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Step trench A
A long sequence from the Early Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period
The excavation of a stratigraphic trench on the southern slope of the mound uncovered a sequence of buildings and installations dating to the final phase of the Early Bronze Age (c. 2300-2000 BC), a series of structures from the Middle and Late Bronze Age (c. 1800-1300 BC), and an occupation from the Seleucid/Hellenistic period (IV-III century BC). The Early Bronze Age settlement is located on the slopes of the main hill, where the remains of a building and a large industrial area have been uncovered. This is a ceramic production complex, structured on multiple terraces and characterized by the presence of various types of circular furnaces alternating with mudbrick platforms leaning against containment walls. This occupation is built upon an earlier phase of which a room with a beaten earth floor, delimited by walls made of 1.20 m thick mudbricks. The Early Bronze Age occupation is covered by a terracing operation, on which beaten earth floors are directly superimposed. Due to the presence of hearths, this is interpreted as part of an open-air working area dated to the second half of the 2nd millennium BC (Late Bronze).
General view of the excavations of Step Trench A on the southern slop of the Aliawa mound
A bilobed kiln discovered during the excavation of Step Trench A
Detail of a sector of the imposing building of the end of the 3rd millennium BC
An additional terracing is imposed on this phase and used as a foundation for the construction of a domestic building dated to the end of the 1st millennium BC (Seleucid period). Excavations have exposed the remains of an environment delimited to the east by a mudbrick wall which was used for several phases, as indicated r by the overlapping of three floor plans. The oldest is made of beaten earth; the second renovation is marked by a fire that sealed the materials in situ. Under the latest floor plan, a rectangular trench burial was found, covered and lined with mudbricks, with an adult male individual lying curled up on his right side, accompanied by a single cornelian pearl.
Open air working area with a bread oven (tannur) dated to the early Late Bronze Age
Detail of an adult burial found underneath the floor of a building dated to the end of the 1st millennium BC
Administration of Foodstuffs in the Early 3rd Millennium BC: The Occupation of the Ninevite Period 5 (Aliawa IVA)
The second area of occupation corresponds to the oldest phase of the site and consists of an area used for storing agricultural products located at the foot of the southern slope of the mound. In the charred levels associated with installations for food storage, a large quantity of carbonized grain remains, mainly barley, was found. A series of tablet fragments with cylindrical seal impressions shows central control of these resources. This occupation of the settlement was identified at the end of the 2022 excavation season and it dates to the first half of the third millennium BC, to the so-called Ninevite 5 period, which is characterized by the appearance of a distinctive dark-on-light geometric and floral-patterned ceramic. In later developments, a fine, purified grey clay ceramic with incised geometric designs arranged on overlapping horizontal bands or with incised geometric designs on a plain surface appeared. This type of decorative technique was realized by removing part of the vessel’s outer surface and by then adding the incised patterns on the parts which remained in relief. The most recurrent vessel shapes belong to table ware and include cups, carinated bowls, high footed cups, and small jars.
It is precisely at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age that we begin to witness the development of regional urban centers. This period, which will prove to be crucial for northern Mesopotamia, has still been poorly investigated in the Erbil plain.
General view of the Ninevite 5 storage area V
Cretula with seal impression found during the excavation of a silos
Ninevite 5 painted pottery
A large public building and an industrial complex for pottery manufacturing from the second half of the 3rd millennium BC (Aliawa IVB)
This area is almost entirely dedicated to large-scale ceramic manufacturing and dates back to the last centuries of the third millennium BC (Akkadian Period). The limits of this complex are not yet known, but it currently extends over 300 m2. Over fifty kilns for firing ceramic vessels connected by mudbrick platforms have been identified and excavated on three different terraces The kilns show sophisticated systems for distributing gases and heat through horizontal ducts and vertical chimneys. The combustion chambers were found full of ash, and in some cases, the cooking chambers had collapsed with the pottery still inside. In one case, a kiln was filled with waste material, including potter’s wheels and tools for smoothing and finishing vessels before their firing. These finds are essential for reconstructing the artisanal activities that took place within the complex.
General view of the industrial complex dating to the 3rd millennium BC
Detail of a collapsed kiln with in situ pottery vessels
Materials for pottery manufacturing found in situ
The levels associated with the extensive craft complex yielded a large quantity of ceramics and several terracotta animal figurines. There are numerous storage jars, often waterproofed with a layer of bitumen, decorated with applications and incisions, as well as many medium and small-sized vessels. A typical production of this period is the high-fired ware known as “Taya ceramics”(from the first site where they were found). This ware was used for making cups and glasses with incised band decorations.,
The discovery of this production workshop is of great importance, as only one other comparable case is known in northern Mesopotamia at the site of Logardan in the eastern area of the region near the Zagros Mountains.
