Tell Harmal (Shaduppum)

    The excavation at Tall Harmal in the spring of 1997

The first season of the new excavation at the site of Tall Harmal took place in the spring of 1997. My collaborator on this project was Laith M. Hussein. We were supported by Zuher Rajab Abdallah. The representative of the Department of Antiquities and Heritage was Ismail Ibrahim Sherif.

Some problems arose during the preparation of the publication of the Tell Harmal material and the information needed to be clarified through another short excavation. First it was necessary to examine the stratigraphy of the site. Stratigraphical studies also needed to be conducted to examine the city wall. Furthermore, our purpose was to obtain some information about the area localised outside the town, taking in account that Shaduppum had been fortified not before the Isin-Larsa Period. The wall surrounding an area measuring 133 m to 147 m was about 6 m thick. The wall’s foundations partially destroyed adjacent older houses. Old pictures document this situation. But the former archaeologists were not quite sure at that time to which level – II or III – the fortification pertains.

We have chosen the western corner of the town for our new investigations. This area has not been excavated formerly. We started our soundings on the both sides of the northwestern city wall. On both sides of the wall we found a sequence of four levels.

The upper level was deranged and brought a varied and diverse mix of materials from different periods. The deeper levels corresponded to the Isin-Larsa levels II to IV of the former excavations. Approximately 2 m beneath the surface of the site we encountered ground water at a level of about 1.5 m higher to compare with the situation found fifty years ago. Hence, the remains from the third Millennium B.C. are not accessible today. On the area inside the wall we discovered only few houses remaining from the second and third level. Among the findings in the third level was a kiln which showed signs of long term use and was partially covered with a dump of ashes, cinder and pottery sherds. These remains piled up to a height of 1 m, adding to the waist produced from other kilns situated in the proximity. This surface may have been a place of a very extensive ceramic production at that time.

Only the lowest level – that means level IV – contained the remains of a larger building with 1 m to 1.2 m thick walls. Its foundations are covered now by the ground water. The northwestern wall of the house was destroyed as a result of the later fortification. That means that the city wall was built during the last phase of the level IV or at the beginning of the level III. In my opinion the ruins of the houses excavated by Taha Baqir in the north-eastern periphery of the town should be dating from the same period.

The town wall was started in a relatively flat foundation pit. Its base lays 2 m from the surface at the same level with the current height of the ground water. The wall was measuring 5.60 m in width at the top, and about 0 .30 m more at the base. The dimensions of the tower were respectively 6.40 m and 6.80 m. We found traces of a repair which had taken place at the end of the third level or at the beginning of the second one.

 The building situated outside the town was certainly a more recent construction. It stood at a distance of 2.5 – 2.9 m from the fortification. The remains consisted of seven or eight rooms. We could not determine if the rooms belonged to a single architectural and functional unit, on account of the rooms being only partially connected with doors. It was possible to distinguish two building phases. The execution of the original construction was not very meticulous. Some of the walls were standing directly on the soil, using haphazard materials for the foundation without the expected selection of good quality building materials. Particularly the upper brick layers used during the rebuilding of the house revealed rather poor construction. The floors of all the rooms were made of mud and earth, without a drainage system. The newer level – consisting from one or two layers of bricks in a bad state of repair – was generally constructed according to the original planning. No more preserved doors could be found. Two bread ovens (tannurs) belonging to this phase stood in two rooms (2 and 4), and in another room (7) there was the base of a fire place made of burnt brick.

A little deeper we found only few remains of an older building as well as an older drainage originating from the northwest and using the trapezoidal, so called ‘well-bricks’.

All these remains show very clearly that this area – which today is outside of the front of the town – was continuously inhabited, even after the construction of the fortifications.

Only poor material resulted from these two soundings from inside and outside of the wall. There were some small pieces of terracotta figurines and models, together with some tools of stone. Most of the findings were in the form of a big amount of Old Babylonian pottery, dispersed all over the excavated area.


Laith M. Hussein & Peter A. Miglus, Tell Harmal. Die Fr├╝hjahrskampagne 1997
 in: Baghdader Mitteilungen 29 (1998) pp. 35 – 46.

Laith M. Hussein & Peter A. Miglus, Excavation at Tell Harmal, The Season of Spring 1997
in: Sumer 50 (1999-2000) pp. 58 – 67