View site in Arabic

Babylonian Public Building at Tell Khaiber

6th February 2015

The first three months of 2015 are being devoted to excavating Tell Khaiber’s unusual public building. Its function is still a mystery, as its strange form, with regular rooms all the way round the outside, is unique at present. One clue comes from documents found inside: ledgers recording the distribution of large quantities of grain. These suggest the building was part of the administrative apparatus of the Babylonian empire. One bears a date from the reign of Hammurabi, King of Babylon (1792-50 BC), and the building seems to have continued in use after the dissolution of his kingdom a generation later.

Constructed of mud-brick, the walls of the building take time and patience to find, but with the help of satellite imaging and physical scraping of the surface, much of the plan is already taking shape. Meanwhile selected rooms are being carefully excavated to retrieve the contents. As well as collecting and recording the various artefacts left by the occupants – pottery vessels, stone and metal tools, occasional votive plaques as well as cuneiform tablets – deposits are examined at the micro level too. Small sections of soil are taken for micromorphology, samples are sieved for bone and plant fragments, and elemental readings are taking with a portable pXRF. The combined skills of many specialists and experienced archaeologists are gradually putting together a picture of life in a southern Iraqi town more than three and a half thousand years ago.