Greater Mesopotamia

Greater Mesopotamia

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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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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UNESCO meeting for Syrian Heritage

ActivitiesPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Fri, June 13, 2014 14:57:27

Participation of Joachim Bretschneider to the international expert meeting “Rallying the International Community to Safeguard Syria’s Cultural Heritage” in the headquarters of Unesco - Paris 26 - 28 of May 2014.

The meeting brought together more than 120 experts from 22 countries to share information, devise policies and improve international cooperation during the conflict and beyond. They included cultural heritage specialists from Syria and the Syrian diaspora, representatives of Syrian NGOs, archeologists, and members of UNESCO institutional partners, as well as academics from universities in the Middle East and beyond. Representatives of major international auction houses also took part in the meeting.

“In some areas we are reaching the point of no return where Syria’s cultural heritage is concerned,” cautioned Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. “The destruction of heritage represents a cultural hemorrhage in addition to the tragic humanitarian crisis and suffering experienced by the people of Syria”.

© UNESCO / Professor Maamoun Abdul Karim, Aleppo & Apamea

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Royal visit at Riyadh Exhibition

NewsPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Mon, May 12, 2014 13:34:38
Organizing (together with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities) the exhibition concerning the joint Saudi-Belgium project in the Al-Ghat region - National Museum in Riyadh. Opening: 15.03.2014.

15.03.2014: Princess Astrid, the representative of King Philip of Belgium, visits the archaeological exhibition of the joint Saudi-Belgian project at Al-Ghat in the National Museum in Riyadh. Upon arrival, Princess Astrid was welcomed by Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) and a number of officials. Princess Astrid was accompanied by Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Didier Reynders.

Princess Astrid, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and Minister Reynders were briefed by Prof. Joachim Bretschneider on the recent discoveries of the joint Saudi-Belgian excavation mission at Al-Ghat.

See also:

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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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Fundraising for Syria

ActivitiesPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Thu, January 23, 2014 14:23:29

On the 16th of January, some members of the KU Leuven team have transformed the New Year’s drink of the faculty into a fundraising event to support SOS Syrian Children, a Belgian organization which brings medical and educational material to the refugee camps in the surroundings of Aleppo.

Anne Goddeeris, Greta Jans, Joachim Bretschneider and Anne-Sophie Van Vyve have asked the dean, Luc Draye, to cancel the order for snacks and have called on their colleagues of the faculty to prepare their own delicacies, which resulted in a 15 meter long buffet of exquisite appetizers. This was even adequate to attract some very important people of the University like (former) (vice-)rectors: Prof. Rik Torfs, Prof. Danny Pieters, Prof. André Oosterlinck en Prof. Marc Vervenne. An impression of the event can be seen on the facebook page of the arts faculty (

The guests at the drink enthusiastically supported the initiative, with culinary masterpieces as well as financially. At the end the money box contained 1722 euro! And yesterday, we have rounded the cape of €2000! Thanks to our KU Leuven Letteren colleagues! Additional contributions may still increase the amount of money which we offer to Suzy Bochi and her team who are transporting wheelchairs, school books, powdered milk, hospital beds and other scarcities over the Syrian border through Turkey (

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Research stay in Crete

Field WorkPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Fri, August 02, 2013 15:24:47
In the framework of interrelations between the Levant and the Aegean world, Prof. Joachim Bretschneider and Greta Jans from the KU Leuven conducted a research excursion on Crete from the 6th until the 20th of July. They visited the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion and several sites in northern and eastern Crete, like Knossos, Malia, Sissi, Dreros, Ithanos, Palaikastro and Azoria.

Prof. Bretschneider and Greta Jans were generously guided by Prof. Jan Driessen (UCLouvain) at the site of Malia and Sissi, by Dr. Florence Gaignerot (Université de Picardie Jules Verne) at Dreros, by Prof. Carl Knappett (University of Toronto), Dr. Tim Cunningham (UCLouvain) and Dr. Nicoletta Momigliano (University of Bristol) at Palaikstro, by Prof. Donald Haggis (University of North Carolina) at Azoria and by Prof. Didier Viviers (rector ULB) and Prof. Athena Tsingarida (ULB) at Ithanos.

