Madhur within Iraq
N 44°59'24 E (approximate)
period, Early Dynastic period, Islamic
Tell Madhur (also Madhhur) is a tell,
or archaeological settlement mound, in Diyala Governorate (Iraq). The
site was excavated due to it being flooded by the reservoir created
by the Hamrin Dam. Madhur is best known for its particularly well-preserved
Ubaid house. A significant Early Dynastic occupation, consisting of
a rounded building typical for the Hamrin region at the time, has also
been attested at Madhur.
The site and its environment
The tell measures 100 by 80 m and rises 2.5 m above the surrounding
plain. The archaeological depists extended some 4 m below the current
surface of the plain as well, indicating that considerable soil accumulation
must have taken place since Madhur was first settled.
History of research :
Tell Madhur was excavated at the end of the 1970s by the British Archaeological
Expedition to Iraq as part of the large, international salvage operation
to document archaeological sites that would be flooded by the reservoir
of the Hamrin Dam in the Diyala River, which was being constructed at
the time. Madhur is part of a large cluster of excavated Ubaid period
sites, including Tell Abada, Tell Rashid and Tell Saadiya. During their
work on Madhur, the British Archaeological Expedition also carried out
smaller excavations at two other Hamrin sites; Tell Rubeidheh and Tell
Haizalun. The excavations at Tell Madhur were directed by Nicholas Postgate,
T. Cuyler Young and Michael Roaf.
Occupation history :
In the oldest phase at Madhur, no architectural remains were found.
The Ubaid style pottery seems to have been very similar to that of level
2, the next occupation phase.
Level 2 represents the most significant
occupation phase at Tell Madhur. The single most important feature of
this level was an almost completely preserved house, described by Michael
Roaf as "one of the best-preserved prehistoric buildings ever to
have been found in Mesopotamia". The walls were preserved up to
2 m in height, built from rectangular mudbricks and supported by plastered
revetments. The upper parts of the walls had collapsed, but by counting
the number of fallen mudbrick rows, it could be measured that they were
originally some 3.5 m high. Inside the building were found pieces of
plaster with red paint, indicating that (some of) the walls were decorated.
The freestanding building was relatively small, measuring some 14 by
14 m, and had a tripartite layout: a central, cruciform hall was flanked
by smaller rooms, some of which could be closed off by doors, as indicated
by the presence of door sockets. The building was destroyed by fire
and everything in it was preserved in situ, meaning that all artefacts
were still in the locations in which they were left by the original
inhabitants of Madhur. The inventory included pottery vessels (both
painted, incised and undecorated), grindstones, flint and obsidian blades,
spindle whorls, animal figurines and many sling bullets. A large amount
of carbonized grain, probably 6-row hulled barley, was found in one
of the smaller rooms. This provided a radiocarbon date of 4470±80
cal BC. The house plan showed clear parallels in nearby sites such as
Tell Abada and Tell Rashid and sites further north such as Tepe Gawra,
Telul eth-Thalathat and even Degirmentepe in Turkey. The pottery likewise
had clear parallels with northern sites such as Nuzi and Tepe Gawra.
Based on the exquisite preservation of the artefacts, specific activity
areas could be pinpointed within the house; some of the smaller rooms
were used for storage and cooking, whereas one end of the central hall
was used for eating and probably receiving guests.
The settlement continued to be occupied
after level 2. These next phases also dated to the Ubaid period and
consisted of houses that were constantly being modified. The exact stratigraphy
of these later Ubaid phases were difficult to reconstruct due to later
activities at the site that severely damaged and eroded these late Ubaid
excavators found no evidence for occupation during the Uruk period,
but the site was re-occupied during the Early Dynastic period (ED).
During the ED I period, a large building with a thick curved wall with
rooms on the inside of the curve. The building was not completely preserved,
but if it had been a complete circle, its diameter would have been 30
m. This curved building, and the pottery found inside it, has clear
parallels in Early Dynastic round buildings excavated at Tell Gubba
and Tell Razuk, also in the Hamrin region. The pottery and architecture
seem to have set the Hamrin apart from the rest of Mesopotamia during
the Early Dynastic period, suggesting that it may represent some sort
of "cultural enclave". Several tombs from the Early Dynastic
I-III and one from the Akkadian period were found as well. The Akkadian
grave belonged to a young man, 17-20 years old, and contained pottery,
bronze tools and weapons, and carnelian and lapis lazuli jewellery as
grave goods, as well as two equid skeletons.
The youngest evidence consists of some
storage pits indicating occupation during the 13th and 14th centuries
AD, and the site was used as a cemetery by local villagers in recent