How old is Ziyaret Tepe?

The earliest excavated levels at Ziyaret Tepe date back to the beginning of the Early Bronze Age, roughly 3000 BC. It’s possible that even earlier remains are buried at the bottom of the citadel mound, but it would be very difficult to get to them.

Most of our digging this year will concentrate on the Late Assyrian period, c. 882 -611 BC at our site. Here is a simple timeline from our website that shows the chronology of the Assyrians.

During this time, the city was called Tushhan and it served as a regional center of the Assyrian Empire. The imperial center was located in what is now modern day Iraq. The Assyrians, at the height of their political and military power, controlled a vast area from Egypt to Iran. Ziyaret Tepe, at the northern edges of the empire, served as a military strongpoint guarding the great Assyrian cities, such as Nineveh, to the south from invasion.

After the Assyrians abandoned the city in 611 BC, there were only sporadic occupations on the citadel mound. During the 13th and 14th centuries AD, there was a small farming village on the high mound. We expect to find some of the remains from this medieval occupation at the beginning of the season.

About matney

Dr. Matney is Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology and Classical Studies at the University of Akron. He is the Director of the Ziyaret Tepe Archaeological Expedition.
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2 Responses to How old is Ziyaret Tepe?

  1. Brad Rice says:

    The Assyrians from the 882 – 611 BC time period were known for their cruelty, weren’t they? I guess I primarily know of them as Israel’s adversaries in the OT.

    • matney says:

      Hi Brad. The Assyrians certainly come off as the “bad guys” in the Biblical accounts, so the idea that they were primarily ferocious warriors is pretty widespread. Added to the Biblical tradition is the fact that some of the most striking and well-known Assyrian artifacts are the carved wall reliefs (called orthostats) that decorated their great palaces depicting the efficiency of the Assyrian military and the horrors of ancient war. However, we need to put these in perspective. The purpose of the palatial artwork was to intimidate visiting dignitaries (and would-be rivals!) and inspire them with a sense of awe for the might of Assyria. In other words, the war scenes we often see illustrated in art books were meant to scare people into submission. Furthermore, the Biblical accounts are meant to portray a great battle between good and evil; the Assyrians as the “outsiders” were natural bad guys.

      More importantly, we now have lots of evidence that ancient Assyria was a center of great learning, art, and high civilization. Assyrian cities had gardens, parks, zoos, libraries, and produced some of the finest artwork known in the entire Near East. We know about their poetry, literature, and music. Assyrian merchants and craftsmen travelled the length and breadth of the ancient Near East bringing in the wealth and knowledge of far distant lands to a very cosmopolitan imperial center. The more archaeologists learn about the Assyrians during this high point of their influence, the more we realize how misleading were the early stereotypes of the Assyrians as cruel overlords.

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