English » Field Projects » Tell Nader Project » Excavation

Written by Dr. Konstantinos Kopanias.

In April 2011 we started an excavation at the Tell Nader site. The main aim of the project is to record a stratigraphy from the Late Neolithic down to the Middle/Neo Assyrian period (i.e. 6th - early 1st millenium B.C.), which will allow us to construct a secure dating system for the locally produced pottery and the lithics. The systematic study of the palaeoenvironmental material (plant and insect remains, animal and human bones etc.) will offer a valuable insight into daily life in the area during the above mentioned periods.

We opted for the open area excavation method, which meant that the excavation was done through natural stratigraphic layers on a larger scale without maintaining bulk walls. During the first season in April 2011 we began our excavation in the northern part of the Tell, where the bulldozers had removed the surface layers, and excavated an area of 15x15 m. The excavation produced a total of 15.654 pottery sherds (total weight 500 kg) and 2.319 lithics (total weight 24 kg), mainly flint but also 68 obsidian. All finds have been collected, inventorized and stored in the Erbil Civilization Museum. The excavation revealed so far no buildings, although several well-baked bricks have been found, which indicate the existence of architectural remains in the area.

The excavation has so far revealed one main stratigraphic layer. According to the preliminary examination of the pottery, the layer seems to be dated to the Ubaid period. To this layer belong a number of simple pyrotechnic clay constructions.

An artificial concentration of small stones was unearthed in the western part of the excavation area. The bulldozer removed here most of the surface layer, so this find was only 0.10-0.20 m. under the surface. This stone concentration covered the interior of two simple clay constructions, probably ovens. After the careful removal of this layer, two almost circular clay constructions came to light. The western one (right) was found partially destroyed.

Nevertheless, the eastern (left) circular construction was not damaged . Inside it there was an inhumation burial of an adult woman. Her legs were flexed, her hands positioned (probably tied) on her breast and belly, but, strangely, her torso was in a prone position and also her head faced the ground. The circular construction was too small for the body, so its feet stuck out. Her prone position was intentional, as noted by Dr. Sherry Fox. No funerary offerings were found inside the grave, with the exception of three dog teeth (all from different animals), which were found near the head of the dead person. With the permission of the Directorate of Antiquities, the skeleton was temporarily transported to Athens for further examination in the Wiener Laboratory of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens . The anthropological study, conducted by Dr. Sherry Fox, is still in progress. A small sample of the bone material was sent to the University of Arizona (USA), where Dr. Greg Hodgins is going to conduct a C-14 analysis.

A two-chambered sun-dried clay construction with irregular walls also belong to this layer.
It seems to be similar with a two-chambered pottery kiln at Yarim Tepe I .

Figurine1 Figurine2

The excavation produced several clay animal figurines.



Also several of the so called clay nails (Tonnägel), which are very typical of the Ubaid period. There has been some speculation about their interpretation (decorative wall pegs, paint grinders, sickle hand protectors, model bull's horns, nail-shaped mullers), but the matter is still unresolved.


A representative selection of other finds from the excavation in April 2011.



Clay sling shot.

Clay spindle whorl.



Clay horn-shaped object.
A token or gaming piece?

Jar stopper.


A stone macehead (?).