THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE

Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project

A JOINT SCIENTIFIC ENDEAVOR OF THE

College of Archaeology, Trinity Southwest University

AND THE

Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

 
Your Subtitle text

TeHEPTeHEPDISCOVERIESTeHEPTeHEPTeHEPTeHEPTeHEPTeHEPTeHEP

this page is currently being updated...

 Click on any of the following for a description, photos, and more....

CHRONOLOGICAL KEY
OVERVIEW
 

GENERAL EXPLORATION AND SURVEY (PPT Animations)
Locating Tall el-Hammam and Its Neighbors
A Close Look at the Hammam City-State (pending)
Taking the Measure of Tall el-Hammam
The Period Occupations at Tall el-Hammam 
Excavation Areas, Fields, and Features at Tall el-Hammam
Overhead and Aerial Photos for the "Big Picture" (pending)
 
CHALCOLITHIC
PERIOD

Chalcolithic Houses, lower tall
Hammam Dolmen Field
Hammam Dolmen 78 Excavation
Stratigraphic Sequence of Bronze Age Defenses, lower tall
 
EARLY BRONZE AGE
EB2/3 City Wall and Roadway, lower tall
Hammam Dolmen Field
EB2/3 Gateway, lower tall
Hammam Dolmen 78 Excavation
EB Houses, lower tall
Stratigraphic Sequence of Bronze Age Defenses, lower tall
 

INTERMEDIATE BRONZE AGE
Hammam Dolmen Field
IB/MB1 Gate Blockage, lower tall
Hammam Dolmen 78 Excavation
IB Houses, lower tall
Stratigraphic Sequence of Bronze Age Defenses, lower tall
 

MIDDLE BRONZE AGE
MB2 Defensive Rampart System, upper tall
MB2 House, upper tall
MB2 City Wall and Defensive System, lower tall
MB1/2 Monumental Complex, lower tall
MB Houses, lower tall
MB2 Inner Ring Road, lower tall
MB2 Palace, upper tall
Stratigraphic Sequence of Bronze Age Defenses, lower tall
MB Monumental Gateway Complex (pending)
 
IRON AGE
IA2 Monumental Gateway, upper tall
IA2 City Wall, upper tall
IA2 House, upper tall
IA2 Monumental Building, upper tall
IA2 Cultic Center, lower tall (pending)
 
ROMAN/BYZANTINE PERIOD
Monumental Roman Structure, lower tall
Roman/Byzantine/Umayyad Bath Complex (pending) 

 Keeping up with the many exciting discoveries at and around Tall el-Hammam is a big task due to the large-scale nature of the Project. The site's Bronze Age city-state territory spreads into the hills to the east and south, northeast up the Wadi Kafrein (Kufrayn) for several kilometers, north to it's 'border' with the neighboring kingdom centered at Tall Nimrin, west to the Jordan River, and southwest to the Dead Sea. From the western acropolis of the upper/inner city, where the Bronze Age palace complex was located, the kings who ruled from Tall el-Hammam had direct line-of-sight contact with virtually all of the nearly 200 square kilometers (125 sq. miles) of their domain. 
 
With massive Hammam-proper as its geographical and socio-political center, this Bronze Age kingdom dominated the southern Jordan Valley (the Jordan Disk, or Kikkar), indeed, the entire region, continuously for nearly 1,500 years, beginning about 3000 BCE. At that
time (Early Bronze 2), the first fortification system was constructed around the perimeter of the city. The site had begun (at least) during the 4th millennium BCE, thriving for at least a thousand years as an open agricultural community (Chalcolithic through Early Bronze 1). But at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BCE, dramatic disruptions in the relative peace of the region occurred, causing the inhabitants of Tall el-Hammam to construct a formidible defensive system that included a stone-and-mudbrick city wall 5.2m (17 ft.) thick and up to 15m (50 ft.) high, for a linear distance of over 2.5km, encircling the city. A wide, packed-earth/clay roadway followed the outer perimeter of the wall. Replete with towers, multiple gates, and (likely) crenellations, these defenses were impressive, to say the least. Possibly due to a severe earthquake around 2700 BCE, the original EBA city wall was 'deconstructed' down to its most stable mudbrick courses (in places, down to its single-course stone foundation), then strengthened with a solid stone foundation (through its entire 5.2m thickness) 5 courses high, and topped with a mudbrick superstructure to its full width. This EB3 city wall rebuild served the Hammamites well for the next 900 years; of course, with periodic patching and refurbishing.
 
