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German Research Foundation (DFG) project “Tell Sheikh Hassan”

Tell Sheikh Hassan was originally on the eastern bank of the Syrian Euphrates in the Raqqa district. It was one of these ancient sites that had been directly threatened by flooding since the Syrian government built a dam near Tabqa and the subsequent flooding of the Assad-lake in the early 1970s. International teams of archaeologists were therefore asked to carry out rescue-excavations. In this context, a declaration of division of the socalled small-finds was agreed as a thank for the commitment of the foreign colleagues.

Between 1984 and 1997 eleven excavation-campaigns were carried out with a Syrian-German team from the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums of Damascus and the University of Saarbrücken under the direction of Johannes Boese, in the greatest part financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. The revision and publication is now carried out as part of a DFG-project and is also supported financially by the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft.Tell Sheikh Hassan was originally on the eastern bank of the Syrian Euphrates in the Raqqa district. It was one of these ancient sites that had been directly threatened by flooding since the Syrian government built a dam near Tabqa and the subsequent flooding of the Assad-lake in the early 1970s. International teams of archaeologists were therefore asked to carry out rescue-excavations. In this context, a declaration of division of the socalled small-finds was agreed as a thank for the commitment of the foreign colleagues. Between 1984 and 1997 eleven excavation-campaigns were carried out with a Syrian-German team from the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums of Damascus and the University of Saarbrücken under the direction of Johannes Boese, in the greatest part financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. The revision and publication is now carried out as part of a DFG-project and is also supported financially by the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft.

There is a lot of evidence that Tell Sheikh Hassan was more than an ordinary settlement of the 4th millennium. The geographical location in connection with the strong fortification and also the found-inventory suggests a larger trading center. For the younger layers the discovery of a socalled Hilani (8th / 7th century BC ) with fragments of wall paintings, that find good comparasions in Tell Halaf, is a testimony to the western expansion of the Assyrian Empire. This part of artefacts that was transferred to Germany is stored in a depot in Berlin-Friedrichshagen today. Tell Sheikh Hassan is an important reference point to the Middle Uruk period (approx. 3600-3300 BC), so this collection is a link between the artefacts from Uruk and Habuba Kabira, which were also found in the collection of the Vorderasiatisches Museum. In addition to this point, it is invaluable for science and research not only to be able to work directly on the material, but also - given the current political situation in Syria - to be able to make a contribution to saving cultural property. The preparation of volume II (architecture and stratigraphy of the uruk-timed layers) is in the final phase, while volume III (ceramics and small finds of the uruk-timed layers) is already in preparation. The publication of the Iron Age city, the stratigraphy, ceramics and smallfinds, planned as Volume IV, is already in preparation, too.


Contact: Prof. Dr. B. Helwing (director of the Vorderasiatisches Museum), Dr. F. Bachmann (project management)
Cooperation partners:
For the current project (Volume II: Urukzeit: Architektur und Stratigraphie): no cooperation partner
Submitted for follow-up project (Volume III: Urukzeit: Fundobjekte aus Ton, Stein, Metall, Bitumen und Knochen; Flora und Fauna): Dr. Pamela Fragnoli (material analysis work group / Vienna): micro-sections of pottery samples; H. Göllner-Heibült (Kriminaltechnisches Institut, Berlin): dactyloscopic analyses; Dr. Emmanuelle Vilà (CNRS, Université de Lyon 2): fauna, isotope analyses; Dr. Kirsten Drüppel (KIT, Karlsruhe): scientific analyses of rock samples; Dr. Reinder Neef (DAI Berlin) archaeobotanical analyses
Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Duration: 15 January 2013 – 30 November 2020 (cost-neutral extension since November 2018), Project submitted: 36 months following approval