Tell Mozan - Early and Middle Bronze Age economy and ecology in northern Syria

Dr. Simone Riehl

Archaeological setting and environment

Tell Mozan, the location of ancient Urkesh in northeastern Syria was a major political and religious center of the Hurrian civilization in the third millennium of Syro-Mesopotamia. A temple dominated the ancient skyline, at the top of a built-up terrace that rivaled the nearby mountains. A large royal palace, currently under excavation, has yielded written evidence that has allowed an American team under G.Buccellati to identify the ancient city.

A German team under P.Pfälzner at Tübingen University finished their excavations of large Early and Middle Bronze Age domestic areas in 2002.

Archaeobotanical sampling of Middle Bronze Age contexts in the upper city of Tell Mozan, which measures about 30 ha, was conducted between 1999 and 2002. The lower city, which reached already about 2500 BC its maximum extension of 130 ha, was not excavated systematically, and therefore no archaeobotanical samples were taken from this part of the settlement until now. The importance of Tell Mozan as trade and communication network in the catchment basin of the river Khabur determines the archaeological and archaeobotanical research focus on economic aspects in this metropolis.

First results show that barley played an important role in agricultural subsistence. But also Emmer seems to have been intensively cultivated as demonstrated by large amounts of chaff remains. Free-threshing wheat is also present, whereas only few finds of Einkorn make its cultivation questionable. Pulses also occurred in small numbers. Among these bitter vetch is dominant, followed by lentil. Horticulture cannot be proved at the moment. Rare finds of fig and grape seeds could also derive from fruits collected from wild trees.

The Early Bronze Age samples are currently under analysis, thus only a preliminary report on the Middle Bronze Age remains is available. [pdf]

Riehl, S. 2010, Plant production in a changing environment – The archaeobotanical remains from Tell Mozan. In: K. Deckers, M. Doll, P. Pfälzner and S. Riehl, Ausgrabungen 1998 - 2001 in der Zentralen Oberstadt von Tall Mozan / Urkeš: The Development of the Environment, Subsistence and Settlement of the City of Urkeš and its Region, SUN, Serie A, Vol. 3. 13-158. [pdf]