Recently-excavated balk sections intersecting the outer face of the EB2/3 city wall and exterior roadway reveal that this wall and street continued in use until
a new, even more massive fortification system was commissioned toward the beginning of Middle Bronze 2 (ca. 1800 BCE). This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that from the surface of the EBA/IBA/MB1 roadway upward to the preserved height of the associated city wall, the area is covered by multiple layers (indeed, piles) of engineered fill of varying composition, comprising a base (substrate) for enormous MB2 city wall and earthen/mudbrick rampart defenses with a horizontal thickness of up to 33m (over 100 ft.). (The MB2 fill materials covering the roadway contain Early Bronze Age, Intermediate Bronze Age, and Middle Bronze 1 pottery fragments, with no evidence of erosional deposition, signaling continuous use of the wall and roadway from the time of its construction until buried by the later MB2 defensive system.) The MB2 builders preserved a good portion of the previous 6m-thick city wall as a 'foundation' for the heaviest portion of their sloping, outer rampart/glacis (abutting their new 4m-thick city wall), then added three more 'embedded' stabilizer walls into the mostly-mudbrick structure of their stepped, multi-sloped rampart. As large and impressive as the 'original' city wall had been during its nine-century lifespan, the MB2 defensive system swallowed up its predecessor within its colossal dimensions. The main, monumental gateway system leading into the city through these fortifications was first discovered during Season Seven in 2012.
 
Within these sprawling defenses, the kings of the Tall el-Hammam city-state built their palaces, temples, and administrative complexes. Beginning literally at the flanks of Hammam-proper and radiating out to a distance of up to 5km, numerous Bronze Age towns, villages, and hamlets dotted a fertile and well-watered agriscape. Tall el-Hammam itself hugged the southern edge of the perennial flow of the Wadi Kafrein at the eastern edge of the Jordan Disk (Kikkar), with
the Wadi Hisban/Ar-Rawda a few hundred meters to the south. The core population of the city-state, at Tall el-Hammam, also enjoyed at least two springs located inside the city walls (one warm, one sweet), with several others in the immediate vicinity. It's quite evident that the utilization of water resources was a principal consideration in the placement and development of the city. 
 
Each of Hammam's satellites (Tall Iktanu, Tall Azeimah N., Tall Azeimah S., Tall Mwais, Tall Rama, Tall Kafrein, Tall Barakat, Tall Tahouna, and myriad un-named villaged and hamlets strewn between them) was similarly situated at a major water source (generally Wadi Kafrein or Wadi Ar-Rawda and their tributaries). In antiquity, during each spring flood season, the Jordan River overflowed its banks north of its mouth (at the Dead Sea's northern end), providing a wide-spreading inundation not unlike what occured in the Nile Delta during its annual inundation (of course, on a smaller scale, but hydrologically identical). Local farmers from the Hammam city-state no doubt took advantage of the annual Jordan flood cycle, planting crops behind the receeding waters in the fresh alluvial silt deposits. With so many reliable sources of water, not to mention localized winter rains, the kingdom flourished
with up to three harvests each year in its below-sea-level, sub-tropical environment. Thus, it isn't at all surprising that the flourishing Bronze Age civilization on the eastern Jordan Disk, dominated by Tall el-Hammam, served as the foundation of the "Cities of the well-watered Disk (kikkar) of the Jordan" tradition in the book of Genesis (10-19).
 
Given its apparently long and stable history as the region's dominant city-state (even flourishing through the catastrophic climatological changes that brought an end to the Levantine Early Bronze Age, ca. 2350 BCE), it's remarkable that Tall el-Hammam and its neighbors (noteably Tall Nimrin, likely center of the city-state to Hammam's immediate north) suffered a civilization-ending calamity, uniquely their own, toward the end of the Middle Bronze Age. While cities to the west (Jericho, Jerusalem, Bethel, Hebron), north (Deir 'Alla, Pella, Beth Shan), and east (Rabbath-Ammon, Tall al-Umayri, Nebo) continued in the Late Bronze Age, the cities, towns, and villages of the eastern Jordan Disk did not. In fact, from the time of their destruction toward the end of MB2, the eastern Jordan Disk sites remained unoccupied for the next five-to-seven hundred years. Why the "well watered plain (= kikkar, disk) of the Jordan" repelled re-occupation for so many centuries remains a mystery. That the most productive agricultural land in the region, which had supported flourishing civilizations continuously for at least 3,000 years, should suddenly relinquish, then resist, human habitation for such long period of time begs investigation.
 
