The Amuq—the classical “plain of Antioch”—is a broad, fertile valley situated near the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea. Through it flows the lower Orontes River, whose floodwaters have deposited a thick layer of alluvium. The Amuq is part of the Hatay province of the Republic of Turkey. It is bordered on the south and east by the Syrian Arab Republic.
The Amuq is perhaps best known historically as the hinterland to the east of the classical metropolis of Antioch on the Orontes (modern Antakya), which was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire; however, the valley has been densely occupied since at least 6000 B.C. The large concentration of ancient sites from all periods since the Neolithic makes it an attractive region for archaeological investigation. In the 1930s, archaeological surveys and excavations were carried out by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and by the British archaeologist Leonard Woolley. The Oriental Institute returned to the Amuq in 1995, initiating new archaeological projects in the valley. These projects consisted of the Amuq Survey, an exploration of ancient landscape features and settlement patterns throughout the entire valley, and excavations at the site of Alalakh (modern Tell Atchana) carried out by the Oriental Institute in 2003 and 2004.
From 1932 to 1938, Robert Braidwood conducted an archaeological survey of the Amuq on behalf of the Oriental Institute, pioneering many survey techniques still in use today. Braidwood and his team discovered 178 ancient settlements. Eight of these sites, spanning many different periods, were excavated, including Chatal Hoyuk, Tell Dhahab, Tell ‘Imar al-Sharqi, Tell Judaidah, Tell Kurdu, and Tell Ta’yinat. The pottery and other artifacts excavated at these sites provide one of the longest and most reliable chronological sequences of stratified cultural material in the entire Near East. Archaeologists still use Braidwood’s Amuq sequence as a means of dating sites elsewhere in the Levant.
Unfortunately, the Second World War forced the Oriental Institute to interrupt its work in the Amuq in the years after 1938. But the Amuq Survey was resumed in 1995 under the leadership of Tony Wilkinson (research associate professor of landscape archaeology), who worked in collaboration with the project director, Aslihan Yener (associate professor of Anatolian archaeology). In addition to locating settlement sites and determining their periods of occupation, a task now facilitated by the use of declassified “spy satellite” photographs, the Amuq Survey project included geomorphological and geoarchaeological investigations to reconstruct the ancient physical environment and the human impact upon it.
In 2005, the Oriental Institute suspended its fieldwork in the Amuq, but work continues on the final publication of the results of its research in this important region.