The maintenance works in the area J1

Amer Ahmed

Conservation Assistant

Tell Mozan/Urkesh Excavations


Extraordinary amounts of rainfall in the winter and spring of 2019 in Hasake Provence, Syria resulted in damage to the third millennium temple mound at Tell Mozan. A portion of the revetment wall at the junction of Mittani and EDIII construction (excavation unit J5) was washed out (Fig. 1).Baulks in the lower plaza (excavation area J1) collapsed ( Fig.2 ).  After consultations with the archaeological staff, we designed and implemented temporary measures such as seds (water diversion channels) to mitigate the damages.


At the end of May 2019 the rains abated and work to effect a more permanent solution began. As the regular Mozan workmen were unavailable, laborers from nearby communities assisted in cleaning, bagging soil, and lifting stones. This phase took ten days with breaks for seasonal harvests.


Fig.1 . The crumbled wall in unit J5


Fig.2 . The unit J1 before the work





The works included the following :



We startedinJ5wherethesection of the Mittani revetment wall turns to join the EDIII revetment wall. The huge stones were scattered on the ground with accumulated soil on them ( Fig.3 ). Because we lackedenoughexperiencetorestore thiswall section,a temporary structure was built to preserve the stones and protect the remaining sections of the revetment wall until a full archaeological team returns to the site.




Fig.3 . The accumulated soil and scattered stones in  J5



The first day, on Thursday 29 / 5 / 2019 :



We started removing the soil which accumulated on the stones (Fig .4).  Thenwe sortedthemtoputthebiggestonthebottomtoform abase.  Wewerevery careful to not disturb the soil that remained from behind the revetment wall.(Fig.5).  Thesoilwasreddishandfreeofstraw and sherds, but it contained a few small stones.  It appeared that none of the soil had been sifted.

Fig.4 . Removing the soil - the unit J5

Fig.5. The soil which remained behind the revetment wall in J5


After cleaning and soil removal we reached the last excavated level, escarpment 1 (^esc1). We placed a sheet of naylon (plastic) on the escarpment to denote the start of the temporary repair (Fig.6 ).  Then we began the repair by using the biggest stones as a base.


Fig.6. Placing nalon under the stones in J5


The second day, on Saturday 1 / 6 / 2019 :


The work continued in the unit J5 but because of the difficulty of lifting stones wehave reliedonaninstrumentcalledal-Wensh (tripod winch) tolift the stones (Fig.7); however, we were having difficulty working because of the large stones.








Fig.7. The al-Wensh in action in J5



After the stones were lifted and placed using the al-Wensh, masonry mud (a mixture of soil, straw and water) was used to fill the gaps between the stones (Fig.8 ).



Fig.8. Filling the gaps between the stones with mud in J5



The third day, on Sunday 9 / 6 / 2019 :


We worked in both units J5 and J1 .

InJ5,afterwefinishedplacingthestones weneededtostrengthen the standing section of the revetment wall of the temple as well as we could, cover the soil which remained behindthewallofthetemple, and protect the reconstructed section.  Because we wanted the repairs to have aesthetic appeal until it could be restored properly, we built a protective collar around the stones using burlap bags filled with the soilwhich surrounded the collapsed wall section(Fig.9). The bags were carefully placed until we reached the highest point possible ( Fig.10 ).   Then we ran out of the soil from the collapse.


Fig.9. Burlap bags filled with soil in J5

Fig.10. The highest point reached on third day in J5





As for the unit J1, we began to remove the soil beside the damaged section onboth the southandeastsides(Fig.11). We filled bags with this soil  which was to be used later to help protect the section against further damage (Fig.12).





Fig.11. The start of the work in unit J1



Fig.12. Filling the bags in J1


The fourth day, on Tuesday 11 / 6 / 2019 :


The process of removing soil beside the east and south sides of the section in theunitJ1continued,aswellasplacingthebagsintheeasternside(Fig.13).as tothesoilwhich came from the section and will be used willbeusedfor theprotectionofthetempleís wall,we elected to sift it to recover sherds or other objects of archaeological interest (Fig.14). Hammadi (our ceramics specialist) was interested in collecting every fragment that appeared as a result of the sifting process (Fig.15). Only sherds were recoveredand personally bagged by Hammadi (Fig.16). The sifted soil was bagged and transferred to the top of the section and wall to be used later for building protective structures (Fig.17).

