya (classical Antioch) in the Amuq valley region of Hatay,
southern Turkey. The excavations were conducted under the auspices and
sponsorship of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey and the Mustafa
Kemal University in Antakya.
1. Squares 32.62, 32.64 and 32.54 continued excavations at the Level II/III
“Fortress” exposed in 2003, 2006 and 2007. Especially striking
in the 2008 season were the continuation of casemate units used in wall
construction. A thin veneer of fragmentary flat lying LBA mud brick tiles
and floor, a badly disturbed burial as well as a Hellenistic-Roman scatter
of sherds were found in the upper phases. Tentatively these finds may
relate to the elusive Levels 0 and Level I previously encountered during
Woolley’s excavations or to disturbances caused by the construction
of his dig house. One probe adjacent to the 2006 step trench continued
to remove Phases 1 and 2 down to the Palace Level IV strata.
While continuing to expose the upper phases of the Northern Fortress,
the exposure along the western edge of the building provided the opportunity
to investigate the structure from its exterior. A large open space with
a mud brick pavement was exposed here. These squares yielded a good assemblage
of Cypriot and Mycenaean wares alongside local Plain Simple Ware and an
unknown handmade ware dating to LBII.
2. Square 32.57 was situated in the courtyard of the Level IV Palace and
as we continued to reconstruct the sequence from the exposures initiated
during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. So far, Phases 1, 2a, 2b, 2c and 3a
and 3b have been identified yielding several subphases of the Late Bronze
Age. Radiocarbon dates for Phase 2a obtained from two olive seeds yielded
calibrated dates of 1518-1411 BC. The summary of phases in 2008 is as
The NW-SE oriented mud brick wall from later phases had an antecedent
which enclosed a complex series of kilns. The mud brick wall was constructed
with horizontal laid wood beams. In Phase 3a the pyrotechnological installation
was two storied with a reused notched cut stone defining a corner of this
kiln room. A NW-SE street paved with sherds ran in the same direction
as the kiln room and had three sub phases. A cylinder seal was found on
this street. In the SW corner of the square a cooking installation and
its ashy fill from last season had been removed revealing its surface
Beneath the Phase 2c mud brick apsidal structure from last season, another
possible antecedent was found in Phase 3b. In this phase the pyrotechnological
installation was semi-circular and had a cobbled surface. Based on local
ceramics and finds of Cypriot Bichrome wares, Phase 3 seems to date to
the earlier part of the LBI (sixteenth century BC). The ceramic assemblage
in this square is consistent with domestic tasks on a large scale, and
has a mass-produced quality about it.
3. Square 33.32 sounding had been placed in the courtyard (Room 9) of
the previously excavated Level VII Palace. This season Phase 3a yielded
the massive corner of a building reinforced with stone foundations and
a N-S sloping street paved with baked mud bricks. An earlier, large mud
brick building was unearthed in Phase 3b. A courtyard-like open space,
perhaps a large room was found which had mud brick walls reinforced with
several internal buttresses. This large building may possibly be related
to features Woolley found in the Palace Sounding Level IX dated to the
MBA. Overall, the assemblage in this trench seems to be of a specialized
nature, probably serving and eating vessels from an elite context.
4. Square 43.54 continued the new square placed opposite the west gate,
Area H. During Phase 2, a plastered room related to water activities emerged
which contained a drainage system.
An important find was an iron bloom ingot from a burnt deposit within
the adjacent NW-SE aligned room possibly used for industrial activity.
A pyrotechnological installation was unearthed at the edge of the western
During Phases 3 and 4 the square was largely divided into two areas; a
multi-roomed structure on the uphill side, and a rubble area on the downhill
side dated to the middle LB II (14th or 13th century).
5. Squares 45.44 and 45.45 were designed to 1) better understand the stratigraphy
of the mound along the eastern slope, to 2) continue defining the fortification
wall running along the side of the slope, and to 3) investigate the necropolis.
This year two phases of occupation were excavated within the square dating
to the earliest LB (sixteenth century). They were all entirely within
the southern side of the square. Burials continued to be found down slope,
but assigning a stratigraphic context in relation to the architecture
was difficult. Only two burials were cut into the architecture and there
were 20 individuals buried in total.
During Phase 2c there was major enclosure wall with open ended stalls.
Another E-W parallel wall to its south enclosed an area with two deeply
sunken pyrotechnical installations on the South balk. These heavily burnt,
mud plastered installations were subterranean extending down to 1 meter
deep. The installations were full of ash and yielded one cylinder seal.
