Tell Atchana/Alalakh
The 2008 Excavation Season

 

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2008

 

 

 

 

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.


Excavation Areas

Area 1
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.



Area 1
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 follows:
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 level.
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 wall.
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).

Area 3.
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.

Area 4.
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.