Bronze pins, an incised spindle whorl and ceramic quadrupeds found during the excavation of the industrial area
Potter’s implements for the manufacturing of ceramic vessels
The defensive buildings of the Seleucid era and the late occupations on the top of the site (Aliawa IX-XII)
On the summit of the mound of Aliawa, a sector of an imposing Seleucid era building (4th century BC) has been uncovered. This structure was likely connected to a defensive bastion of a military fortified center. Several rectangular rooms were delimited by walls made of mudbricks and strengthened with mortar. The defensive structure follows the natural slope of the terrain and extends into what were probably defensive towers, unfortunately only partially preserved. A relevant discovery was made by the finding of a silver tetradrachm of Alexander the Great, a coin that spread throughout the vast Macedonian empire, widely coined and characterized by the image of Hercules on the obverse and the image of Zeus on the reverse.
Veduta panoramica delle strutture rinvenute sulla sommità di Aliawa
Tetradrammo di Alessandro in argento
The building was then abandoned, and the phases of collapse were obliterated by a further structure, dating back to the late Hellenistic period and characterized by regular rectangular rooms with well-made plastered floors and walls made of mudbricks which were preserved to a maximum height of 1.20 meters. Installations were found in the corners of the rooms, while a sub-floor tomb, whose furnishings consisted of an entirely preserved jar, was excavated in the northern area. The typology of the installations and the general architectural configuration of the structure suggest that this building had a domestic function with productive activities taking place within its rooms.
The ceramic repertoire of both phases is homogeneous and includes some of the diagnostic types of the Hellenistic period in northern Mesopotamia, such as the famous “fish-plates” (large platters) and plates with the out folded rims bowls with the in turning rims, and the narrow-necked jars with molded rims. A complete specimen of this latter type featuring a pink fabric and vegetal inclusions, was found inside the sub-floor tomb belonging to the second architectural phase and has an ovoid body with a rounded bottom.
Detail of the sub-pavemental burial belonging to the Seleucid building
Seleucid ovoidal jar with molded rim
The building was then abandoned and its collapsed features were later obliterated by another structure dating to the late Hellenistic period. Its rooms were rectangular, its floors were finely plastered, and its mudbrick walls were preserved to a height of 1.20 m. Several installations were found in the corners of the rooms, while a tomb with a complete jar was excavated beneath the floor in the northern area. The typology of installations and the general architectural layout suggest that this building must have had a domestic purpose with production activities taking place within.
Imagine: General view of the Parthian production area
The pottery assemblage of both phases is homogeneous and includes some of the diagnostic types from the Hellenistic period in Northern Mesopotamia. These include the well-known “fish plates” (wide-brim serving plates), plates with out-folded rims, cup-shaped bowls with the indented rim and the narrow-necked jars with a molded rim. A complete example of this type, with a pink fabric with vegetal inclusions and an ovoid body with a rounded bottom, was found inside the sub-floor burial belonging to the building of the second architectural phase.
In the medieval era, the entire sector was refurbished for the storage of food goods and for the carrying out of artisan activities, as indicated by the presence of various circular wells, silos and drain pits which were dug by cutting the levels of previous phases. Oval necked amphorae with vertical handles decorated with incised geometric motifs, were found inside several of the pits, some of which were lined internally with bitumen, indicating an Islamic date for this occupational phase (Aliawa XII). Several fragments of glass objects were also found, including some twisted bracelets made of glass paste.
Detail of a small well with an in-situ Islamic vessel
Jar with incised decoration dating to the Islamic period G
Fragment of a twisted glass paste bracelet
Area C e D
A large settlement of the 2nd millennium BC. The Middle Bronze and Late Bronze occupations (Aliawa VB-VIA)
A survey shows that in the Middle and Late Bronze Age (2000-1200 B.C.) Aliawa was a center that expanded over almost 30 hectares, although some of the areas around the main mound were sparsely occupied Geo-physical and geo-archaeological investigations suggest that the settlement’s organization was bound to its specific economic role in ceramic manufacturing, as evidenced by two test-trenches in the southern and eastern area of the site.
Mapping and positioning of the excavation areas and of the geoarchaeological soundings in the south-western area of the site M
In Area C, two quite eroded phases were uncovered: they were furnished with nine circular, mudbrick installations (probably kilns) arranged with benches and accessory features, with scarce but homogenous associated materials dated to the final Middle Bronze/early Late Bronze Age period. These anthropic levels are directly associated with the virgin soil, which is characterized by a layer of sterile clay. The test-trench in Area D, on the other hand, has yielded the remains of a domestic structure dated to the Middle bronze Age, with two rooms and an open area equipped with installations. A very well-preserved drainpipe inlaid into the floor attests to the presence of a system for water convoy, perhaps related to a larger conduct nearby, connecting Aliawa to the nearby great urban center of Kurd Qaburstan.
General view of the structures discovered in Area C
General view of part of the Middle Bronze Age building in area D, with detail of the small darin coated with bricks and stones next to the adjacent floor
General view of the canal which runs south of the site connecting it to Kurd Qaburstan
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