Coordinates: 36°48′55″N 41°57′21″E / 36.81528°N 41.95583°E / 36.81528; 41.95583
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hamoukar is located in Syria
Shown within Syria
RegionAl Hasakah Governorate
Coordinates36°48′55″N 41°57′21″E / 36.81528°N 41.95583°E / 36.81528; 41.95583
Area105 ha
Site notes
Excavation dates1999 to 2010
ArchaeologistsClemens D. Reichel, McGuire Gibson

Hamoukar (Arabic: حموكار) is a large archaeological site located in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria (Al Hasakah Governorate), near the Iraqi and Turkish borders. The early settlement dates back to the 5th millennium BCE, and it existed simultaneously with the Ubaid and the early Uruk cultures. It was a big centre of obsidian production. In the 3rd millennium, this was one of the largest cities of Northern Mesopotamia, and extended to 105 ha.


The origins of urban settlements has generally been attributed to the riverine societies of southern Mesopotamia (in what is now southern Iraq). This is the area of ancient Sumer, where around 4000 BC the Mesopotamian cities such of Ur and Uruk emerged.[1] In 2007, following the discoveries at Hamoukar, some archaeologists have argued that the Cradle of Civilization could have extended further up the Tigris River and included the part of northern Syria where Hamoukar is located.[2]

In the Late Chalcolithic 2 period (5th millennium BC) the site sustained a seasonal or dispersed occupation covering about 280 hectares.[3] As an urban center Tell Hamoulkar was first occupied in the early 4th millennium BC and experienced major growth in the middle of the 3rd millennium BC through the Uruk period. Occupation, at a lesser scale, continued through the Ninevite 5 period in the first half of the 2nd millennium and thereafter and the site was abandoned at the end of that millennium.[4]

Other contemporary early sites in this area are Chagar Bazar, Tell Arbid, and the multi-period site of Tell Brak.


The site has a 15 hectare high mound (peaking at 18 meters above the plain and first settled in the early 4th millennium BC) and a 5 meter high lower town on three side which was occupied beginning in the middle 3rd millennium BC and brought the site up to its maximum of 98 hectares. There are three named sub-mounds in the site, Tell al-Sara, Tell al-Duwaym, and Tell al-Tamr, with Tell Mas’ada lying just outside the site boundary. The southern extension of the mound is also known as Khirbet al-Fakhar. Arcaheology dates this area to the middle 5th millennium BC though radiocarbon dates point to the late 5th millennium BC.[5] About 40 hectares of the site is covered by the modern village of al-Hurriya including paved roads and mudbrick homes.[6][7]

The site was first examined and described by Van Liere and Lauffray in the 1950s noting a two stepped plateau with a ditch 100 meters from the foot of the mound. [8] A scaled plan, based on aerial photographs, was published in 1963 which estimated the mound area at 116 hectares and the area within the circular depression as 216 hectares. Due to this large size Van Liere proposed it as the location of Washshukanni.[9] Excavation by a joint Syrian-American expedition (by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities) was conducted beginning in 1999 and ending in 2010. Initial work in 1999 included an intensive surface survey based on 10 meter by 10 meter squares.[10] The excavation was initially led by McGuire Gibson and later by Clemens D. Reichel.[11][12][13][14][15] [16] [17] The site was abandoned at the end of the 3rd millennium BC.[18] During the 2001 excavations a 400 square meter trench opened in the residential area of the lower town found that it was prosperous and had been sacked and abandoned at that time.[19]

Thousands of clay sealings have been found on the site, indicating the existence of a complex bureaucratic system. These sealings were once used to protect doors or containers from tampering and were impressed with stamp seals. Artifacts from Hamoukar can be seen at the Oriental Institute.[20] Eye Idols made of alabaster or bone have been found in Tell Hamoukar. Similar Eye Idols from the same period have also been found in Tell Brak, the biggest settlement from Syria's Late Chalcolithic period.[21]


Obsidian fragments were found across a 280 hectare area with obsidian workshops located in a section of the lower town, indicating the existence of the obsidian production facilities of both weapons and tools. They were in use at least as early as several centuries before the destruction of the 3rd millennium BC city in c. 3500 BC.[22] The volcanic rock of this type does not occur in Hamoukar area, so it must have been imported. The nearest deposits are located in the area of Mount Nemrut (today's Turkey), about 170 km north of the city. This is confirmed by chemical analysis of the obsidian.[23]

The findings were a surprise for many archaeologists, since they indicate the existence of independent trading networks in the northern Mesopotamia outside of the influence of southern cities, such as Ur and Uruk.[24][25]

Earliest urban warfare[edit]