After that long occpuational gap, about 1000 BCE (Iron Age 2), a few, much smaller towns began to be built over parts of some of the long-buried and overgrown Bronze Age ruins. One such Iron Age town was built on the top of the upper tall at Tall el-Hammam. Although diminutive in comparison to its predecessor of the distant past, IA2 Tall el-Hammam was fortified, and sports a monumental, four-chambered gateway. No doubt, the readily-available water resources and the commanding views from its heights both played major roles in the selection of Tall el-Hammam as an Iron Age town-site. That occupation ended in late IA2, possibly due to the Babylonian invasion of the region (ca.600 BCE).
 
During the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Periods, a few structures were built on and around Tall el-Hammam, including what appear to be military garrisons, a water-rentention system and/or bath complex and/or palatial residence, and an aqueduct system. It is possible that Hammam marked the eastern entry-point of the city known in Roman and Byzantine times as Livias.
 
All in all, Tall el-Hamman is a magnificent archaeological site that's shedding a great deal of light on the archaeology and history of the southern Jordan Valley and the region. Following is a selection of significant discoveries from the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project thus far. If you'd like greater detail, you can read published accounts from the 
REPORTS page and RELATED PUBLICATIONS page.

 CHRONOLOGICAL ABBREVIATIONS KEY:
Chalcolithic Period = CP (4500-3500 BCE)
Early Bronze 1 = EB1 (3500-3000 BCE)
Early Bronze 2 = EB2 (3000-2700 BCE)
Early Bronze 3 = EB3 (2700-2350)
Intermediate Bronze 1 = IB1 (2350-2200 BCE)
Intermediate Bronze 2 = IB2 (2200-2000 BCE)

Middle Bronze Age 1 = MB1 (2000-1800 BCE)
Middle Bronze 2 = MB2 (1800-1540 BCE)
Late Bronze 1 = LB1 (1540-1400 BCE)
Late Bronze 2 = LB2 (1400-1200 BCE)
Iron Age 1 = IA1 (1200-1000 BCE)
Iron Age 2 = IA2 (1000-586 BCE)
Iron Age 3 = IA3 (586-332 BCE)
Hellenistic Period = HP (332-63 BCE)
Early Roman Period = ERP (63 BCE-135 CE)

NOTE:
sub-periods can be designated by an additional 'a', 'b', or 'c'; most generally, a = the first half/third of a period; b = the second half/third of a period; c = the last third of a period.


