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Previous Excavations and Research

Large-scale excavations were conducted by the University of Chicago at Tell Ta‘yinat over four field seasons between 1935 and 1938 as part of the Syro-Hittite Expedition.  The excavations focused primarily on the west central part of the upper mound, although areas were also opened on the eastern and southern edges of the upper mound and in the lower city.  In all, the excavations achieved large horizontal exposures of five distinct architectural phases, or “Building Periods,” dating to the Iron II period (Amuq Phase O, ca. 950-550 B.C.).  A series of isolated soundings below the earliest Phase O floors produced remains dating to the third millennium (primarily Phases I-J, but also H), indicating that a lengthy period of abandonment occurred between the Early Bronze and Iron Age settlements at the site.

Remains of the First Building Period were exposed primarily in the West Central Area, and included two large structures (Buildings XIII and XIV) apparently arranged around an open courtyard.  The northern of the two, Building XIII, preserved the distinctive ground plan of a North Syrian bit hilani

During the Second Building Period, these two structures were leveled and an entirely new complex of buildings erected in their place, including the most famous of Ta‘yinat’s bit hilani palaces, Building I, with its adjacent megaron-style temple (Building II).  Building I, along with a northern annex (Building VI) and a second bit hilani (Building IV), faced on to a paved central courtyard (Courtyard VIII).  A paved street linked the courtyard to a large gate (Gateway XII) that provided access from the lower city.  A second gate (Gateway VII) on the eastern edge of the upper mound, and two gates in the lower city (Gateways III and XI) were also assigned to this building phase.

Renovations to the buildings in the West Central Area accounted for most of the activity assigned to the Third Building Period.  The fragmentary remains of a large structure (Building IX) resembling an Assyrian courtyard-style building were uncovered on the knoll at the southern end of the mound, and tentatively assigned by the excavators to this phase as well.  The Fourth Building Period witnessed the continued occupation of the bit hilani in the West Central Area, but saw the abandonment of the temple (Building II).  A series of poorly preserved structures confined to the highest parts of the upper mound were assigned to the Fifth (and final) Building Period.

In the absence of a more complete report, a University of Chicago doctoral dissertation by G. Swift (1958) has provided a preliminary study of the second and first millennium pottery (Phases K through O) gathered by the Chicago Expedition.  Phase O, corresponding to the Iron II period, was marked by the widespread presence of Red-Slipped Burnished Ware (RSBW). Although Common Painted and Simple Wares continued (with some modification) from the Early Iron Age (Phase N), according to Swift, the appearance of RSBW coincided with the earliest levels of Phase O, making it the primary marker for the start of the phase.

Drawing on the architectural and artifactual evidence recovered from the Iron Age levels at Chatal Hoyuk, Judaidah and Ta‘yinat, Swift proposed subdividing the Phase O sequence into four stages, which he labeled Stages Oa-Od, with ceramic imports and key historical events providing a chronological framework.  Each stage also coincided with changes in the surface treatment of RSBW.  Hand burnishing occurred exclusively in Stage Oa (ca. 950-900).  Wheel burnishing was introduced in Stage Ob (ca. 900-800), and then became the primary surface treatment in Stages Oc (ca. 800-725) and Od (ca. 725-550).  Sherds of eighth century Attic Geometric pottery were recovered from Stage Oc levels, while Corinthian Ware, Attic Black Figure Ware and Assyrian Palace Ware were found exclusively in Stage Od.

The Chicago excavations also produced an extensive corpus of Akkadian, Aramaic and Neo-Hittite (or Luwian) inscriptions.  Luwian hieroglyphic inscriptions accounted for the largest number, a total of 85 fragments, 32 of which have been shown to come from seven distinct monumental inscriptions.  One of these, comprised of six basalt fragments, had formed part of a colossal statue of a figure seated on a throne. Although the precise provenience of the statue remains unclear, the inscription makes reference to Halpa-runta-a-s(a), very possibly the same Neo-Hittite ruler who is listed as having paid tribute to Shalmaneser III in the mid-9th century BCE.

If this historical correlation is correct, it provides a possible date for the remainder of the Luwian hieroglyphic inscriptions found at the site, and raises the possibility of isolating the Building Period, and cultural horizon, in which these monumental objects were erected.  With only a few exceptions, all of the fragments appear to have been found in the fill or foundation trenches of structures dating to the Second Building Period; in other words, in secondary and tertiary contexts.  Moreover, all but one of the inscriptions (an altar piece in obvious secondary reuse in Building II) clearly had been smashed and destroyed intentionally before being discarded.  The Halparuntas inscription, therefore, would appear to date the Luwian epigraphic remains at Tell Ta‘yinat to the mid-ninth century or earlier, while their stratigraphic context places this material in the First Building Period.

A number of pottery sherds and small stone artifacts inscribed in Aramaic were uncovered during the Oriental Institute excavations at Ta‘yinat.  While this material remains unpublished, one inscription has received some attention.  Fragments of a small bowl of “late phase O ware” were found inscribed with the word KNLH (or KNLYH), tantalizingly similar linguistically to Kunulua, capital of the Kingdom of Patina/Unqi.  The paleography of the inscription suggested a seventh century date.  It is not clear whether this is the same Aramaic-inscribed sherd reported by Haines to have been found on Floor 2 of Building I in the West Central Area.  If so, this inscription would place the Third Building Period in Swift’s Od sub-phase, while further confirming the historical identification of the site.

Cuneiform inscriptions recovered during the course of the excavations included four small monument fragments, five tablets and a stone cylinder seal.  The most informative Neo-Assyrian text, however, is a dedication “for the life of Tiglath-pileser, King of Assyria,” carved on an ornamental copper disk found in the vicinity of Building I, and assigned by the excavators to its second level (or Floor 2).  In spite of its uncertain stratigraphic context, this votive would seem to corroborate the dating of the Third Building Period, linking its founding levels to the beginning of sub-phase Od, and placing the Second Building Period squarely within sub-phase Oc (ca. 800-725 BCE).

Six limestone orthostats, carved in the Assyrian provincial style, were found reused in the uppermost layer (of three layers) of pavement in Gateway VII.  They therefore probably date to the Third Building Period, or later.  A seventh orthostat, carved with a scene of a mounted charioteer riding over a fallen human figure, is reported to have been found at Ta‘yinat in 1896, but remains un-provenienced.  Finally, a bronze statuette was also attributed by the excavators to the Neo-Assyrian phase of occupation at the site.

 

 

 

Last Modified: 30 November 2011

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