Tell Hazna (Syria)

Tell Hazna 1, a settlement explored during 22 field seasons (1988–2010) by the expedition of the Institute, is located in North-Eastern Syria (Al-Hasakah Province) in the Basin of the Khabur River, which is the main tributary of the Euphrates.

Tell Hazna 1 is a tell measuring 200 by 150 m in size and on average 10 m in height.  It has been determined that this settlement appeared in the region in the early 4th millennium BC. Subsequently (end of the 4th – first third of the 3rd millennia BC) it was used as a religious and administrative center. A temple complex, similar to complexes operational in Sumer in Southern Mesopotamia in the same period, was built at the end of the 4th millennium BC. It had a centralized layout and consisted of three concentric ovals formed by an encircling wall and massive mud-brick structures clustered closely together.

The excavations shed the light on the level of a pre-state organization of the community run by a religious administration. Construction of a temple and administration complex required large-scale public works. Therefore, monumental buildings for worship and economic activities were constructed. Enclosed sacral and ritual sections as well as granaries where public grain was centrally stored and redistributed have been recorded.

A number of temple complex structures were related exclusively to ritual and sacrifice practice. A tower-like construction that has survived to a height of around eight meters stands out among other religious buildings. This ritual structure is the earliest prototype of Mesopotamian ziggurats known today.

Presence of the enclosed complex of monumental buildings implies that a single network of streets that would connect all sections within the settlement needed to be built. The average width of the streets was around one meter. The streets were formed by the walls of the houses clustered closely together. In some houses doorways leading to the street have been documented.

The settlement has revealed two street networks that were not interconnected and led to the enclosed part of the settlement. One (southern) network was used during religious processions. The other network was located in the eastern part of the settlement where a passage to the encircling wall has been identified. A ramp made of mud-bricks led to the passage from the outer eastern part of the encircling wall. It adjoined the encircling wall. The entry to the settlement was guarded by a special service that occupied a premise located on the inside of the gate. Two streets ran from the guardhouse.

Despite apparent signs of public consolidation, the process of statehood development did not continue at Tell Hazna 1 or many other settlements in the southern part of the Khabur steppe. The reason is another cycle of climate aridization that began in vast expanses of Eurasia in the 3rd millennium BC. Its inhabitants were forced to abandon the settlement for ever around 2700 BC, because of dry climate people could no longer grow crops.

In 2010 the excavations at Tell Hazna came to an end. Like in the previous years, during the final field season the expedition paid a lot of attention to conservation of the structures exposed at the site. Practically all the most important structures were completely filled up with soil. As these excavations were completed, a permit was obtained to explore a new tell known as Ailun located near the town of Darbasia 60 km north west of Tell Hazna; in 2010 a preliminary survey of the site was conducted. It is a large tell, the thickness of its occupation layer is at least 30 m. The plan of the tell was made, a lot of surface finds were collected (from the Halaf culture to the Roman and Byzantium period), a program of further studies of Tell Ailun was prepared.

R.M. Munchaev,
Sh.N. Amirov

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