Heritage Fellow Digging in at Neo-Assyrian Site

By: Dylan Johnson, 2012 Heritage Fellow

Thanks to the ASOR Heritage Fellowship, I am currently participating in my fourth archaeological excavation season. This is the first year I am working at the site of Tell Tayinat in southern Turkey, having worked three previous seasons in excavations around Israel. The site is best known for its Neo-Assyrian temple and Bit-Halini palace, but also has exciting Early Bronze Age occupation. We are situated in a region called the Amuq plain, across the street from the equally famous site of Tell Aççana (ancient Alalaḫ).

I have been supervising a square with Iron I domestic architecture and material, in a field otherwise surrounded by Early Bronze Age phases. We have made many exciting small finds of a wide range of objects, from figurines to bronze jewelry, loom weights and grind stones. My square reflects the importance of textile manufacturing during the early Iron I period at the site, attested by a mud brick lined installation filled with spindle whorls, loom weights, and bronze sewing needles. While the area I have been working in has been predominantly domestic, the site as a whole as yielded some incredible pieces of monumental architecture. These pieces reflect the unique cultural phases of the site, which was likely the capital of a Neo-Hittite kingdom Palastin/Walastin (possibly ancient Kunaluwa).

The project is currently working with a team of conservators to establish an archaeological park centered on the famous Neo-Assyrian temple, in which a tablet of one of the Esarhaddon Treaties was discovered several seasons ago. Most of the excavation is focussed on the citadel, where a Neo-Hittite lion sculpture was discovered last season. The project explores the unique period of Assyrian conquest of the site (perhaps by Tiglath-Pileser around 737 BCE), and the Neo-Hittite/Luwian population that resided in the city before its destruction.

Through the past few weeks I have enjoyed exploring the differences and similarities in the material culture of the southern and northern Levant, and look forward to what lies just beneath the surface through the remainder of the season.

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