Tell Leilan Project Doctoral Dissertations

Burge, Katherine

Forthcoming, “The Aftermath of Empire: the effects of Shamshi-Adad’s regional empire on local state structure, network ties, and administrative continuity in northern Mesopotamia in the early second millennium BCE”. University of Pennsylvania

The proposed dissertation examines the impact of Shamshi-Adad’s short-lived regional empire on the development of administrative practices in northern Mesopotamia in the early second millennium BCE. There is some indication in the historical records of this time that the preferred model of governance in the region shifts from community-based/oligarchical to more hierarchical, as previously independent city-states were folded into a quasi-imperial network under Shamshi-Adad. This project aims to measure change and continuity in local state structure, administration, and trans-regional interaction effected by this large-scale disturbance in the political landscape.

The primary dataset for this project is derived from administrative archives and clay sealings found within the Eastern Lower Town Palace at Tell Leilan (Shubat Enlil), in levels occupied by a local dynasty following the collapse of Shamshi-Adad’s regional empire. These materials are considered in their archaeological context within the palace and are used to reconstruct patterns of socio-economic and political organization, relating to public administration and the internal affairs of the royal household, as well as trans-regional interaction. The texts provide access to details about the large-scale administration of the local and imperial economic systems. The sealings, once attached to moveable goods and storeroom doors in administrative buildings and impressed with the personal seals of bureaucratic officials, offer a granular perspective on the day-to-day movement of goods and people.

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Arrivabeni, Monica

Forthcoming, “Third millennium B.C. developmental dynamics at Tell Leilan: The Lower Town South residential quarter from secondary state formation to regional abandonment.” Freie Universitat Berlin.

The 600 square meter excavation of the Leilan Lower Town South in 1989 is reanalysed to provide (1) the complete stratigraphic and architectural record for each occupational phase, (2) a new quantified ceramic typology derived from ca. 2100 diagnostic sherds, and (3) a new absolute chronology derived from a sequence of eleven new radiocarbon dates. Sub-phases of occupation across 500 years of continuous occupation are linked with quantified diagnostic ceramic assemblages and the radiocarbon-dated sequence that terminates at 2200 C.

The refined sequence of occupations is compared to areas occupied at the northern edge of the city, at the City Gate (Leilan periods IIId – IIb) and the Acropolis Northwest (Leilan periods IIId-IIc). The result is a comprehensive picture of developmental dynamics from the period of secondary state formation until regional abandonment at ca 2200 BC. Further comparisons with selected sites in northern Mesopotamia, e.g., Tell Hamoukar and Tell Chuera, aim to test region-wide synchronisms for the developments observed at Tell Leilan.

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Tell Leilan 1989 Lower Town South (600m2)

Ristvet, Lauren

2005 “Settlement, Economy, and Society in the Tell Leilan Region, Syria, 3000-1000BC,” Cambridge University.

This dissertation analyses the long-term history of the area around modern Tell Leilan, Syria (ancient Apum)—using data from a wide variety of sources, including an archaeological survey, ongoing excavations, environmental research and contemporary cuneiform documents. This approach illuminates how changes in the social relations of land underlay three processes urbanisation, tribalisation and provincialization which produced radically different societies. First, it argues that the earliest states arose as part of a political and religious landscape that resolved tensions between a series of economic, political and social oppositions (3000-2200 BC). Second, it analyses the rise of tribalisation and investigates how a three-century long drought led to the collapse of urban society and the extension of nomadism and set the stage for a series of kingdoms based upon tribal principles (2200-1500 BC). Third, it investigates the fate of this region as a province under the domination of two empires that standardized administrative practices throughout Northern Mesopotamia, Mitanni and Assyria (1500-1000 BC). The dissertation concludes by considering the long-term dynamics between the environment, urbanism and nomadism in Northern Mesopotamia.

Pulhan, Gül                                                                                                                      

2000 “On the eve of the Dark Age: Qarni-Lim’s palace at Tell Leilan” Yale University.

