Mark W. Chavalas
Dept. of History
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
La Crosse, WI 54601, chavalas@mail.uwlax.edu

This research is a comparative analysis of some aspects of domestic units from two Old Babylonian period sites along the Euphrates River which have remarkable similarities (See Ill. 1).

A. Terqa: General Statements

One of the most important sites in the Middle Euphrates region of Syria is Terqa (modern Tell Ashara) on the Euphrates River.1(See Ill. 2) Terqa's geographic position is crucial as it is strategically located in between the Levantine coast and southern Mesopotamia.2 The site's importance for comprehending the origins of urbanization is shown by the complex defensive system that surrounded the city.3 Terqa probably had a secondary relationship with neighboring Mari by the end of the millennium.4 Later on, Terqa was the leading city of the Khana kingdom, apparently a successor state to Mari after it fell to Babylon (c. 1760 B.C.).5 The recent excavations at the site have furnished valuable data which has brought light to the Khana period (mid-second millennium B.C.), filling a major gap in our knowledge of Mesopotamian history.

Cuneiform contracts have been discovered at Terqa in domestic units dated to the Khana period which have helped illuminate the social and economic status of the owners.6 The contracts mention a certain Puzurum as buyer; hence the whole complex is entitled the House of Puzurum. The original size of the domestic units involved is not known, since only portions of eight rooms have been preserved.7 At least two (and possibly three) separate houses have been articulated. Four rooms of Puzurum's house have survived, which are only 40 square meters in their layout, with only two complete rooms.

B. Haradum: General Statements

Khirbit ed-Diniye (ancient Haradum, about 150 Km southeast of Terqa, situated on the Iraqi portion of the middle Euphrates) was a new river town apparently founded in the eighteenth century B.C. (after the fall of Mari) as a frontier province of Babylon.8 The site lasted for over a century (the period from Samsu-iluna [c. 1749-1712 B.C.] to Ammisaduqa [to c. 1627 B.C.]). The Délégation Archéologique Française en Iraq, under the direction of Kepinski-Lecomte, performed a vast series of salvage projects at the site for six seasons in the 1980's.9 Although the site of Haradum is very small, it had town wall fortifications. It was a planned urban center, exhibiting a very regular town layout, with straight streets connecting at right angles. The regularity of the city plan is a rare discovery in Mesopotamia, thus permitting a chance to view a complex urban plan, although Haradum was probably not wholly unique in this regard. Since most other Old Babylonian sites (e.g., Ur and Nippur) had long periods of occupation, different levels of construction forced builders to adapt to earlier town layouts. The buildings show three major occupational levels and an abandonment phase. Work at the site has been limited to a few areas in the center of town.(See Ill. 3) A series of houses were found, many complete with cuneiform documentation. The units display the well known central courtyard plan, with small compartments centered around a large room. The texts betray a distinct specialization for the inhabitants, including evidence for a zone for artisans. There is also indication of a small municipal building, a temple (with a layout similar to the domestic units), and a mayor's house. The funerary practices appear somewhat different than other Old Babylonian sites, since the only interments underneath the houses were those of infants. Adult and child burials have not been retrieved.

There has been a preliminary investigation of the over fifty texts that have been uncovered, dating from the 26th year of Samsu-iluna (c. 1723 B.C.) to the 18th or 19th year of Ammisaduqa (c. 1627 B.C.).10 They were found in private houses and in the mayoral residence, and included letters, judicial texts, administrative texts, cultic texts, and distribution lists. The image which they furnish of Haradum is of a small enclosed village with an administration, elders, and a mayor. The letters attest to local commerce, riverboat traffic, the sale of wool, agricultural products, and slaves. The onomastic data show a mixed population, with a preponderance of West Semitic names. Haradum was destroyed after little more than a century, apparently either by nomads or the site may have been a victim of the inundation by the Euphrates.

C. Terqa: The Domestic Units

The residential complex at Terqa can be specifically dated to 1721 B.C. because of year date of Samsu-Iluna of Babylon, who claimed to have triumphed over Yadikh-Abu of Khana in year 28 of his reign.11 The fragmentary house units are against a cliff where the Euphrates River has eroded the mound.(See Ill. 4) The two houses that have been excavated are labeled A and B.(See Ill. 5) The stratigraphic history of the rooms has been made easier to reconstruct because of a conflagration that kept most of the architectural material intact and in good condition. There was apparently no retrieval of any of the artifacts by the owners. Charred roof beams and impressions of matted reed roofing material were found in most of the rooms. Many whole and fragmentary epigraphic remains were found, including tablets, envelopes, tags, bullae, and seal impressions. A number of unique objects were found as well, such as a Hittite stamp seal and a silver crescent from A2, and cloves from A3.

