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Review of current understanding
Possible Building Phases in the Monumental Stairway:
The monumental stairway which gives access to the top of the temple tower consists of several elements.
The Staircase (1)
First of all the staircase itself which was uncovered by the Germans in their long trench. This trench shows that the stairs go down very deep, much deeper than the levels we have reached sofar in our excavation areas. But even the Germans did not reach the bottom of the stairs. It is our working hypothesis that this monumental stairway was constructed during the same phase as the palace and that therefore the stairs would go down to the level of the palace: an elevation of 8500 (on the basis of the elevation of the paved stone courtyard of the palace). The staircase seems to be very well constructed: stones that are dressed/shaped.
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The first Apron (2&3).
On both sides of the staircase the stone structure had been expanded. This has been called an Apron because it wouldhave mainly served, beside adding considerably to the monumentality of the structure, to prevent any person on the staircase from falling off (or being blown off).
On the western side of the staircase a broad exposure has been made and here the apron is well visible. This half of the apron is (2). It looks as if it is also a staircase, but it is clearly distinct from the staircase (1) because they are not completely in sync with each other. The lowest part of the first apron (as far as it has been excavated now) is constructed in line with the staircase: for every step in the staircase there is a step in the apron. It is distinct, however, because the steps are not completely level but seem to be slightly convex, and its stones are slightly more irregular in shape.
The slope of this apron (2) also seems to be steeper than the slope of the staircase. This is especially the case in the upper part of the first apron, approximately from the level of the western containment wall (5). In this part it would also seem that the apron's steps are larger than those of the staircase. On the basis of this we might subdivide this part in the upper and lower western apron: (2a) and (2b) respectively. This distinction however is not absolute because the upper part has been exposed longer and is slightly more damaged than (2b) or (1).
Because of this damage it might be that we have no remains of a similar apron on the eastern side of the staircase. This apron is (3). Also the fact that this side of the apron has not been extensively excavated should be taken into account when we observe that no apron like the western first apron (2) has been found on the east side. Instead the eastern first apron (3) consists of a wall set against (or maybe on top of?) the staircase (1). This wall consists of (very) regular shaped stones that are smaller than those of (1). Whereas the western apron (2) still continues, the eastern apron seems to have ended. At its southern end it suddenly turns to the west and stands with one row of stones on top of the staircase. This has been called the door jamb.
However, the top stones of (3) are much more irregular and larger. They lie on top of the smaller stones and extend with two stones (on top of each other) in front of the door jamb. This layer of larger stones is (3a), and the the door jamb is (3b).
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The Reinforcing Wall of the western Apron (4).
Already visible last year, but now seen to be extending southwards parallel to (2), this stone wall is thought to serve as the abutting and reinforcing edge of the western half of the first apron (2). It will become interesting as we go down to see whether or not it will flare out (ie. expanding also to the west) and whether it will remain a seperate wall or whether it will follow and/or become a (bonded) part of the steps of the first apron (2).
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The western Oval Retaining Wall (5).
That the temple area was surrounded by some kind of wall retaining the bulk of the temple tower has been deduced from the very large difference in elevation between 2 areas so close to each other. The temple on top of its platform suddenly has an open space in front of it with contemporaneous levels at the bottom of the stairs. Such a steep slope would not have held on its own and must have been maintained through the creation of a large retaining wall.
This wall has been found to the west of the first apron which might lie on top of it. In turn, this wall overlies the reinforcing wall (4). It is remarkable that this wall looks much lower in quality than the staircase and the first apron. This part of the wall is thought to be perhaps a restoration.
Its complete shape is not yet known. It might be an oval, but it might also be a polygon. If it would be a polygon, it might have been reinforced by buttresses at its corners.
Of course there has to be a retaining wall to the east of the staircase, but this has not been excavated yet.
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The second Apron (6)
Inside the retaining wall (5) and next to the first apron (2) is a second apron. Like (2) it is also a stepped stone structure, but it lies a little bit lower than (2). It is remarkable that this second apron is not bonded with either the first apron (2) or the retaining wall (5) against which is almost lying. Though in situ, it is floating. It would be very interesting to see if any clear stratigrapy extends under this second apron and to which period the pottery dates. To investigate this a small trench against the back of the second apron should be dug to a depth similar to the top of the retaining wall. Because of the limited exposure to the east of the staircase it is not clear whether or not the second apron is also present there. For the sake of symmetry its presence is assumed in the reconstruction.
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The tower/gate (7)
At the top of the first and second apron (2,3&6) packing of red clay (similar to that found in the palace) was found. It is hypothesized that this is the foundation of a structure: the reconstruction shows two towers. Nothing more is known about the presence of any structures.
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The possible building phases of the monumental staircase.
Because the monumental staircase and temple tower consist of several different parts, it is important to ask ourselves whether all of its constituent parts are date to the same period. What follows is not an attempt to reconstruct this chronology, but is an attempt to summarize the pertinent questions. These questions and our hypotheses will change during the course of the excavation season.
The difference in height over a small distance between the third millennium temple and the third millennium layers at the bottom of the stairs has been mentioned above. It suggests that the oval retaining wall must have been there before any temple was built. The height of the wall also suggests that the inside of the temple tower must have been filled by the people who built this structure in the first place. This wall, the staircase which gives access to it (5&1) and the first phase of the temple are the oldest building phase of this monumental structure. It seems likely that the first apron (2) belongs to this same phase. It should be noted that the apron has not been found (yet) to the east of staircase (1). The new steps uncovered at the bottom of the apron are very well preserved and very well aligned with the steps of the staircase. However, we can only be sure that they belong to the same phase when we reach the bottom of the apron.
The part of the retaining wall uncovered so far seems less well constructed than the staircase or the apron. If this is a restoration it will be very difficult to investigate in which phase it was reconstructed. Then its connection to the first apron should also be re-examined.
The eastern door jamb (3a&b) or apron also poses some questions, mainly because of its lack of symmetry. Well preserved it has no counterpart on the western side of the staircase. If there is an eastern apron similar to (2), then this door jamb would not only have disturbed the symmetry but also have restricted the access to the temple platform. The very impressing staircase along with both aprons would have been a means of restricting access: humbling anyone not used to climbing these stairs. Why then further restrict access? Perhaps it was not intended to restrict access, but had a different function (a protection from the wind?). However, we have recently found a line of stones which might be part of a wall which is better in line with this door jamb. If it would later be found that there is a connection between the two, the level at which they were constructed might be especially informative: Accumulations had been deposited so high that the monumental staircase had become less impressive and therefore the border of the sacred area (temenos) had to be reasserted by building the door jamb. At the same level as the bottom of (3a) a very large flat stone was found at the western end of the first apron (3).The second phase of the door jamb (3a) suggested that deposits might have been quite high already because (3a) was built on top of (3b) at an old tell surface level which is higher than the bottom of (3a). All of this remains very tentative until we have further excavated these new features. When we can compare the quality of the different components, we might gain more insight in the process of its construction.
The part of the first apron (2a) above the top of the western retaining wall (5) also poses some questions. Is its distinction from the lower part of the first apron (2b) valid? Was this top part of the structure more damaged and then restored? This would mean that we now have the shape of the oldest phase because it would never have changed. Was its eastern counterpart then not restored?
The second apron also stays floating because it is not physically connected to either the oval retaining wall (5) nor to the first apron.
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