Greater Mesopotamia

Greater Mesopotamia

Ancient Kingdom of Oman

ExcavationsPosted by Bruno Overlaet Tue, February 02, 2016 15:39:55

Belgian archaeological expedition in the U.A.E. reveals the existence of an Ancient Kingdom of Oman.

A Belgian team directed by Dr Bruno Overlaet from the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, and working in close collaboration with Sharjah's Department of Antiquities made a discovery of major historical importance at the archaeological site of Mleiha in the central region of the U.A.E. The find was made on 17 December 2015, the last day of the team's fieldwork. The discovery was revealed to the press by the Ruler of Sharjah, His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Muhammed Al Qasimi on 28 Januari 2016.

A monumental tomb measuring approximately 5.20 by 5.20 meter is under excavation, work on it is planned to resume in the fall of 2016. A square building of lime-bricks once stood on top of two underground burial chambers. These chambers, which once contained the deceased and the grave goods, had walls constructed with large boulders. The passage between the rooms was blocked with bricks and a large monumental inscription that had fallen down from the upper structure.

The bi-lingual inscription is written in Aramaic and Ancient South Arabian. The exceptionally well preserved text reveals the identity and the family lineage of the deceased, as well as the date when the monument was built. The central panel of the stone is written in Ancient South Arabian. It states that the tomb was build by the son of a certain ʿAmīd, who was in the service of the king of Oman. An Aramaic inscription is placed on the rim around the central panel. It gives the date when the monument was erected, in the year 90 or 96 of the Seleucid era, the equivalent of 222/221 or 216/215 BCE.

The inscription provides the oldest mention of the name Oman and proves that a kingdom of Oman already existed in the late 3rd century BC. The local Abiel dynasty, known from its coins minted at Mleiha, can in all probability be associated with this title of "King of Oman”. Their kingdom was apparently centered around Mleiha and probably consisted of the territory of the U.A.E. and the Northern parts of the Sultanate of Oman. Up to now, the oldest mentioning of the name was in Classical sources from the 1nd century CE where Omana refers to a harbour on the Oman peninsula. This Omana in the Periplus Maris Erythraei (Voyage around the Erythraean Sea) and in the Natural History by Plinius the Elder, is usually associated with the coastal sites of either ed-Dur in Umm al-Qaiwain Emirate or with Dibbah in Sharjah Emirate, both in the U.A.E. The identification of Mleiha as the royal seat, suggests the Classical authors referred to a harbour that served Mleiha, as the capital of the Oman Kingdom.

At this stage, only the upper part of the burial chambers has been excavated. The excavation will be resumed in the Fall of 2016.


illustrations :

01. Belgian excavations at Mleiha. View of the tomb with the inscription.

02. Belgian excavations at Mleiha. View of the tomb with the inscription.

03. Belgian excavations at Mleiha. The inscription.

04. Eisa Yousef of the Sharjah Department of Antiquities and Dr Bruno Overlaet, director of the Belgian team, examining the funerary inscription.

Short selection of press coverage:


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2nd Campaign Pyla

ExcavationsPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Wed, May 27, 2015 10:02:01
2nd Excavation Campaign Pyla-Kokkinokremos - Cyprus

29.03 – 26.04.2015

Co-directors: Prof. Dr. Joachim Bretschneider, University of Ghent & KU Leuven, Dr. Athanasia Kanta, Mediterranean Archaeological Institute and Prof. Dr. Jan Driessen, Université Catholique de Louvain

To explore the end of the Late Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean and the character of cultural interaction among the peoples during this period the archaeological research at the site of Pyla-Kokkinokremos in Cyprus surfaces as an exceptional opportunity, owing to its founding at the end of the 13th century BC – a time when the Late Bronze Age crisis reached its zenith –, its very short-lived occupation and its seemingly planned abandonment leaving all material in situ. While the settlement was inhabited for what appears to be less than fifty years, the site becomes a very valuable ‘time capsule’ of this critical phase.

