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Intransite frame

Giorgio Buccellati – January 2008

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The archaeological frame

Within the site we have created a series of constructs that provide a modern frame of reference for the excavations as a window onto the ancient physiognomy of the site.

Seen as an organic whole, the site emerges, before excavations, as a configuration of geo-physical features and it reveals imemdiate evidence of modern human activities. As the excavation progresses, the process of site formation comes to be progressively better understood.

The surveyor’s base plan provides the primary topographic grid and contour map to which everything on the site relates. Every point is thereby georeferenced to the world grid.

The topographic contours define given zones, which correspond to the current geographic reality of the tell, and may possibly reflect aspects of the ancient urban layout, atleast that of the latest phases of occupation.

Areas are typologically coherent aspects of the ancient architectural and urban realities, covering multiple strata and periods. These can obviously be identified only after they have been exposed thtough the excavations (hence they are not “arbitrary” in the way excavation units are).

Along with any evidence from surface materials (whether ceramic sherds or suggestions of architectural elements), the topographic contours help us define specific excavation units, which are by definition “arbitrary,” in the sense that we do not expect them to match, necessarily, the reality of the ancient urban layout. (The term “arbitrary” has a negative connotation, as in “whimsical,” which is inappropriate for our situation. What is meant is the purely volumetric choice of the boundaries within which the excavation takes place.) They are the basic operational units of the excavation, and correspond at the same time to the “digital books” that comprise the core of the Urkesh Global Record.

As if an appendix, I give breif overview of the Expedition House, which is built on the tell, and thus has become part of its landscape.

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