Excavation work undertaken in 2005 and 2006 showed that Hamoulkar was destroyed around 3500 BC. This may be the evidence of the earliest urban warfare attested so far in the archaeological record of the Near East. Slings and thousands of clay bullets have been found, indicating a siege, along with widespread signs of destruction. The force responsible for the destruction is uncertain though the city may have fallen victim to the Uruk expansion from the south as the next occupation layer is of the Uruk civilization.[26] Contained excavations in 2008 and 2010 tried to expand on that.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert McCormick Adams, Heartland of Cities: Surveys of Ancient Settlement and Land Use on the Central Floodplain of the Euphrates, Univ of Chicago Press, 1981, (complete text, 384 pages) ISBN 0-226-00544-5
  2. ^ John Oates et al., Early Mesopotamian urbanism: a new view from the north, Antiquity, vol. 81, no., pp. 585–600, 2007
  3. ^ Duarte, C., et al., "Tell Hamoukar (Syria), season 2006." Bioarchaeology of the Near East 3, pp. 51-53, 2009
  4. ^ Grossman, Kathryn Mary. Early Bronze Age Hamoukar: A Settlement Biography. The University of Chicago, 2013.
  5. ^ Hole. F., "A radiocarbon chronology for the Middle Khabur, Syria.", Iraq 63, pp.67-98, 2001
  6. ^ [1]Ballif, Maxence, "Early urbanism in Late Chalcolithic Northern Mesopotamia? Reassessing Tell Brak, Khirbet al-Fakhar and Tell Hamoukar ", University of Leiden, 2021
  7. ^ Salam Al Quntar et al., "Proto-Urbanism in the Late 5th Millennium BC: Survey and Excavations at Khirbat al-Fakhar (Hamoukar)", Paléorient 37(2), pp. 151-175, 2011
  8. ^ Van Liere, W. J., and J. Lauffray, "Nouvelle prospection archeologique dans la Haute Jezieh syrienne.", Les annales archeologiques de Syrie 4-5, pp. 129-148, 1954-55
  9. ^ Van Liere, W. J., "Capitals and Citadels of Bronze-Iron Age Syria and their Relationship to Land and Water.", Les annales archeologiques de Syrie 13, pp. 109-122, 1963
  10. ^ Jason A. Ur, "Surface Collection and Offsite Studies at Tell Hamoukar, 1999", Iraq, vol. 64, pp. 15–43, 2002
  11. ^ McGuire Gibson et al., First Season of Syrian-American Investigations at Hamoukar - Hasekeh Province, Iraq, vol. 64, pp. 45-68, 2002
  12. ^ [2] Clemens D. Reichel, Hamoukar, pp. 65-77 in Oriental Institute 2005-2006 Annual Report
  13. ^ [3] Clemens D. Reichel, Hamoukar, pp. 59-68 in Oriental Institute 2006-2007 Annual Report
  14. ^ [4] Clemens D. Reichel, Hamoukar, pp. 76-82 in Oriental Institute 2007-2008 Annual Report
  15. ^ [5] Clemens D. Reichel, Hamoukar, pp. 77-87 in Oriental Institute 2008-2009 Annual Report
  16. ^ [6] Clemens Reichel, Hamoukar, Oriental Institute 2010-2011 Annual Report, pp 51-59, 2011
  17. ^ [7] Clemens Reichel, Hamoukar, Oriental Institute 2011-2012 Annual Report, pp 69-76, 2012
  18. ^ Ur, Jason, et al., "Spatial scale and urban collapse at Tell Brak and Hamoukar at the end of the third millennium BC.", in Looking North: The Socioeconomic Dynamics of Northern Mesopotamian and Anatolian Regions During the Late Third and Early Second Millennium BC, pp. 25-35, 2012
  19. ^ [8]Colantoni, Carlo, and Jason A. Ur, "The architecture and pottery of a late third-millennium residential quarter at Tell Hamoukar, north-eastern Syria", Iraq 73, pp. 21-69, 2011
  20. ^ Artifacts from Hamoukar (2007) - uchicago.edu
  21. ^ [9]McGuire G., "Hamoukar - Early City in Northeastern Syria", [in:] The Oriental Institute News and Notes, nr 166, Chicago, pp. 1–8 18–19, Summer 2000
  22. ^ William Harms, "Evidence of battle at Hamoukar points to early urban development", The University of Chicago Chronicle, vol. 26, no. 8, Jan. 18, 2007
  23. ^ Khalidi, L., Gratuze, B. and Boucetta, S., Provenance of obsidian excavated from Late Chalcolithic levels at the sites of Tell Hamoukar and Tell Brak, Syria., Archaeometry, vol. 51.6, pp. 879-893, 2009
  24. ^ Ur, Jason A., "Cycles of Civilization in Northern Mesopotamia, 4400—2000 BC.", Journal of Archaeological Research, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 387–431, 2010
  25. ^ Der erste Krieg der Menschheit. (in German) Der Spiegel. 17. January 2007
  26. ^ "Archaeologists Unearth a War Zone 5,500 Years Old"
  27. ^ [10], Clemens D. Reichel, Excavations at Hamoukar Syria, in Oriental Institute Fall 2011 News and Notes, no. 211, pp. 1-9, 2011

Further reading[edit]

  • [11]Baldi, Johnny Samuele, and Khaled Abu Jayyab, "A comparison of the ceramic assemblages from Tell Feres al-Sharqi and Hamoukar", Publications de l'Institut Français d'Études Anatoliennes 27.1, pp. 163-180, 2012
  • Reichel, Clemens., "Administrative complexity in Syria during the 4th millennium BC: The seals and sealings from Tell Hamoukar.", Akkadica 123.1, pp. 35-56, 2002
  • M. Gibson, et al., Hamoukar: A summary of Three Seasons of Excavation, Akkadica, vol. 123 (fasc. 1), pp. 11–34, 2002
  • [12] Jason A. Ur, Tell Hamoukar, Volume 1. Urbanism and Cultural Landscapes in Northeastern Syria: The Tell Hamoukar Survey, 1999–2001., Oriental Institute Publication 137, Oriental Institute, 2011, ISBN 978-1-885923-73-8 (Associated Maps 1 [13] 2 [14] 3 [15])
  • T. J. Wilkinson, Physical and cultural landscapes of the Hamoukar area, (Syria), Akkadica, vol. 123 (fasc. 1), pp. 89–105, 2002

External links[edit]