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Publishing Dur-Katlimmu, a Neo-Assyrian Provincial Centre

Publishing the results of the excavations at Tell Šēḫ Ḥamad, ancient Dur-Katlimmu

The site of Tell Šēḫ Ḥamadis situated on the eastern bank of the Khabur-river in north-eastern Syria, close to the Iraqi border. During the Late Bronze and Iron Age it was an Assyrian provincial center with the name Dur-Katlimmu, situated about 230 km from the Assyrian heartland with the capital cities Assur, Nimrud and Nineveh on the Tigris-river. Due the general political situation in Iraq since the 1970s, archaeological 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 Šēḫ Ḥamad, 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.

Fig. 1: Jens Rohde in the Tell Šēḫ Ḥamad Archive of the Freie Universität Berlin (March 2019).

As part of the research portfolio of the Alexander von Humboldt-Professorship for the Ancient History of the Near and Middle East, Prof. Dr. Janoscha Kreppner north-eastern corner of the so-called "Unterstadt II" ("Lower Town II") of Dur-Katlimmu from August 2015 until his appointment by the WWU Münster on October 1st, 2018. In cooperation with Janoscha Kreppner, Jens Rohde (fig. 1) has since September 2016 created a highly accurate digital plan of building complex F/W (fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Plan of the palace-like Building F/W of the north-eastern corner of the "Unterstadt II" of Dur-Katlimmu (2020).

In the beginning of the first millennium BC an addition of the large rectangular Lower Town II have been explored (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. It existed a rough schematic hand-drawn plan of that building when the project started.

For the highly accurate digital plan, 214 hand-drawn “plana” from the 1981 to 1990 excavation campaigns were scanned and rectified using control points. After placement in CAD, all lines of the “plana” were vectorised. The most recent from 1990 were used as a starting point, as they contained the most comprehensive features. This was followed by the systematic incorporation of all information from the older “plana” up to the oldest and first “planum” from 1981. Challenges were posed by connections of lines, alignments of the “plana”, diverging states of findings contexts and unambiguous drawing designs, which had to be harmonised in each case. For the Houses 1 and 2 as well as areas not completely exposed, the North-west Building and the city wall, all the individual features documented in the “plana” were redrawn. In a subsequent step, wall edges as well as installation and floor boundaries of the building complexes F and W were defined and drawn. Depending on the nature and function of the architectural elements depicted, specific hatchings were added.

Fig. 3: Aerial view of the excavation of the north-eastern corner of the "Lower Town II" of Dur-Katlimmu from 1990.

Learn more about Dur-Katlimmu at

The project was funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation from August 2015 to October 2020.