Some conclusions about the nature and function of each of the individual rooms can be made by studying the distribu- tional analysis of artifacts found inside the rooms.12 The layout of A1 was found complete; at least six usuable floors were found.(See Ill. 6) The earliest floor found had large fragments of fallen brick and wood pieces coming from shelving in the room and the roof itself. A rectangular bin was found along with two hearths.13 Remains of large sherds, a door socket, baked bricks, large sherds, and two bathtubs were found lying on the floor and probably stored as such. However, few usuable items were found on the living floor itself.14 In sum, the variety of items, amount of broken and discarded objects, and the random scattering of items establishes that this room was most likely used for dead storage, somewhat like an attic.

A2 had nearly a complete layout, and was about 1 square meter larger than A1. Although the room had some fallen roof debris resulting from the fire, there was not nearly as much as in A1.15 Five burials and a bin were found but all were associated with the reoccupation of the house. In fact, no permanent installations were found that were associated with the room before the fire. A number of the goblets and other baked clay items found in the room were also associated with the burials. Since no structures were found with the burials, it was probably not a burial complex.16 Although the function of this room is more difficult to determine, the items found in the room before the destruction connote a usable storage area, as most of the items were unbroken and were stored in a systematic way.

Like the other rooms, the layout of room A3 was not found complete.(See Ill. 7) Moreover, since its walls did not bond with any of the walls of the other rooms (there was thus no direct access with the other rooms of House A), there is a possibility that it was not even part of the same house. A3 had a large amount of burnt roofing material on the living floor of the room. A small bowl burial was found in A3, the only one directly associated with the occupation of the house before the fire. No permanent installations, however, were found. Most items found in A3 were lying on the living floor of the room (or leaning on another object on the floor). Very few items were found in higher elevations above the floor, except for fallen roof debris which was found interspersed among the objects. The largest percentage of objects were mainly ceramic vessels (49 - the most of any room) and stone tools (21), many of which were still in place on the floor. The variety of ceramic objects suggests a kitchen or pantry area.17 This is not, however, certain, since as much as fifty percent of the layout of the room has been eroded away, as the room is directly on the cliff overlooking the Euphrates.

Evidenced by the length of its walls, the largest room was A4. Like the other rooms, it was not complete in its layout. A4 was probably an open area since it had little evidence of burnt roofing material and fallen brick (except near the doorway which connected it with A1) and there was more erosion on the inside of the walls than in the other rooms of the house. Both the walls and floors were heavily scorched by the fire. Since an open area required more repair work, this room had the most floors or usage surfaces. For example, one floor had been repaired with small stones, while a wall had been repaired with sherds, padded mud plaster, and tablet fragments. This room had a rectangular bin, a hearth, a partition or bench, and an oven, all of which were items used in an open courtyard. However, A4 had fewer artifacts in comparison to the other rooms in House A. Most of these were either epigraphic in nature or ceramic vessels. None of the present rooms afforded enough circulation to have been considered as living rooms. Thus, one can postulate that there was at least one or two living compartments on the other side of the courtyard.

Although the owner of House B is unknown, it will be discussed here since it was adjacent to Puzurum's house. B1 is the only room in House B with a complete layout. Some walls were only about 20-30 centimeters high because of a large Islamic period hollow which dislocated some of the material inside of the rooms, leaving only about a vertical meter of Khana period material. One semi-circular bin was found, as well as a variety of utilitarian objects found in one corner of the room. These items included a cylindrical jar, a ring stand, a grinding stone, two bronze points, and a cuneiform text. The room was probably used as a storage compartment.18 The layout of B2 was not complete. The extant floor area was about 3 meters squared and had about 40 objects. Many stone and ceramic items were found, but no installations. There were no traces of roofing material in this room. The layers above the floor were much harder than in the roofed rooms; thus it is possible that this was an open area.19 Only a small portion of the layout of A3 was found, thus nothing certain can be said concerning its function. Likewise, the layout of B4 was also not complete. For its extant area (about 4 sqm) it had only 17 artifacts, also explained by the existence of the Islamic period hollow in the area of B4 near B1. Like B2, there was little or no fallen roof material and the layers above the floors were compact. A small fire pit was found in B4, suggesting an open area.

