Unit Book A15

Chronicle/history of Unit A15

James L. Walker – May 2023

Back to top: Chronicle/history of Unit A15


Houses, tombs and other structures excavated in previous seasons in A13 and A9 indicate a substantial Khabur settlement at Urkesh. The first task was to determine its southern and eastern extent. Furthermore, A16 excavations at a lower level were exposing a formal wing of the AP palace which probably extended further to the south and into the western portion of A15. Complicating excavations, a large gulley running east to west divided the unit into two large pieces.

Back to top: Chronicle/history of Unit A15

Excavation Strategy

Excavations in A13 in 2000 exposed several Khabur houses and tombs. The first task in this new unit was to determine the southern and eastern extent of Khabur occupation. We found an unroofed work area extending 10 meters to the south to the edge of a large gulley. The tasks seemed related to food preparation and light industry. However, at the western edge were two substantial pit kilns that were abandoned with ceramics still inside.

The discovery of the formal courtyard in A16, hastened excavation in the southern and western portions of the unit, The goal was to expose any walls and floors that were a part of the Akkadian occupation. In fact several interior walls were found that defined the western boundaries of a formal wing. Floors and seal impressions indicated that this section, directly connected to the formal courtyard were evidence that it functioned as a reception area.

At the southern extent of the unit, just above the formal palace floors, were the foundations of substantial interior walls which must have bordered the reception area. Directly atop these was a platform that abutted a small room filled with ceramic vessels dated to the late Akkadian period and that signal the last use of the palace.

Between the Khabur and Akkadian levels there were small structures indicating continuous, but scattered occupation of this portion of the mound.

Back to top: Chronicle/history of Unit A15

Excavation Seasons

Excavation began in 2001. The unit initially had eight loci of regular squares arranged side-by side running north to south. The team was supervised by Ong Ksr Khalsa, and supplemented at the end of the season by a team supervised by James Walker.

2002 was a study season that focused on some small probes to determine if that portion of the tell was occumied in the interval between the Akkadian Period and the Khabur period. In addition, a ceramics specialist analyzed the Khabur period kilns.

Excavations resumed in 2003, supervised by Mary Stancavage. They were completed in that season after the level of the Tupkish palace formal courtyard was reached.

Back to top: Chronicle/history of Unit A15

Akkadian Palace

The flagstone courtyard excavated in A16 was part of the formal part of the palace under king Tupkish. To the south was a large open area, bounded on the east by substantial brick walls and on the south and west by foundations of the same type. The floor was paved with plaster and mud bricks. The structure formed an anteroom to the courtyard and functioned as a reception and holding area for events in he courtyard. There was a well along the west side and the courtyard was entered through a low set of walls and a stone threshold. Ceramics and seal impressions on the floors provided positive identification of the period.

Accumulations above the floors signaled a transition and change of use of the area. A platform was built above the foundations for the south wall and it abutted a storeroom for ceramic vessels. other rooms in this area suggested uses for storage and light industry, functions not associated with the previous formal use of the space.

In an accumulation directly above the platform was found ceramics coated with bitumen, signalling the functional end and abandonment of these spaces.

Back to top: Chronicle/history of Unit A15

Khabur Occupation

After the palace was unused, accumlations above the floors and then the walls occurred. There were low walls and other structures at various levels, suggesting activities during intermediate periods, but the first substantial building activity after palace occupation occurred during the Khabur period. There were several phases of buildup noted, but activity peaked with the constrection of several buildings, a brick platform in A9, several tombs and an open work area in the northeast corner of this unit. Somewhat to the west were two large pit kilns containing finished Khabur bowls and cups.

At the highest levels of the unit were mudbrick walls running north to south along the eastern edge of the unit. There were no associated ceramics or othewr artifacts, but they gave the appearance of retaining walls, possibly for Mittani structures further to the east.

Back to top: Chronicle/history of Unit A15

Future Plans

A15 is a relatively small unit, with 10 regulsr 5m by 5m swuares, 4 smaller squares, and two ki;ns. Adjacent units to the west and north have been fully excavated, while A17 bordering to the east has begun excsvation. To the south, A15 abuts an outside wall which more than likely would be part of a new unit. Since there ia aome evidence of earlier floors beneath the Tupkish palace, any further excavations should be limited to this region.

Back to top: Chronicle/history of Unit A15

Synopsis of Elements per Season

Following is a chart indicating the elements that were defined in the various seasons of excavation

season loci features items q-lots views
2001(N) oKK 1-5,11-15,91-94,100,101 1-236,243 1-77 1-589, 1000-1042 1-122
2001(S) jW none 300-370 200-210 800-999 150-171
2002 (study season) none 371-376 211-229 730-739, 841 none
2003 mS none 377-589 230-339 1100-1331 172-277

Back to top: Chronicle/history of Unit A15


This version was updated on 18 May, 2023.

Back to top: Chronicle/history of Unit A15