Friday, December 16, 2005

Tell Hamoukar: An Early Battle Site

Here's an article from the New York Times on a site that not only contains evidence of a large early battle (about 3500 BCE) but demonstrates that there was significant, independent development of Northern Mesopotamia before the South came to dominate, in later, better documented times. The map shows the location of the Hamoukar: it's the large dot in northeast Syria, right on the Iraqi border.

The picture shows clay balls shot by slingers in that same early battle. The battle seems to have been between the local people and invaders from the "Uruk" culture of the South, who were victorious and moved in. has more on the importance of this site to our knowledge of early city development.

What I find remarkable is that this seems to be evidence of far-ranging military campaigns well before writing and well before the Bronze Age. This is 800 years before the historical Gilgamesh.

Update: The LA Times version.


  1. I saw that same news story and was very excited. It's a good challenge to the presumption that the Uruk civilization spread by peaceful trade even if we can't exactly determine who were the attackers, it's pretty clear that it was Uruk who immediately benefited from this conquest.

  2. I always say quite a bit about Catal Huyuk, which is also nearer the "Upper Sea" (Med.) than the "Lower Sea" (Gulf), and it was a town long before any we know in Sumeria. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that places like Hamoukar existed at the end of the Neolithic; it's just that I hadn't picked up on this dig and what it showed.

    Me, I think that places like Catal Huyuk were cities even without big temples or palaces. They were just lucky things like that hadn't been invented yet.

  3. Oh, Çatal Huyuk is great -- I also start with that (and Neolithic Jericho) when I teach the ANE. I especially like to upset the applecarts of all the people who've bought the whole "everybody was a peace-loving subject of matriarchy until those evil men showed up" line. . . .