This study documents and analyzes an epigraphically dated 18th century BC palace with particular emphasis on its ceramic assemblage at Tell Leilan in north-eastern Syria. Tell Leilan has been identified as ancient Shubat-Enlil, the capital of the northern Mesopotamian empire of Shamshi-Adad. A statistically quantified analysis of the pottery, combined with a functional evaluation defines the nature of the palace assemblage within the larger context of early second millennium BC Khabur Ware ceramics. A standardized ceramic vessel with a capacity of ca. 2.4 liters has been identified within the assemblage and proposed to have been used as a unit of measure in the disbursement of beer by the palace. This proposition is generated and supported by the retrieval of an administrative archive from the palace, exclusively recording issues of beer and barley to the palace personnel, together with the equation of the volume of the jars to 2 sila/qu (1 sila ≈ 1.2 liters according to the measure of menials). The sila was the most commonly attested measure of capacity in northern Mesopotamia in the second millennium BC and the measure used in the beer archive recordings was the sila. The majority of the tablets were sealed with an inscribed seal giving the name of king Qarni-Lim. A historical synthesis of the available textual evidence from Tell Leilan and elsewhere reconstructs a co-terminus rule of Qarni-Lim, originally king of Andariq, at Shubat-Enlil with Haja-Abum between 1775–1760 BC.

The palace is located in the northeastern quadrant of the Lower Town and is believed to be the residence of king Qarni-Lim, while the Eastern Lower Town Palace simultaneously was occupied by Haja-Abum. The Northern Lower Town Palace was possibly used by the subsequent usurper of the Land of Apum, Atamrum of Andariq, until 1763 BC. The abandonment of the building was gradual and may have been taken place before the terminal destruction of the site by Samsu-iluna of Babylon in 1728 BC. The existence of two contemporary palaces at the site brings up the question of multiple residences for the kings in the second millennium BC and draws attention to the complex nature of politics and administration in northern Mesopotamia.

Senior, Louise M.

1998 “Time and technological change: Ceramic production, labor, and economic transformation in a thir millennium complex society (Tell Leilan, Syria),” University of Arizona.

This study investigates changes in ceramics at Tell Leilan, Syria, during three consecutive periods between 2500 and 2200 B.C. These changes co-occur with significant socio-political changes: urbanization of the region and fledgling statehood. The approach developed to examine ceramic change in this work is Ceramic Technical Sequence Analysis (CTSA) which combines the strategies of ceramic ecology, the French technique et culture school, and behavioral archaeology. CTSA is also informed by practice theory; thus, the limitations of previous work in ceramic technology are reduced. This technologically-based work discloses that the ceramic change noted at Leilan is the result of intensified ceramic production, notably faster manufacturing techniques.

Estimates of labor costs were attempted through proxy measures of time expended in procuring and processing raw materials, and in pottery production techniques, including vessel formation, decoration and firing. Investigations are ordered according to the chaîne opératoires used in ceramic manufacture at Leilan, and each aspect of the chaîne opératoire is specifically examined in regard to changes in time expended during manufacture activities. Though archaeologists often inform their research with scientific techniques, this project is atypical in the number of methods applied, as well as the additional information gleaned from interviews with contemporary artisan-craft potters (N > 40). Investigation of multiple lines of evidence, rather than reliance on a single technique, strengthen this study’s conclusions. Data were derived from a variety of characterization techniques used in Materials Science and Geosciences. Neutron activation analysis (INAA), systematic refiring tests, examination of petrographic thin sections, strength testing, dilatometry studies (thermal expansion), xeroradiography, observation of and consultation with modern potters and macroscopic examination of artifacts, were used to observe changes in ceramic production between the three stratigraphically delineated temporal phases at Tell Leilan.

Not every aspect of chaîne opératoire informs equally, nor agrees, on the topic of time expenditure. Vessel forming techniques deduced through “pot reading” of manufacture marks left on vessel surfaces proved to be the most fruitful. Ceramic Technical Sequence Analysis is productive in investigation of ceramic change, and when guided by larger research questions, may provide a link between ceramic- and social change.

Frane, Julia

1996 “The Tell Leilan period I Habur Ware assemblage,” University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

This study examines the early second millennium B.C. Habur Ware assemblage from Tell Leilan/Shubat Enlil in order to integrate a ceramic assemblage of which the painted pottery- Habur Ware- has traditionally been emphasized, divorced from the larger unpainted assemblage. These ceramics were retrieved from floors of two temples, a milti-phased palace, and a single-room domestic context, often in context with dateable cuneiform documents that provide an internal chronology for the ceramics from Tell Leilan as well as place this pottery and associated architectural features within a larger historical context.

The distribution of this pottery has been shown to correlate chronologically and geographically with the empire of Shamshi-Adad I of Assyria. (1813-1781 B.C.). The ceramics from tell Leilan are of added importance because this site has been identified as Shubat Enlil, the north capital of Shamshi-Adad I located in the Habur River Valley – the area of greatest concentration of this ceramic.