Phase 2d yielded the earliest E-W enclosure wall abutted by three storage
units. Two of the rooms contained large amounts of in situ Early LBI painted
and plain wares. Another burnt feature emerged in the last week of excavation.
In the SW corner of the square, a massive collapsed burnt room was unearthed
with in situ storage jars, and cooking wares.
6. Squares, 64.72 and 64. 82 were placed on the rise located at the southwestern
part of the site where a large mud brick building was found called the
“Southern Fortress.” The 2008 season effort explored earlier
phases in these two squares. A NW-SE street paved with sherds emerged
in Phase 3a immediately below a similarly aligned later street. To the
west of this street, a mud brick building was found containing a workshop
oriented E-W. Supplied with water by a drainage system, the workshop yielded
several basalt mortars, pestles, a basin, and an oven. Finds included
a fragmentary copper-based eight pointed star pinhead, perhaps part of
a foundation deposit. The building extended into adjacent Square 64.72
and contained fragmentary in-situ pots which were recovered on the floor.
In the earlier Phase 3b the original construction level of the workshop
emerged containing individual compartments. Finds included olive pits,
fragments of large storage vessels, and a large oven. The exploration
of Phase 3 revealed a series of rooms apparently used as workshops. They
contained large amounts of plain and coarse pottery, including some reused
as paving material. Tentatively the ceramics of Phase 3 should be roughly
contemporary with Woolley Level IV Palace.
7. Remote Sensing
Christian Hübner and his Solutions in Geo-Science team from Freiburg,
Germany conducted geophysical remote sensing surveys over eight hectares
of the site utilizing Geomagnetic Field Gradient measurements and resistivity
measurements in 2008. Several important results were immediately forthcoming.
The first finding was a large network of streets and regularly spaced
rectangular buildings on the unexcavated parts of the mound. There was
also a suggestion of a wall separating the Royal Precinct from the rest
of the town in the SE. The city fortification system appears to be a double,
possible casemate wall visible in the SW. Two new gate-like features were
seen on the SE slope. On the West slope just opposite the large “Hittite
Fortress” building, the magnetometry suggested the contours of yet
another large burnt mud brick building. This large, rectangular building
sits opposite the temple complex, known from Woolley’s excavations
and may be another temple building. Finally large quantities of anomaly
signals were detected which may be more pyrotechnological installations.
These results will be tested with new exposures in 2009.
8. Tayfur Sökmen Dig House Compound and Experimental Archaeology
Several improvements made the dig house compound into a more comfortable
and welcoming place to work. The pottery processing area was spruced up
and the gardens were abloom with flowers, vines, trees, and shrubs. The
new depot building got a paved ceramic flooring to eliminate the dust
and a new volleyball court enabled us a place for enjoyable exercise.
Our Sivas-Kangal pups, Hattush and Fatosh, are by now gentle giants learning
the skills of guarding the compound.
Several archaeological experiment projects were initiated (see video film)
and included the construction of a mud brick bread oven as well as the
manufacture of 3100 mud bricks. Two sizes were produced measuring 40 x
40 x 12 cm as and 40 x 20 x 12 cm, which are Bronze Age mud brick standards.
These will be utilized to repair the Level VII palace in the future.
Several experiments were conducted to test the effects of burning on a
mud brick model house which was constructed according to ancient techniques.
Clay firing experiments were conducted on pottery and newly made small
clay objects using temper and local clay sources.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank the following
2008 Tell Atchana/Alalakh staff who included the following people:
K. Aslihan Yener (Director), Dominique Collon, Elizabeth Healey, Mara
Horowitz, Nurettin Kaymakci, Murat Akar, Bike Yazicioglu, Ekin Demirci,
Ozgecan Yarma, Ferhat Can, Meltem Cakmak, Nurettin Bataray, Pinar Ertepinar
Kaymakci, Ben Claasz Coockson, Stephanie Selover, Ezgi Ozpamir, Canan
Cakirlar, Pinar Durgun, Luca Tepedino, Michelle Ruggenbucke,Tugba Soydan,
Hatice Pamir, Michael Hayes, Bethany Qualls,Nathan Harper, Guzin Eren,
Chris Grant, Lily Cadwell, Adam Green, Marjie Bush, Elizabeth Shiverdecker,
Stella Mainar, Ekin Kozal, Jerolyn Morrison, Hakki Oncu, Suzanne Pilaar,
Christian Hubner, Anthony Dean, and Lawrie Dean. We were ably served by
Ahmet Hamdi Bulbul as the Ministry Representative.