salat camii








Excavation of the site


Following a surface survey conducted in 2003 (Miyake 2005), excavations started in 2004. At the beginning four 5 x 5 m square trenches were dug on the south-western slope facing the Salat River and later the excavated area was expanded to nine trenches (Fig. 1).

Within a total depth of 4.5 m deposit, 12 layers were identified and divided into Phase 1 (earliest), Phase 2, and Phase 3 (latest), based on preliminary analysis of pottery. Although 12 radiocarbon dates from different Phases show a range between 6500 and 6200 cal. BC, the ceramics recovered in Phase 1 demonstrate the characteristics of the earliest type of pottery in the Pottery Neolithic of North Mesopotamia and the North Levant while those in Phase 3 can be identified as Proto-Hassuna type. The virgin soil was reached in all trenches but no evidence of Pre-Pottery Neolithic occupation was found. Several pits from the Iron Age and Islamic Period dug from the surface layer were recovered.


Distinguishing architectural features are pisé buildings, solid oval hearths, subterranean fire pits, pits and surfaces of paved stones. Several child burials were also recovered within the pisé buildings. There is no marked break in the construction practices of these features between Phases 1 and 2 except for the extent of the surfaces paved with cobbles, which were only recovered in Phase 1 (Fig.2). Usually, oval hearths and fire pits are located in an open area around pisé buildings.

Fig.3: Structure 132.

Fig.4: Structure 38.
Fig.5: Structure 34.

Fig.6: Sherds found within
a room of Structure 166.

The pisé buildings were built without stone foundations and often divided into small rooms by partition walls. Within one of these buildings (Structure 132) lime-plaster fragments painted in red parallel lines were found (Fig. 3). They are probably the fragments of mural paintings fallen of the wall.

Interestingly, the rooms of many buildings were deliberately buried at some point and new buildings were rebuilt on top of them (Figs 4 and 5). Sometimes new ones were built in exactly the same place with the same plan and this practice was repeated several times, consequently forming a high platform-like structure upon which a pisé building lies. Few artifacts were found within these buildings, except for a complete bone spatula, a stone axe and dozens of sherds from the same deep bowl (Fig.6), all of which were probably deliberately placed in a room of Structure 166 when the building was being buried. The earth filling the building is similar to that used for their walls while thick lenses of grey and black ash usually accumulated outside the building.

Among these pisé buildings the best preserved is Structure 166 recovered in Phase 1 (Fig.7). It has seven rooms with a L-shaped room in the middle. Of note are the seven baby/child burials found within these rooms (Fig.8). Although the floor of the building was not identified, all these skeletons were recovered at the almost same level and it seems likely that the dead were placed on the floor rather than in a pit under the floor (Fig.9). No burial goods were recovered. Anthropological study indicates that one of the skulls shows the sign of cranial modification (Fig.10). Baby/child burials were also found within two other pisé buildings. In contrast, no adult burials were found.

Fig.7: Structure 166.

Fig.8: Burials within Strucure 166.

Fig.9: Burial within Structure 166.


Usually oval hearths were found beside these pisé buildings. The construction technique of these hearths is quite standardized. Most hearths are about 2m long and 1.5m wide (Fig. 11). Their floors, which are surrounded by low clay walls with a void at one end, are coated with mud plaster hardened by heat. The absence of upper structure or remnants of it suggests that they were originally at most 10-20cm high and have an open top. Most hearths have stone pavements beneath the floors, probably for thermal retention (Fig. 12). It is interesting that many hearths were rebuilt several times, in one case seven times, on the top of the old one (Fig. 13) as the nearby pisé buildings were also continuously rebuilt. The recurrent features of a pair of an oval hearth and a pisé building, possibly constituting a basic household unit, demonstrate a rigid spatial organisation within the settlement.  

Fig.11: Structure 22

Fig.12: Structure 22

Fig.13: Structure 22

Fig.14: Structure 144.

Fig.15: Structure 225.

In the open space between the pisé buildings more than 100 fire pits or pit-hearths were recovered (Figs 14 and 15). These fire pits usually have an elongated oval shape with various dimensions, ranging from 35 to 140 cm in longer axis. The inside wall of the pits are intensively burnt and are yellow or dark brown. In many cases burnt cobbles were found inside the fire pits, suggesting that they were used as roasting pits. The pits were filled with ash and charcoal, which are probably derived from wood used as fuel. Botanical remains recovered from flotation of the fill of these pits indicate that riverine wood, such as ash tree, poplar and willow, were mainly exploited as fuel. It is likely that these fire pits, often cutting an old one and being cut by a new one, were frequently built, particularly in some areas, as cooking activities were repeatedly practiced.

Fig.16: Structure 31.

In Phase 1 of Square 1D and 1E, four layers of a cobbled pavement were discovered (Fig. 16). The lowest part of the pavement lies on virgin soil or covers the shallow amorphous depressions dug into the virgin soil and filled with cultural deposit. The pavement includes a range of worked flint and animal bones. It is likely that this and three other pavements were repeatedly built to level the slope as an open terrace.

The cultural layers of Phase 3 were only uncovered in Square 1Y, which was set on the currently highest point of the site. Due to the serious destruction of this part of the site, it seems likely that most part of the deposits in Phase 3 is not preserved and no architectural features were recovered.


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