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Reading Rubbish

Using object assemblages to reconstruct activities, modes of deposition and abandonment at the Late Bronze Age dunnu of Tell Sabi Abyad, Syria.

Victor Klinkenberg
12 December 2016
The publication in Open Access

Around the year 1230 BC Assyrian forces conquered the area of modern North Syria. To consolidate power in the region and to make use of the agricultural potential of the region, numerous agricultural settlements were founded, so called dunnu’s. One such a settlement, was found and excavated at Tell Sabi Abyad, Syria. The settlement was relatively large and appears to have been heavily fortified.

In this research the settlement was investigated to reveal what activities were played out inside. This was achieved by analysing the objects which were left behind inside the various rooms and courtyards at the site. Also the way in which these objects were deposited was subject to rigorous investigation: were the objects for instance dumped as garbage or were they left behind during rapid abandonment following some catastrophe?

The research resulted in a re-evaluation of the nature and use of the Tell Sabi Abyad dunnu. It has been revealed that the settlement was used largely for domestic, household activities and that it was slowly abandoned. This interpretation is in contrast with the historical view of this type of settlement. Historical sources have yielded an image of military forts which served to produce agricultural surplus for the empire and to oppress the local population. This research has aided in altering the understanding of how the Assyrian Empire consolidated its power in newly conquered areas. It illustrates how an occupying power cannot achieve hegemony with military might alone. Instead, it requires positive stimuli too.

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