Nagar, Syria
Tell Brak, ancient Nagar, is a tell
A tell or tel, is a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and sloping sides.-Archaeology:A tell is a hill created by different civilizations living and...

, or settlement mound, in the Upper Khabur
Khabur River
The Khabur River , , , ) is the largest perennial tributary to the Euphrates in Syrian territory. Although the Khabur originates in Turkey, the karstic springs around Ra's al-'Ayn are the river's main source of water. Several important wadis join the Khabur north of Al-Hasakah, together creating...

 area in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. The site was occupied between the sixth and second millennia BCE. At 40 metres (131.2 ft) in height, and an area of approximately 130 hectares (321.2 acre), it is one of the largest archaeological site
Archaeological site
An archaeological site is a place in which evidence of past activity is preserved , and which has been, or may be, investigated using the discipline of archaeology and represents a part of the archaeological record.Beyond this, the definition and geographical extent of a 'site' can vary widely,...

s in northern Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...


History of research

Tell Brak was excavated by the British archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan
Max Mallowan
Sir Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan, CBE was a prominent British archaeologist, specialising in ancient Middle Eastern history, and the second husband of Dame Agatha Christie.-Life and work:...

 in 1937 and 1938. A team from the Institute of Archaeology
Institute of Archaeology
The UCL Institute of Archaeology is an academic department of the Social & Historical Sciences Faculty of University College London , England. It is one of the largest departments of archaeology in the world, with over 80 members of academic staff and 500 students...

 of the University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

 and later from the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research is a research institute of the University of Cambridge in England.-History:The Institute was established in 1990 through a generous benefaction from the late Dr D. M. McDonald, a well-known and successful industrialist...

 of the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 led by David and Joan Oates worked there for 14 seasons between 1976 and 1993. Following the Oates' team, the field director of the dig was Roger Matthews. In 1998, Geoff Emberling, who had dug with the Matthews team became co-field director (1998–2004) with Helen McDonald, the longtime registrar and draftsperson at Brak.

This effort was co-sponsored by the British Institute for the Study of Iraq and the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a renowned art museum in New York City. Its permanent collection contains more than two million works, divided into nineteen curatorial departments. The main building, located on the eastern edge of Central Park along Manhattan's Museum Mile, is one of the...

. Augusta McMahon, of the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

, took over as field director in the spring of 2006.

A regional archaeological field survey
Archaeological field survey
Archaeological field survey is the method by which archaeologists search for archaeological sites and collect information about the location, distribution and organization of past human cultures across a large area...

 in a 20 km (12.4 mi) radius around Brak was supervised by Henry T. Wright
Henry T. Wright
Henry T. Wright is an American anthropologist, and professor at the University of Michigan, and at the Santa Fe Institute.He graduated from University of Michigan, and from the University of Chicago with a PhD.-Works:...

 of the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

 (2002–2005). The finds from the excavations at Tell Brak are on display in the Deir ez-Zor Museum
Deir ez-Zor Museum
The Deir ez-Zor Museum is a museum devoted to the archaeology and history of northeastern Syria, an area more commonly known as the Jezirah, or Upper Mesopotamia. The museum is located in Deir ez-Zor, the capital of Deir ez-Zor Governorate, Syria. It was founded in 1974 and housed in a gallery of...


Halaf period

A small settlement existed at the site as early as 6000 BCE, and materials from the Late Neolithic Halaf culture
Tell Halaf
Tell Halaf is an archaeological site in the Al Hasakah governorate of northeastern Syria, near the Turkish border, just opposite Ceylanpınar. It was the first find of a Neolithic culture, subsequently dubbed the Halaf culture, characterized by glazed pottery painted with geometric and animal designs...

 have been found there.

Late Chalcolithic period

Occupation continued into the succeeding Ubaid and Uruk period
Uruk period
The Uruk period existed from the protohistoric Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age period in the history of Mesopotamia, following the Ubaid period and succeeded by the Jemdet Nasr period. Named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia. It was...

s. Excavations and surface survey of the site and its surroundings reveal a city that developed from the early 4th millennium BCE (Late Chalcolithic 3 Period) contemporaneously with (or even slightly earlier than) better known cities of southern Mesopotamia, such as Uruk
Uruk was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, on the ancient dry former channel of the Euphrates River, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq.Uruk gave its name to the Uruk...