Room A1 was also significant because of its many epigraphic remains (although a few were found in other rooms).20 A few different types of documents were found, including ten sale contracts. There were some administrative documents, two name lists, a letter between two brothers concerning barley, and a text concerning the sale of goods. As stated, the primary individual named in most of the contracts was Puzurum, son of Namashum. Four of his brothers, two nephews, a son, and possibly two grandsons are mentioned, most of whom are listed as witnesses on the contracts.21 Puzurum was likely an independent property owner, owning a household and arable land outside the city.22 There is no evidence of his having any precise obligations to the palace or temple, although there is one text concerning Puzurum and a loan from the temple of Shamash. Many of the transactions of Puzurum seemed to have been with relatives. He probably did not conduct business at his residence based upon the modest size of his house and the domestic nature of the extant rooms. Puzurum was a purchaser of real estate (fields, and possibly gardens), a moneylender, debtor, and maybe even a slave owner. Because of its small size, Puzurum likely lived in House A with his immediate family.

D. Haradum: The Domestic Units

House 2 at Haradum in particular is similar to the partially extant House A at Terqa, and has served as an example for a hypothetical reconstruction.23 (See Ill. 8) House 2 at Haradum has a central courtyard and two sets of rooms flanking the long sides. The three eastern rooms (2-4) are comparable in size and shape to rooms A1-A3 at Terqa, and appear to have been areas for food production and for archives. Only discarded ceramics and erased texts were found in these rooms. The two larger western rooms (5-6) are probably living areas. The three rooms to the north (7-9) were added later. One can project a similar situation at House A at Terqa, since it has a nearly identical layout. Moreover, the Haradum house is approximately 65 square meters, and so one can postulate a full size of about 65-85 square meters for House A at Terqa.

There are only a few installations remaining in House 2 at Haradum. In the courtyard (1) are a tannur (diameter .75 cm) in the north-central portion of the room, fragments of mortar to its left, and a cavity for an oven in the far northwest corner. There is an infant burial under the living floor in the northeast corner of one of the living rooms (5). In Room 9 was a fragment of a cup-shaped basin and a portion of a terracotta pipe (also found in Room 7).

The artifacts found in House 2, as in Puzurum's house, are modest in nature. There are two small terracotta toy chariots in Room 2, and a miniature boat in Room 8. A small amount of metal pins, bracelets, bone needles, and bitumen were found in Room 2. Assorted stone items were found in most of the rooms, including weights, grindstones, grinders, polishers, and flint.

E. Summary

Although the two towns have very different histories (Terqa was a planned enterprise founded about 2900 B.C., and thus had a long history of settlement, while Haradum was built in the 18th century B.C. by Babylon), and they also differed in function (Terqa had been a provincial center under Mari, and later functioned as the chief city of the Khana kingdom, while Haradum served as a fortress/border town for Babylonia), their domestic architecture, artifacts, and other features show marked similarities. This should not be surprising based upon their close geographic and chronological proximity.