Following several earlier explorations of the site of Kokkinokremos, near the village of Pyla on the south-east coast of the island of Cyprus, a second excavation campaign by a joint mission of the Universities of Leuven and Louvain (Belgium) and the Mediterranean Archaeological Institute of Crete (Greece) took place from March 29th to April 26th 2015.

The KU Leuven team continued research in Sector 5 on the eastern slope of the southern protrusion of the Pyla-Kokkinokremos plateau. During the four week campaign the team resumed excavation in order to complete information on the previously uncovered architectural units (Space 1-6) and exposed four more units (Space 7-10). A corridor-shaped space (Space 8) yielding several outstanding finds – such as two imported alabaster vases and a large black stone jar, a female-shaped libation vessel and an amphorid Mycenaean krater decorated with birds – leads to a meticulously plastered room (Space 7). Space 6 comprises of a pit-like structure, measuring 3.5 m in depth, cut out in the bedrock. At the bottom, a circular stone structure, a complete jar and a terracotta recipient filled with burnt organic material were discovered. To be continued …

The members of the 2015 KU Leuven team included Joachim Bretschneider (co-director), Greta Jans, (archaeologist), Anne-Sophie Van Vyve (archaeologist & PhD student), Matthias Mallaerts (IT), Nienke Veraa and Anne-Vera Veen (students). Adeline Hoffelinck, Maarten Praet and Ferdinand Hollenhorst (students) conducted their apprenticeship in Pyla and Wouter Vermeiren (IT) completed the team.

Fig.1: View on the – until now – most eastern wall and rooms (Spaces 9 and 10) of Sector 5.

Fig.2: Stone basin in Space 9.
Fig.3: View from the south on Sector 5 with in front the plastered room (Space 7).

Fig.4: Excavating a complete jar inside the 3.5 m deep shaft (Space 6).

Fig.5: The recipient filled with burnt organic material at the bottom of the pit.

Fig.6: Prof. Karageorghis visiting Pyla; here together with Athanasia Kanta, Manolis Vrachnakis and Joachim Bretschneider.

Fig.7: The 2015 team (always happy in a pit).

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6th archaeological campaign at Mleiha

ExcavationsPosted by Bruno Overlaet Mon, January 12, 2015 14:25:20

6th archaeological campaign at Mleiha, Sharjah (UAE)

The Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels.

A Belgian team works at Mleiha since 2009. The 2014 campaign (20/11-18/12/2014) was mainly a study campaign on the architectural remains, finds and ceramics that are kept in storage at the site. The field activities were limited to surveying and to the continuation of the excavation of two monumental tombs that had started the previous year. At the same time, a drone for aerial photography was tested in various weather conditions and environments. The 2014 expedition is supported by the Royal Museums, the FWO (Research Foundation - Flanders) and the IAP VII (Greater Mesopotamia: Reconstruction of its Environment and History) and works in close collaboration with the Directorate of Antiquities of the Emirate of Sharjah, headed by Dr. Sabah Jasim. The expedition is directed by B. Overlaet (RMAH), members and collaborators of the 2014 team were E. Haerinck (senior archaeologist), B. De Prez, P. Pincé and L. Van Goethem (archaeologists), H. Steenbeke and M. Coppejans (architectural reconstructions) and Patrick Monsieur (amphora identifications).

Fig. 1. The 2014 Belgian field team and local workmen.

The excavations

During the first four years a large surface with 7 monumental tombs and 4 more modest pit graves (zone P) was excavated on the eastern fringes of the site (Fig. 2). In 2013 a ground penetrating radar survey targeted its surroundings, extending the research area eastwards up to the modern wadi. A series of tombs with monumental square superstructures were revealed and the excavations documented the presence of modest pit tombs between the clusters of monumental tombs (Fig. 2). The two monumental tombs excavated in the 6th season are located on the low mound Z. Both tombs were looted but still produced interesting finds such as Rhodian amphora fragments, Mesopotamian glazed luxury vessels, various types of gold beads and alabaster vessels from Yemen. All these point to a date in the first half of the 2nd century BCE. They illustrate the importance and the role of Mleiha on the Arabian trade routes and contribute important elements for the chronology of the Oman peninsula.

