Arabic word describing the mound formed by accumulated débris of successive mudbrick settlements. When a mudbrick structure falls into disrepair, the fabric of the walls soon disintegrates and the bricks are not worth salvaging. Instead, the walls are levelled and a new building erected on top. This slow process of decay and reconstruction builds up multiple layers of habitation which are detectable by archaeological soundings. Wholesale destruction in raids or wars afflicts large sectors of a settlement and thereby gives the excavators a change to investigate buildings that are contemporary. A mature tell is composed of many occupational layers of various thicknesses and the lowest is usually the earliest stratum. But when the surface of a mound’s summit became too small, the foot of the mound might have been inhabited as well, perhaps building up a new tell alongside the older one. At any rate, evidence of pottery and written texts, if available, is needed to establish a valid stratigraphic sequence of habitation.
Mesopotamia, see map xviii. Chalcolithic settlement of the Ubaid period (5th millennium BC). The houses of the earlier level III had several rooms surrounding rectangular courtyards. At level II, T-shaped (cruciform) courtyards (or halls) became characteristic, and there is evidence for industrial installations (domed kilns for firing pottery). One large building (temple?) had three T-shaped courts/halls and buttresses on the outside, another with a similar internal organisation—entrance to a small square room leading to courtyard/hall and other rooms—lacked buttresses. These buildings remained fundamentally unchanged to level I. The tripartite plan and the T-shaped spaces are the earliest examples of an architectural tradition which culminated in buildings of the Eanna precinct at URUK.
Mesopotamia, see map p. xviii. The best-known building on this site is a large sanctuary, the Shara temple, dating from the Early Dynastic (or Pre-Sargonic) period (c. 2700-2400 BC). It was surrounded by an almost square, severalmetre-thick enclosure wall with external buttresses. The entrance was a monumental gateway flanked by projecting towers. The interior space was divided into a number of clearly defined units grouped around a courtyard, comprising two major and some minor shrines, residences for the priesthood, store rooms and magazines etc. The central shrine (19m×5.5m) was on a BENT-AXIS between an ante-chamber and a side room, with two doorways at the far end of the long walls, on opposite sides. A double row of altars(?) was set across the centre of the room, with a screen wall behind. The
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Publication information: Book title: A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Architecture. Contributors: Gwendolyn Leick - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1988. Page number: 199.
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