Work is progressing steadily in Operation V. The photograph below was taken just at daybreak this morning, when the light is still gentle enough to get a decent exposure. What you see here is our normal excavation square, 10 meters on a side (the red and white scale bar in the back is 2m (6 feet) long. There’s a lot going on in this photograph, but it takes archaeological training to know what you’re seeing.
Photograph of the Operation V excavations from the north, looking south. There are two stratigraphic phases seen here.
I’ve annotated the photograph here so I can describe what we have discovered so far in terms of architecture and other features.
Our current interpretation.
We have two phases of occupation. We think they are both Assyrian in date, although we need to finish excavating to know for sure. The earlier building phase is below the later and is represented by the mosaic floor that you can see in the foreground, outlined in purple. On either side, the courtyard is flanked by very poorly preserved mudbrick walls, shown here in red. As you can see, on the right side of the mosaic floor there is a place where the mosaic makes a jog. We know from experience that this represents a doorway from the courtyard into another room, unexcavated, to the right of our current trench. The mosaic has been damaged by two later pits, the green circles, which cut into the mosaic.
About halfway across the trench, you see a low rise where we have not yet excavated to the earlier floor. This higher level is also a floor, stratified above the mosaic, that may represent a later use of the same room, or another building altogether. On top of this floor is a tannur, or bread oven, highlighted in yellow. In fact there are two tannurs, but the other one is impossible to see in this photograph. There are a few later stone features, including a door socket, sitting atop the earlier (red highlighted) walls which also belong to the later floor.
You see that we are less than a meter below the surface, so preservation is not very good. You can also observe that these two occupational layers are right on top of one another. There is very little depth to the deposit. That said, we can’t yet tell how much time elapsed between the lower and upper building phases; it could be a matter of a few years, or decades, or even centuries.
The tannur is also instructive. Those of you who read earlier postings will recall that I talk about the discovery of a pithos (large storage jar) whose rim was torn off but was otherwise appeared intact. Well, as we continued to excavate, we discovered that this was not a pithos at all! Rather, whoever built the tannur seen above incorporated the rim sherds of a discarded pithos into the oven walls. Ancient recycling! Our initial idea that these were storage jars appears wrong; one learns to revise interpretations as new data are uncovered.
When I left them a few hours ago, John and his team were busy sampling and excavating the later earthen floor and removing the last traces of that phase. Stay tuned.