Fig. 2. Drone photography of graveyard area AV with the Belgian excavations.

Drones and aerial photography

Drones are ideal for oblique overviews of excavations, vertical photography in view of mapping and measuring and for more general surveying purposes. Drones can replace the use of ladders and scaffolds and of kites or hot air/helium balloons on many digs. Professional drones remain expensive and complex, however, and demand a skilled and well trained pilot, often seconded by someone to operate the camera. In recent years, archaeologists have therefore started to experiment with low budget recreational drones fitted with lightweight cameras. Commonly reported problems of these early attempts were, however, a limited flight time due to battery capacity, low quality photography and particularly the inability to use the drone in anything but very light winds. The latest generation of “consumer drones” have become increasingly user friendly and most of these problems have been solved. We opted to experiment with a standard version of a “DJI – Phantom 2” quadcopter mounted with a 12 MP camera on a damped 2D gimbal for stability. The camera can be tilted in flight between a horizontal and vertical position. An OSD or “On Screen Display” module streams the camera view and technical and navigational data to a monitor on the remote controller. This makes it ideal for low altitude aerial surveys in accordance with aeronautical regulations (below 50 meter). The relatively small drone necessitates video piloting (FPV, First-Person View) via the monitor when surveying larger areas since it is impossible to keep track of it with the naked eye.

Fig. 3. The drone in its transport case and mounted on a backpack.

The drone is kept “flight ready” in a custom made protective transport case at the excavations and can be made ready for flight within minutes. It can thus be used on the spot without delaying any of the excavation activities.

During the 2014 expedition at Mleiha trials were made in different environments and weather conditions. Flights were made above the excavation field in the wadi plain and during surveys around the excavations and on the nearby Jebel Fayah mountain ridge. Surveying flights above the wadi during the early morning hours produced excellent shadow marks. Flights could normally continue for several hours until stronger thermals started to develop and “dust devils” started occurring. The general experience was very positive, however. The drone could be flown in moderate to strong winds and performed well in all conditions. With a maximum flight speed of 15m/s. (54 km/h.) it can even counteract gusty winds.

Fig. 4. Subtle shadow marks of very low mounds with monumental tombs in area AV. The oblique view emphasises the effect of the shadows.

Drone surveying in the mountains demands a somewhat different approach. The drone was mounted on a backpack and used from various points near the top of the Jebel Fayah (see fig. 1). Flights were made early in the morning and halted once thermals, accelerated by their path across the mountain, reached vertical velocities of more than 1m/second. In a mountainous environment is keeping visual track of the drone essential in view of the effect of local winds and turbulences on the flight path close to the relief. Turbulences and thermal activities can be strong and develop rapidly. In general, these first trials on the Jebel Fayah were all together positive. The technical equipment was effective and allows covering large zones in limited timespans. During these first trials, two structures - likely to be a musallahs or prayer area - were located and documented. A general aerial survey of the mountain area could supply important data to identify and protect local archaeological and historical heritage.

Fig. 5. Mountain top of the Jebel Fayah with a square structure, possibly a musallah.

Fig. 6. A Dust Devil, a strong thermal sweeping up the sand, moves over the excavations.

Fig. 7. View from Mleiha towards the Jebel Fayah.

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Excavation Pyla Kokkinokremos Cyprus

ExcavationsPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Wed, December 03, 2014 14:42:00

22 October – 16 November 2014

Pyla Kokkinokremos is the name of a ca. 57 m high rocky plateau, about 800 m from the present southeast coastline of Cyprus, located in the British sovereign base of Dhekeleia. It is located some 10 km east of Kition and some 20 km southwest of Enkomi, two major Bronze Age centres of the 13th-12th century B.C., the period known as Late Cypriot IIC and IIIA.

