UCLA Honors Professor for Archeological Discoveries in Syria

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UCLA Honors Professor for Archeological Discoveries in Syria

Each year since 1925, the University of California at Los Angeles has presented its most distinguished scholars to the public through its faculty research lecture. On April 27, Prof. Giorgio Buccellati received this distinction for his research techniques and discovery of the legendary Hurrian city of Urkesh in Syria.

While lecturers in this series have been Nobel Peace Prize winners in biochemistry, nuclear physics or medicine, UCLA's Institute of Archeology took special pride in the selection of Dr. Buccellati, who was founding director of the institute, which he headed from 1973 to 1983.

Dr. Buccellati's world renown as a specialist in the Akkadian language and his innovative use of computers in the field of archeology were factors in his selection. We recall, firsthand, the amazement of Syrian customs inspectors in 1976 and 1977 when he brought large unwieldy computers for his early research at Terqa. The electronic equipment was a first in Syrian archeology and saved countless hours of statistical research when the electricity was working.

The identification of Tell Mozan as Urkesh, which he made with his archeologist wife, Dr. Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati, is regarded as a significant milestone in the field of archaeology.

In discussing the more than a quarter-century he has excavated in Syria, Dr. Buccellati praised the hospitality of the Syrian government and people, who are proud of their long continuous history and are willing to share it with the rest of the world.

For more than a century, scholars of the Middle East were aware of the Hurrian myth that centered around Kumarbi, the father of the gods, who resided at Urkesh, but archeologists had been unable to locate any tell (an artificial mound marking the rains of ancient continuously occupied settlements), that could be identified as the legendary capital.

The noted British archeologist Max Mallowan had dug test trenches at Tell Mozan in northern Syria in the 1930s, but dismissed it as a Roman site. In 1984, when the Buccellatis investigated pottery shards at the enormous mound, they realized the fragments belonged to the 3rd millennium BC.

They began excavations.

A decade later, in 1994, they recovered a seal impression, which Dr. …