At the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion Joachim Bretschneider rendered digital images of sphinxes on mural painting and plaster reliefs for the research of his doctoral student Nadine Nys.

A short introduction to the visited sites:


The famous Knossos, near Heraklion, was excavated by the British School at Athens. It is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and was inhabited continuously from the Neolithic period until the 5th century AD. The palace of Knossos was undoubtedly the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. It appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and storerooms close to a central square. The palace was abandoned at the end of the Late Bronze Age.


The excavation of Malia is under the direction of the French Archaeological School at Athens. It is situated by Hersonissos in Northern Crete and is one of the largest Middle and Late Bronze Age urban centres on Crete. It was first built around 1900 BC. It subsequently followed the same cycle as the other palaces of the time, and it was destroyed around 1650 before it was immediately rebuilt. The ruins at the site today reflect this second rebirth of the palace and the excavations reveal a place of significant economic and political activity which lasted until its final destruction by fire in 1450 BC. An extensive complex of settlements had developed around the palace itself.

With Prof. Driessen at Malia


The Sissi Archaeological Project (S.Ar.P.edon) is a collaboration of the French and Dutch speaking universities of Louvain/Leuven directed by Prof. Jan Driessen (UCLouvain) and operates under the auspices of the Belgian School of Athens. The archaeological site of Sissi lies just a few kilometres from Malia, and was occupied in the Middle Bronze, Late Bronze and Early Iron Age. Between 1450 and 1200 BC, Sissi was probably the most important regional centre.

With Prof. Driessen at Sissi


Dreros excavations are directed by the French Archaeological School at Athens. Dreros, near Neapoli in the regional unit of Lasithi, existed as an Iron Age settlement that later grew to become a classical city-state.

With Dr. Gaignerot at Dreros


Since 1996 the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) has been conducting fieldwork in the North Necropolis under the direction of Prof. Didier Viviers. Ithanos is a city-harbour located in Eastern Crete. The archaeological record shows that the site was occupied from the 10th century BC to the 6th century AD. Earlier excavations focused on the urban centre of the city. The recent campaigns in the North Necropolis brought to light a densely occupied cemetery dated to the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods (4th-1st c. BC), and early funerary activity dated to the Geometric – Orientalizing periods (8th and 7th c. BC).

With Prof. Viviers, Prof. Tsingarida, Prof. Driessen and Dr. Gaignerot at Ithanos


The excavation of the site is directed by Prof. Carl Knappett, Prof. Alexander MacGillivray, and Prof. Hugh Sackett under the patronage of the British School of Archaeology in Athens. The Bronze Age town is situated some kilometres north of the Minoan town and palace of Zakros at the edge of the eastern coast of Crete. The site was occupied from the Early Bronze Age until the end of the Late Bronze Age. The site ceased to be inhabited at the same time when Zakros was abandoned (1450 BC) but was reoccupied during the Late Minoan III period (1300-1200 BC).

With Prof. Knappett, Prof. Driessen and Dr. Cunningham at Palaikastro


Fieldwork is conducted by permission of the Greek Ministry of Culture under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Archaeological Service of Eastern Crete. The Azoria Project is directed by Prof. Donald Haggis of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The project is investigating an Early Iron Age and Archaic site to the southeast of Agios Nikolaios.

With Prof. Haggis, Prof. Driessen and Dr. Gaignerot at Azoria

The close resemblance between some cultural phenomena of the Aegean and the Levant makes a partnered research very beneficial. An attempt was made to synchronize certain assemblages of archaeological material in the Northern Levant and the Eastern Mediterranean, like the transitional Late Bronze - Early Iron Age evidence, with the ‘Sea Peoples’ coming from the Aegean to the Near East. For example, large amounts of hourglass-shaped loom weights - a type of weight generally interpreted as a cultural marker of the ‘Sea Peoples’ - were excavated in Sissi as well as in Tell Tweini.

A further challenging research topic focused on the Syro-Phoenician influence on the architecture and architectural decoration of the oldest Greek temple at Prinias (8th -7th c. BC) decorated with sculptures. Most recent finds (from miniature house and temple models in Syria and Palestine) allow new interpretations of the impact of Levantine cultures on the Prinias religious architectural decoration of the Archaic Period.

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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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