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Home > Research > Projects > The Zincirli Expedition

Turkey: the Zincirli Expedition

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago is starting a new long-term excavation project at the site of Zincirli (ancient Sam'al) in southeast Turkey. The excavations will be directed on behalf of the Oriental Institute by Dr. David Schloen. The first season of fieldwork will take place in August-September 2006.

The Zincirli project is the most recent expression of an eighty-year-long tradition of archaeological research cooperation between the Oriental Institute and the government of Turkey.

Zincirli is a 40-hectare Bronze and Iron Age urban center located immediately to the east of the Amanus mountain range in Gaziantep province of southeast Turkey. Early excavations were conducted at the site by the German Oriental Society from 1888 to 1902. There have been no archaeological excavations at Zincirli for more than a century.

Ceramics found by the early excavators reveal a long sequence of occupation in the Bronze Age. After the collapse of the Hittite Empire, Zincirli flourished as the center of an Iron Age city-state ruled by Luwian and Aramaean kings. It was later incorporated into the Assyrian Empire and ultimately destroyed and abandoned in the seventh century B.C.

Zincirli is notable for its enormous double fortification wall with three gates and 100 bastions enclosing the as-yet-unexcavated lower town. The German excavations on the citadel recovered large numbers of relief-carved orthostats, along with inscriptions in Aramaic, Phoenician, Luwian, and Akkadian. These are on exhibit in Berlin and Istanbul.

The new Oriental Institute excavations at Zincirli will allow us to investigate key research problems such as: a) the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition, b) the ethno-linguistic dynamics of Neo-Hittite city-states in this border region between Anatolia and Syria, and c) Assyrian imperial administration. The ease of access to seventh-century B.C. deposits immediately beneath the surface due to the circumstances of the site's destruction and abandonment provides a rare opportunity to make broad horizontal exposures of an Iron Age urban center.

The data generated by the planned long-term excavations at Zincirli can make significant contributions to our understanding of the social, political, and economic organization of this pivotal region in the Bronze and Iron Ages.

The Oriental Institute now sponsors two major excavations in Turkey: the Zincirli Expedition and the Joint METU- (Middle East Technical University)-Chicago excavations at Kerkenes Dag.

Annual Reports

Revised: May 29, 2009

Home > Research > Projects > The Zincirli Expedition