Kampagnen > Ausgrabung 2010 > Grabungsstelle C - Mittanisch
Grabungsstelle C – Mittanisch (Sq. 6745-6 & 6845-6)
Peter V. Bartl

The Mittani layers at Tell Fekheriye

Aims and supervisors

Since the 2007 season of field work, monumental mud-brick walls have been exposed below the accumulations under the central courtyard of the Middle Assyrian House I in square 6745. However, our knowledge of the exact architectural layout and function of the building remains obscure due to the limited area exposed so far. Possible interpretations for its use are as a terrace or sub-structure for a larger building or as a fortification.

Our main aim was a multi-directional expansion of excavations in the area covered by the monumental mud-brick building. This included extending Trench C-I (squares 6746 and 6846) to the north under the remains of Middle Assyrian House I, the newly excavated area to the southeast in Trench C-II (squares 6844 and 6845) under Room 9, the removal of the bulk between squares 6645 and 6745 and a southward extension toward the northern facade of House II in square 6744 (Fig 1, Plan).

Research in the northern part of the abovementioned area, was directed by Francesco del Bravo, Carolin Jauß and Christine Kainert, while the eastern area in squares 6844 and 6845 was supervised by Daniela Crasso.

In squares 6645 and 6745 no new work on the monumental mud-brick architecture was conducted, as the layout has became clear from previous excavations in this area.

Two soundings, however, were continued and expanded. This included the removal of the baulk between squares 6645 and 6745, in order to investigate the western facade of the monumental mud-brick building and the subjacent layers of accumulation, as well as excavate the second part of the room fill at the southern end of the extended Trench C-II in square 6744. These investigations added to our understanding of the foundations of the monumental architecture, their construction and the process of deposition after its abandonment. Both soundings had been established in 2007 and 2009, respectively, and are part of our ongoing research into the pre-Middle Assyrian levels of the site.

During the field season 2010 another sounding was opened in the southern part of the excavated area on the terrace. In square 6642 a 3.5m x 3m excavation area was setup and work commenced in the area between a Byzantine limestone wall in the west and a mud-brick wall from the Middle Assyrian period, running north-south, in the east. This sounding was supervised by Drahoslav Hulínek, Jana Stehlíková and Friedrich Weigel.

The monumental mud-brick building

Once the layers of accumulation under House I were removed, a continuation of the monumental architecture was exposed. By the end of the season it became clear that in addition to the one room partly excavated in 2007 and 2009 in square 6745, at least three more rooms constitute the building. They are arranged symmetrically (Plan) to the north and south of the double wall, which runs east-west, exposed since 2007. One is situated to the north in square 6746, the other two in the east in squares 6844, 6845 and 6846. By the end of the 2010 field season it therefore became undoubtedly apparent, that we were dealing with a monumental building, erected as part of a larger building project in an organised and probably officially supervised manner, as will be described below (Fig 2).

Most impressive is not only the sheer size of the walls with an average width of about 2.6m, but also the preserved height of 1.8m witnessed in the south-western room (Room 1). Further east in Room 4 part of the wall, approximately 2.5m in height, collapsed and came to lie in the fill of the room. However, as the floor of the room has not yet been reached and it might be on a different level than the floor level of the aforementioned room, it is, thus far, not possible to make any statements concerning the maximum height of the walls in this room (Fig 3).

By excavating under the floor level of Room 1 it became possible to investigate the foundations of this building in detail. Huge foundation trenches were dug exceeding the width of the walls by about 40cm on each side topped up to a certain height with a homogenous fill of natural soil. Then several layers of mud-bricks were placed to cover the fill and on top of that the slightly smaller walls were constructed. However, it is clearly visible that the enormous pressure of the walls compressed the mud-brick foundation causing it to sink further into the ground towards the centre of the walls. At the same time the top of the mud-brick foundation marks the floor level of the room (Fig 4).

In front of the eastern edge of the trench a slightly higher section of a wall is preserved, which served as foundation for Room 9 of the Middle Assyrian House I. This wall ends abruptly towards the north. Generally speaking, the architecture in this area must have therefore been levelled after its abandonment and terraced in order to give way to building activities connected with the Middle Assyrian houses. Maybe the collapse of the wall described before can also be connected to these activities and may therefore be intentional.

Both rooms exposed in the north have floors on a level about one meter higher than the floor level in Room 1. Whether this was done to reduce a difference in elevation, due to the north-south slope in the ancient mound, or has some other, possibly constructional, purpose will be subject of investigations for the season to come. So far however, it can be assumed that more rooms are to come further in the north as is suggested by a door opening in Room 2 that leads northward.

The western outer edge of the building is quite clear and can be followed over a span of approximately 15m from north to south. The wall is abutted from the west by layers of debris that seem to present an uninterrupted sequence from the Mittani to the Middle Assyrian periods. These accumulations give way to the Middle Assyrian debris and the economic area in squares 6745 and 6746 that cover the monumental mud-brick architecture completely, simultaneously sealing it from later influences and intrusions.

