Tell Harmal (Shaduppum)

    The excavation at Tall Harmal in the spring of 1998

In 1998 the excavation team comprised Laith M. Hussein, Peter A. Miglus, Zuher Rajab and Franciszek M. Stepniowski, and during the last two weeks Hussein Ali Hanze. Iraqi representative was Abdul Hamif Hassan Aggar.

In the Spring 1997 we examined the stratification of the site in the western corner of the city. In two soundings on both sides of the city wall the upper buildings levels from the second millennium B. C. were found. The older levels from the third millennium B. C. were unfortunately covered by ground water. We found out that the city wall was built during the last phase of the IVth building level or on the beginning of the IIIrd building level. This interpretation could help to explain a similar situation in the northern corner of the city that is known from the pictures of the former excavations. That means, the wall enclosed the city only during the last occupation of the Isin-Larsa Period.

During the excavation season of 1998 we tried to find out about the situation in the eastern part of the city in the same period. The main question to be addressed was; at the beginning of the level III were only a new fortifications in Shaduppum built, or was the whole city structure changed? In three trenches we compared differences between the level IV and level III: 1) between the city gate and the the main temple, referred to as “Lions Temple”, 2) at the “Lions Temple“ and 3) at the administration building across of the street.

The sounding on the western front of the “Lions Temple” behind one of its shrines reached the walls of a private house in level III which is known from the old city plan of Taha Baqir. Above mud floors of its three rooms laid a lot of pottery and two broken but nearly complete jars. A narrow street about 1 meter wide runs between the house and the temple. It consisted of many layers which were 0.8 m thick as a whole. The IVth level revealed a different situation. The older building was laid out differently than the newer or more recent one, and the former (that is the older building ) extended over the area below the street and below the temple wall. The curious part about this layout was that there was no street in this previous period.

Similar results came from the trench at the administration building of the city, in the area referred to as “serai”, which had been entirely exposed during the first three seasons of the excavations at Tall Harmal in the forties (1946-48). This building existed in the levels II and III. Like the main temple it was partially reconstructed after the excavation. In the two soundings inside and outside of room 18 which is located in the southwestern part of this reconstruction we reached the levels III and IV. The „serai“ building stood on a very strong, 2 m deep mud brick foundation. The lower edge of this wall appeared at the bottom of our soundings lying only some 30 centimeters above the ground water. The foundation was cut down into the remains of level IV. We reached an open space outside of the administration building below the uppermost topsoil and wall ruins. This open space was perhaps a courtyard or a street with deposits of horizontal layers of differing colors. This space was framed in the southwest by another wall with a door. Below room 18 laid a 1.25 m thick wall built in another direction than the wall of the “serai”. No floors were identified within the fill at this construction. As a result or this sequence we can say, there was no architectural structure in the level IV similar to the administration building of the levels II and III. The walls of the older city were laid out here in other directions.

A part of the gate inside of the fortifications was excavated at the end of the main street. It was an annex with a 3.4 m long chamber added later to the wall. The inner entrance had a threshold using trapezoidal burnt bricks, so called “well bricks”. Originally the gate could be closed from inside of the city. At this opening laid a pivot stone of a square burnt brick.

The main exposure in the next neighborhood of the gate was a big building at the northeastern side of the city wall which faced the ”Lions Temple”. Only its mud brick foundation was preserved. The floors and upper walls vanished. We excavated the building in its entirety partly in deep soundings, partly on the surface. It had an extension of about 15 x 13 m and consisted of 8 rooms. Its plan shows an architectural structure that could be interpreted as a temple (Temple F). The supposed shrine of a unknown god laid next to the northeastern wall of the central room that was maybe a small inner courtyard. The entrance can be reconstructed on the opposite side. This building which is presumed to be a temple belonged to the both upper Isin-Larsa levels similar like the “serai” and “Lions Temple“.

Deeper, below the northeastern rooms of this temple, below the city gate and the main street we found in the level IV remains of private houses. The walls of the houses were well preserved and we reached their newest floors 1.4 – 1.5 m deep. Below the gate building there were two rooms connected with a door. The western room had four floors. On its second floor laid a bench and a fire place. The original level of this house wasn‘t reached because of the ground water. Directly above the destroyed walls of this house run the street in the levels II and III. It was used a long time. The growing street layers one upon the other accumulated to 0.8 m thickness in all. Due to the heavy ground which was becoming more and more soaked with sewerage water we had to finish our excavation in this trench approximately 0.5 m above the ground water.

The small finds from this main trench and from the whole area were rather poor. There were some incomplete pieces of terracotta figurines, some tools of stone and broken bone needles. We found a great quantity of Old Babylonian pottery. A badly damaged cuneiform tablet and few small pieces of another clay tablets laid in the upper level in the fill between the walls of the temple foundation.

The city of Shaduppum shows great differences of the settlement pattern between the level II-III and the level IV. The most important buildings of the site – the city wall with its gate, the administrations building, the main temple and the new excavated one and maybe also the other temples which were founded during the last occupation phase of the Isin -Larsa Period. Private houses extended over the area below the important structures mentioned above.

The whole city seemed to have been rebuilt at the same time. On the other side there were no traces of a violent, overall destruction and the remains demonstrate no break in the occupation. Something similar we know from Ishcali, the ancient city of Nerebtum, where about the same time the big temple of Ishtar Kititum was founded over an area formerly occupied by private houses.

What was the reason for this new urban shape and furthermore, what was the reason for a new role of that site after its rebuilding? The answer should be sought in the changes of the political situation in the Diyala region. Many cities at the Diyala river were conquered at this time by the kings of Eshnunna and became – first of all in the reign of Ipiq-Adad I. Ibal-piel I. and Ipiq-Adad II. – a part of their kingdom. Shaduppum was one of these cities. Under the new domination this small city was given another place in the political and administrative system. This new situation in which the city found itself is reflected by the changes of the whole settlement pattern.


Laith M. Hussein & Peter A. Miglus, Tall Harmal – Die Herbstkampagne 1998
in: Baghdader Mitteilungen Nr. 30 (1999) pp. 101 – 113.

Laith M. Hussein & Peter A. Miglus, Excavation at Tell Harmal (Autumn of 1998)
in: Sumer 51 (2001-2002) S. 114 – 122.