2007 season of excavation

The ninth season of excavation on the mound of the ancient city of Sidon took place from 28 April to 24 June 2007. Important historical facts were elucidated during the previous excavations 1998-2006 and the ninth season was no exception. The stratigraphical sequence encountered at Sidon and the continuity of occupation has proved to be exceptional and will undoubtedly lay the foundations for a chronological sequence for the Lebanon as a whole which is not available at present.

At this stage six occupation levels have been found for the Third Millennium BC, Early Bronze Age with an important building consisting of at least 5 rooms dating to the end of the period. Immediately above the third millennium levels at Sidon there is a layer of sand representing a change of function rather than a gap in occupation. Sixty nine burials of the Middle Bronze Age have been excavated so far, some of which were in this sandy layer. Five occupation levels were identified above the sand. An important public building in use from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age more than 45 m long appears as a result of this season’s excavation to be continuing higher up on “College site”. The material uncovered points towards certain rooms being used for ritualistic purposes. From the large number of plates found we can state that the main body of the material consists of pottery vessels designed for the immediate supply and consumption of food and beverages. 

In addition, a new Late Bronze Age building associated with the Tawosret faience vessel found in 2005 was uncovered. The Late Iron Age levels were further investigated.

 

The Early Bronze Age

A new Early Bronze Age building consisting of at least 5 rooms had been excavated in the previous seasons. This year’s excavation uncovered the building’s rectangular store-rooms which had completely burnt down. These were built of mud brick and contained some pottery and mainly burnt grain. A first analysis undertaken at the Lebanese University in Beirut has classified the grain as wheat. Further tests will be carried out to confirm this. Over 160 kg of charred grain were uncovered so far in the rooms (fig. 4) as well as a layer of plaster which covered the floor of the rooms and sealed the heaps of grain most probably to repel rodents and insects. In general, storage facilities are centrally located and situated in a position that would serve the community. Furthermore these facilities lie in the vicinity of Sidon’s harbour where loading and unloading of commodities took place. The great quantity of wild animal bones also found on the floor of this building, reflect not a usual hunt for meat, but the presence of an elite interested in the quality of the game itself. This led us to interpret the building as a central place for distribution.     

 

The Middle Bronze Age

A further ten Middle Bronze Age burials were discovered in 2007 bringing the total of burials excavated so far to sixty nine. Most belonged to the later levels of the second millennium when the site was re-occupied some time around 1750 BC. One large grave cut contained an exceptionally large jar burial with the remains of at least two individuals. Other burials consisted of large stone wall-lined tombs containing the remains of single, articulated adult individuals (fig. 7). The common association at Sidon of tannours with burials lead us to think of a possible usage of these tannours for some sort of funerary repast. Four faience scarabs with silver and gold rings were found in the burials.

A  Middle Bronze Age drain made of regular alternating grey and white rectangular mud bricks (first uncovered in 2002) were further excavated revealing a channel more than 4. 50 m long. Another continuation of the 2001-2003 excavation is the discovery of a pebble floor consisting of closely rounded limestone pebbles north of an area with twenty circular post holes supporting some sort of covered structure.

 

The Late Bronze Age

The 2005 season revealed a faience vessel bearing in cartouches the name of Pharoh Queen Tawosret, the erstwhile wife of Sety II at the very end of the 19th Dynasty. Tawosret’s independent rule was brief and appears to have lasted less than two years. As a consequence, the vessel can be dated with great precision to around 1190 BC with the margin of error not exceeding 10 years at the most. The vessel is of great importance as it provides major evidence that Egypt was still maintaining good relations with Sidon during the reign of Tawosret and more importantly business was going on as usual in Sidon. The massive disruptions caused elsewhere in the Levant by the “sea Peoples” in the early 12th century had a minimal effect upon the Phoenician coastal centers.  The Tawosret vessel was not an item of trade but a precious gift for ritual use, for which Egyptian faience vessels were typically produced.

The level in which this vessel was found is the latest level in a new building discovered this season belonging to the Late Bronze Age. Further investigations need to be carried out next season in this building.

The Late Iron Age

The Late Iron Age was further investigated in different trenches revealing:

1. A building on the same alignment and sitting on top of the new “Tawosret building” .

2. The corner of a room with a very large quantity of Attic pottery and a terracotta Bes figurine.

An occupation layer with a burnt area with a large amount of pottery in situ consisting of at least 20 perfume bottles as well as part of a terracotta statue of Bes.

A rectangular pit lined with sandstones with one stone carved in a circular depression.  A large basalt stone was placed in this feature and used as a possible hammer stone. 

In another shallow pit forming a rectangular linear cut with an upright dressed stone, evidence of burning was found as well as an iron tool and fragments of bronze slag. This could be evidence of a metal processing area.

 

The Roman period

A circular vertical sided well constructed of roughly shaped rectangular sandstones was further investigated.  More than fifty terracotta figurines, male heads with sun rays, torsos, a few hunchback figurines, coins as well as a marble statue of a Venus 30 cm high  were found.

The continuation of this work is important since without fail, every year has contributed to a greater understanding of the typology and the dating of material. The results of this excavation will be a hallmark for the understanding of the archaeology of the Levant.