 MB2 Defensive Rampart System, upper tall

FIELD UD. Toward the beginning of Middle Bronze 2, ca. 1800 BCE, the 'city fathers' at Tall el-Hammam decided to fortify their inner/upper city with a rampart system constructed primarily of mudbricks. It was a huge undertaking, requiring millions of bricks and, obviously, large numbers of laborers. The flat top of the rampart was about 7m (22 ft.) wide, and probably served as a ring-road around the upper city (the outer edge of the rampart has a footprint of approximately 250m x 400m). The 36-degree outer slope was covered with hard-packed clay, and rose over 30m (100 ft.) above the lower city. The inside of the rampart had a similar slope, and stood about 3-5m (10-16 ft.) above the street level inside. It's likely that the inner face of the mudbrick rampart was stepped, or had stairs at frequent intervals, allowing inhabitants to mount to the top of the rampart with relative ease. From just about any point on the top of the upper-city rampart, one has a commanding view of the lower city and a 360-degree view of the valley beyond. It was an impressive and formidable defensive system protecting the residences of the wealthier citizens of the city, including the king's palace and related temples and administrative buildings.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 IA2 Monumental Gateway, upper tall
FIELD UB. The Iron Age 2 monumental gateway is a four-chambered affair, located on the north side of the upper tall (Field UB). The gate passage is flanked by two large towers with 2m-thick walls and multiple rooms in addition to the fairly-typical chambers on each side of the entry. The main approach road leads through what appear to be two smaller flanking towers lower on the slope, then widens into a plaza just outside the main gate towers. One enters through the main gateway by making a right turn up two steps, then a left turn into a straight entry and plaza. The gateway presently visible from excavation dates to IA2 (ca. 8th century BCE), but is built over an earlier gate system dating to ca. 1000 BCE.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 IA2 City Wall, upper tall
FIELDS UB, UC, UD. The Iron Age city wall is 3m thick and surrounds Hammam's upper tall, which was the extent of the IA city. The IA builders dug the foundation trenches for their city wall into the top of the Middle Bronze Age mudbrick rampart that surrounds and forms the shape and height of the upper tall. Although the MB2 rampart hadn't been used since the much-more-ancient city had been destroyed at least five centuries earlier, the IA defensive engineers found the MB2 structure extremely solid, and generally built their defensive structures squarely on top of it. The crest of Hammam's upper tall has the best views of the southern Jordan Valley imaginable, and this wasn't lost on the designers of the IA defenses. And in most locations around the upper tall, the old MB2 rampart provided a ready-made sloping glacis with little additional construction required.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 MB2 House, upper tall
FIELD UB. Underneath the multiple phases of the IA2 gateway, the TeHEP team excavated into a Middle Bronze 2 house covered in a thick, meter-deep layer of ash and destruction debris. One room had a clay-lined silo installed in the floor, and two broken storage jars were present. In another room, a grey-burnished piriform juglet was discovered, typical of the period. The house was situated just inside the north section of the MB2 defensive rampart surrounding the upper tall, which defined the inner/upper city during this period. The upper city was likely reserved for 'aristocratic' citizens associated with the administrative activities of the palace and related official services.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 IA2 House, upper tall
FIELD UC. Dating to Iron Age 2a/b, this house contained several rooms including a kitchen and storage area. The kitchen had a sizeable hearth with associated cooking vessels and grindstones. The storage area contained several large storage jars and other assorted pottery vessels.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 EB2/3 City Wall and Roadway, lower tall
