A tell or tel, from Arabic: تَل, tall, Hebrew: תֵּל, is a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and sloping sides. The term is mainly used of sites in the Middle East, where it often forms part of the local place name.
A tell is an artificial hill created by many generations of people living and rebuilding on the same spot. Over time, the level rises, forming a mound. The single biggest contributor to the mass of a tell are mud bricks, which disintegrate rapidly. Excavating a tell can reveal buried structures such as government or military buildings, religious shrines and homes, located at different depths depending on their date of use. They often overlap horizontally, vertically, or both. Archaeologists excavate tell sites to interpret architecture, purpose, and date of occupation.
Because excavating a tell is a destructive process, physicists and geophysicists have developed non-destructive methods of mapping tell sites.
- Kirkpatrick, E. M. (1983). Chambers 20th Century Dictionary (New ed.). Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. p. 1330. ISBN 0-550-10234-5.
- Archaeology of Palestine, Art of Excavating a Palestinian Mound, William Foxwell Albright, 1960, p. 16
- "Amateur Archaeologists Get the Dirt on the Past", New York Times
- Data analysis of tell sites
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