Unit Book J5

J5 Synthetic View / Introduction

Chronicle and History of work in unit J5

James L. Walker – September 2009

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Excavations in J1 during the 2005-2006 seasons exposed the full height of the revetment wall, its two escarpments and the plaza which extended south from the face of the wall. There were only two phases represented by the ceramics. The highest was Mittani, while directly underneath was Early Dynastic III. There was no evidence of intermediate phases. (A complete explanation is provided in the J1 Chronicle.)

In the last days of the J1 excavations in 2006, the westward extent of the wall and its later escarpment were exposed as far as their turn to the north. In the vicinity of the turn, four wall components could be seen:

  1. the main revetment wall did not continue further to the west.
  2. a smaller, higher wall at the west end of the revetment wall turned to the north.
  3. the stones of a lower wall could be seen oriented to the northwest.
  4. a double line of surface stones extended to the north from a point about 10 meters from the revetment wall’s end.

In order to devote sufficient resources to enhance our understanding of the revetment wall system west of the deep sounding in J1, we decided to establish a new excavation unit, J5.

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Excavation History (2008-2010)

To be developed.

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Westward Mittani retrenchment (2008)

In the first season of J5 (2008), we explored the extent and characteristics of the revetment wall west of the deep excavations of J1. The geo-physical survey had indicated a weak trace to the north of the western part of wall that had previously been excavated. There was a strong trace of a rectangular object along that line and a weaker north-south trace about 10 meters to the west which then turned to the west.

The primary goal of the 2008 season was to expose these features and determine their function. A secondary goal was to verify if a link existed between the wall system and the palace, perhaps by way of a large service building at the palace edge. This link would have been investigated by a separate excavation unit, A21.

The main finding was a large staircase constructed of dressed stones and rising from west to east, more or less toward the top of the temple mound. Adjacent stone work served to mirror,on a smaller scale, the wall and apron system of the great staircase to the east, exposed as a part of J1. The associated ceramics were Mittani, with small amounts of Middle Assyrian atop. We conclude that the staircase and wall system comprise a western addition to the monumental stonework to the east necessitated after the grand staircase, apron and wall became covered by successive layers of accumulations. The function was to prolong the use of the sacred space as long as possible.

We also exposed a series of low stone walls running north to south about 10 meters west of the staircase. However, we were not able to establish a direct correspondence to the traces on the geo-physical survey.

Finally, we exposed more of the southern face of the early revetment wall, approximately to the top of what was the second escarpment originally found in J1.

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Early Dynastic wall system (2009)

The late 2008 season’s discovery of a Late Chalcolithic wall below the Early Dynastic revetment wall in J1 focused attention on the shape of the mound upon which the BA temple sits in the LC period. J5 was the ideal place to determine this since we have exposed the westward and northward components for a considerable distance. If the Early Dynastic wall system stops at the turn to the north, then there may be numerous intermediate phases between the higher Mittani staircase and the ED wall. If the ED wall continues to the north, then we would expect to find Late Chalcolithic structures just below it, meaning that the mound was high above the plain at a very early time.

If time permitted we also wanted to excavate a mudbrick wall whose top can be seen below the rows of north-south stones to the west of the Mittani staircase.

The major discoveries include:

  1. The Early Dynastic wall is protected by two escarpments – the later a layered baqaya one, and the earlier a substantial cut stone structure over two meters wide.
  2. The ED revetment wall continues to the north, although the material changes from rough to cut stones.
  3. Mittani accumulations sit directly atop those from EDIII.
  4. The Mittani staircase rests on the EDIII wall’s northern extension.
  5. Control of water erosion near the revetment wall was a constant problem from the time the wall was constructed in the Early Dynastic period, until abandonment in the Late Mittani period.
  6. There is evidence that the EDIII revetment wall system was built atop a Late Chalcolithic wall which followed a similar path.
  7. There is a high floor which extends to the west and south of the EDIII revetment wall. It is significant because it may link the wall with other high EDIII structures in that vicinity.

In summation, we found that the current shape of the temple mound was determined by pre-EDIII structures which most likely lay just below the revetment wall, its first escarpment, and an associated floor.

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Plans for the future

Several major issues remain to be resolved in future seasons.

First, what is the northern extent of the EDIII revetment wall system? Does it link with an east to west line of stones extending west from the northwest corner of the BA temple?

Second, if water flow past the revetment wall was a problem it must have been channeled by nearby structures to its west and south. What is the function and period of these?

Third, if near the wall there are no accumulations between the Mittani and Early Dynastic periods how does the wall system link up with Akkadian and Khabur structures to the west?

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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
2008 1-4,11-14,21-24,32-34,43-44,54,100-103 1-200 1-32 1-284 1-144
2009 104-107 201-295 33-61 285-485, 800-817, 900-917 145-230

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This version

The version published here is up to date as of March 27, 2014. Following updates will indicate additions.

At regular intervals, given versions will be archived and their data published in the Ephemeris portion of the Urkesh website.

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