*. I would like to thank Giorgio Buccellati and Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati for their generous access to the Terqa field notes and photographic archives. I would also like to thank Christine Kepinski-LeComte for permission to reproduce photographs from the Haradum expedition. I would especially like to thank Giorgio Buccellati for the suggestion (made over ten years ago) that the Terqa and Haradum houses had some remarkable similarities.
  1. For a bibliography of research on Terqa to 1996, see M. Chavalas, 'Terqa and the Kingdom of Khana', BiblArch 59 (1996) 90-103.
  2. G. Buccellati and M. Kelly-Buccellati, 'Terqa Preliminary Reports 1: General Introduction and the Stratigraphic Record of the First Two Seasons', SMS 1/3 (1977) 5.
  3. Buccellati et al., Terqa Preliminary Reports 10: The Fourth Season: Introduction and Stratigraphic Record (Malibu: Undena, 1979 = BibM 10) 42-83.
  4. J.-M. Durand, 'La situation historique des Sakkanaku: nouvelle approche', MARI 4 (1985) 147-72.
  5. A. Podany, 'A Middle Babylonian Date for the Hana Kingdom', JCS 43/45 (1991-3) 53-62.
  6. O. Rouault, Terqa Final Reports 1: L'Archive de Puzurum (Malibu: Undena, 1984 = BibM 16).
  7. For a preliminary study of the domestic units at Terqa, see Chavalas, The House of Puzurum (PhD dissertation, UCLA, 1988).
  8. For preliminary studies of Haradum, see C. Kepinski and O. LeComte, 'PréÇsence babylonienne dans le pays de Suhu au XVIIe siècle av. J.-C.: l'exemple de Khirbet ed Diniye (Irak)', RA 77 (1983) 119-39, and idem., 'Haradum/Harada: une forteresse sur l'Euphrate', ArchÇologia 205 (1985) 46-56.
  9. The final report for the Old Babylonian Period at Haradum is by C. Kepinski-Lecomte, Haradum I: une ville nouvelle sur Le Moyen-Euphrate (XVIIIe-XVIIe siäcles av. J.-C.) (Paris: êditions Recherche sur Les Civilisations, 1992).
  10. F. Joannes, 'Haradum et le pays de suhum d'apräs de la documentation cunÇiform Ö l'Çpoque babylonienne ancienne', ArchÇologia 205 (1985) 56-9.
  11. A. Ungnad, 'Datenlisten', RlA 2 (1938) 184b, and cf. Rouault, 'Terqa Preliminary Reports 7: Les documents Çpigraphiques de la troisäme saison' SMS 2/7 (1979) 4.
  12. See Chavalas, The House of Puzurum, 262-78.
  13. Buccellati et al., Terqa Preliminary Reports 10, Ill. 43.
  14. Buccellati et al., Terqa Preliminary Reports 10, 38.
  15. Buccellati and Kelly-Buccellati, SMS 1/3 (1977) 32.
  16. Buccellati and Kelly-Buccellati, SMS 1/3 (1977) 30.
  17. Buccellati and Kelly-Buccellati, SMS 1/3 (1977) 32.
  18. Buccellati and Kelly-Buccellati, 'Terqa Preliminary Reports 6: The Third Season: Introduction and the Stratigraphic Record', SMS 2/6 (1978) Ill. 6.
  19. Buccellati and Kelly-Buccellati, SMS 1/3 (1977) 32.
  20. Again, see Rouault, BibM 16 (1984).
  21. Kelly-Buccellati, 'Sealing Practices at Terqa', in idem. ed., Insight Through Images: Studies in Honor of Edith Porada (Malibu: Undena, 1986 = BibM 21) 41.
  22. Chavalas, 'Defining Social Structure from Domestic Architecture: The Case from Khana Period Terqa', in S. Steadman and T. Matney, eds., Residual Residences: Defining Domestic Architecture in an Archaeological Context (forthcoming).
  23. Kepinski-LeComte, Haradum I, 111-5, Fig. 34.


  1. Map of the Middle Euphrates River basin in the Old Babylonian Period, featuring Terqa and Haradum (from Kepinski-LeComte, Haradum 1, Planche 1, opposite p. 456).
  2. Site plan of Terqa. The House of Puzurum is located in the southeast corner of Area C (from G. Buccellati, 'The Kingdom and Period of Khana', BASOR 270 [1988] Fig. 3, p. 48.
  3. Site plan of the center of the town of Haradum (from Kepinski-LeComte, Haradum 1, Planche V).
  4. Aerial view of Area C before the completion of excavations in House A and the street (from Buccellati and Kelly-Buccellati, BibM 10 [1979] Pl. X. no. 25).
  5. Plan of Area C, featuring Houses A and B (from Buccellati and Kelly-Buccellati, BibM 10 [1979] Fig. 17.
  6. Room A1; archive room with living floor and tablets in place (from Buccellati and Kelly-Buccellati, BibM 10 [1979] Pl. XVII. no. 38.
  7. Floor of Room A3. The contents of the room (storage vessels, grinding stones, and kitchen ware) were all found on the living surface of the floor (Terqa Expedition Photograph).
  8. House 2 at Haradum (from Kepinski-LeComte, Haradum 1, Fig. 34, p. 112).

Mark W. Chavalas
Dept. of History
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
La Crosse, WI 54601, chavalas@mail.uwlax.edu

[icon1] Symposium Index
St. Louis Aia Information Page
Comments to: Dr. Michael Fuller-mfuller@artsci.wustl.edu