“Seven Generations Since the Fall of Akkad” Workshop

“…Seven Generations Since the Fall of Akkad” Workshop at 8th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Warsaw, May 2012. 

[Published! Harvey Weiss, ed., 2012 Seven Generations since the Fall of Akkad. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz]

A workshop of fifteen archaeologists convenes May 1, 2012 in Warsaw to discuss the nature of the abrupt settlement reduction, “desertification and desertion,” that occurred across the rain-fed Habur Plains of Syria, and adjacent regions of West Asia, at the end of the third millennium BC, and that was part of the formative early historic processes of regional abandonments, Akkadian empire collapse, nomadization, and resettlement. The archaeologists will present their excavation and survey data, ceramic and radiocarbon chronologies for regional settlement, site reduction and abandonment, analyses of the nature of reduced-size settlement, and suggest the adaptive characteristics of the few reduced-size settlements that were occupied, most only briefly, during this period. The workshop papers will be published in 2012 as volume 3 of Studia Chaburensia (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz).

Stratigraphic section of Tell Taya Acropolis, Sinjar Plains, northwestern Iraq, excavated by Dr.Julian Reade, British School of Archaeology in Iraq, 1967-1973. Photograph courtesy of Dr. Julian Reade.

Phase 8 = Akkadian (c. 2300-2200 BC); phase 7 = “post-Akkadian”; phase 6 = “Ur III”, “…did not last much more than half a century. The population either died in the destruction, though no skeletons were found, or deserted the site.” phase 5 = “…a single streaked layer represents all that is left of level V…chiefly black and grey, consisting respectively of carbonized sheep-dung and friable gypsous flooring…the whole deposit was clearly produced by a pastoralist population”; phase 4 = Habur (Reade 1968).

Reade, J.E., 1968 Tell Taya (1967): Summary Report Iraq 30.2: 234-264; 1971 Tell Taya (1968-9): Summary ReportIraq 33.2: 87-100; 1973 Tell Taya (1972-73): Summary Report Iraq 35.2: 155-187.

Workshop participants and abstracts:

Weiss, H., Z. Bahrani, T. Guilderson, A. McCarthy, R. Meadow, S. Manning, L. Mori, A.J. Patel, P. Quenet, L. Ristvet, A. Smith, “Tell Leilan Akkadian Imperialization, Collapse and Short-Lived Reoccupation Defined by High Resolution Radiocarbon Dating.”
The penultimate phases of Akkadian imperialization (Leilan IIb) have been defined at the more than 17-room Akkadian Administrative Building and The Unfinished Building, more than 20-meters wide, across the Akkadian street on the Tell Leilan Acropolis Northwest. Rapid and synchronous abandonment followed at the site and across the region, with only a four-room post-Akkadian reoccupation (Leilan IIc) on top of the abandoned Administrative Building. High resolution, multi-aliquot, radiocarbon dates define the span of the Akkadian imperialization, the date of the abandonment, and the short-lived post-Akkadian reoccupation that was followed, “seven generations” later, by the pastoralist Amorite resettlement of Shubat Enlil.

Alexia Smith, University of Connecticut, “Akkadian and Post-Akkadian Cultivation at Tell Leilan”
Over 200 archaeobotanical samples dating to the Akkadian and post-Akkadian occupation phases were collected from the large Administrative building complex on the Tell Leilan Acropolis Northwest. Employing data generated from these samples, this paper describes Akkadian cultivation and plant use at Leilan and documents the significant shift in plant use evident during the brief post-Akkadian reoccupation of the Administrative Building.

