Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller and baby Amira Fuller, summer 1994 at the roadsign created by Abu Fared so visitors could easily find the site. The sign survived for a couple of years but was eventually uprooted from its base by a windstorm.


Professor Fuller discusses pottery sherd typologies with students and staff during the 2001 field season at Tuneinir.


Tell Tuneinir during the 1996 season with a dust storm in the distance. The Area 1 excavation units are visible along the highest point of the tell.

A telephone call during April of 2004 reported that the sheep are underwater and that only the higher portions of the tell are above the manmade lake. What does that mean? Game Over! Professor Michael Fuller returned to Tuneinir during May of 2004. He determined that the floodwater and tensions in the adjacent village make it unwise to resume the excavations.

Click here for a Heart to Heart Talk with Neathery Fuller that we required prospective students to read



Tell Tuneinir is located in Northeastern Syria near the town of Hasake, one hour south of the border with Turkey. The site is close enough to the Iraqi border that you can see the mountains of Jebel Sinjar (inside Iraq). We did not conduct fieldwork at the site during 2002 or 2003 because we do not want to put students at risk or create an anxious situation for our Syrian colleagues. Our decision to cancel those field seasons was made with a heavy heart. We would like to resume fieldwork at the site, but is unclear when this could happen.

The site is situated in Mesopotamia, which the Arabs call the Gezira, literally the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers. Tuneinir, which rises 60 feet above the flood plain of the Khabur River, has a history of occupation beginning in the Bronze Age and ending during the Medieval Period. The Middle Khabur Reservoir, completed in 1997, has begun to fill and will eventually destroy the archaeological site. What we cannot rescue will be pages lost from the history of humanity. A severe drought in the Khabur watershed has given us a few additional years to excavate. Ninevite V decorated pottery sherds and an associated radiocarbon date are evidence of the first settlement at Tuneinir dating between 2500 and 2200 BC. The deepest deposits are rich in animal bones (primarily sheep and goats), flint sickle blades, clay figurines, and clay tokens. Subsequent occupation layers have been linked with the Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Hellenistic, Parthian, and Roman Empires. Most of our research is focused on the Byzantine and Islamic history of the site. The medieval layers of the town contain houses, markets, a bath, a mosque, a Syriac Christian Church, and an elaborate monastery complex.

The Tuneinir Excavation was funded by private donations and the fees paid by American students. No one on our staff received a salary. Every volunteer paid for their own airfare, room and board. It was an exciting dig with everyone in the field participating in the discovery of important features and artifacts. We usually accepted a maximum of 15 serious volunteers to serve on our staff for a summer; the staff once rose to 25 and we had four people living in tents in the dighouse courtyard. We were willing to take volunteers with no previous archaeological experience, but preference will be given to individuals with prior field experience.

Living Conditions

Everyone lived in the 15 room dig house which includes dorm rooms, laboratory, bathrooms, kitchen and dining room. The food was especially prepared by our cook to be safe and healthy. Tomatoes, cucumbers, rice, onions, potatoes, lamb and chicken were the main staples. These were accompanied by apricots, peaches, plums, and melon. Laundry Service wass available.

Medical Information No special inoculations were required for Syria. You did need to bring any medication that you might need during your stay. This included prescription drugs as well as cold and allergy medicine, aspirin, etc. We did not provide a medical insurance package as part of this project. Volunteers were encouraged to determine if their existing insurance covers medical expenses in Syria. If it did not cover Syria, then we encouraged that they purchase a supplemental policy.

The physical environment at Tuneinir is demanding and individuals with serious medical or emotional problems are usually unable to cope. The sun is hot, bright, and dust storms are not unusual. There is no private space or time and everyone is expected to maintain a positive attitude and sense of humor. Flexibility is essential. Approximately 10% of the volunteers during a given season would decided to return home ahead of schedule.

Clothing Local customs (which we respect) and common sense required that everyone dresses modestly by wearing long sleeves and long pants.





This dig was not a vacation, play dig. We woredk from 5 AM in the morning until 1 PM, then took a break and resumed work at 4 PM until 7 PM. The dig house had electricity, beds, dining room, two showers, and two toilets. Conditions were primitive, but bearable. Important, no telephone and no television!



