Tepe Hesar

20 August 2009
Finding a skull

Alas poor Yorick

Sometimes, when you visit an archaeological site, you can see the sherds, loom weights, and simple architectonic remains. Occasionaly, there’s a coin. In Tepe Hesar, we found a skull. After that, the site itself was less important, because this skull was so well preserved that we believed that we should not report this to the archaeological authorities, but to the police.

The site itself is the cornerstone of northern Iranian archaeology, because the chronology of the first half of the Bronze Age was established here for the first time. It was abandoned in c.1900 BCE, and reoccupied in the concluding stages of the Bronze Age; surface finds prove that there were people living over here in the Iron Age – I bought a ring from Tepe Hesar once, in London. These younger settlements have not been investigated. A well-preserved Sasanian serail, however, is too big to ignore and is the youngest monument. When the Arabs came, the site was abandoned for good.

Issus (town)

17 January 2009
Photo Marco Prins.

A Medieval comb with a lion.

The port of Issus, or Izziya as the Hittites called it, or Kinet Höyük as it is called today, would have been completely forgotten, if the Macedonian king Alexander the Great had not defeated the Persian king Darius III Codomannus on the plain immediately south of it on 5 or 6 November 333 BCE.

Without that famous battle, the twenty-six meter high mound would have been like any other Bronze and Iron Age settlement in greater Syria: inhabited since the Late Neolithic, several strata, normal houses made of mud brick, countless household items, and statuettes of that ubiquitous naked goddess holding her breasts, which have been found in Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Hellenistic contexts.

To be honest, the site isn’t worth a detour,  but the objects are on display in the Archaeological Museum of Antioch, with some excellent explanatory signs. I hope to put online photos of the battle site soon; for the moment, the old page is here.