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No grave in Operation W.

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The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity at the dig as all of the excavation units are now down to the floor levels and we are uncovering the important primary contexts. We have made some really interesting finds and I’ll be putting up a number of posts in the next day or so to catch everyone up on the action.

You’ll recall that Operation W was a small sounding to learn whether or not an unusual stone feature interrupting a mosaic pavement that we excavated back in 2004 was a grave. We had suspected that it might be a grave based on its size and the observation that Assyrian burials are often found beneath the floors of buildings. In the case of the Bronze Palace, the cremation burials we found earlier were beneath a courtyard pavement, so it made sense that there might be a grave beneath the mosaic.


John and his workmen cleaning the mosaic floor in the lower town building. This mosaic was first discovered in 2004. We reburied it that season and, as you can see, it has remained in good condition despite being located in an active agricultural field.


John carefully lifted the stones, putting wooden shoring around the cut to ensure that the mosaic itself would not be harmed. He then excavated the soil beneath, which was harder and more compact than is typical of a grave. After about 20cm he found another cobbled floor which represents an earlier phase of the Late Assyrian building.

Left: trench with the stone feature intact. Right: after removal of the feature.

The photograph above shows before (left) and after (right) pictures of the sounding beneath the stones. As you can see, we have taken care not to damage the mosaic. In fact, when we were done, John replaced the large stones exactly in their original position.

Here you can clearly see the lower pavement beneath the cobbled surface. So, while there was no grave, we learned that this part of the building did have a substantial earlier occupational phase. This is important and has led us to open up another area of the same building to see if we find evidence of a similar earlier phase there. For now, we have to conclude that the larger stones represented a simple rough repair in the finer mosaic floor of the Late Assyrian building.

Here you can see the lower pavement clearly. Also note the wooden boards used to keep the pebble mosaic intact.

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.

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