2005 Excavation Season

"University of Chicago-Syrian team finds first evidence of warfare in ancient Mesopotamia"
Press Release, University of Chicago News Office (12/16/2005)

2000-2001 Survey Report


1999 Excavation Reports


Newspaper Articles about Hamoukar

New York Times article - May 23, 2000
Chicago Tribune article - May 23, 2000
Chicago Sun Times article - May 23, 2000
Independent News, UK article - May 24, 2000
Sunday Times, London article - May 28, 2000
ABC News /GO.com article - May 22, 2000
Washington Post article - May 23, 2000
New York Times Science/Health article - May 23, 2000
Discovery.com article - May 30, 2000
University of Chicago Chronicle article - May 25, 2000
Archaeology Magazine On-Line article - May 31, 2000
NPR's All Things Considered radio interview - May 23, 2000

Tell Hamoukar promises to reveal important new information on the culture and history of northeastern Syria during the 4th and 3rd Millennia, BC. Work was initiated in 1999 by a joint Syrian-American expedition directed by McGuire Gibson of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and Muhammad Maktash of the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums.

The site, only eight kilometers west of the Syrian-Iraqi border, is one of the larger mounds in the Khabur River basin. The site is unusual in that it is not directly situated on a branch of the Khabur River, as are similarly-sized mounds such as Tell Leilan and Tell Brak. But its position on a major ancient route between Nineveh and Aleppo must be taken into account in assessing the reasons for its size.

Hamoukar has long been recognized as a site that should be excavated. Potsherds on the surface show that there is an occupation of the late Uruk period (c. 3500-3000 BC), as well as occupations of the earlier 4th millennium (4000-3500 BC). The city was at its greatest extent in the 3rd Millennium BC, with evidence of incised and excised Ninevite 5 pottery and ceramics that are dated by comparison with Tell Brak to the time of the Akkadian empire and the post-Akkadian period. The continuation of occupation at the site after the Akkadian period is important in light of recent suggestions that northern Syria was abandoned at the end of the Akkadian.

Remains in Area A and B point to a Late Chalcolithic settlement of about 13 hectares, in which there is evidence of cooking on an institutional scale. Stamp seals and clay sealings found in the cooking area have been interpreted as implying an administrative hierarchy with differing levels of responsibility. A substantial wall of mudbrick, which may prove to be a defensive wall, was found in Area A in Late Chalcolithic levels. Above the Late Chalcolithic in both Areas A and B were remains of late Uruk date, including a range of ceramics (beveled rim bowls, four-lugged vessels, conical cups, handled cups, etc.) and two cylinder seal impressions.

The expedition expects to be in the field for its second campaign from August through October, 2000. Goals for the upcoming season are (a) to build an expedition house on the site, (b) to expose a good part of a temple of the late 3rd Millennium in Area C, (c) to investigate a very early 4th Millennium settlement that covers a very large area of the fields to the south of the main tell. Future seasons will see a return to the upper levels of Area A, to expose 3rd Millennium and late Uruk buildings there, as well as a widening and deepening of Area B, the buildings with cooking facilities.

Environmental, paleobotanical, paleozoological, and landscape studies will continue to be an integral part of the research program.

Annual Reports