Lauren Ristvet, University of Pennsylvania, “The Development of Underdevelopment? Imperialism, Economic Exploitation and Settlement Dynamics in the Khabur Plains, ca. 2300-2200 BC”
The relationship between abrupt climate change, settlement shifts, and political collapse at the end of the Early Bronze Age has been a fundamental research question for nearly twenty years in Near Eastern archaeology. In order to understand these developments, however, it is necessary to investigate not just the period in question, but also social and economic processes during the immediately preceding phase. The previous century saw increasing contact between local and Southern Mesopotamian polities, culminating in the Akkadian conquest and colonization of the Khabur Plains, another chapter in a long term relationship of contact and conflict between these two ecologically distinct regions.
Researchers have conceptualized the Akkadian empire using several different models, ranging from a military empire with little to no investment in areas beyond Southern Mesopotamia to a classically imperialist state focused on extracting the agricultural surplus of the Khabur Plains. This paper will evaluate these hypotheses through the analysis of settlement data, particularly that from the Leilan Regional Survey, although other published survey material will also be considered. First, the well-stratified and dated ceramic sequence for this period from Tell Leilan (Leilan IIb) will be defined. Second, the nature of the occurrence of these materials on other sites in the region and their position vis-à-vis a range of resources will be investigated in order to analyze a variety of social and economic relationships that may have been affected by imperialism. Do we see evidence for the economic exploitation of the Khabur Plains by Southern Mesopotamia? If so, how were settlements of different sizes integrated into the empire? How did imperial strategies affect local economic conditions? Did imperial exploitation result in the development of underdevelopment as 20th century dependency theorists may predict? Understanding the nature of settlement patterns, and the social, political and economic processes that helped form them prior to 2200 BC is critical to any analysis of later collapse.

Monica Arrivabeni, Freie Universität Berlin, “The Post-Akkadian/Leilan IIc occupation in the Leilan Region Survey”
The results of the Leilan Regional Survey campaigns concerning the Leilan IIc phase (c. 2200-2150/2100 BCE; Post-Akkadian Period) are conjoined to portray in detail the regional settlement of the last centuries of the millennium and to highlight the differences in occupation patterns from the preceding Leilan IIb phase (c. 2300-2200 BCE; Akkadian Period). 
During the IIb phase the region was densely occupied, with the first foundation of new settlements in the southern more arid area, and the number of occupied sites was the highest for the 3rd millennium (tough the total occupied hectares did not exceed the Leilan IIa pre-imperialization phase). The Leilan IIc phase, however, marks a period of drastic reductions both in the number of occupied settlements and in their size (Ristvet 2005; Ristvet & Weiss 2005; Weiss 2010; Arrivabeni 2010). In general, the LRS data mirror the occupational history of Tell Leilan: 1) an expansive Akkadian phase, 2) only slight evidence for a short-lived post-Akkadian phase, and 3)the absence of evidence for occupation during the Ur III period (Ristvet 2005; Weiss 2010; Arrivabeni 2010).

Rafal Kolinski, Adam Mickiewicz University, “Generation count at Tell Arbid, Sector P”
The fieldwork carried out in the eastern part of the site in 2008-2010 revealed a sequence of strata covering the turn the 3rd millennium B.C. Two subsequent strata of the Post-Akkadian settlement, the upper one featuring a substantial reconstruction of the structures was founded over the remnants of Akkadian houses. Then the area was abandoned and over the filled up Post-Akkadian remains two horizons of pits were observed, the younger one falling to the period of the “Early” Khabur Ware. Towards the end of this period first structures appear in the area but only in the MB/OJ II period it was build up with houses. If we speculate that each abandonment/construction episode is reflecting a generation than the following generation count may be proposed:

Layer Chronology     Character of activity Generation
VII Akkadian houses abandonment 0
  abandonment 1
  abandonment 2
VI Post-Akkadian houses ? 2
Vb Post-Akkadian Main Building, phase 1 3
Va Post-Akkadian Main Building, phase 2 4
  abandonment 5
IV ? Pit horizon 1 6
III Middle Bronze/Old Jezira I Pit horizon 2, pottery kilns     7
IIIc Middle Bronze/Old Jezira I/II House 3, graves 8
IIIa-b Middle Bronze/Old Jezira II Houses 1-5, graves 8/9
I Middle Bronze/Old Jezira III traces of settlement 10

