Excavations in the Lower Town started in Operation T yesterday, despite a heat wave that sent temperatures climbing past 45 degrees Celcius (that’s 113 degrees Fahrenheit).
Operation T is where we expect to find the remains of private houses dating the Assyrian period. The operation is located in the southern part of the site, not too far from the line of the fortification wall that once ringed the ancient city.
We first became interested in this area when our magnetic gradiometry surveys of 1999 revealed a series of long, parallel linear features which we interpreted as the street system of Assyrian Tushhan. We briefly excavated a small test trench, Operation M, in 2004 across one of the linear features, confirming our basic assumption that these were streets lined with domestic structures.
Although the recovery of private houses was one of our long-term goals, it wasn’t until this year, with the completion of two major areas of excavation in 2010, that we had the resources to devote to a larger pilot project excavating the private houses in the southern lower town.
As you can see in the photograph above, the fields here (recently burned) are pretty featureless. You can see the scars made by agricultural plowing, but the archaeology is buried under an otherwise flat, uniform surface. We have already conducted some electrical resistivity survey (maps to come!), selected an area for excavation, and started to remove the topsoil. The modern plows tend to destroy the top 30-35cm of the archaeological deposits, but we expect to find the Assyrian houses immediately beneath this layer of plowzone.