FIELD LA. This was the first fortification system at Tall el-Hammam. In order to prepare a corridor around the perimeter of the city for the building of this massive, 5.2m-thick city wall with its associated gates, towers, roadways, and plazas, a 20+m swath of prior construction (mainly houses) had to be 'condemned' (and mostly flatened) for a distance of nearly 3km. The corridor was then leveled over by layers of engineered fill consisting of various mixes of earth, old mudbricks, small stones, clay, ash, and sand. Of course, this fill-debris contained lots of broken pottery, allowing the construction to be dated accurately. The first version of the city wall (EB2, ca. 3000 BCE) had a foundation consisting of an inner and outer facing of large boulders, one course high, filled between with mudbricks. The foundation, about 5.5m thick, was then topped by a 5.2m-thick wall built entirely of mudbrick, set back 15cm from the foundation facing on both the outside and inside. This 15-cm set-back provided a footing for a thick coating of mud-plaster that covered the wall (much of which is still preserved). Extending outward up to 15m from the base of the city wall is a roadway, carefully constructed (and obviously maintained!) from layers of an extremely hard-packed clay/ash matrix. It slopes away from the wall just a few degrees, perfect for draining water during infrequent winter rains. About the beginning of EB3 (ca. 2700 BCE), it seems that a major earthquake rocked the city, and must have done significant damage to its defensive walls. At that point (and quickly!) the old EB2 city wall was demolished down to the courses of still-stable mudbrick (generally, one to three courses) just above the foundation stones. Then, a 5.2m-thick, five-course-high stone foundation was installed on top of the old one. This new, stonger, solid-stone foundation was topped by a mudbrick superstructure likely 10+m high (many courses of this mudbrick still remain), replete with towers and (probably) crenelations. The original roadway surface was also refurbished. This EB2/3 fortification system continued in use for the next 900 years, at which time new defenses were built.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 Monumental Roman Structure, lower tall
FIELD LR. For several seasons the TeHEP Team has been excavating a large (40m x 40m) structure on the central/south side of the lower tall. Its beginnings date to the Early Roman Period, with significant refurbishing and remodeling extending into the Byzantine Period. While the exterior dimensions have been taced, including each of the corners, only a relatively small portion has been excavated. It may have originally been constructed as a water retention system of some sort, then later remodeled into a bath house or palatial building. Perhaps it went through several usage phases during its lifetime. Whatever it is, it's accompanied by a small garrison on the upper tall above, an aqueduct system coming in from the east, and numerous Roman/Byzantine installations in the immediate vicinity. With the main Roman roads from Mt. Nebo and the Amman Citadel converging on the south side of Tall el-Hammam, perhaps these structures mark the eastern entrance to Livias, the main city in Roman Perea, enlarged by Herod Antipas.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 IA2 Monumental Building, upper tall
FIELD UB. This large Iron Age 2 (ca. 10th-8th centuries BCE) building is well preserved, with its stone foundation intact up to 2m high. In some places, mudbricks still adhere to the foundation's final leveling course. Two intact doorways have been excavated thus far. It's positioned immediately to the west of the east tower of the monumental gateway, and was likely administrative in nature.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 MB2 City Wall and Defensive System, lower tall
FIELD LA. After about nine centuries of continuous use, the EB2/3 defensive system and its attached outer roadway was buried by a huge, new construction project: the Middle Bronze 2 defenses. Generally following the lines of the earlier city walls, the MB2 fortifications consisted of a 4m-thick city wall built on a foundation of large stones (boulder and chink, up to 5m high), topped by a mudbrick superstructure, and reinforced by an earthen/mudbrick rampart/glacis system sloping outward and downward 35-38 degrees from the city wall. The old EB3 city wall served as an initial inner-support wall for the new rampart. Three additional internal-stabilizer walls were built at intervals to reinforce the 30+m horizontal thickness of the rampart, probably indicating a 'stepped' system with multiple slopes. Engineered fill was brought in to build up the gap between the old 5.2m-thick EBA wall and the first newly-built, internal stabilizer wall, to the level of the EBA foundation. The rest of the MB2 rampart was completed using mudbricks to its full height (and between the three outer-most internal stabilizer walls). The sheer size and extent of the MB2 defensive system would have been most impressive, and virtually impregnable. Indeed, thus far there are no evidences of conquest-destruction for the duration of the Bronze Age defenses. There's also evidence of a substantial ring-road between the inner face of the MB2 city wall and the first row of houses.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To view a PPT animation, CLICK HERE.
To return to the Discoveries menu,
CLICK HERE.

