Tell Chuera: Vorberichte zu den Grabungskampagnen 1998 bis 2005. By JAN-WAALKE MEYER. Vorderasiatische Forschungen der Max Freiherr von Oppenheim-Stiftung. vol. 2.II. Wiesbaden: HARRASSOWITZ VERLAG. 2010. Pp. 320. illus., fold-out plates. [euro] 54.
Ongoing for over fifty years, the excavations at Tell Chuera (ancient Abarsat?) in northeastern Syria have been of particular interest because of underlying existential questions. One is the problem of how such an immense settlement (now estimated at 80 hectares) could flourish in a region that is currently quite sere, with average annual rainfall of 200 mm or less. And why would people attempt to establish an urban-sized community in such an agriculturally challenged region? Another important question is why the sizeable third-millennium sites in the dry steppe between the Balikh and Khabur. of which Chuera is the largest. typically take the form ot a "Kranzhugel" consisting of two concentric rings of fortifications.
These and other issues underlie the work presented in the book under review, which furnishes a set of preliminary reports on the 1998 to 2005 held seasons at Chuera directed by Jan-Waalke Meyer. In those seasons, particular attention was devoted to studying the character and chronology of the urban layout and spatial organization of the site through excavation and geophysical survey. The results of this effort form the primary focus of the volume.
After a historical introduction by Meyer. Ralph Hempelmann contributes a detailed report on the excavations in Area K on the southern edge of the upper, inner tell, near the "Kleiner Antentempel." The excavations were located adjacent to the enclosure wall of the upper city in order to determine when that wall was built, which would in turn elucidate the period when the Kranzhugel was planned and constructed. Although the excavators documented a long sequence of domestic architecture without significant breaks extending down to the early third millennium, they failed to reach the bottom of the upper city wall. Given these data, Hempelmann concludes that the upper city enclosure wall, and by extension the upper city itself, were constructed very early in the third millennium, perhaps ca. 2900 B.C.
Noting the graves--otherwise rare at Chuera--associated with the domestic architecture, Hempelmann makes the bold proposal that these were burials of venerated ancestors in "Main Houses" employed for such a purpose, with the Kleiner Antentempel...