This study begins with a review of scholarship concerning painted Habur Ware. The architectural and stratigraphic contexts of these ceramics are presented, prefaced by a presentation of pertinent historical and geographical considerations. Ware and shape typologies are introduced, accompanied by descriptive statistical tables. An extensive catalogue of illustrations is provided with parallels cited from contemporary Mesopotamian and Syrian sites.

Conclusions include considering the Tell Leilan Period I assemblage as a homogeneous ceramic corpus in terms of wares and shapes a function of the mass production of this pottery in an imperial city, resulting in the wide availability of ceramic products. Further, the designation “Habur Ware” is a misnomer; painted decoration alone differentiates ceramics of identical wares. Finally, the Period I Habur Ware assemblage from Tell Leilan belongs to the family of largely unpainted ceramic assemblages known from Western Surya, the Balikh and Euphrates Valleys. Painted decoration is viewed as a local variant. 

Ismail, Faruq

1991 “Altbabylonische wirtschaftsurkunden aus Tell Leilan (Syrien)” Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen.

Transliteration, translation, and commentary for the 147 administrative texts retrieved from the Lower Town Palace during the 1987 excavation season at Tell Leila, Syria.

Vincente, Claudine A.

1991 “The 1987 Tell Leilan tablets dated by the limmu of Habil-kinu (Volumes 1 and II),” Yale University.

This dissertation is an edition with commentary of the administrative tablets dated by the year-eponymy of Habil-kinu found at Tell Leilan during the 1987 season. Tell Leilan is situated in the Habur triangle in northeastern Syria. The tablets are part of an Old Babylonian archive dating to the middle of the eighteenth century B.C. The archive contributes direct evidence of the history of northern Mesopotamia, for a period which is still in a discovery phase. The administrative tablets are records of receipts and disbursements drawn up by the palace administration. They concern silver metal and objects, garments and shoes, various foodstuffs, livestock and personnel. They shed light on the organization of the administration, the material culture, the prevailing socio-economic conditions, the geography of the area, and the history of upper Mesopotamia. They present the palace both as a household of high-standing and the seat of a state institution. The content of the texts shows strong similarities with the almost contemporary administrative archives of Mari, a well-known site on the middle Euphrates. However, new words, slightly different administrative usages, and the larger representation of an ethnic group called Hurrian, as shown by the personal names, reflect differences which emphasize the cultural specificity of Leilan.

Schwartz, Glenn M.

1982 “From Prehistory to History on the Habur Plains: The Operation 1 Ceramic Periodization from Tell Leilan,” Yale University.

This study analyzes the stratigraphically-defined, quantified ceramic sequence retrieved from the Operation 1 step trench at Tell Leilan, Syria. The analysis is designed to fill a gap in the archaeology of northern Mesopotamia, supplying, for the first time, a fifth through third millennium ceramic periodization for the Habur region and a quantified sequence for northern Mesopotamia as a whole.

First, the stratigraphic and architectural history of Operation 1 is detailed, and the sixty-one strata of occupation are described. Second, the ceramic analysis is discussed. The relative frequencies of ceramic traits were analyzed and then employed as the basis for the periodization of the strata. K-means cluster analysis assisted in discerning periods and helped identify those ceramic elements most influential in differentiating between them. Five periods (II-VI) were established; two of these were further sub-divided into sub-periods (IIIa-IIIc, VIa-VIb). The absolute time spans of these chronological units (ca. 5000-2000 B.C.) are defined by a series of carbon-14 dates.

The Operation 1 assemblages are cross-dated with other Mesopotamian site components in a move toward a comprehensive regional chronology for northern Mesopotamia. The quantitative analysis from Operation 1 replaces vague chronological indicators, previously utilized on a presence-absence basis, with relative frequencies of ceramic elements linked to well-stratified and radiometrically-dated contexts. The so-called “Ninevite V” phenomenon is clarified: rather than a homogeneous group of fine, incised ceramics confined to the early third millennium, we observe a sequence of pottery whose shapes and incised motifs experience recognizable changes over a period as long as a millennium. Painted “Ninevite V” pottery, rather than preceding incised “Ninevite V”, is shown to have been contemporaneous with it. Further, the so-called “Metallic ware” is more securely dated to the middle and later centuries of the third millennium.