Tell Ahwain - Area 51

Tell Ahwain before excavation from the west bank of the Khabur River. A severe drought began in the Khabur River drainage began during the Fall of 1998. The Khabur River was bone dry during May and June of 1999. The Syrian Director General of Antiquities granted permission to the St. Louis Community College to conduct a rescue excavation at Tell Ahwain. The drought lasted 5 years.

Photograph during 2004 of Tell Ahwain after the creation of the Middle Khabur River reservoir

Aerial Photograph showing the relationship of Tell Ahwain, Tell Tuneinir and Ain Nuah.

View of Tell Tuneinir from Tell Ahwain

Excavation units with masonry walls visible at Tell Ahwain.

Plan drawn during 2000 of excavation units and wall stubs at Tell Ahwain.

David Nirgenau fills cloth bags with pottery sherds from a test pit in Area 51.

Tar inscription on a bodysherd found at Area 51, Square 54, locus 04. Pottery registration no. 10567. Scale in centimeters.

Tar inscription on a bodysherd found at Area 51, Square 43, locus 10. Pottery Registrtation no. 10626. Scale in centimeters.

Neck of a pottery jug with a plaster plug in the neck from Area 51, Square 44, Locus 22.
Interior and core color = 5Y8/2. Exterior color = 5Y8/2.

Drawing of an handmade juglet found in Area 51, Square 64, Locus 02.
1999 field season; artifact registration number 8495.
Interior color 10YR7/3 (pale brown), exterior and core color 10YR7/1 (gray).
Height = 11.4 cm, width = 12.1 cm, and wall thickness averaging 1 cm.

Drawing of a moldmade lamp found in Area 51, Square 54, Locus 003, Pottery Registration number 8605.
The shape and cross design on the lamp closely parallel the Late Umayyad and Abbasid lamps found in Areas 9, 10, and 11 (the monastic complex on nearby Tell Tuneinir).
Two small tells are situated within a kilometer of Tuneinir. The taller tell is Tell Ahwain (Arabic, Brothers) while the shorter tell is Tell Hi'a (Arabic, Snake). Neither Tell Ahwain nor Tell Hi'a were described in the reports of the French or German archaeological surveys of the region to be impacted by the Khabur River reservoir. They were too small to be considered significant by the survey crews. The team from St. Louis Community College survived both small tells and realized that Tell Ahwain had a Medieval Islamic component.

David Nirgenau (a veteran of the 1998 excavation season at Tuneinir) volunteered to supervise two crews working at Tell Ahwain. A grid system was established for the site using the East-West base line from Tuneinir that runs through the Benchmark on the summit of Tuneinir. Most of the excavation units were virtually sterile though masonry walls were uncovered. One room did contain hundreds of undecorated pottery sherds. Among the sherds were three or four body sherds with Syrian letters painted on their surface.

The excavation of 14 excavation units (5 x 5 meter units with half meter balks) demonstrated that the structure was occupied during the Abbasid Period. An intact Abbasid Period lamp, identical to lamps from Areas 9, 10, and 11 was discovered in Area 51.

Three legible copper coins from the interior of the structure all belong to the Umayyad Period. Very few copper coins were minted during the Abbasid Period and Umayyad coins continued in circulation during the Abbasid Caliphate.

Stucco fragments decorated with Christian cross designs were discovered on the floor of the ruins. They are identical to the Area 9 monastery stucco specimens. The artifacts and architecuture of the Area 51 indicates that the building was a nunnery/monastery. The smaller cluster of fragments were discovered in Area 51, Square 43, Locus 10; Stone registration no. 1488. The larger cluster of fragments were discovered in Area 51, Square 54, Locus 03; Stone registration no. 1482.

Excavation units and longitude/latitude from Area 51 calculated by a handheld GPS device.

Webpage created in 3 January 2004.
Webpage migrated 2 April 2008
Webpage revised 10 November 2011