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Assyrian barracks?

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In the first post of the 2012 season, I mentioned that we hope to be excavating a pair of large buildings that we first discovered using geophysical survey methods a number of seasons ago. I wanted to show you what the map of the buildings looks like so you get some idea of what kind of data drive our decision to dig in a given place.

Lower town near the new excavation area, 2002. In the background, behind the workmen, you can see a pile of blue wooden boxes. These are portable hives used by itinerant beekeepers for pollenating crops in the region.

This photograph shows the ground at the place where we expect to find the building. As you can see, it is basically flat and featureless farmland. Although there are copious broken potsherds and the occassional broken stone artifact on the surface that have survived three thousand years of weathering and plowing, there are no features that would give us a clue as to the buildings below ground.

Circled on this map is the same area viewed via shallow subsurface geophysical surveying. The specific technique we used was electrical resistivity survey. Using a handheld mobile frame and set of electrical probes inserted into the ground, we created a subsurface electrical field and measured the resistance of the earth immediately below ground to the passage of an electrical current. In this map, the white lines represent areas of low resistance caused by the retention of moisture in the mudbricks that were used to make the large walls of the Late Assyrian buildings.

The general orientation and shape of the buildings is very clear, but the electrical resistivity survey does not tell us the date or function of this architecture. The surface pottery is all Late Assyrian and our experience with digging in other areas strongly argues that these buildings date from the 9th to the 7th centuries BC. Based on analogies from other Assyrian sites and the location of the architecture relative to the city fortifications and gate, we have hypothesized that these may be storage rooms, often called “magazines” in the professional literature, or possibly barracks associated with the Assyrian army, which we know came periodically to ancient Tushhan (the Assyrian name of Ziyaret Tepe) while conducting campaigns north of the Tigris River.

It looks like we will be starting work here in just a few days.

By 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.

4 replies on “Assyrian barracks?”

I just discovered your blog — great that you are reporting about your life and excavations as happening. Wishing you all the best & interesting new findings!
Greetings from Helsinki,
Sanna Aro

Thanks, Sanna. I appreciate the good wishes. I think we will have some very interesting finds over the next six or seven weeks, so check back in often. Our first day of digging has uncovered a burial, probably Assyrian, in the northern section of the Bronze Palace. We’ll know more tomorrow about the burial, but it’s an encouraging start. Best to all our colleagues in Helsinki.

Looks like a very productive season is in store for you! Electrical resistivity survey…wow! What an amazingly useful tool!
Keep us posted,

Hi Gina,
Glad you’re enjoying the blog. The geophysical survey technology has really changed the way that projects work in Turkey. In the mid-1990s, there were very few projects using the technology in the country; another field project I worked on in the Sanliurfa province was one of the earliest to use extensive geophysics. Now, it is fairly common to see geophysical surveys employed (and you can see why!). It is also one of my favorite classes to teach at UAkron. You’ll see the results generated by one of my students as soon as we have the data collected and processed this year. Hope we have some exciting finds to share with you soon.

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