An excavation project on the Syrian-Iraqi border has uncovered an ancient settlement wiped out by invaders 5,500 years ago. Discovered in northeastern Syria, the ruined city of Hamoukar appears to have been a large city by 4,500 B.C., said archaeologists Clemens Reichel and Salam al-Quntar, who co-directed Syrian-American excavations on the site. Reichel, a research associate at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, and al-Quntar, of the Syrian Department of Antiquities, jointly announced their discoveries on Thursday. They said Hamoukar was a flourishing urban center at a time when cities were thought to be relegated hundreds of miles to the south. The site is in the upper edges of the Tigris and Euphrates Valleys, near the Iraq border. Reichel said it may have been settled as long as 8,000 years ago. Scholars had long believed that urbanized societies started and were isolated in Uruk, in southern Mesopotamia. But excavations that started in 1999 at Hamoukar and at other sites in central Syria led to new ideas about the how urban culture spread in the region. Ancient Mesopotamia was a region that includes Iraq and parts of Syria. This year, the Syrian-American excavations discovered evidence of the battle that toppled and burned Hamoukar's walls and ended the city's independence. Researchers found that invaders likely hurled more than 1,200 sling-fired bullets at Hamoukar and more than 100 heavy, 4-inch clay balls. ''The whole area of our most recent excavation was a war zone,'' Reichel said. The ruins have preserved not only local pottery and artifacts, but also vast amounts of Uruk pottery. ''The picture is compelling,'' Reichel said. ''If the Uruk people weren't the ones firing the sling bullets, they certainly benefited from it. They took over this place right after its destruction.'' Reichel said if Hamoukar's residents were taken by surprise it will give researchers plenty to study because their possessions likely were buried with them under the debris.
Archaeologists Unearth a War Zone 5,500 Years Old
Additional Source: http://oi.uchicago.edu/OI/PROJ/HAM/NN_Sum00/NN_Sum00.html
The painting will be moved to Aleppo's museum next year, Coqueugniot said. Its red came from burnt hematite rock, crushed limestone formed the white and charcoal provided the black. The world's oldest painting on a constructed wall was one found in Turkey but that was dated 1,500 years after the one at Djade al-Mughara, according to Science magazine. The inhabitants of Djade al-Mughara lived off hunting and wild plants. They resembled modern day humans in looks but were not farmers or domesticated, Coqueugniot said. "There was a purpose in having the painting in what looked like a communal house, but we don't know it. The village was later abandoned and the house stuffed with mud," he said.
A large number of flints and weapons have been found at the site as well as human skeletons buried under houses. "This site is one of several Neolithic villages in modern day Syria and southern Turkey. They seem to have communicated with each other and had peaceful exchanges," Coqueugniot said. Mustafa Ali, a leading Syrian artist, said similar geometric design to that in the Djade al-Mughara painting found its way into art throughout the Levant and Persia, and can even be seen in carpets and kilims (rugs). "We must not lose sight that the painting is archaeological, but in a way it's also modern," he said. France is an important contributor to excavation efforts in Syria, where 120 teams are at work. Syria was at the crossroads of the ancient world and has thousands of mostly unexcavated archaeological sites. Swiss-German artist Paul Klee had links with the Bauhaus school and was important in the German modernist movement.