Overview Page 4

Akkadian Imperialization

The urbanization of Leilan and its regional distribution of towns and villages in periods IIId and IIa were pre-adaptations that facilitated region-wide Akkadian imperialization in Leilan period IIb. This southern Mesopotamian penetration of the Leilan region is first documented in the late Akkadian scribal room of Leilan period IIb3 on the Acropolis Northeast, across a stone paved street from a period IIa palace that is yet unexcavated. The scribal room is radiocarbon dated by two grain samples hand-picked from the room’s floor, 2433 – 2315 BC (68.2%), a date surprisingly earlier than epigraphy-based “middle chronologies” for this period (Weiss et al. 2012). Fifteen whole and fragmentary tablets, both round school texts and administrative texts, were situated in a corner of the scribal room floor, probably in a mudbrick box (Ristvet/Guilderson/Weiss 2004; De Lillis-Forrest et al. 2004; De Lillis-Forest/Milano/Mori 2007). This small building is, therefore, an intriguing relic of the initially peaceful Akkadian penetration of the region. It raises anew the often ignored question of imperial motivation: what were the internal forces that pushed Akkadian movement into northern Mesopotamia? What forced the immediately subsequent conquest and imperialization of the northern realms?

Akkadian forces destroyed the Leilan IIa palace leaving behind razed and levelled walls and burnt room debris. In period IIb2, an Akkadian Administrative Building was built upon and against the ruins of the IIa palace. The palace controlled the Leilan region for about fifty years to judge from the IIb sequence of Leilan IIb radiocarbon dates.

Akkadian Administrative Building

The Akkadian Administrative Building, the fortifi ed rebuilding in period IIb2 of the destroyed and partially razed period IIa palace (Fig. 3), was retrieved in 2006 and 2008 with one thou- sand square meters of the palace, encompassing seventeen rooms (Weiss et al. 2012). The earlier Period IIa glacis wall on the north was restored by the Akkadians with mud pack and mud plaster, and remnant Period IIa walls, built with rectangular bricks, were reused along with the Palace’s northern wall. The western portion of the Palace was delimited by the 6.6-meter Period IIa wall rebuilt with large basalt boulders set within the facade of new walls built with square Akkadian bricks. The Room 6 gallery included floor remains with numerous ground stone grain processing tools, querns and rubbers, and plastered work surfaces. The unique Granary, a 3 meter x 3 meter mudbrick construction, was lined with a baked brick floor and interior walls, and an upper course of baked bricks with air flues, presumably for cereal-drying purposes as lenses of cereal grain ash lined the Granary’s floor. The middle corridor of the Palace was a central oven area, presumably for grain cooking. Here were concentrated 12 large ovens, each still filled with voluminous quantities of ash and phytoliths. North of room 13 was an over-the-wall dump of oven waste 1.6 meters high (Smith 2012).

Akkadian administrative activities are evident within the partial exposure of room 12’s terminal floor: a large grain storage vessel, a ground basalt 2-liter grain measure in front of clay balls for tablet preparation, and clay balls flattened into yet-uninscribed tablets (Fig. 4). Across the palace rooms, ninety-seven clay sealings of various functions, both imperial Akkadian and earlier period IIa style, document the activities of both foreign and local administrators in Akkadian Administrative Building service (McCarthy 2012).

The goal of the Akkadian adventure, here and across northern Mesopotamia, to judge from the available epigraphic and archaeological data, was agro-imperialism: the generation and extraction of cereal harvest surpluses and their shipment to the imperial capital in southern Mesopotamia (Glassner 1986; Powell 1990; Weiss /Courty 1993; Sommerfeld/Archi/Weiss 2004). Regional settlement, identifi ed by the Leilan IIb assemblage featuring sila- bowls and other fl at-based ceramics, was altered to centralize and streamline the Akkadian administration (Senior/Weiss 1992; Arrivabeni 2010). This was now complexly organized around a 140-hectare conurbation that included 50-hectare Tell Mohammed Arab, eight kilometers to the east (Weiss et al. 1993; Ristvet/Guilderson/Weiss 2004; Ristvet 2005; Nicolle 2006). Understanding the forces that drove Akkadian agro-imperialism requires research programs not yet imagined.

The Unfinished Building

On the southern side of the Acropolis street, a last Akkadian occupation phase, period IIb1, saw the initial construction stages of a building larger than 17 x 13 meters, situated upon razed and truncated Period IIa white-plastered walls, that was unfinished when it was abandoned (Fig. 5). The Unfinished Building had 2-meter wide walls of roughly dressed basalt blocks. Some walls had a thin mudpack leveling, a layer of sherds, then three or four courses of mudbrick (Ristvet/Weiss2000; Ristvet/Guilderson/Weiss2004). The eastern TUB walls terminated before meeting intended corners, and partially dressed basalt boulders and basalt chip scatters were abandoned in a semi-circle adjacent to the construction and in a line extending to the western slope of the Acropolis – where in 1978 two basalt boulders were enigmatically visible at the surface above the future Operation 1 excavation. The date of this construction effort and, literally, the fingerprint of its imperial direction, were provided by the fragmentary sealing of “Haya-abum, šabra” (Fig. 6), with its string-impressed reverse, retrieved from the TUB construction floor along with tablet fragments and punctate clay balls (DeLillis-Forrest et al. 2004). The abandonments of the Akkadian Administra- tive Building, and the synchronous TUB and Lower Town abandonments, are dated by the analysis of twenty-one radiocarbon dates to 2254 – 2220 BC (68.2%)(Weiss et al. 2012). 

Fig. 3 L06, L08, Acropolis Northwest, Akkadian Administrative Building plan. 

Fig. 4 L06, Akkadian Palace, terminal floor, room 12.

Fig. 5 L93, 44X15, The Unfinished Building, Period IIb1, on razed and truncated Period IIa white plastered walls. 

Fig. 6 L93-66 seal impression “Haya-abum, sabra,” reverse string-impressed. 

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