Neubauer Expedition to ZincirliBy William Harms
The Neubauer Family Foundation supports the Neubauer Expedition of the Oriental Institute at the University and aims to help scholars understand the cultural transitions of the eastern Mediterranean region in the Bronze and Iron ages.
These periods witnessed the rise and collapse of the Hittite Empire (1400-1200 B.C.), followed by a series of small, independent kingdoms eventually absorbed into the vast Assyrian Empire (800-600 B.C.).
Located near a critical pass of the Amanus mountain range, Zincirli was the capital of one of these small kingdoms. It served as a military and administrative center, as well as a trading site. At the center of the 100-acre walled city was a 20-acre royal citadel filled with palaces and official buildings.
The outer fortification wall, made of stone and mud brick with 100 towers jutting from it, formed a perfect circle around the site. During the 2006 field season, the Oriental Institute team dug a 150-foot-wide portion of the outer city wall to examine its basalt foundation. The 15-foot-wide wall would have been 40 to 50 feet tall with its original mud brick superstructure.
German archaeologists excavated Zincirli from 1888 to 1902 and uncovered large sculpted reliefs that lined the monumental gates of the city, as well as several royal inscriptions. The reliefs and inscriptions are exhibited in museums in Istanbul and Berlin. “Our initial work included making measurements to verify the records left by the Germans, who published extensive details of their excavation. We found that their work was quite good,” said Schloen.
But modern excavation techniques and advances in archaeology are permitting the Neubauer Expedition to approach the site in a new way to answer important questions about society, economy and culture.
“We know much more now about how to use pottery as a way of dating layers in the site and for tracing patterns of interaction across the region,” Schloen explained. “In addition, archaeologists have developed more precise digging methods to separate layers and remnants of ancient buildings.
“New scientific instruments, such as magnetic gradiometers and ground-penetrating radar, can penetrate the surface to examine building remains without excavating. These geophysical methods are especially important in the larger lower city that surrounded the citadel, which the Germans did not excavate. This area contains a wealth of Iron Age artifacts immediately below the surface, such as Kuttamuwa’s recently discovered stele.”