Urkesh

Kingdom of “Tall Mozan”

What does it mean to "discover" an ancient city? "Our" city was, in fact, well known already, and yet unrecognized. Three aspects of the puzzle were well known: a large hill, by the modern name of Tell Mozan; a city of myth, called Urkesh in antiquity, where the ancestral god of the Hurrian pantheon resided; and the capital of the only known Hurrian kingdom of the third millennium, also called Urkesh.

The peculiar chemistry of our discovery was that we linked the three elements. We were able, through our excavations, to prove that they all matched.

The kings of history, the gods of myth, the buried remnants all came together: Urkesh, a city founded some 5,000 years ago, then buried some 3,500 years ago, could rise and speak today in her own name. Giorgio Buccellati  said.

Urkesh  was founded during the fourth millennium BC possibly by the Hurrians on a site which appears to have been inhabited before then on a small scale for centuries (at least since 5000 BC, the date of the earliest known remains found there). It was an ally of the Akkadian Empire through what is believed to have been a dynastic marriage tradition. Tar'am-Agade the daughter of the Akkadian king, Naram-Sin, is believed to have been married to the king of Urkesh.

During the second millennium BC the city passed into the hands of the rulers of Mari, a city a few hundred miles to the south. The king of Urkesh became a vassal (and apparently an appointed puppet) of Mari.

The people of Urkesh evidently resented this, as the royal archives at Mari provide evidence of their strong resistance; in one letter, the king of Mari tells his Urkesh counterpart that "I did not know that the sons of your city hate you on my account. But you are mine, even if the city of Urkesh is not."  The city appears to have been abandoned about half-way through the second millennium BC, although the reason for this is unknown to archaeologists at this time.

The genealogy and identity of Urkesh's rulers is largely unknown, but the following names have been identified as being those of the city-state's kings. The first three known kings (only two of whom are known by name) bore the Hurrian title endan: Tupkish endan (c.2250 BC)  Tish-atal endan (date unknown)  Shatar-mat (date unknown)  Atal-shen (date unknown)  Ann-atal (c. 2050 BC)  Te'irru (c. 1800 BC)  Soundings at the site were first made by Max Mallowan during his survey of the area.  Agatha Christie, his wife, wrote that they chose not to continue at the site because it seemed to have Roman material.

No trace of Roman occupation levels have been found in later excavations, however. Mallowan went on to excavate Chagar Bazar, another site to the south of Mozan/Urkesh. Important structures excavated include the royal palace of Tupkish, an associated necromantic underground structure (Abi), a monumental temple terrace with a plaza in front and a temple at the top, residential areas, burial areas, and the inner and outer city walls. The excavations at Tell Mozan are known for the project's interest in pursuing the uses of technology in an archaeological con- text. The main focus is on the 'Global Record', a method of doc- umentation that com-bines jour-nal entries into a hypertext based output. This system marries the advantages of both the database and prose type approaches, in that elements are individually linked across both stratigraphy and typology, and yet remain tied in a more synthetic whole through the narrative of the archaeological record.

Another focal point of research at the site is the application of conservation. The mud brick architecture which comprises the majority of the structures found to date has been preserved over the years through an innovative system. This system protects the monument while still allowing a detailed inspection of the primary document as originally unearthed. The same system affords an overview of the architectural volumes as perceived by the ancients. A sizeable lab in the field research facility allows the conservators to give the best possible on-site care while interacting with the excavations. An extensive storage facility has been established where more than 10,000 objects and samples of non-museographer quality are available for further study. Detailed catalog indexes these finds.

Special emphasis is placed on documenting the concrete types of contact which are observed in the ground. This is done with great detail at the level of each individual feature. From this evidence is automatically derived a complete depositional history of all elements in contact. The strata are conceived as segments of this continuum in which a single depositional moment can be reconstructed. The phases are periods that are culturally identifiable on the basis of typological and functional analysis. Horizons are the broad chronological subdivisions based on comparative material and as they can be linked to the general historical understanding.

One of the most important fixed points of reference for chronology are impressions on door sealing’s of the seal of Tar'am-Agade, the daughter of NaramSin, which because of stratigraphy can be firmly linked to phase 3 of the AP palace occupation.

The site, at Tell Mozan, has been under virtually constant excavation since 1984 under the direction of Giorgio Buccellati (UCLA) and Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati (CalState LA) and various European (principally Italian) archaeological institutes.

Seasons of Excavation

1984 was the first season of excavation  .The 2007 season was primarily dedicated to working on publication material, primarily excavation units A16, J1, J3 and J4. A small sounding was done in J1 to clarify the transition between Mittani and Khabur.

Haifaa Mafalani

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