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Ziyaret Lower Town Project

Ziyaret Tepe


The site of Ziyaret lies in southeasten Turkey, approximately 60 km east of the modern city of Diyarbakir. The site has a high mound with Late Neolithic/Early Chalcolithic, Middle Assyrian and Neo-Assyrian remains, and a lower town area of approximately 32 hectares which is principally Neo-Assyrian though with some scattered remains of a later date. Although the presence of the Assyrians in Diyarbakir province was known since the discovery of the ``Kurkh Monoliths'' (stelae of the Assyrian Kings Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III) in the 1860's, this is the first excavation of a major Assyrian site in the area. Ziyaret was certainly one of the three border cities of Tushan, Sinabu and Tidu known from cuneiform sources to have been positioned along the Tigris in this area, but regardless of the identification there is no doubt that it is an exceptional site: its position overlooking the Tigris in an area where this river formed the northern border of the Assyrian empire marks it out as a site of outstanding strategic importance.

Fieldwork at Ziyaret was initiated in response to the threatened destruction of the site as a consequence of the resumption of construction work on the dam downstream the Tigris at Ilisu. Under the overall coordination of Dr Tim Matney of the University of Akron, Ohio, an international team was formed in order to document the site as thoroughly as possible prior to its disappearance. The British Expedition to Ziyaret is part of this team; other senior collaborators are Dr Kemalettin Köroglu of Marmora University and Dr Dirk Wicke of the University of Mainz. After preliminary work including a magnetometry survey and comprehensive fieldwalking, archaeological excavation commenced in 2000 and we have now had eight seasons of excavation and on-site research.

On the high mound work has included investigation of a major monumental building, a step trench and a large open area excavation, while work in the lower city has included excavation of a complex of monumental architecture, investigation of two city gates and a section through the main city wall together with the exposure of the low status housing built up against it. Perhaps the most dramatic of these operations has been in Area G, a complex of monumental buildings with walls up to 2 m made out of high quality brick. The first of these buildings is clearly the residence of a high official (perhaps the governor of the province) and while we are not yet in a position to be sure as to the identity of the second, it may perhaps have been the temple of Ishtar. Both buildings are characterised by beautiful courtyards, massive storage jars and administrative tokens. A further find of exceptional importance is the archive of cuneiform texts dating to immediately before and after the fall of Nineveh in 612. In summary, Ziyaret Tepe is establishing itself as a site of major importance and we have high expectations for the results of seasons yet to come.

See the project website or the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research annual report for 2001–2002 for more information.