Fig. 1 Topographic map of Tell Leilan and excavation areas 1979 – 2008. All Figures: © Yale University Tell Leilan Project.
The Late Uruk Expansion and Collapse
A 26-meter long step trench on the Acropolis, Operation 1, and its subsequent expansions, established the Tell Leilan occupational sequence and ceramic chronology, beginning with the late northern Obeid period (Weiss 1983a,b; Schwartz 1988). The Leilan Region Survey (1984, 1987, 1995, 1997), a 30 x 60 km transect from the Iraqi frontier to the Turkish frontier, revealed an early site-size hierarchy that already extended during this period from half-hectare hamlets to small villages to 15-hectare towns (Weiss et al. 2002; Brustolon/Rova 2007). Subsequent Uruk period occupations, Leilan period IV, extending to ca. 3200 BC, included al-Andalus, in the Wadi Radd, a 64-hectares site with a signifi cant Mid- dle Uruk occupation, and southern Late Uruk period settlements, such as Sultan et-Tellul, Sharmoukh, Dabagh, and Aweinat ibn Harshan that frame anew the southern Uruk expansion and its sudden, widespread, collapse in rain-fed northern Mesopotamia (Mayo/Weiss 2003). Six-hectare Shar- moukh is likely a southern Late Uruk colony within the Wadi Radd Late Uruk enclave, and complicates older arguments for the functions of Late Uruk “colony” sites across west Asia (Brustolon/Rova 2007). The generative forces and ultimate functions of the southern Late Uruk expansion onto the Khabur Plains remain unknown. The causes of the sudden termination of these settlements and their local counterparts have been refocused, however, by the ca. 3200 BC two-century aridifi cation event now documented in paleoclimate proxies from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf (Weiss/Bradley 2001). Suddenly outside the bounds of rain-fed agriculture, many Uruk sites suffered forced abandonment (Weiss 2003). The rapid decrease in Euphrates fl ow to southern Mesopotamia may also be associated with adaptive settlement reduction, agglomeration, and the emergence of cities’ palace political control which is fi rst documented at the end of this period (Staubwasser/Weiss 2006).
The Ninevite 5 Experience
Definition of the succeeding settlements within the Operation 1 sounding provided a first stratigraphic defi nition of early “Ninevite 5 painted” assemblages, Leilan period IIIa, and the ceramic keys for identifying such sites within the Leilan Region Survey. The severely reduced Leilan IIIa period population that succeeded the late Uruk collapse was settled in small dispersed villages. Excavations at Leilan and elsewhere betray no local Leilan IIIa social or cultural remnants from the southern Late Uruk expansion, and settlements of this period lacked public architecture but for single-room chapels. Populations grew slowly for the following several centuries, as shown by settlement distributions for the Leilan IIIb and IIIc periods, with small villages surrounding a few towns no larger than 15 hectares (Rova/Weiss 2003). Northern Mesopotamia and southern Mesopotamia seem to have been isolated and without cultural or economic contact during this period, for reasons yet unexplored. This slow Khabur Plains settlement growth and the regional isolation underscore the sudden transformation of Tell Leilan and the Leilan region landscape at ca. 2600 BC.