This might support the idea that the building was left intentionally and that the rooms were cleared out, as is suggested by the little amount of objects found in the fill so far along with the absence of any inventory on the floors (Fig 5). The Mittani period pottery, mainly Middle Jezireh IB, and some indicative seal impressions on clay lumps found in the last season, suggest a date toward the end of the Mittani period. This is supported by the dating of the levels above the mud-brick building, which present a terminus ante quem for the construction of the building dated to the rule of Shalmaneser I (1264-1234 BC) evident in the text finds from his reign.

The Mittani period soundings

An aim this field season was to investigate the levels below the mud-brick structure and to continue exposing the occupation sequence in two selected soundings in square 6645, and squares 6744/6745 respectively. This was done to obtain sufficient material for the establishment of a typology and chronology of the pottery from the site, and to investigate the different building phases of the Mittani period.

Sounding in squares 6744 and 6745

One sounding was started in 2007 and is situated in southwestern room of the monumental building. In the previous season, levels underneath the platform were investigated and a different type of architecture emerged (see 2009: C-IIa The monumental mud-brick building). By enlarging the sounding to the south more information concerning the layout and function of the architecture, and its relative and absolute dating, was obtained.

Two levels of occupation underneath the monumental building were investigated in detail. Until now, a poorly preserved layer with mud-bricks has been interpreted as being part of levelling activities for the construction of the subsequent building. This season revealed more of this layer, which can now be considered an independent architectural level, largely consisting of two courses of mud-bricks forming an L-shaped wall. The dating of this level presents some difficulties as only few pot-shards and datable objects were found within. They seem to fit into the Middle Jezireh IA and IB ceramic assemblage, yet they cannot be assigned to any particular sub-phase.

Right below the architecture under the platform, the second occupational level from the Mittani period was enlarged and better understood in its function and layout. The slightly diagonal wall was already investigated in the 2009 season (Fig 6). Now however, a floor level on the side west of the wall could be identified. It is made of baked bricks covered with a layer of bitumen. This level extends as a kind of threshold west of the projection on the wall. Further south, a doorway with a door socket stone was excavated and another wall abutting from the west giving the impression that this area is the corner of a room. The fill contained huge amounts of Nuzi-ware as well as some almost complete goblets, showing parallels to Tell Brak, HH level 5 and can thus be dated to the early Mittani period. On the eastern side of the wall we continued to excavate the fill of the room. A feature found there in 2009 can now be reinterpreted with large certainty, as a row of mud-bricks abutting the eastern face of the wall north of the door. Despite heavy destruction by an animal hole, the projection directly north of the door and the row of mud-bricks attached to it could be identified as a small external staircase leading to the roof of the building (Fig 7).

At the bottom, above the floor level in front of the doorway, several complete bird skeletons were uncovered (Fig 8). Their purpose is still unclear, as is why they are completely preserved in their anatomical position. Maybe they were part of some elaborate ritual, deposited there and later covered by a layer of mud-bricks and beaten earth covering the area as some kind of second floor level, or maybe they are just part of the Mittani diet and indicate the kitchen area. Since the area exposed so far is still quite small this will have to be investigated further in the future.

Sounding in square 6645

The second sounding in square 6645 was expanded to the east, up to the facade of the monumental mud-brick building covering about 2 x 6m now (Fig 9). The layers and layers of debris have enriched our ceramic assemblage through more pottery awaiting a detailed study of its chronologic significance.

The levels below show architectural remains at about the same height as the younger level in the aforementioned sounding in square 6745 and thus a certain contemporaneity can be postulated. A pit, as well as several walls of which the exact arrangement is still not clear due to the limited area exposed so far, have been exposed. The fill of the pit, however, contained huge amounts of seal impressions on bullae. These jar stoppers or door sealings are typical for the Mittani common style (Fig 10). Some of the motives can be assigned to the so-called Mittani-Kirkuk style and Mittani common style, respectively. The different types of sealings with repetitive motives indicate toward an elaborate administrative activity during the Mittani period, which antedates the administration of the Middle Assyrian period in same area. The remnants of this activity seem to have been discarded in this area along with Nuzi-ware pot-shards, red edged bowls and even some examples of unfired pottery (Fig 11).

Even if there is no stratigraphic link between both soundings, the approximate contemporary date for the lowest level of occupation can be established based on the ceramic and glyptic affinities.

Thus, in the squares presented it was proven that an extensive Mittani settlement existed, comprising at least three occupational phases and expanding even further to the west as previously assumed. The pottery assemblage and numerous seal impressions indicate that administrative activities took place in this area during several of its occupational stages. Yet a more detailed insight is desirable to prove the suggestions and interpretations presented in this report and to widen our understanding of the Mittani exertion of governance in the Khabur headwater region.

Sounding in square 6642

A further stratigraphic sounding was situated underneath two mud-brick cist graves in square 6642. Here an excavation approximately 3 x 2m in size was conducted, in order to clarify the situation in the pre-Middle Assyrian levels and the transition from these to later levels in that area of the mound, in comparison to the two soundings further to the north (Fig 12).

Levels with Nuzi-pottery and red edged bowls have been reached, although no substantial architecture, aside from some minor features, has yet been revealed. However, it will be promising to expand the sounding here, in order to better understand the extent of the monumental mud-brick building in Trench C-I and southward in C-II along with a specification of the character of the Mittani occupation in this area of the site.