 Hammam Dolmen Field
FIELD HDF. There is a great deal of controversy as to the construction date and nature of dolmens within the environs of the Rift Valley. Several dolmen fields exist in and adjacent to the Rift (Jordan) Valley from Syria down to the Dead Sea. During TeHEP Season Four and Season Five, a new survey of dolmens in the immediate vicinity of Tall el-Hammam was conducted. While previous surveys had divided the area dolmens into at least two fields, our new survey has filled in the gaps between those fields, has added several hundred new ones to the survey, and has demonstrated that all the dolmens in the area belong to one continuous field, which we have now officially named the Tall el-Hammam Dolmen Field. This field occupies the hilly land to the E, SE, S, and SW of Tall el-Hammam, marking, in those locations, a clear boundary for the city-state. There's even evidence of dolmens near the base of the tall proper. We've now surveyed, photographed, and described almost 500 of the ancient funerary monuments, and have estimated the existence of at least 500 more in areas scraped off for military and residential purposes. The sheer number of the Hammam dolmens suggests their importance in the socio-cultic history of the area. Evidence from the Season Five excavation of an undisturbed dolmen (a rare find!) suggests that the monuments were not generally used for primary burials, but were the focus of a more complex set of (ancestor worship?) rituals involving 'token' bones (extracted from nearby family cave- and shaft-tombs?) and (mostly) small offering vessels placed into the dolmen chamber at lengthy calendar intervals. The excavation of Hammam Dolmen 73 included over 40 vessels, beginning in the Chalcolithic Period and spanning about 2000 years.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 MB1/2 Monumental Complex, lower tall
FIELD LA. At about the geographic center of the disk-shaped, western half of the lower tall, this monumental complex occupies a raised platform of about 100m x 100m, surrounded by retaining walls. The area rises about 1.5m-2m above the surrounding topography of the lower tall. The platform's western side is dominated by a monumental building about 20m x 60m, divided into many rooms (most of the stone foundations are visible at the surface), which was probably administrative. On the eastern side, there's evidence of a very large structure with walls 2.7m thick. The size and juxtaposition of the buildings suggest some sort of sacred precinct, with the larger walls belonging to a temple (perhaps Canaanite).
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 EB2/3 Gateway, lower tall
FIELD LA. The massive 5.2m-thick EB2/3 defensive wall at Tall el-Hammam had a number of gates around the circumference of the lower city. These gates allowed citizens to enter onto the wide, exterior roadway that ran around the city against the city wall, providing easy access to the agricultural fields and villages surrounding Tall el-Hammam in all directions. At this particular gate, the roadway widened into a major plaza area that likely served as a bustling marketplace for agricultural produce and a wide variety of products both local and imported via caravans. Leading up to the gate from the south, from the agricultural fields, is a stepped roadway constructed partly of laid stones, with some of it cut from the bedrock.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 IB/MB1 Gate Blockage, lower tall
FIELD LA. At some point in the 900-year history of the EB2/3 city wall, it seems that the 'city fathers' decided there were too many gates, so they decided to have some of them blocked up. During the Intermediate Bronze Age (whether IB1 or IB2 is not clear at this point), this particular gate (1.3m wide) was blocked with tightly-laid, large stones to about 1m thickness. After the extinction of most of the EB3 cities in the Levant about 2350 BCE, Tall el-Hammam remained one of the few remaining large cities in the region during the IBA, a period marked by social upheaval and a significant increase in nomadism. Perhaps a firmer control on city access can be considered a signal of the general instability of this period.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 Hammam Dolmen 78 Excavation
FIELD HDF. Constructed of vertical slabs .5m to 1.5m wide and/or tall, and 20cm to 40cm thick, Hammam Dolmen 78 had a table-slab 2+m x 1+m that was up to .75m thick. In the excavation process, it took six strong men, using a huge steel rod as a lever, over an hour to remove the largest of the top-stones. The chamber created by the vertical and horizontal (both top and floor) megaliths was 3+m long and about 1m wide. It contained over 40 pottery vessels (mostly small juglets and bowls), and an array of 'select' bones with no hint that any full burials had ever been placed the space. Indeed, the bones seem representative of individuals, perhaps important ones (from associated cave- or shaft-tombs?), accompanied by the ritual placement of a small sacred offering in the form of perfume or oil. Was this some kind of ancestor worship or generational celebration? Whatever is was, those 40+ vessels span nearly 2,000 years of history from the Chalcolithic Period through EB1/2/3 and the IBA. The Hammam Dolmen Field holds the answers to many anthropological mysteries, and will be the focus of much research for decades to come.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 EB/IB/MB Houses, lower tall
FIELD LA. On Tall el-Hammam's lower tall, identifying an individual Bronze Age house from either the EBA, IBA or MBA is often difficult, not because we can't read the phasing and pottery clearly, but because (so far) the houses are all rebuilds of an original house on the self-same footprint! For example, most of our lower tall domestic structures have an EB2/3 foundation topped by a few courses of mudbrick, followed by several courses of IBA mudbrick, topped by a course or two of MBA foundation stones. And this all follows the old wall-lines precisely with few deviations. Most of the intervening damage seems earthquake-related. Thus, each phase represents the rebuilding of the same 'family' house by a different generation, and without any occupational gaps. So far, no intact pottery vessels have been found at any Bronze Age level on the lower tall. Such whole vessels are usually found in houses that have collapsed and laid in ruins for a long period of time so that the vessels are preserved by the decomposition of the mudbricks and roofing materials. In our case, the damaged houses were being rebuilt quickly, with all of the useable pottery and other objects being carefully salvaged from damaged structures as their walls were deconstructed down to still-stable mudbrick and/or stone courses, before rebuilding took place. In the process, floor-levels might be raised 20+cm or more, depending on the needs of the occupants. On the lower tall, the MB2 construction is surface and terminal.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 MB2 Inner Ring Road, lower tall
FIELD LA. Between the first row of Middle Bronze Age houses and the inner face of the corresponding city defenses, we discovered a street almost 3m wide, sealing against both an MB2 house foundation and the fifth stone course of the city wall foundation. It's likely that this street runs around the entire perimeter of the city. This makes sense for an urban center of this magnitude, especially if it was well-planned (and the massive city defenses were certainly no after-thought!).
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 MB2 Palace, upper tall
FIELD UA. At about the same time the extensive lower city defenses were built (ca. 1800 BCE), a massive mudbrick rampart system was also constructed around the inner city. This part of Tall el-Hammam was already elevated by the natural terrain, consisting of a free-standing 200m x 500m finger-hill, rising to a height of about 20m (60+ ft.) above the lower city. This upper city area was enclosed within the Early Bronze Age defenses, but not separately fortified. The Middle Bronze Age inhabitants decided that the upper city should have its own substantial, second-line defensive rampart with a 35-38 degree sloping glacis rising 30+m (100 ft.) above the lower city, effectively creating a huge, bermed platform with commanding 360-degree views of the surrounding territory. But the "best seat in the house" was toward the western edge of the upper city rampart, and that's where the "red palace" is located. Thus far we've only been able to excavate small segments of it, because it has Iron Age and Hellenistic/Roman structures built over the top of it. However, its bright-red/orange mudbricks are unmistakable (the color was created by its terminal conflagration), and extend to an area at least 40m x 40m. Some of its mudbrick walls are 1m and 2m thick. In at least one location the walls of the 'red palace' stand to over 3m high. Pieces of the plastered floor and roofing materials from the second story were routinely found during the excavation. Plaster still adheres to the standing walls. There is little doubt regarding the palatial nature of this building. Its commanding, strategic placement is certainly something that a city-state king would require.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.

