1) Location and description of the site
The archeological site of Tell Brak is located 40 km to the north-east of Al-Hasakah city, in the upper Khabour region (Khabur is the largest tributary to the Euphrates in Syria). The location of the site at the northern border of the Mesopotamian plain, and the outskirts of the rainy agricultural regions, gave it exceptional strategic and commercial importance, in particular on the copper trade routes linking Anatolia with the Levant on hand, and Mesopotamia on the other. With its significant dimensions (1000m. in length and 850 m. in width), and its 45 m. raising from the surrounding plains, the site is considered as one of the largest sites in north eastern Syrian area known in Arabic as Jezireh. Tell Brak is surrounded by several of archaeological ruins, some dating back to the 4th millennium BC, and others from the later Roman period.
2) History of archaeological works
The first archaeological work took place first at the site in (1938-1939), and was led by British archaeologist Max Mallowan who was able to identify several archeological levels.
Later in 1976 another mission jointly led by David and Joan Oates excavated at the site. Since 2006 the excavation continued at the site led indirectly by Joan Oates from Cambridge University. During the Early Bronze Age, and in particular during the Akkadian rule the site was famous for the quality of its animals that were used to transport goods, in particular donkeys and mules. In fact, the archives of Ebla refer to Brak as Nagar.
3) Archeological levels at the site
The carried out excavations unearthed several archeological levels, which are from the oldest to the newest:
- Halaf culture
- Ubaid culture
- Uruk culture
- Early Bronze Age
- Middle Bronze Age
- Late Bronze Age
- Classical Era ( Hellenistic and Roman period)
- Islamic period
4) Historical overview of the site
The site is one of the most important human settlements in Syria, it attests through its long history of continuous cultural and economic activities. Its monumental architecture, both sacred, such temples, and civil, such as palaces, revealed significant information on the social and economic, not to mention the religious aspects of life, not only in the north east of Syria, but also in the whole Ancient East as such. Of particular importance are the artifacts consisting of a collection of minor Alabaster made status depicting eyes or worshippers, as well as clay figurines, seals and sealings, and cuneiform tablets
5) Main discoveries at the site
During the 6th and 5th millennium B.C, the site was a small settlement attributed to the Halaf culture, yet some remains attested to Ubaid culture as well. The discovery of a workshop area showed the importance of the site at that time. Under the Uruk expansion, Tell Brak flourished and reached around 100 hec. In size. Also the excavation at the southern and northern part of the site revealed Uruk material and urban culture, dating back to 3800 BC. Noteworthy the discovery of pottery products bowls and cups, as well as numeric tablets similar to the one discovered in the nearby archeological site of Habuba Kabira, another major cultural center of north eastern Syria. During the so called Early Dynastic period, a large domestic area was discovered, the living area was surrounded by oval rampart. Later under the Akkadian rule who expanded their control to northern Syria, Tell Brak became a major administrative center, and a royal palace as well as a fort were erected at the site. Also several houses dated from the Akkadian period were discovered. With the arrival of the Hurrians, the human occupation was reduced to the northern part of the tell, and the Akkadian palace was rebuilt. Under the Mitanni rule (1600 BC.) Nagar has become an important administrative center and royal palace was built in the northern part of the site.
The site was destroyed twice due to the Assyrian military activities in the region (1300 BC.), and the domestic area was set in fire, which resulted in the reduction of the settlements size to the northern part of the site. However, some buildings dated to the 9th and 8th centuries BC were discovered.During the classical period, the site enjoyed commercial importance and route from the Hellenistic period was discovered.
The so called eye temple, consist one of the iconic discoveries of religious architecture in Syria, and it has become famous far beyond the borders of the country. The building dated to the period between 3100-2900 BC, took its name from a large number of minor Alabaster made status or idols depicting eyes or worshippers, and perceived as votive objects deposed at the temple by the specialists. Later under the rule of the Akkadian monarch Naram-Sin (2250 BC.), the temple was restored, yet the fort constructed at that time damaged significant part of it. The temple was again restored under the rule of Ur IIII dynasty in Syria at the early second millennium BC.
The archaeological founds of Tell Brak, mainly the characteristic decorated with incised figures, pottery type known as (Ninevite 5) represents one of the major discoveries at site, and it’s believed that it was produced locally. Key discoveries at the site remains the large collection of small Alabaster made status depicting eyes or worshippers, they vary in size (3cm length and 4-5 cm in width). as well as clay figurines, seals and sealings, and cuneiform tablets. Its worth mentioning the discovery under the floor of a house on the northwestern side of the hill, a precious treasure that was composed several silver pieces, molds of various shapes, folded plates, and circular or spiral rods, known as an early form of minting tools, in addition to pieces of lapis lazuli and beads of agate. Moreover, copper rings, an eagle with a lion’s head, and a thin golden plate for decoration in the center, with a decorative pin engraved with two crossed lions, and a cylindrical seal inscribed with animal heads indicating the method of making these finds, and their connection to southern Mesopotamia around the middle of the third millennium BC. An important artifact from the Assyrian period was a monumental basalt statue of a bull with a human head. Also excavation at the site revealed a cuneiform tablet, dating back to the 15th century BC, representing an important correspondence between the Mitanni kings of Brak.
An important group of flint tools were also found dating back to the Akkadian period, and from fine-made arrowheads dating back to the ancient Bronze Age 2300 BC, stamp seals, or sealings engraved with animal drawings, or other motifs. They represent a major source of information for the development of Syrian glyptic during the Early Bronze Age. Moreover, an important set of pottery tools and utensils dating back to the 4th and 3rd millennium BC, in addition to a rare collection of beautiful dolls were found at the site.
Maps and photos