Tuneinir Crew during 1987. Left to right: Ayman, Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller, Robert Smith, Haytham Nouri, Mark Hartmann, and Ken Chipongian. Judy Herzog took the photograph.



Tuneinir Crew during 1988

Tuneinir Crew during 1989

Tuneinir Crew and STLCC tour group during 1995 with Area 1 in the background.
Tuneinir Crew during 1996

Tuneinir Crew during 1997
Tuneinir Crew during 1998


Partial Crew list:
1987 season
Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller, Mark Joseph Hartmann, Robert Wayne Smith, Kenneth Victor Chipongian, and Judy Herzog  

1988 season:
Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller, Sharon Doerre, Horace Hummel, John M. Barich, Boris McKinley Bayless, James Michael Elam, Ron W. Vahl, Julene Gernant, Michael Aehle, and Jan Willber

1989 season:
Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller, Gail Leslie Bretz, Charlotte L. Anderson, Erich Alvin von Fange, Paul Raabe, Susan Sheahan, Darren Scott Waddell, Kenneth E. Smith, Acir Raymann, Horace Dwight Hummel, Becky Johnson, Rick Spriggs, and Beverly Susanne Schofield

1990 season:
Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller, Mary Jo Cramer, David Hanlon, Christopher Stephen Neill, Patricia Katheleen McWhorter, Carolyn Davis, Mitchell Dale Grant, Mary Lynn Ricketts, John Conroe, Elizabeth Marie Nagel, and Michelle Dale Grant

1992 season:
Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller, Amira Fuller, Todd Carlson, Carolyn Davis, David Hanlon, Horace Hummel,Karen Lane, Michelle Loyet, Patricia McWhorter, Robert McWhorter, and Edward Treptow

1993 season:
Michael Fuller Neathery Fuller, David Hanlon, Robert McWhorter, Pat McWhorter, Michelle Loyet, Carolyn Davis, Horace Hummel, Ed Treptow, Todd Carlson, Karen, [list in complete]

1994 season:
Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller, Horace Hummel, Michelle Loyet, Pat McWhorter, Robert McWhorter, Sharon Doerre, Patrick Berger, Matthew Doerre, Carol Stevens, Matt Doerre, Robert Moldenhauer, Ronnie Gaubatz [list incomplete]

1995 season:
Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller, Amira Fuller, Patrick Berger, David Hanlon, Chip Clatto, Jim Walker, Jim Reardon,

1996 season:
Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller, Amira Fuller, Elizabeth Alesi, Jim Walker, Chip Clatto, Ellen Harriet Belcher, David Hanlon, Deb Foran, Elliot Davis, Darcey Reed, Elizabeth Remillong, Lois Naes, Michelle Loyet, Pat McWhorter, Bob McWhorter, Michele Lorenzini, and Rian Thum

1997 season:
Michael Fuller, Neather Fuller, Amira Fuller, William Spengler, Patrick Berger, Robert McWhorter, Michelle Loyet [incomplete list]
Jim Walker, Chip Clatto, Kevin Havener, Jeff x, Helen Cho, Louis Naes [list imcomplete]

1998 season:
Michael Fuller, Neather Fuller, Amira Fuller, David Hanlon, Robert McWhorter, Patricia McWhorter, James Walker, Elizabeth Alesi, Rian Thum, David Nirgenau, and Ann Abello.

1999 season:
Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller, Amira Fuller, David Nirgenau, Michelle Loyet, Nesreen Lahham, Elizabeth Alesi, James Walker, Alexandra Cleworth, and Erica Lynn Doerr.

2000 season:
Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller, Amira Fuller, David Hanlon, Robert McWhorter, Terry McClure [incomplete list]

2001 season:
Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller, Amira Fuller, David Hanlon, Robert McWhorter, Pat McWhorter, Nancy Bannister, Emily Hudson, Jeanne Harding, Bill Baehr, Mary Davis, Megan Key, Daniel Mahoney, and Lindalou Friesen.

2004 season: Michael Fuller

Amira Fuller waves goodbye, held by Michael.


Neathery Fuller working on the artifact registry during 1999.


Michael Fuller sorting and recording pottery sherds from the 1993 field season.
Bob McWhorter calculates elevations for the major walls and artifacts during 1993.


