Important finds at Tell Sabi Abyad

excavations Tell Sabi Abyadexcavations Tell Sabi Abyad
excavations Tell Sabi Abyadexcavations Tell Sabi Abyad
excavations Tell Sabi Abyadexcavations Tell Sabi Abyad

1988 A prehistoric village

The settlement dates from about 5900 B.C. The village and the finds provide insight into the origin of organised societies in prehistoric Syria.

1991 The ‘Burned Village'

About 6000 B.C., this village was destroyed in a blaze. Among the exceptionally well-preserved remains were finds of pottery, tools, jewellery and a huge number of stamp-seal imprints in clay.

1992-1995 The Assyrian fortress

About 1200 B.C., the fortress and neighbouring settlements were built on top of the mound by the Assyrians. It was one of the crucial fortifications along the western border of their empire. So far, it has been the only fortress from this era that could be excavated almost complete.

1997 A private archive

In 1997, the team of researchers found parts of grand vizier Assur-iddin's private archive, dating from about 1200 B.C. The texts on the clay tablets prove that the officials of that time took bribes on a regular basis.

1998 Another archive and a gold treasure

Tammite was a steward and the right-hand man of grand vizier Ili-pada, Assur-iddin's son. His archive consists of 130 clay tablets with 3200-year-old inscriptions in cuneiform. The inscriptions prove that an extensive civil service ruled a large area from the fortress. Another spectacular find was an urn holding the remains of a cremated body and a gold treasure in a grave, consisting of rings, pendants, beads, jewellery encrusted with precious stones, and golden, bronze and iron objects.

1999-2001 Registering the finds

The excavations in the fortress and prehistoric villages were continued, but in this period, the emphasis was primarily on research and registration of the many finds from the previous years.

2002-2003 Jewellery, a cylinder seal and earthenware pots

Once again, the team found clay tablets in the Assyrian fortress, although these 36 specimens were less well-preserved. An extraordinary find was the imprint of a cylinder seal, showing a picture of the demon Pabilsag, a precursor of the Sagittarius sign of the zodiac. In one of the graves, jewellery and more than 1,200 beads of gold and precious stones were found.

2004 Syria's oldest earthenware

Dozens of complete pots, jugs and jars dating from the period 6800-6300 BC were found. This is the oldest earthenware pottery ever found in Syria, and possibly even the oldest in the entire Near East. The reddish-brown hand-made pottery is rough and simple in shape. The team also concluded that around 6300 BC the prehistoric inhabitants of the hill left their village for a while, a move that could have been connected with the major world-wide climate change that occurred around that time. Finally, 37 clay tablets with cuneiform texts inscribed, dating from around 1200 BC, came to the surface from the remains of the Assyrian fortress.

2005 Yet the oldest pottery from Syria

This year the research team found pottery that was older still! The usually polished, sometimes even painted pottery is truly unique: it has never been found at any other site in the Near East thus far. The pottery comes from a prehistoric village nearly 9000 years old with rare preserved houses, platforms, ovens and hearths.
During excavations of the Assyrian fort, a number of clay tablets were again discovered with cuneiform writing from the Assyrian era. The over 3200-year-old texts stem from the administration of grand vizier Ili-pada, the boss of the fort.

2006  No excavation

2007 Search for changes to climate and society

Attention this year was devoted mainly to the prehistoric layers of civilisation on Tell Sabi Abyad. Fieldwork is part of a new research project on the relationship between changes in the climate and in society - sponsored by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. The excavation yields crucial data on 1001 changes that occurred in society circa 6200 B.C. The elaboration on the research is fully underway. The research team stumbled upon a historic graveyard: over forty graves of children and adults, dating to circa 6100-6000 B.C.

2008 Unique graveyard nine millennia old

The research into the prehistoric graveyard at the top of Tell Sabi Abyad produced a spectacular find this year: a graveyard with dozens of graves from the seventh millennium B.C. A graveyard from that time has never before been found in the Near East. The burial customs are very diverse and there are indications for epidemic occurrence of diseases such as tuberculosis and meningitis. Researchers from the Amsterdam Medical Centre are called in.

2009 Even more graves

Again, the prehistoric graveyard from circa 6100 B.C was the key goal of the 2009 excavation campaign. The researchers exposed dozens of graves of men, women and children. The graves attest to a great diversity in how they dealt with their dead. Many graves contain gifts for the dead, in the form of earthenware pots or jewellery. The artefacts of the prehistoric village next to the graveyard were also researched thoroughly. Architecture that was magnificently preserved emerged, rising around a central interior plaza - the village square! Dozens of stone bowls and plates were found in one of the houses - all complete and beautifully finished.