The site was explored at three previous occasions: first by Dr. P. Dikaios in 1952, by Dr. V. Karageorghis in 1981-1982 and, more recently, in 2010-2013, by Dr. V. Karageorghis and Dr. A. Kanta. Its proximate region also formed the focus of an intensive and systematic surface survey and geomorphological project by an American team under the direction of W. Caraher since 2003, focusing on the Roman and Late Antique occupation.

1: Area 5, view from the north

2: Excavating the stone basin in Room 2

Based on these different explorations, it can be assumed that the entire plateau of ca. 7 ha was densely occupied. Most telling is the excavation of part of a regularly laid-out settlement in the eastern sector of which the outer perimeter wall is assumed to have encircled the entire hill top plateau. The repetition of residential units within the excavated zones seems to suggest that the establishment of the settlement was a deliberate and planned enterprise. Moreover, although some traces of fire were observed, the discovery of material culture including several hidden hoards of precious metals seems to suggest the planned and organised abandonment of the settlement. This and the international character of its finds make it an exceptional site. Moreover, during the 2010-2013 explorations in the west sector, a possible gate was cleared close to which were found two tablets inscribed in Cypro-Minoan, fired intentionally (see:

3: Prof. Vassos Karageorghis visiting the Pyla excavation fall 2014 (with Dr. Athanasia Kanta & Prof. Joachim Bretschneider)

Because of its limited chronological occupation, its location and its specific material culture, Pyla Kokkinokremos plays a major role in the discussion on potential Aegean migrations to Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The aim of the new excavations is to arrive at a better understanding of the nature of the Pyla Kokkinokremos settlement structure, the reasons for its founding and the circumstances of its desertion. At the same time, we want to understand its regional and interregional context both where its socio-political landscape is concerned and its environmental setting. We also hope that a better definition of its material culture, especially where the ethnic mix is concerned, will allow us a better grasp of its historical reality.

4: Unearthing the bronze hoard in Room 2

5: The bronze hoard in situ

Co-directors are Prof. Dr. Joachim Bretschneider, University of Ghent & KU Leuven, Dr. Athanasia Kanta, Mediterranean Archaeological Institute and Prof. Dr. Jan Driessen, Université Catholique de Louvain.

The members of the 2014 KU Leuven team included Joachim Bretschneider (co-director), Greta Jans, (archaeologist), Anne-Sophie Van Vyve (archaeologist & PhD student), Pierre Van Hecke (philologist – cuneiform writing), as well as Shanah Deboeck and Thomas Maréchal (students).

6: Selection of objects of the bronze hoard

The 2014 excavation campaign by the University of Leuven team focused on the eastern slope of the southern protrusion of the Pyla-Kokkinokremos plateau (Area 5). Three weeks of excavation has uncovered a total surface of 140 m2 and yielded surprising results. Six architectural units have been partially excavated. A plausible outer or casemate wall has been uncovered within a unique context. The architectural features and installations – like a plastered basin, a stone ‘basin’ and a hearth – as well as the numerous ceramic and small finds – with a hoard consisting of 30 metal objects – will certainly enrich our knowledge concerning this unique settlement.

7: The drone above the excavation – Area 4

8: The drone in action

9: The Pyla 2014 team

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Belgian research @ Karon (Tajikistan)

ExcavationsPosted by Bruno Overlaet Tue, July 01, 2014 10:03:44

Belgian research at Karon on the Oxus, Badakhshan - Tajikistan

Royal Museums of Art and History & Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

Following a first visit to the site in October 2013 by B. Overlaet (RMAH) and the identification of quern stones near the site as related to gold mining, an interdisciplinary team set out to investigate this industrial activity and its impact on population and landscape. This research wanted to complement the ongoing work at Karon by Tajik and Russian expeditions. The Belgian team consisted of Prof. Dr. Bruno Overlaet, Laurence Van Goethem (Royal Museums of Art & History, Brussels) and Rindert Janssens (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels). During this first campaign at Karon (21/5 – 12/6/2014), a survey was made, an Islamic graveyard was explored and geological and biological samples were collected for analysis.