Neathery Fuller registering coins during the 2000 field season.


Pat McWhorter enters pottery readings into an Apple Portible computer.


Todd Carlson packing diagnostic sherds that have been recorded and drawn during 1993. These were left at the dighouse for future reference by Syrian archaeologists.


Neathery Fuller and Michael Fuller during 5 am workmen's roll call. Area 1 and the benchmark are visible on the tell in the distance.


Amira Fuller (age 9 months) smiles during Second Breakfast with parents and students at 9 am during 1995.


Kristen Alda drawing a pottery rimsherd during the 2000 field season.


David Nirgenau writes locus numbers on pottery sherds during the 1999 field season.


Erica Doerr checks pottery drawings during the 1999 field season.


Neathery Fuller (left) and Sharon Doerre (right) number and reconstruct lusterware pottery sherds from Area 2 during the 1988 field season.


Michael Fuller doing weekly video documentation of the dig; Jebel Kokup, a volcano, is visible in the distance.


Ron W. Vahl and workmen in Area 3 during the 1988 field season.


Lauri and Fletcher carefully remove small seeds and charcoal from a float sample.


Boris Bayless draws pottery during the 1988 field season.


Boris Bayless working on excavation notes along the side of Area 1 during 1988 field season.


Boris Bayless working on excavation notes along the side of Area 1 during 1988 field season.


Julene Dumit and one of the workmen in Area 3 during 1988 field season.


Julene Dumit wearing one of the stylist STLCC - Florissant Valley hats during the 1988 field season.


Jan Willber counts and measures flint waste flakes from Area 1 during the 1988 field season.


Professor David Hanlon (St. Louis Community College at Meramec) draws the relief decorated headstone found in the Area 9 monastery.


Professor Horace Hummel (Concordia Seminary in St. Louis) sorts Bronze Age pottery sherds from Area 1.


Kite photograph of the East wall of the American dighouse during 1994. The metal bed in the courtyard belonged to the guard, Ali, and his family. Concrete walks run from the student rooms (right side) to the equipment storeroom (left side).


Serpent killed outside the dighouse is displayed by two workmen.


Large dust devils are very common at Tuneinir during the summer months.


Jim Walker had a great case of bug bites during summer 1995 field season.


Amira Fuller, 6 months old, also had some bug bites during summer 1995 field season.


Amira Fuller sits in her daddy's lap while he talks with Alia.


Wagon loaded with tibbin straw to the cut and mixed with local mud to create libbin (Arabic, mudbrick).


Windsock on the southeast corner of the dighouse blowing horizontal during 1988 fieldseason. The tough sandstorms almost always came from the south to north or east to west.


We flew a black flag (photographer's cloth) over the Tuneinir dighouse on June 10th of 2000 as a sign of respect for the Syrian people after it was learned that President Hafez a-Assad had died. The satellite dish was a "loaner" from our driver, Edward, who wanted to keep track of the news and sports.



Mosquito net rigged up over a typical bed, suitcase and nightstand in the student's rooms.



Abou Fared / Hasan Mammoo designed and supervised the construction of the mudbrick dighouse at Tell Tuneinir.


Amira Fuller rides on the motorcycle with the site guard, Ali, and his kids.


Amira Fuller (right) at age 1.5 years playing with the kids of Alia and Fatima.


Sonya (background) and Fatima (Fistem) work together to prepare a chicken dish for dinner in the dighouse kitchen.


Neathery and Fatima (Fistem) in the courtyard of the dighouse when Neathery was dressed to attend a village wedding.


Pat McWhorter enjoying ice cream at the bus station in Hasake, Syria.


Michael Fuller looks very serious as he records ethnohistorical data that was translated for him by Daoud.


Many people visited the Tell Tuneinir digs while we were working in the field. This was a group of visitors from St. Louis including Dean Sharon McPherron, Tom McPherron, Professor Roland Haun, Judge Cohen (with camera), Marsha Cohen, and Ettus Hiatt (who booked the airplane tickets for almost every season of the excavations). Our friend and Syria guide, Giath Abdullah (stripped shirt) wonders what could be so interesting in an Early Bronze Age profile where Professor Fuller is pointing.

Webpage created in 1998
Webpage migrated 2 April 2008
Webpage revised 14 October 2011