North-Eastern Syria: excavations at Tell Hazna 1

In 2009, the twentieth season of excavations took place in Tell Hazna 1 — a site situated in the basin of the River Khabur — a major tributary of the Euphrates — 25 km north-east of the town of Hassake. In this large mound, with a diameter of up to 200 m and 17 m high, the lower levels belong to the Ubaid and Uruk Cultures of the V-IV millennia BC and the upper levels to the Early Dynastic period — the first third of the III millennium BC. The cultural deposits are up to 16 or 16.5 m thick. Up to 5,000 m2 of this mound have been excavated down to various levels, i.e. almost the whole of the southern half of the Tell, in which the remains of more than 530 various structures have been cleared, including large temple buildings and public granaries.
The main focus of research in recent years has been the massive perimeter wall made of mud bricks which has been traced for a length of no less than a hundred m in the west, south and east parts of the Tell. It formed a semi-circle round the main buildings situated in the lower part of the site separated from them by a corridor-like street approximately 1.2 m wide. It has been established that the height of this wall, built at the same time as the other major buildings of the Early Dynastic period, came to no less than 6 m.
The west end of the wall was where it met a whole complex of large interconnected structures. We assume that they had served as a dam for protection against the River Khanzir when it inundated all the surrounding terrain during spring floods and the autumn and winter rains, representing a serious threat to the settlement.
The perimeter wall was distinguished by an important structural feature traced all the way along it and particularly conspicuous in the western and eastern parts of the site. In the upper part of the Tell it is vertical and only 1.5–2 m thick, while in its lower part it is significantly wider on the outside and up to 4 m thick at the base. It seems to us that it was built in this way not so as to make it easier to defend the settlement, but rather to protect it against flooding in the spring and during the autumn and winter rains.
The eastern end of the wall has been investigated in most detail. In two places we dug down to the base and established that this wall several m high was built of mud brick in its entirety. In this part of it there was an opening one metre wide leading into the settlement at a point where a main street began in the form of a narrow corridor paved with small stones, which cut right across the Tell from its eastern to its western edge. At the entrance into the settlement a trench was sunk down to a depth of 3 m: in its lower part a staircase was found consisting of three steps, which was probably built during the construction of the perimeter wall. From the outside a kind of entrance ramp 3.75 m wide led up to the entrance: it was edged by long walls up to 3 m high along its north and south side stretching eastwards. In the course of the excavations these walls were traced over a distance of 7.35 m. As far as we know, no other such structures have been recorded in association with a gate linked with an enclosed space at any site in Syria or Mesopotamia dating from the IV to the first half of the III millennium BC.
Investigations on a significant scale have also been carried out in the central part of Tell Hazna 1. In particular, remains of a whole group of interlinked structures have been cleared. For the most part these are narrow rectangular buildings with unusual interiors possessing — beyond any doubt — cultic features.
The number of burial complexes discovered in Tell Hazna 1 has reached 72. Among them there are flat graves and burials in brick cists and clay vessels accompanied by various kinds of grave goods: pottery, including painted pots, bronze articles and items of jewellery consisting of various types of beads. A large proportion of these dates from the middle of the III millennium BC.
During the twenty years of excavation work at this site, the team has discovered a large and diverse range of archaeological material and has also obtained important palaeo-botanical and archaeo-zoological collections.
The results of their analysis will appear in the second volume of a special publication devoted to Tell Hazna 1. The first volume, which came out in 2004, contained an analysis of the settlement’s lay-out and architecture, the groups of buildings, the pottery and burials excavated prior to the year 2000.

R.M. Munchaev and S.N. Amirov

Digital publication