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Publishing Dur-Katlimmu, a Neo-Assyrian Provincial Centre

Publishing the results of the excavations at Tell Sheikh Hamad, ancient Dur-Katlimmu

The site of Tell Sheikh Hamad is situated on the eastern bank of the Khabur-river in today’s north-eastern Syria, close to the Iraqi border. During the Late Bronze and Iron Ages it was an Assyrian provincial center with the name Dur-Katlimmu, situated in a distance of about 230 km from the Assyrian heartland with the capital cities Assur, Nimrud and Nineveh at the Tigris-river.

Due the general political situation in Iraq since the 1970s, archeological field data from the central area of Assyria along the Iraqi Tigris mainly come from earlier excavations in the pioneering days of the exploration of ancient Mesopotamia and rarely fulfill the standards of modern excavation techniques and methods of documentation. In contrast, the mission directed by Prof. Dr. Hartmut. Kühne, Freie Universität Berlin, in Tell Sheikh Hamad, was able to conduct a modern large-scale and long-term excavation from 1978 until the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The work was financed by German Research Foundation before the funding came to an end in 2013. As part of the research portfolio of the Alexander von Humboldt-Professorship in the Ancient History of the Near and Middle East, two publication projects led by PD Dr. Janoscha Kreppner are currently in progress.


1. Janoscha Kreppner hard at work in the Tell Šēḫ Ḥamad Archive at the Freie Universität Berlin in March 2016.

(1) Stratigraphy and Architecture of the Northeastern Corner of the Lower Town II

The study focusses on the stratigraphy and architecture of the excavated area in the northeastern corner of the city where approximately 10,000 m² have been explored in the large rectangular Lower Town II, an addition of the early first millennium BC (intramural area ca. 52 ha). A section of the urban layout was exposed, featuring five separate buildings, open areas, the town wall, and a system for fresh water supply. The multifunctional palace-like Building F/W is the largest and most important, covering an area of 3768 m² and consisting of almost 50 rooms. The goal of the publication project is to explore the changing cityscape and Dur-Katlimmu’s social and administrative structures and mentalities by drawing on the rich data yielded by the excavations in this area. As part of this project, Jens Rohde will create a precise digital plan and profile drawings of the excavation in the northeastern corner.


(2) The Iron Age Graves of Dur-Katlimmu

In the center of Lower Town II, in the “Red House” and the so-called “Neo-Assyrian Residences”, a sequence of buildings were uncovered dating to the early imperial phase, ca. 900 BC, until the first half of the fifth century BC, after the Neo-Babylonian Empire had replaced the Assyrian Empire as the leading political power in the Middle East. Under the floors of these buildings some 40 graves were detected which can be divided into two groups.

The first are grave types well known from other Neo-Assyrian sites like Assur: tombs and inhumation graves. The second group is a new grave type, the so-called ‘primary cremation pit’. Based on these graves and the physical remains of some 40 inhabitants of the ancient city, this study explores mortuary practices and also the changing living conditions at Dur-Katlimmu. Since anthropological data is missing for most burial contexts from comparable Neo-Assyrian sites, this group represents the largest data set currently available and the use of anthropological, paleopathological, and archaeological data will make it possible to reconstruct individual live-histories.


2. Neo-Assyrian Residences, House 1, Courtyard Z: Primary Cremation Grave 04/20.
J. Kreppner, The New Primary Cremation Custom of Iron Age Tell Sheikh Hamad / Dur-Katlimmu (North-eastern Syria), in Peter Pfälzner, Herbert Niehr, Ernst Pernicka, Sarah Lange (Hrsg.), Contextualising Grave Inventories in the Ancient Near East, Qatna Studien Band 3, Wiesbaden 2014, 171-186; Fig. 10, © Tell Šēḫ Ḥamad Archive, Berlin).

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