Karon is situated on a mountain top along the Panj river (Oxus) between Khalai Khumb and Kevron in the Darwaz region of Tajikistan. Since 2012, the site is studied by Prof. Y. Yakubov (Academy of Sciences, Tajikistan) and Dr. A. Nikitin (Hermitage Museum, Saint-Petersburg), who were now joined by the Belgian team.

Karon: view towards the mountaintop palace, sunken garden and pavilion.

Karon has a long history of human occupation, shown by the presence of various types of tombs and isolated finds such as Kushan and Sogdian coins. Yet, most of the constructions we see today date from the 15th-16th century, the time of the Timurid and Shaybanid rulers. There is a huge walled area with a palace, terrases, a large sunken garden and several pavilions and buildings, many of which remain to be excavated. It is clear, however, that the wealth of local rulers was based on the control of the ancient trade route and on gold mining. A huge landslide has landed rotary stone querns, used for the milling of gold containing quartz, at the riverbank of the Panj.

The palace, on the highest point of the site, overlooks a large valley with several constructions, among them a sunken garden, a pavilion, a graveyard, a wine press and a large open space, referred to as the polo field. The “Sunken Garden” is a deepened area of 50 by 90 meter with three descending terraces and a rectangular area, possibly a pond, accessible from a staircase along the eastern side. The retaining walls are strengthened with half-columns. Karon’s Sunken Garden is one of the many garden complexes that were created in this part of Central Asia under the Shaybanid dynasty (1428-1598 AD) and that are known to have been inspirational to Muhammad Zahir al-Din Babur (1526-1530 AD), the first Mughal emperor. The use of terraces, ponds and retaining walls with half-columns resembles Bagh-e Babur near Kabul

The “Polo Field” is a large area with a terraced embankment on one side and a large dry stone wall along the other, and has the approximate size of a modern polo field, hence its name. In a large complex such as Karon, a Maidan, a large open area where various activities could take place, is a feature that is to be expected.

In between the “Sunken Garden” and the “Polo Field” lies a square pavilion, possibly a mausoleum, built in dry stone technique combined with bricks for the curvature of the arches. The monument is still under investigation but it is clear that it has known many building phases. Several overlapping platforms are present at its base and at some point, the building was encased in walls with half-columns, much like those of the Sunken Garden, that completely closed the access to the building. A 6th-7th century coin found in the upper part of the pavilion is the only find at present and suggests the core of the building may predate the Shaybanid era. Its central position in the valley emphasizes its importance.

Karon: the central pavilion.

Industrial gold mining activities

The Belgian team set out to investigate the gold mining activities and survey the area. A large number of rotary quern stones are present amidst landslide debris along the right bank of the Panj river, just below the mountaintop site of Karon. These were mostly lower quern stones but also some upper mill stones and two upper mill stones which had been in the process of being extracted. Their present location and their position (many are tilted or even upside down) is not their original place of use. They have been moved, most probably by a landslide but recent roadworks involving rock blasting may also have had an impact.

Rotary quern stones nr. 6 and 7 (top) and upper mill stones 25 and 26 during the extraction (bottom)

Contrary to the exploitation of alluvial gold from the river, which is a relatively simple technique (panning or washing out), the use of quern stones indicates the more complicated exploitation of gold containing quartz veins. This requires a large skilled labour force and a central power that organises and oversees the complex workflow of mining, ore reduction and smelting. The technology is documented in Egypt and consists of the following steps:

1. 1. The ore mining : the veins of gold containing quartz can be mined in open areas or by following the veins in underground tunnels (often open fire is used to break down the quartz veins to workable lumps).

2. 2. The quartz ore had to be crushed and milled to obtain a powdery material that could be further concentrated by washing. Large blocks were crushed with hand hammers or pestles on dimple stones; the smaller particles were then milled in rotary querns to a fine substance.

