Dr. Mark Schwartz

The Hirbemerdon Tepe Archaeological Project

The Hirbemerdon Tepe Archaeological Project started in the year 2003 and will end in 2010 when the water caused by the Ilisu dam will flood the whole area. In the next four years of archaeological work, the archaeological programme aim at increasing the knowledge of the settlement through both archaeological excavations, surveys, and the use of new technologies (e.g. geophysical survey, GIS, remote sensing, etc.). With this perspective in mind, we hope to reach a higher degree understanding of the cultural interactions that took place between the Mesopotamian and Anatolian regions during the above-mentioned chronological phases.

Hirbemerdon Tepe is located along the east bank of the upper Tigris river valley in southeastern Anatolia (Turkey) about 40 km east of Bismil in the Diyarbakir province. Its highest point is positioned at 610 m above sea level and overlooks the entire valley created by the confluence of the Batman Su and the Tigris river. The site is bordered by the bed of the Tigris along the eastern side, while the northern side of Hirbemerdon Tepe has been eroded by a modern irrigation channel. Moreover, this region is separated from the Syrian Djezira by the Tur 'Abdin mountains.

At Hirbemerdon Tepe, the ancient settlements were built on top of a geological formation based on a Pliocene continental rock structure that characterizes the entire region. Furthermore, Hirbemerdon Tepe's topographical map demarks the importance of the natural structure of the plateau in the creation of the ancient sites. During the first two seasons, the archaeologists were able to distinguish three main areas of occupation which are as follows:

a)     The High Mound and its surroundings that occupy a total of about 4 hectors of the total extension of the site;

b)     A flat Outer Town of about 3.5 hectares, which along the southern limit is distinctively separated from the mound by a natural, steep rock formation that in certain sections appears to have been shaped in the form of large steps. The eastern border of the Outer Town is defined by the Tigris, while the northern limit is difficult to define also due to a modern wadi running west-east;

c)      The Lower Town, measuring about 3.0 hectares, in the north-western section of the site, that is separated from the mound by a natural rock formation.

In terms of chronological phases, the following archaeological phases have been identified during the first four years of archaeological work at Hirbemerdon Tepe:

1) Chalcolithic period. (Fourth Millennium BC). The archaeological remains of this phase have only been found in the Outer Town (Area B). Moreover, the architectural features are badly preserved and the material culture is characterized by the presence of a locally produced Chaff-Faced Ware.

2a) Late Early Bronze Age. The occupational phase occurred during the late Third Millennium BC is recognizable both in the Outer Town (Area B) and the High Mound (Area A); but while in Area B this phase is highly represented and characterized by architectural features connected with working activities, in Area A this archaeological phase is recognizable in scattered sections of the High Mound. The material culture of this phase is marked by the presence of Red Brown Wash Ware discovered in association with other pottery assemblages typical of a late Third Millennium horizon (e.g. the Dark Rimmed Orange Bowls - DROB).    

2b) Middle Bronze Age. The most important archaeological phase at Hirbemerdon Tepe occurred during the first half of the Second Millennium BC. It is during this period that the whole site was occupied by a medium-sized settlement. More specifically, it is in the High Mound (Area A) that the archaeologists were able to bring to light the most impressive remains belonging to this specific period. In fact, the architectural complex discovered during the year 2005 and 2006 appears as one of the most impressive architectural structure belonging to the Middle Bronze Age period in the whole Upper Tigris River Valley. The material culture found within the architectural complex is also of extraordinary importance because if on one side it highlights the recurrence of locally produced pottery discovered in earlier archaeological contexts (e.g. the Red Brown Wash Ware -- RBWW -- ceramic assemblage), it also shows connection with other regions like northern Mesopotamia (e.g. painted pottery -- the pseudo-Khabur assemblage) and central Anatolia (e.g. stone mould for the production of shaft-hole axe, a grape-cluster decorated vessel, and a theriomorphic red-washed decorative element).

2c) Late Bronze Age. In the High Mound (Area A), the abandonment of the architectural complex of the Middle Bronze Age is followed by a few scattered architectural features marked by the presence of common ware and a few fragments of painted pottery typical of the later Khabur and Nuzi ware.

3) Iron Age. After a long period of abandonment, the site was re-occupied during the late part of the Second and the first half of the First Millennium BC. Due to a limited number of architectural structures discovered during the archaeological excavation, it is impossible to clearly understand how the site functioned especially in relationship with major contemporaneous site such as Ziyaret Tepe. However, the material culture discovered during both the archaeological survey and excavations appears to be associated with a later Iron Age horizon epitomized by a locally produced pottery (the so-called Grooved Ware) and some elements of the Neo-Assyrian world (e.g.  a grooved basalt grinding maul and a basalt bowl with a ring-base and grooved rim).

4) Islamic period.  The last occupational phase at Hirbemerdon Tepe is visible only in High Mound and is marked by elements, such as glazed greenish ware and incised ware, that can be associated with a XII to XIV century AD horizon.

  Last Modified Date: March 11, 2016
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