 Stratigraphic Sequence of Bronze Age Defenses, lower tall
FIELD LA. What's in a balk? In a word, history. As most ancient cities in the Near East, Tall el-Hammam was built primarily of mudbrick, on stone foundations. Now, mudbrick has its advantages and disadvantages. This type of construction is cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The materials are easy to come by. But the maintenance is labor-intensive and frequent. Water is the main enemy of mudbrick/mud-plaster construction. Earthquakes can be catastrophic. Between the two, an occupational hiatus of even a year (much less decades) creates significant amounts of erosional debris as the mudbrick construction naturally, and quickly, disintegrates. If a location remains unoccupied for very long, mudbrick cities simply melt into nondescript hills. If such a hill is re-occupied, the new inhabitants generally dig new foundation trenches into the decomposed mudbrick matrix, and build their town from scratch. The continuation of this process of destruction/abandonment/rebuilding causes a 'tall' (= ancient ruin mound; also spelled 'tell') to rise ever higher in a layer-cake fashion. But it's the abandonment component of the sequence that holds the key to tall talls/tells! With abandonment comes the rapid disintegration of the mudbrick superstructures. In a short time, foundations and artifacts swim in the resultant 'soup' of decomposed mudbrick and mud-plaster, augmented by blown-in sand and debris. Such water- and wind-borne layers of sediment have a signature sloping-pooling pattern (often with size-sorted materials like sand and pebbles) against vertical structures such as foundations and walls. When cut through during an excavation, a section (balk-face) reveals the extent of both natural deposition and engineered fill (purposefully placed for construction purposes). And there is a clear difference between the two. On one hand, the presence of water- and wind-borne deposition layers signals periods of abandonment. On the other hand, the absence of such natural layering demonstrates continuous occupation. In the latter instance, layering (even deep layering) was often accomplished by 'piles' of engineered fill (consisting of a variety of earth-based materials) used to level-up an area for new construction. At Tall el-Hammam, the west balk-section of Trench LA.28 on the lower tall is particularly instructive in this regard. The LA.28 balk-sections associated with the EBA/IBA/MBA fortification systems suggest an unbroken occupation in this location, from bedrock to the (terminal) surface. What's most interesting in this case is that the vertical distance from the bedrock occupation (Chalcolithic Period) up to the terminal MB2 occupation is only 1.5m. Within that 1.5m, the only layering is from engineered fill, with no evidence of natural, erosional deposition whatsoever. In other words, previous living structures (houses, defensive walls, streets) ceased to be used only when they were covered over by the earthwork required for new construction.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To view a PPT animation, CLICK HERE.
To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.


 Chalcolithic Houses, lower tall
FIELD LA. In this location on the south side of the lower city at Tall el-Hammam, we encountered Chalcolithic structures for the first time. Although, for several years, we'd been seeing Chalcolithic pottery and lithics at many places around the site, we'd never been deep enough to experience the architecture until Season Five. The two broadhouses we discovered (in the area just outside the EB2/3 city wall) were built on bedrock and/or bed-material, and were clearly refurbished during EB1. When the first fortifications were mandated toward the beginning of EB2 (ca. 3000 BCE), these houses were 'condemned', demolished, and covered by layers of engineered fill in preparation for the new city wall and roadway construction. All that remains of these houses are a few foundation courses of cobble-sized stones and mudbricks. The interiors of these houses will be excavated by micro-archaeological techniques during Season Six.
To view photos, CLICK HERE. To return to the Discoveries menu, CLICK HERE.