After a later-than-usual start due to Ramadan, the 7th season of the Neubauer Expedition to Zincirli (ancient Sam’al), an archaeological project of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, began in earnest. Digging officially commenced at dawn on Saturday, August 25, and with only one week under our belts, there was already much to be excited about. Thanks to the Heritage Fellowship, I was able to experience it firsthand.
In my trench, opened just this season as an extension of another area situated on the southern slope of the mound, we are hoping to further our understanding of the mound’s stratigraphy. Previous seasons have provided the basic sequence, especially concerning the fortifications. A surprising result was the discovery of an Iron Age rampart earlier than the citadel walls. Since German archaeologists had uncovered these walls along with a series of palaces at the end of the 19th century, we extended our work into an area previously excavated by them in order to correlate their research with the current findings.
Thus far we have located a cobbled surface along with an embedded, restorable pithos similar to those drawn in the German top plan. Since the cobbled surface lies above one of two towers belonging to the upper citadel gate, below which is the alte Bau – possibly an earlier fortification of a different orientation – we can expect the next few weeks to be very illuminating.
While the steady heat and early wake-up calls have been a bit of a shock to the system, the rewards of exciting new finds, beautiful sunrises, and interactions with local workers and skilled colleagues from all over the world more than make up for the difficult work. This being my first ever field experience, I feel as if I am perpetually one step behind. But thankfully the staff and volunteers are generous of their time and very supportive, not to mention loads of fun. I have already learned a great deal and am looking forward to further discoveries in the coming weeks.
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