3. 3. Smelting of the ore (on-site or in a specialised refinery) followed by “gold from lead separation” techniques. These chemical processes involved heavy metals which may have impacted on the environment and involved individuals.

The geological and archaeological survey was directed at locating possible mining and industrial areas. Iron smelting activities are attested in rooms near the mountaintop palace, which is considered to be the local seat of power. The presence of Chinese export porcelain and painted muqarnas dates this palace to the 15th-16th century. Possibly the smelting and refining activities took place in this area, where excavations are ongoing. The geological survey was based on a petrological analysis whereby in-situ rocks were described and sampled for further chemical, mineralogical and petrological research. On the field 5 rock units were observed: (1) fylite (high diagenetic equivalent of mudstone), (2) fylite with quartz veins, (3) shists (medium diagenetic equivalent of mudstone), (4) granite-granodiorite and (5) granodiorite intruded with quartz veins. The shists may be reformed to saprolite by chemical and fysical weathering of this rock-type and in some zone’s well-formed pyrite crystals up to 1 cm3 occur.

There were no archaeological traces of the mined quartz veins, possibly they were located in the landslide area to the west of the mountaintop palace. Any open mining activities in the saddle areas between the mountaintops, may be hidden by recent erosive depositions.

The environment and impact of gold mining activities on humans

The sunken garden in front of the mountaintop palace was studied and sampled to establish its use and flora. This was done by digging a pedological window of 1 m3 in the square lowest area of the garden (though to be possibly a pool) and describing the sedimentological and pedological features. Samples now need to be processed.

location of the graveyard and view of tombs 1 to 5

A graveyard on the slope descending from the mountaintop palace towards the sunken garden was partly excavated. A row of 8 cist tombs was discovered. The tombs were constructed on the natural bedrock, the long sides with shist stones, the front and top with large slabs. The tombs were protected upslope by a low dry stone wall, in front of the tombs was a narrow paved path. The downslope short side of several tombs was destroyed by erosion. One of the tombs had been re-used and contained two skeletons. The individual had been killed by two cuts in the head, one of which had removed part of the skull. The second skeleton was only partially preserved. Since the graveyard belonged to the Islamic era, the skeletal remains were reburied. However, biological samples were collected from five tombs. They will be tested for the presence of heavy metals as possible side-effect from ore refining activities and analysed with regard to nutrition. Carbon 14 dating on the different individuals will provide a time range for activities at Karon.

general view and detail of tomb 5

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Al-Ghat excavations 2014

ExcavationsPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Mon, May 12, 2014 13:24:19

The second study season in the Al-Ghat region was conducted between the 1st and the 18th of March 2014. The project works under the aegis of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, Riyadh and the University of Leuven, Belgium.

The project is directed by Mr. Mohammed Ali Alsalouk and Joachim Bretschneider. The Belgian team consisted of Prof. Joachim Bretschneider, Prof. Philip Van Peer, Nicolas Kress, Greta Jans, Anne-Sophie Van Vyve, Dave Geerts, Marjolein Van der Waa, Shanah De Boeck en Ellen Van Belle.

Looking for early human activity, some areas like the Wadi Markh, were extensively surveyed. Several excavation quadrants were opened on Jebel Markh and Qurayy as Sumur and these sites were topographically documented.

Lithic artifacts from Jebel Samar and Jebel Markh

At work at the Jebel Markh

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Saudi-Belgian Campaign at Al-Ghat

ExcavationsPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Wed, February 06, 2013 10:55:40

First Saudi-Belgian Research Campaign in the Al-Ghat Region

with the participation of two IAP partners (the KU Leuven and the Université Catholique de Louvain)

The research in the Al-Ghat region - an area with a very rich history located in the Alhamada valley in North Central Saudi Arabia - was inspired by the Abdulrahman Al-Sudairy Foundation and His Excellency Marc Vinck, the Belgian ambassador in Saudi Arabia.

