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The Uruk Expansion: Cross Cultural Exchange in Early Mesopotamian Civilization
Guillermo Algaze in Current Anthropology Volume 30:5:1989 (571-608)

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ProofRead and Updated May 29th 2019

Remarkable as the scale of the Uruk clusters on the Upper Euphrates may appear it is by no means exceptional. Another Uruk enclave has been identified at Tell Brak, a large multi-period mound on the Jaghjagh River not far from the modern town of Hassaka. The remains uncovered by British excavations at the site more than 50 years ago leave little doubt as to a southern Mesopotamian presence here although the site had been an important regional center prior to the Uruk intrusion. The so-called Eye Temple with its tripartite plan, buttressed exterior facade and bent-axis approach is of unmistakable southern derivation in spite of its unique eastern wing (Mallowan 1947: Plate 57). Also southern in style are the associated objects, particularly the striking frieze of gold -- silver and semiprecious stones found over the podium; the wall cones -- rosettes and related wall decoration; many of the amulets and some of the glyptics (Mallowan 1947). Also recovered at the site -- albeit not in situ -- were further examples of typical seals and sealings, a numerical notation tablet and a full repertoire of characteristic Uruk pottery (Joan Oates 1985). The size of the Uruk settlement at Brak has been clarified by new investigations which show the presence of Uruk levels over the whole of the site's 40-odd hectares (David Oates 1982:14). Moreover Brak is surrounded by a ring of smaller settlements in which Uruk materials have also been identified. These may represent either an extensive lower city or a number of satellites. In either case the Uruk enclave at Brak must have been significantly larger than the site itself. And again the enclave was not isolated; Uruk pottery was found in at least 11 sites in its vicinity along the Lower Jaghjagh (Fielden 1981:263).

Tell Brak is well situated to control overland north-south traffic from the Euphrates alongside the Khabur. Of equal importance however, it lies at the juncture of the Jaghjagh and an important classical route that crosses the Euphrates at either Zeugma or Carchemish and cuts across Ras al-Ayn before heading towards the Tigris via the Jebel Sinjar [Mountains] ...

Although some [sites] such as Brak and Nineveh could have and most probably did tap into the considerable agricultural potential of their surroundings, the scattered distribution of the enclaves as a whole is an indication that neither the control of broad expanses of territory nor the efficient large-scale exploitation of local agricultural resources was a primary consideration.

The Akkadian-period evidence from the periphery includes the massive Naram-Sin "palace" at Tell Brak ... The ceramics and other small finds from Akkadian levels at Tell Brak itself have very few parallels in southern Mesopotamia: the pottery from the levels contemporary with the Naram-Sin palace retrieved in the recent excavations by David and Joan Oates is almost completely of local origin and varies only slightly from the assemblage of the preceding "Late Early Dynastic III" phase (Joan Oates 1982). We need to ask therefore why the Uruk case differed from succeeding expansions and what this difference signifies.

Also I feel it is too soon to pronounce Brak or Nineveh to have been southern enclaves or colonies along the lines of Habuba Kabira; Brak has yielded a good deal of local Uruk material culture as well as southern ...

Excavations at Brak and Chagar Bazar by Mallowan in Iraq (1947)

Tell Brak: Uruk Pottery from the 1984 Season by Joan Oates in Iraq (1985)

Recent excavations in northern Mesopotamia: Tell el Rimah and Tell Brak in the Bulletin of the Society for Mesopotamian Studies by Oates [D] 1982:144:7-23

The chronology of settlement in northeastern Syria during the fourth and third millennia B.C. in the light of ceramic evidence from Tell Brak by K. J. Fielden --- PhD dissertation at Oxford University (1981)

Return to the Tell Brak Page ...

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