Łukasz Rutkowski, University of Warsaw, “Late 3rd millennium BC painted pottery”
It is widely believed that painted pottery (related to Khabur Ware) reappeared briefly in northern Mesopotamia in the advent of the 2nd millennium BC after a long brake during the second half of the 3rd millennium BC when plain pottery had prevailed. Strictly speaking, the latest, well known 3rd millennium BC manifestation of painted pottery are “bichrome Jezirah stands”, dated back to EJ IIIA, and the earliest 2nd millennium BC painted motifs can be recognized on pottery of OJ I period (“pre-Khabur Ware”). The question arises what happened to a painted ceramic tradition in the later 3rd millennium BC. Could it have disappeared completely or for some reasons (e.g. general unpopularity of painted designs, use of impermanent or washable paint) it is difficult to find in archeological record? 
However, very occasionally painted ornaments on pottery occur in the later 3rd millennium BC Jeziran contexts. A few examples of painted pottery that evidently precede Habur Ware painted style have been discovered in post-Akkadian layers at Tell Arbid. At least three different types of ornaments can be distinguished among these rare findings: (1) black dots of bitumen paint, most often used in combination with combed decoration – attested on many Jeziran sites in Akkadian and post-Akkadian contexts; (2) bichrome geometric decoration on fine-ware vessels – very rare and still unfamiliar ornament which finds parallels in Tell Brak, Nineveh, Tell Hammad Agha Saghir; (3) simple monochromatic bands of paint which can be regarded as harbingers of the Khabur Ware painted pottery. The aim of this paper is to present these interesting examples in the context of transition between the Early Bronze and Middle Bronze Age.

Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen, “Household dynamics in Late Third Millennium Northern Mesopotamia”
During the Early Jezireh IV and V periods a change in household organisations is visible in the Khabur Region. This can be observed through a study of excavated house structures at several sites, such as Tall Mozan, Tall Brak, Tall Chagar Bazar and Tall Chuera. The house plans and their inventories are investigated in this presentation and compared to earlier domestic structures, particularly of the Early Jezireh III period. The observable changes in household organisation can be interpreted as a reflection of general changes in the socio-political organisation of Northern Mesopotamia during the final three centuries of the third millennium BC. They have a strong impact on the endogenous organisational “turn” in the society and urban landscape of the Khabur region during the late third millennium, and, at the same time, prepare the setting for Middle Bronze Age Northern Mesopotamia society.

Christophe Nicolle, College de France, “Tell Mohammed Diyab Pre Khabur Ware Occupation During the Akkadian and the Amorrite periods,”
Tell Mohammed Diyab with an estimated size of 40 ha played a significant regional role. As it has been noted elsewhere in the Syrian Jazeera, the transition between these two periods seems to correspond to a drastic break and significant decline of the regional occupation. However, the site of Tell Mohammed Diyab is not completely deserted. The recent discovery of several walls revealed the existence of an occupation that if it doesn’t reach the size of the akkadian agglomeration has at least, the virtue of revealing a new ceramic corpus still rather unknown. These ceramic is characterized by a greenish vacuolar paste which is likely to be associated with a decline in its quality and the skill of the potters. Here, we intent to present the contexts of those discoveries mostly made during the 2005 and 2010 campaigns and our first analysis of this post-akkadian ceramic. According to our first results, it seems that the ancient population of Tell Mohammed Diyab had abandoned the site and then was replace par a new one belonging to different cultural substrate and living in a small agglomeration. Thereafter this population was replaced during the nineteenth century on the occasion of a wave of dense regional reoccupation marked by the arrival of an amorrite population producing Khabur Ware. We will endeavor to describe this context. Although the documentation is sparse, the description of this post-Akkadian phase of occupation at Tell Mohammed Diyab provides additional information useful to understand the process of abandonment and reoccupation that affect Northern Mesopotamia.

Valentina Orsi, University of Florence, “Tell Barri before Kahat”
This paper will provide an overview of the archaeological data concerning the transition from EBA to MBA in the Upper Khabur valley, combining the evidence of already published sites with hitherto unpublished material. The long sequence of occupation exposed in area G at Tell Barri allows us to appreciate the development of ceramic production from the perspective of the longue durée, and to explicitly evaluate the repertory dating to the phase of de-urbanization in Jezirah at the very end of the 3rd millennium BC. Additional evidence comes from recent investigations in area Q: here, in the lowest levels, the southern periphery of the late 3rd - early 2nd millennium BC settlement has been brought to light, providing us with a new set of ceramics reminiscent of southern Mesopotamian Ur III and Isin-Larsa types, whereas the upper layers of Khabur ware period testify of the urban growth of Middle Bronze Age Kahat. 
Converging data in the correlation of the archaeological sequence of Tell Barri with those of the other sites in the region, and especially with that of Tell Mozan, helps us define the cycle of urban disruption and new sedentarization, but divergences force us to hypothesize chronological or ‘cultural’ distance.