The project works under the aegis of the following institutions:

- the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, Riyadh (represented by Mr. Mohammed Ali Alsalouk) and

- the University of Leuven, Belgium (represented by Prof. Dr. Joachim Bretschneider, Faculty of Arts - Near Eastern Studies)

This first study season - in cooperation with the Université Catholique de Louvain (represented by Prof. Jan Tavernier) - was conducted between the 27th of December 2012 and the 12th of January 2013 and followed a primary visit of Prof. Joachim Bretschneider in 2011 and a first survey looking for early human activity by Prof. Philip Van Peer in 2012.

The project was five-fold:

1. A survey project in the Al-Ghat region looking for early human activity in the area.

2. The study of the textual and iconographical material incised on rocks.

3. Topographical documentation of some significant sites in the Al-Ghat region.

4. A didactic student program concerning the study of mud brick architecture in the old town of Al-Ghat.

5. Stratigraphical sounding in the old town of Al-Ghat.


This first joint Saudi-Belgian Mission confirms the archaeological, epigraphic and historic high potential of the Al-Ghat region. Concerning our research topics (survey for prehistoric material, textual and iconographical study) cutting edge science activities can be expected from further large scale research projects including surveys and landscape studies. The region of Inner Arabia can surely provide archaeological, epigraphic and iconographical data which will stand in the focus of the international scientific community.

Photos J. Bretschneider: Old North Arabian inscriptions and rock art at Jebel Markh (Saudi Arabia, Al-Ghat region).

Photo J. Bretschneider: Jebel Al-Samar (Saudi Arabia, Al-Ghat region): Middle Paleolithic Levallois core.

Photo J. Bretschneider: The high amount of Levallois cores and flakes on the Jebel Al-Samar confirms that the hill was used and intensively exploited by Middle Paleolithic hunter gatherers.

The team (starting right on top): Dr. Michel Debruyne, Wim Verhulst, Elynn Gorris, Greta Jans, Romy Heyrmans, Jaza Abdullah Al Harbi, Prof. Jan Tavernier, Dave Geerts, Nicolas Kress, Mohammed Ali Alsalouk and Prof. Joachim Bretschneider.

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Excavations in Tyre (Lebanon), summer 2012

ExcavationsPosted by Vanessa Boschloos Tue, December 04, 2012 11:27:15

The Phoenician temple of Sector 7

In view of the political situation in Syria and the temporary shutdown of the excavations at Tell Kazel, the Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut moved its archaeological activities to southern Lebanon in 2012, where Leila Badre was assigned a new project by the Lebanese Directorate General of Antiquities. The continued collaboration with the RMAH ensured that the Belgian component of the Archaeological Mission of Tell Kazel (Eric Gubel and Vanessa Boschloos) joined the new excavations, in the city of Tyre. Originally an island, this ancient Phoenician port city was connected to the mainland by a causeway constructed by Alexander the Great during his siege of the city in 332 BCE. The site is known for its Roman ruins, particularly a hippodrome that was inscribed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1984.

The aim of the 2012 excavation campaign was to reach the pre-Hellenistic levels in a sector located on the island site of ancient Tyre, Sector 7. The unexpected presence of an already excavated building at the site was due to the loss of all records of a 1970s campaign conducted by Emir Maurice Chehab in this sector. Nevertheless, during the 2012 excavations soundings were carried out inside the structure and in the adjacent units, to gather the little information that could still be recovered. The architecture, the pottery assemblage and an animal bone pit inside the structure point towards a temple, consequently representing one of the oldest cultic structures unearthed in Tyre thus far. It has a surface of at least 160 m² and its northern part consists of a podium on which an altar is erected with a height of 1.60 m. It is topped by a large monolithic bloc of limestone. The level of groundwater in Sector 7 (at 0.75 to 0.95 m above sea level), however, did not allow excavating to bedrock but the results of the soundings, together with an analysis of the pottery finds and the architectural remains, allowed postulating a late Persian-Hellenistic date for this structure.

See also: press releases and a short video of the excavations.

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