. Public buildings include the Eye Temple at the settlement's southern edge and an administrative building with attached workshops and kilns at its northern edge (Area TW). From ca 3500 BCE, Brak, along with many other settlements in northern Mesopotamia, was partly colonised by immigrants from Late Uruk southern Mesopotamia. Among extensive Late Uruk materials found at Brak/Nagar is a standard text for educated scribes (the "Standard Professions" text, known from Uruk IV), part of the standardized education taught in the 3rd millennium BCE over a wide area of Syria and Mesopotamia.

The most famous of the Late Chalcolithic features is the 4th millennium BCE "Eye Temple", which was excavated in 1937–38. The temple, built around 3500–3300 BCE, was named for the hundreds of small alabaster
Alabaster is a name applied to varieties of two distinct minerals, when used as a material: gypsum and calcite . The former is the alabaster of the present day; generally, the latter is the alabaster of the ancients...

 "eye idol" figurines, which were incorporated into the mortar with which the mudbrick temple was constructed. The building's surfaces were richly decorated with clay cones, copper panels and gold work, in a style comparable to contemporary temples of Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

. The most dramatic discoveries during recent excavations are a series of mass graves dating to circa 3800–3600 BCE, which suggest that the process of urbanization was accompanied by an increase in the organization of warfare.

Early Bronze Age

Third millennium BCE cuneiform
Cuneiform script
Cuneiform script )) is one of the earliest known forms of written expression. Emerging in Sumer around the 30th century BC, with predecessors reaching into the late 4th millennium , cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs...

 texts from the city of Ebla and from Brak itself identify Nagar (Brak's ancient name) as the major point of contact between the cities of the northern Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

, eastern Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 and northern Mesopotamia. Nagar's active commercial and cultural interchanges with Ebla
Ebla Idlib Governorate, Syria) was an ancient city about southwest of Aleppo. It was an important city-state in two periods, first in the late third millennium BC, then again between 1800 and 1650 BC....

 are also recorded, as its power over the intervening city of Nabada (Tell Beydar). A partially-burned administrative building or temple near the centre of Brak, destroyed around 2400 BCE (rediscovered in 1998) has a curved exterior wall reminiscent of the Khafajah Temple Oval in central Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

. Skeletal remains show that the city was a source for donkey-onager hybrids used for drawing wheeled carts before the introduction of the horse, about 2300 BCE. In the late 3rd millennium BCE, Nagar lay at the northern edge of the Akkadian sphere of influence. To the north, the nearby city of Urkesh
Urkesh or Urkish is a tell, or settlement mound, located in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria...

 may have retained some form of independence. The palace-stronghold of Naram-Sin of the 22nd century BCE, built at a time when Nagar was a northern administrative center of the Akkadian Empire, was more of a depot for the storage of collected tribute and agricultural produce than a residential seat. The excavators do not credit the Akkadians with political control of the city, and the political significance of cuneiform administrative documents in Akkadian retrieved from the palace are open to interpretation. At the end of the Early Bronze Age, the site shrank in size, contemporary with a region-wide settlement disruption that some scholars have attributed to dramatic climate change.

Middle Bronze Age

In its early 2nd millennium BCE strata (contemporary with the Old Babylonian Period and the local kingdom of Shamshi-Adad), the site remains relatively small, with at least two areas of houses restricted to the highest ridge of the mound.

Late Bronze Age

In the latter half of the 2nd millennium BCE, the still relatively small area occupied contained a Late Bronze Age monumental palace and Mitanni
Mitanni or Hanigalbat was a loosely organized Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and south-east Anatolia from ca. 1500 BC–1300 BC...

 temple (circa 1500-1360 BCE) and a continuation of the sequence of domestic occupation. A "suburb" off the main mound to the north may have comprised additional houses but is now all-but-destroyed through modern agriculture.

See also

  • Cities of the Ancient Near East
    Cities of the ancient Near East
    The largest cities in the Bronze Age ancient Near East housed several tens of thousands. Memphis in the Early Bronze Age with some 30,000 inhabitants was the largest city of the time by far...

  • Tell Chuera
    Tell Chuera
    Tell Chuera is an ancient Near Eastern tell site in Ar Raqqah Governorate, northern Syria. It lies between the Balikh and Khabur rivers.-History:...

Further reading

  • J. Oates, Digging Deeper at Tell Brak, Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. 131, pp. 1–39, 2005
  • R. J. Matthews, Imperial catastrophe or local incident? An Akkadian hoard from Tell Brak, Syria, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, vol. 4, pp. 290–302, 1994

External links

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