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Radner, Karen ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4425-9447 and Squitieri, Andrea ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6746-944X (eds.) (7. May 2024): Assur 2023: Excavations and other research in the New Town. Exploring Assur, Vol. 1. Gladbeck: PeWe-Verlag. [PDF, 181MB]


This first volume of the new series "Exploring Assur" presents the results of the fieldwork conducted at Assur, modern Qal'at Sherqat, in 2023, with a focus on the New Town in the south of the settlement, and contains contributions by Silvia Amicone, Katleen Deckers, Jörg Fassbinder, Holger Gzella, Sandra Hahn, Jean-Jacques Herr, F. Janoscha Kreppner, İnci Nurgül Özdoğru, Karen Radner, Jana Richter, Jens Rohde, Lena Ruider, Claudia Sarkady, Michaela Schauer, Annette Paetz gen. Schieck, Andrea Squitieri, Andreas Stele, and Marco Wolf. At Assur, the team is based in the excavation house first used by Walter Andrae from 1903-1914, and as this building is a protected monument within the UNESCO World Heritage site of Assur, a chapter is dedicated to its history. The early years come to life through the letters of Andrae and many photographs that he and his staff took of the building, reproduced courtesy of the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft zu Berlin. The fieldwork undertaken in 2023 included a program of magnetometer and electrical resistivity tomography prospecting and sediment coring in the New Town of Assur, whose results are presented together with a study of soil and sediment magnetism based on coring samples. The magnetogram of the New Town substantially deepens our knowledge of the settlement's organisation in the first centuries AD when the city was part of the Parthian world. The excavations conducted in the southern part of the New Town, directly adjoining an area excavated by the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage in 2002, brought to light a sizeable chamber tomb of 46 m2 from that period, with over a dozen skeletons. Moreover, the excavations yielded highly welcome new evidence for the Hellenistic occupation of Assur, namely Building A and two burials (Graves 3 and 4). The dead were placed underneath clay sarcophagi of an ovoid-elliptical shape. One bears an incised alphabetic inscription dated to the month Ab in the year 153 of the Seleucid era, that is July/August 158 BC. Brief as the text is, it provides precious insights into writing and dating practices at Assur after the end of local cuneiform writing and before the rise of the Eastern Mesopotamian scribal tradition that would eventually spread to Hatra and other areas. This burial also contained calcinated textile fragments of at least six different types of cloth. New data for the Assyrian occupation of Assur originates from some small-scale work undertaken on the edge of the Iraqi trench of 2002, from the partially excavated Building B and from Grave 5, which contained typical 7th century BC items including a bronze fibula and a glazed miniature vessel. A deep sounding dug down from this burial to the virgin soil yielded pottery types that are well known from sites in the Assyrian heartland and the Syrian Jazirah in the 13th century BC, including fragments of carinated bowls and beakers with elongated bodies and nipple bases, as well as a piece of charcoal with a radiocarbon dating range of 1506-1440 calBC (95.4% probability). This date corresponds well with the oldest mention of the construction of the wall and the gates of the New Town in the inscriptions of Puzur-Aššur III, whose reign is conventionally dated to 1521-1498 BC. In total, the 2023 excavations produced 17 radiocarbon dating ranges, derived from the analysis of charcoal, seeds and human teeth; these are the very first 14C dates available from Assur. Another first for Assur is the palaeobotanical analysis of 133 charred wood fragments and 8,655 carbonised plant remains, which provides an entirely new dataset for reconstruction of the ancient environment. Chapters on the pottery, with first steps towards a fabric classification for Assur by means of portable X-ray fluorescence and petrographic analyses, the small finds and the epigraphic finds (cuneiform and alphabetic) round off the volume.

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