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The Rouj Basin, the north-east branch of the Gab Basin, is located in north-west Syria about 10km west of the modern city of Idlib and about 70 km south-west of Aleppo (map). It is typical "Graben" surrounded by limestone mountains. The basin was first surveyed archaeologically by French team (Courtois 1973), who were concerning was mainly on Bronze Age sites.

In 1990 University of Tsukuba started archaeological research in the Rouj basin under the direction of Takuya IWASAKI, employing a more holistic approach. The purpose of our research was to discover and present archaeological data, which can help us to understand the transition from farming village to city. The basin was selected as the study area for following reasons. First of all, recent archaeological investigations in northern Syria have made this area important for studies of the origins of farming settlements and cities. Secondly, preliminary research we conducted in 1988 revealed numerous Neolithic and Bronze Age tells, which indicate that the Rouj basin was one of the most densely populated regions during the ancient time. Thirdly, as the basin is surrounded by mountain, it is an enclosed geographical unit and thus suitable for regional studies. Finally, the Ancient Orient Museum in Tokyo had been sending archaeological mission to Tell Mastuma near Idlib since 1980, providing valuable information on this region.

During 1990 to 1992, while general archaeological survey and natural environment research were operated in a whole area of the basin, sounding excavations were also conducted at three sites: Tell Aray, Tell Abd el-Aziz and Tell el-Kerkh. The result provides a detailed cultural sequence of the basin from the Neolithic to Early Bronze Age, which allow us to establish the framework of El-Rouj Chronology.

Since 1997 further investigations have been conducted at Tell el-Kerkh by Syro-Japanese team directed by Akira TSUNEKI, University of Tsukuba and Jamal HYDAR, DGAM Syria. The preliminary results of these excavations are introduced on these pages.

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Last edited 25th of December 2000