Geoff Emberling, University of Michigan, “After Collapse: The Post-Akkadian Occupation in the Pisé Building, Tell Brak”
Monumental public buildings constructed at Tell Brak during the Akkadian empire suggest that Brak was a major regional center for imperial control of northern Mesopotamia. With the collapse of the empire and the associated deterioration of climate in the region, several of these monumental structures (buildings in Areas SS and FS) were deliberately infilled, and one of them (FS) was built over with smaller-scale houses in a neighborhood that lasted perhaps a century. 
Excavation of Post-Akkadian remains in Area TC at Tell Brak, particularly in the “Pisé Building,” suggest a similar pattern: smaller domestic occupation built over a large, formally built structure of the Akkadian period. The Pisé Building is an informally built complex of rooms and associated courtyards that contained evidence of both domestic activities and more specialized craft production, including the manufacture of arrow shafts and ceramics. By contrast with largely specialized economic activities during the Akkadian occupation of northern Mesopotamia, evidence from the Pisé Building suggests that many productive activities were carried out at a household level after the collapse of the Akkadian empire.

Carlo Colantoni, University of Cambridge, “Touching the void: The Post-Akkadian Period Viewed from Tell Brak”
Tell Brak in the central Khabur region was a major urban centre traditionally dominating the settlement patterns of its surrounding region. This paper discusses the spatial distribution of Post-Akkadian settlement in region and the nature of urban occupation at the site; the primary focus is on questions regarding both absence and presence of occupation and its significance to our understanding of the period. These questions are approached through varying scales of analysis drawing on recent data from high definition surveys and targeted excavations, ranging from the regional Tell Brak Sustaining Area Survey and the localized Tell Brak Suburban Survey to work in the Outer Town halo and excavations across the main mound. 
The range of recent investigations, accompanied by extensive previous excavations on the main mound, has given us new evidence that improves our understanding of the extent, density and nature of occupation in the Post-Akkadian period. Possibilities of fine temporal definition are now beginning to emerge through the comparative analysis of new cultural material and associated ceramics. As these elements of the full range of transitional material coalesce, a more finely nuanced understanding of the dynamics for this period following the fall of Akkad from the perspective of Tell Brak is emerging.

Augusta McMahon, University of Cambridge, “How many pots per person? Post-Akkadian ceramic assemblages of the central Upper Khabur”
This paper will explore chronological and social aspects of ceramic production in the Post-Akkadian central Upper Khabur region. It will present Post-Akkadian ceramics from Chagar Bazar and will compare and contrast these with Post-Akkadian ceramic assemblages from recent and past excavations at Tell Brak. Stylistic connections with contemporary southern Mesopotamian ceramics will be noted. 
Stratigraphy-based phasing of the Post-Akkadian ceramics at these two sites will contribute to the ongoing chronological debate about this transitional period. And detailed analyses of the ceramic assemblages will provide useful insights for the larger issues of economic and settlement dynamics. Ratios of vessel types, particularly storage versus eating/serving, may reflect life-ways and food-ways (diet and consumption habits). Further, decorative and morphological simplicity and elaboration have implications for modes of production.

Clemens Reichel, University of Toronto, “Early Bronze Age Hamoukar: ‘Akkadian’–and Beyond?”
Like many urban centers in the Upper Khabur region, Hamoukar reached its apex in size during the late Early Bronze Age period. The date and circumstance of its demise, which was marked by destruction, looting, and at least a partial abandonment remains poorly understood, and the city’s fate during “post-Akkadian” period is shrouded in even more mystery. This presentation will summarize the available evidence (or lack thereof) based on excavations at the High Mound in 1999 and recent archaeological and geophysical in Hamoukar’s Lower Town, undertaken between 2006 and 2010.