Fig.13. The work continues in J1

Fig.14. Sifting the soil in J1

Fig.15. The pottery shards are collected by Hammadi in J1

Fig.16. The pottery shards are put in plastic bags in  J1




Fig.17 . Transferring the soil bags to the top - the unit J1


The fifth day, on Sunday 23 / 6 / 2019:


We worked in both J1 and J5.

InJ1,wecontinuedfillingbagswithsoilandplacingthemon theeasternandsouthernsidesofthesection(Fig.18). We also sifted and bagged soil and transferred it to the top of the wall.






Fig.18. Placing the soil bags at the foot of the section in J1


As for the unit J5, after we ran out of the soil from the collapsed pedestal which supported the Mitanni wall, we used the soil which also had previously eroded from the section across from the collapsed wall section to finish building the protective collar (Fig.19). The bags which have been filled from the sectionís crumbled soil were identified in a photo which I have annotated by the Freehand Program (Fig.20). Then we completed work on the collar (Fig.21).

Fig.19. Removing soil from the collapsed section in front of the pedestal

Fig.2. Annotated photo showing which bags came from the J5 section








Fig.21. The completed protective collar in J5



The sixth day, on Tuesday 25 / 6 / 2019 :


We finished the work in J1, where the soil bags have been placed and the surface leveled within the unit (Fig.22 and 23).

Fig.22. The process of leveling the soil in the unit J1

Fig.23  View of the completed leveling work in J1



The seventh day, on Sunday 7 / 7 / 2019 :


After we finished the work inside J1, we moved to the second phase which is to build a protective structure atop and in front of the sections. We installed a framework of iron rods (Fig.24) and covered it with tutia (corrugated metal sheets) (Fig.25), which was attached to the iron rods in order to protect the sectionís vertical surface from the rain in winter. In addition, we welded the broken western door leading to J1 (Fig.26), thus finishing construction work in J1 (Fig.27).




Fig.24. Installing the iron rods in J1

Fig.25. Attaching the tutia to the iron rods in J1

Fig.26. Welding the iron door in the unit J1


Fig.27. Iron rods and tutia secured in place in J1


The eighth day, Tuesday 16 / 7 / 2019 :


After installing the iron rods and tutia, we covered the top inside edges of the tutia with soil (Fig.28) to prevent leakage of rainwater that may cause damages to the section. Then we placed tutia on the top surface of the revetment wall running from J1 through J5. Here we faced obstacles, because the large stones on the wall-toppreventedusleveling the sheets of tutia, which were being tilted and skewed (Fig.29). Becausewewouldhave neededalargeamountofsoiltolevelthe tutia,we decided to build a curtain using jader (burlap) to cover all the wall from top to bottom and anchoring it by bags of soil atop a layer of clay (Fig.30).   This system will be installed at the end of autumn and removed around the middle of March after the end of the tourist season.

Fig.28 . Covering the edges of tutia with soil in J1

Fig.29. Failed test of revetment wall protection using tutia


Fig.30. Recommended system to protect revetment wall







The ninth day, on Saturday 31 / 8 / 2019 :


After finishing work in the unit J1, where the iron rods and tutia have been in- stalled, we installed a burlap curtain backed with naylon (plastic) (Fig.31) and attached by ribbons on the iron rods (Fig.32) to protect the section from further erosion. Themetal rods were spacedabout 180 cm apart, except in the corners of the unit (northeast and southwest corners ) where the naylon sidewas installed against the wall of the section. The unit J1 after finishing work on the ninth day is shown in (Fig.33).

Fig.31. Sewing the jader (burlap) with naylon (plastic)



Fig.32. Affixing the curtain onto iron rods by ribbons in J1




Fig.33. The unit J1 from the northwest side


The tenth day, on Sunday 8 / 9 / 2019 :


We painted the tutia in the unit J1, where we have mixed three colors (light brown,whiteandorange)(Fig.34),inordertomatch the color of the surrounding soil (Fig.35 and 36).


Fig.34. Mixing the color





Fig.35. The painting process




Fig.36. The finished product after painting