The University Museum, The University of Tokyo, Japan
|The archaeological site of Tell Kashkashok II, approximately 20 km northwest of Hassake,
Syria, was excavated by the University of Tokyo mission under the direction of Professor
Toshio Matsutani in 1987 and 1988, prior to the construction of the dam on Wadi al-Awaj, a
tributary of the Khabur river. The site comprises a small mound of about 100 m by 80 m, with
a maximum height of less than 4 m from the adjacent wadi plain. The two seasons of
excavations defined two major occupation periods. The earlier was the Proto-Hassuna phase of
the Pottery Neolithic period (the mid-7th millennium BC) and the later one was the Ubaid to
the Gawra period (5th millennium BC). While the Pottery Neolithic occupation was represented
by an early farming village, the remains of the Ubaid to the Gawra period were all derived
from an extensive cemetery that covered much of the mound.
Fig. 1 Map showing the location of Tell Kashkashok
Fig. 2 Contour map of Tell Kashkashok I to IV.
The shade indicates the excavated area at Tell Kashkashok II
Fig. 3 Tell Kashkashok IIII, the largest mound, viewed from the north
Fig. 4 Tell Kashkashok II viewed from the north
Fig. 5 Syrian colleagues at work in Tell Kashkashok II
|The earliest inhabitants of Tell Kashkashok II lived in mud-walled houses with small
rectangular rooms. Unfortunately, the later tomb pits had almost completely destroyed
these structures, so that only a general idea about them could be determined. The building
material was not of mud-brick but packed mud. Room floors were often coated with
gypsum-plastering. White gypsum plaster was also applied to the interior of round pit-
binsfound in one corner of the rooms. A couple of large pits were dug nearby these houses
probably obtain soil for mud-walls.
Fig. 6 Neolithic structures from Tell Kashkashok II,
consisting of mud-walls, a gypsum-plastered floor
and a lined storage pit. All badly damaged by later grave pits.
The tool kit of this period included a variety of pottery, flaked and ground stone artifacts, bone tools, stone bowls and clay artifacts. The pottery
consisted of abundant plain coarse ware and a smaller amount of painted pottery with red to brown geometric decorations. The lithic industry
showed a heavy reliance on flint flake production, but also included obsidian blades and blade tools that were probably imported from the southeast
Anatolian mountains. Analysis of the faunal and floral remains indicates a subsistence economy mostly based on farming, supplemented by
occasional gathering and hunting.
Fig. 7 Neolithic coarse ware pottery from Tell Kashkashok II
Fig. 8 Neolithic painted sherds from Tell Kashkashok II
The overall features of the Pottery Neolithic occupations of Tell Kashkashok II closely resemble those of Proto-Hassuna sites such as Tell Khazne II
and Tell Bouqras on the Khabur, and Umm Dabaghiyah and Telul eth-Thalathat, Iraq. More recent surveys have documented a dramatic expansion of
Proto-Hassuna settlements into the flat steppe environments of the Khabur basin, perhaps resulting from a shift in subsistence in the 7th millennium
BC. The Neolithic village of Tell Kashkashok II, founded on virgin soil, is thus considered as representing one of such settlements.
|About 1500 years after the abandonment of the Neolithic settlement, the mound of Tell
Kashkashok II was used as a communal cemetery in the Ubaid to Gawra period. As no
domestic structures were discovered, the inhabitants who buried the dead must have lived
in a different place, most likely at Tell Kashkashok III, where the excavations by Dr
. Antoine Soleiman of the Aleppo Museum identified an Ubaid to Gawra settlement.
Fig. 9 Ubaid tomb from Tell Kashkashok II
|More than 200 tombs were discovered at Tell Kashkashok II by the Japanese excavations. They
consistently showed a unique method of construction, best described as a shaft tomb with a horizontal
burial chamber. The shaft, which was perhaps nearly 2 m below the original ground level, was oval
in plan, about 1.5 m by 1 m, with the longitudinal axis in an west-east direction. The chamber
extending southwards at the bottom of the shaft, was also oval in plan about 1.5 m by 1.2 m and
around 80 cm high. The body was placed in the chamber in a flexed position with the upper body to
the west and the face to the north. The funerary goods were almost always represented by pottery,
consisting of jars and bowls. The burial chamber was closed by a line of mud-brick wall, and its
northern side was often plastered with packed mud. The size and the construction method, as well as
the composition of funerary goods, differed little by the tombs. As far as the burial practice is
concerned, the community seems to have belonged to a rather egalitarian society in this period.
Schematic representation of a typical Ubaid tomb
from Tell Kashkashok II
Tombs with similar structures have been also discovered at Tell Mashnaqa, the Middle Khabur, and Telul eth-Thalathat, Iraq, indicating that the same
burial custom was maintained over a large area of North Mesopotamia. Nevertheless such an extensive cemetery as that of Tell Kashkashok II has been