The University Museum, The University of Tokyo, Japan
|Tell Kosak Shamali is situated at a strategic geographic position: it is on a terrace of the Upper
Euphrates, cut by the Nahar Sarine, at the edge of the flood plain. In such a location, resources from
different geo-ecological zones would have been readily available. In addition, the deep valley of the
Nahar Sarine must have provided an excellent crossing point of the Euphrates, which even today makes
the area important.
Tell Kosak Shamali and the related sites
in the Tishreen Dam area
Scientific investigations at this prehistoric mound were conducted by the University of Tokyo team between 1994 and 1997, as part of the salvage
archaeological operations prior to construction of the Tishreen dam. The excavation of two areas revealed stratified settlements of the Neolithic to the
Middle Uruk periods, dating from the 7th to the 4th millennium BC. Among numerous discoveries, the most important was a series of pottery
workshops of the Ubaid and Post-Ubaid periods, including that preserved in an Ubaid burnt building. In the course of detailed analysis of those
workshops, the increasing social and economic complexity in these periods has come to light, which eventually led to the emergence of urban society
in North Syria.
Fig. 3 The Tishreen Dam area in 1993
Fig. 4 Tell Kosak Shamali seen from the southeast.
The Nahar Sarine, presently dried up, runs in front from the right.
Fig. 5 The excavated areas of Tell Kosak Shamali
(Sectors A and B)
Fig. 6 Chronological table for the Tell Kosak Shamali
Level 10 of Sector A produced a large burnt building consisting of at least ten spatial units. Because of the fire the room floors were exceptionally
well-preserved, on which numerous ceramics, stone tools and other objects were discovered in primary contexts.
Fig. 7 Pottery manufacturing tools and facilities
of the Ubaid period at Tell Kosak Shamali
Fig. 8 The Ubaid burnt building of Level 10 of Sector A
|Remains from the floor indicate this building complex to have been a pottery production workshop. Rooms 10A01 and 10A03, which contained over
150 and 20 complete pottery vessels respectively, were mainly used for storage of pottery. Room 10A01 was probably used for pottery production as
well, as indicated by a kiln and potters' tools discovered in it. Rooms 10A02 and 10A05, which yielded numerous pottery production tools such as
ceramic scrapers and stone palettes, were perhaps manufacturing rooms. The other rooms appear to have been grain storage.
Organic materials were recovered from the burnt building in an excellent collection. An archaeobotanical analysis of the grain storage shows that
wheat and barley were stored separately in different rooms. The wheat included two-seeded einkorn, a species locally domesticated on the Upper
Euphrates. The charcoal samples derived from building materials consisted of taxa typically encountered in the gallery forest of the Euphrates. Poplar,
willow and alder were used for roof beams while tamarisk was used to cover the spaces between the beams.
Clay for pottery was obtained from banks of the Nahar Sarine and the Euphrates. It was then shaped into vessels on a slow turning table. Surfaces of
the vessels were smoothed with the use of stone polishers made on river pebbles, and possibly gazelle horns as well. Crescent-shaped ceramic scrapers
were also used for surface treatment. The main decoration method of pottery was painting. Natural crops of hematite and manganese, processed with
grinding stones and palettes, were used as pigments. The painted motifs were mostly geometric, but animals and birds were also depicted. Pottery was
fired in horse-shoe shaped kilns, and the vessels were piled in storage rooms for later distribution.
Pottery from the workshops often contained pairs or groups of pottery that display highly similar workmanship in size, decoration and manufacturing
technique. It suggests they were manufactured by a limited number of individuals.
Potters' workshops were discovered from many levels of the Ubaid period. One of the common features is that they overlapped traces of domestic
activities in the same building complexes, such as ovens, infant burials and grain storage. This undifferentiated use of similar structures for different
purposes may characterize the use of space in the Ubaid period, which is in clear contrast with that in later periods.
Fig. 9 Refitting the broken ceramics
from the Ubaid burnt building
Fig. 10 Part of the reconstructed ceramics
from the Ubaid burnt building
Fig. 11 Pottery with a snake and goat figurine
inside from the Ubaid burnt building
Levels 6 and 5 of Sector B represent two episodes of the use of the same building complex, consisting of workshop structures for pottery production
and firing. Two large kilns, standing over 1.5 m high from the room floor, were the remarkable features. They allowed a mass production of pottery.
To the south there was a pottery manufacturing room in which a circular bin for clay preparation was installed. The pottery was dried in an area to the
east, and then brought in the kiln through a passage paved with mud-bricks.
The highly sophisticated workshops, located far from the domestic quarter, suggest the presence of specialized potters and more complex patterns
of pottery production and consumption in the Post-Ubaid period.
Pottery of the Post-Ubaid no longer included many painted vessels as in the Ubaid period, but most of them were simple plain wares. Firing was made
with a higher temperature using the developed kilns. Pottery production tools also showed changes from the Ubaid period. Ring-shaped scrapers joined
in the tool inventory, and stone palettes for pigment preparation, very common in the Ubaid period, virtually disappeared. For pottery shaping, faster
turning tables were used.
Fig. 12 The Post-Ubaid pottery workshop of Tell Kosak Shamali
Fig. 13 Tell Kosak Shamali submerging in the Tishreen Dam Lake