Depositional history of unit J1

November 2009 - Lorenzo Crescioli
Phases updated July 2015

Stage 4. The third blockage (phase 7c-JPD) and the final leveling (phase 7v-JPD)
Stage 3b. The second escarpment and continued second blockage (phase 3p-JPD)
Stage 3a. The second wall and the second blockage (phase 3m-JPD)
Stage 2. Continue of use of the first wall (phase 3b-JPD through 3l-JPD)
Stage 1. The earliest wall and the first blockage (phase 2m-JPD)


     The contrast between the Plaza and the Palace areas is nowhere seen as clearly as in J1 – so sharp is it in fact that one might think we were digging at two different sites. In most of the Palace area there are no Mittani period levels, and there is instead a full sequence from the mid second millennium up to about 1300 B.C. In J1, on the other hand, we have a three ms thick Mittani deposit that lays directly on top of levels of the early Ninevite V period, about 2700 B.C. – there is, in other words, a gap in J1 of some 13 centuries, a period during which we know that Urkesh was a flourishing urban center.
     The explanation we propose seems plausible, even though we have, so far, only little direct evidence for it. It is based on the basic inference that the depositional history of the Plaza was conditioned by construction events at its southern end.

The sketch sections below are organized in a way the follows the stratigraphic sequence, the earliest stage being at the bottom.
Numbers in italics refer to elevations.
The general orientation is looking west, the third millennium revetment wall being to the right (in black).
The drawing is not to scale.

   While the Plaza had remained relatively unencumbered of deposits for the a millennium, half way through the Mittani period (around 1400 B.C.) a very rapid series of accumulations came to be deposited in such a way that within a century the revetment wall was no longer visible.
   The main reason why this was allowed to happen was the shift in urban focus from east to west. The massive brickfall in J6 suggests that (a) the buildings to the east were no longer in use, and that (b) the Plaza had become a depression with little or no traffic to the Temple, the big staircase in J2 (f128) having been replaced by the one in J5 (f21). The brickfall did not reach as far as J1, but its effects were, because the Plaza was no longer effectively in use as it has been until then. It did, however, retain its sacred status, and thus the accumulations that were allowed to grow and cover the face of the revetment wall were very clean, and without any trace of structural build-up.
   By the time the wall was no longer visible, only a row of memory stones remained in place to mark, as if a hinge, the separation between the level of the Plaza and the slope of the glacis.
Final stage

Late Mittani accumulations

Third blockage

First Mittani accumulations

Stage 4. The third blockage (phase 7c-JPD) and the final leveling (phase 7v-JPD>)

Back to top

   A second escarpment (^esc2) was built shortly after the first (i.e. one or two centuries, it is not completly sure yet).
   We know the main reason to this rebuilding is the massive water erosion, coming from West. This compromised the first escarpment, endangering the stability of the revetment wall ^wall1.
   The second escarpment covered at least more than half of the height of the wall. The safety of the wall was more important than its complete exposure, at least in this area of the terrace complex. This happened about 2400 b.C.
   Except for this structure, no clear EDIII accumulation was found in J1. The Plaza was kept cleaned and the wall remained visible for about 12 centuries.

Construction of second escarpment

Stage 3b. The second escarpment and continued second blockage (phase 3p-JPD)
Back to top

   In this stage a new revetment wall (f72 or ^wall1) was built. This is the big revetment wall that remained exposed and in use, by our estimation, for more than a millennium, 2600 b.C. to 1400 b.C. Its construction is dated by the presence of EDIII sherds in the first escarpment ^esc1. This EDIII material is mixed with LC sherds, and we assume this fact is due to the reuse of preexistant material for the construction of the escarpment.
Use and water damage of ED III structure
Construction of second Terrace wall and its escarpment

Stage 3a. The second wall and the second blockage (phase 3m-3nJPD)

Back to top

   While for the early period we are putting toghether many pieces of the puzzle, and something can still change, for the first half of the third millennium the evidence is in place for each aspect of our reconstruction.
   In the next stage (2), the same possibly LC wall (f288) is used during the Ninevite 5 period. Ninivite 5 material has been found in the accumulations f351 and f352 abutting the wall to the west of it, but also to the south f280. This southern Ninevite 5 material is not abutting the stone structure because of the later cuts and successive rearrangement for the construction of the EDIII revetment wall (^wall1).
   The Plaza remained free of deposits, at least in the northern portion closer to the revetment wall, until something was built at the southern end of the Plaza that blocked the flow of the accumulations. Of this blockage we have evidence in J6 (J6f24 and J6f27). While considerably to the southeast of J1, it seems plausible that this structure is indicative of a general construction moment at the southern end of the Plaza. Then accumulations would have begun to build up and would eventually have reached the top part of the stone structure (^str1).
   The material in J1 is late Ninevite V, and the structure in J6 is overlaid by ED III sealings, hence we assume that the blockage took place at about 2800 B.C..

Accumulations due to blockage

Second blockage

Stage 2. Continue of use of the first wall (phase 3b-3l-JPD)

Back to top

   During the 2009 excavation we were able to expose the stone wall (f288). This is a wall about two meters high, bonded with another N-S stone wall, forming the big stone structure (^str1). We assume that this structure, for nature and location, has the same function as the later revetment wall (^wall1).
   It seems plausible this wall has been built around 3400 b.C., even so far we found just few Late Chalcolithic sherds in the accumulations f350, f355 abutting the base of the wall itself.
   How did this material accumulate on the Plaza? Because, we assume, some wall or structure was built at the southern end of the Plaza, which created a basin effect and blocked the flow of the accumulations.

Accumulations due to blockage


Construction of early terrace wall

Stage 1. The earliest wall and the first blockage (phase 2m-JPD)

Back to top