Sidon 2009 season of excavation

The eleventh season of excavation on the mound of the ancient city of Sidon took place between the 6th of July and the 16th of August 2009. Two areas were investigated:

-  College site which, from the excavations of 1998-2008, had already produced important new historical information. Sidon’s stratigraphical sequence and its continuity of occupation have proved to be exceptional and will undoubtedly lay the foundations for a chronological sequence for the Lebanon as a whole which is currently inexistent. To date, College site has revealed:

•  Six Early Bronze Age occupation levels belonging to the Third Millennium BC including a monumental building consisting of at least 9 rooms dating to the end of the period.

•  This is followed by the Middle Bronze Age of which one hundred and eleven burials have been excavated so far. Five occupation levels were identified above a thick sand layer.

•  The 2009 season revealed another fragment of the vessel associated with the Tawosret faience vessel and for the first time it has been possible to define the perimeter of a Late Bronze Age building in order to further proceed with its excavation next year.

• The uncovering of some of the Iron Age levels revealed that the aforementioned Middle to Late Bronze Age temple reached more than 51 m in length. Further investigation of the building’s rooms will take place next year.

• Late Iron Age levels were excavated on a wider scale in newly opened trenches revealing plaster floors in rooms and Persian period jars.

• 2009 also revealed Roman layers with large paving slabs and three drains beneath the paving.

- Sandikli is a newly excavated site where two soundings were undertaken. These revealed a large sewer drain constructed of large limestone blocks with two smaller drains emptying into it and where a gold Abbasid dinar was found as well as Mameluke and Roman sherds. A cistern was also found. Both structures are probably related to the Roman baths uncovered by Maurice Dunand in the 1960’s.

 

College site

The Early Bronze Age

The Early Bronze Age monumental building was investigated and was found to have two further rooms bringing the total number of rooms to at least 9. Work was carried out mainly in Rooms1, 6 and 8.

•             An assemblage consisting of a large tannour oven measuring 1. 22 m wide and 33 cm high was found in room 8. Part of it was found to have collapsed on its eastern side. Evidence of smoothing and patching can be seen on its external southern side. This repair work supports the presumption that it was in use for a long period of time. A large number of fish bones were found in the tannour. Two well-defined circular patches of yellow burning were found nearby as well as a grey ash-coloured floor clearly defined by a line. A shallow burnt mud brick feature running east/west and partitioned in the middle was found next to eight whole fish remains as well as two flint knives.

•             Six flint knives with cutting edges polished with wear were also found in the adjacent room1 with large bronze fish hooks piled together in clusters. These items are presumed to be related to some sort of activity involving fish cleaning and perhaps smoking as no heads fish were found. The remains of a fishing line could be seen under microscope.

•             The excavation of room 6 revealed two areas of rectangular stone flooring with hearths extensively surrounded by burning.

•             A possible cultic activity is indicated with the discovery of an oval-shaped pit cut into the plaster floor in room8 and filled with yellow beach sand. The western side of this pit was sloping downward and a large amount of charcoal chips was found when the pit was emptied. A pendant, a bronze pin, a miniature juglet and a small bowl were found at the bottom of the pit which was surrounded by an area of burning filled with shells some of which sloped into the pit as well as a plaster band measuring between 2 and 15 cm wide. Further investigations will be needed next year to further establish its usage.

 

The Middle Bronze Age

•             A further fifteen Middle Bronze Age burials were discovered in 2009 bringing the total of burials excavated so far to one hundred and eleven. Some burials belonged to the later levels of the Second Millennium when the site was re-occupied sometime around 1750 BC others to the early MBIIA. They included jar burials of children, multiple and single wall-lined and mud brick graves. A large amount of miniature vessels were found in the graves this season, some of which manufactured in stone are copies of large Egyptian prototypes.

•             17 scarabs were found within the burials together with pottery vessels and bronze weapons. Well-preserved fragments of textile consisting of simple tabby weave “S” twist thread were found in a burial amongst human bones. One burial revealed a box made of various worked antler plaques presumed to be decorative inlay. The thinner inlay pieces are incised with concentric circles and lines similar to the ones found in Palestine. Two fragments have a slight notch, possibly to accommodate a hinge or catch. Inside the box, four scarabs and a blue faience cylinder seal were found.

•             An L- shaped arrangement of small nodules was found immediately south of a wall indicating further related elements to the ceremony conducted around the graveside. It has a squared flat stone positioned in the corner on which was placed a jar containing 8 astragali aligned inside around the base. The purpose and form of this small L-shaped arrangement cannot easily be explained but it is almost certainly a ritual structure. Nearby hand-held incense burner and a limestone figurine with traces of red paint were also found. Given the context where this figurine was found it most probably represents a deity or a supplicant.

 

The Late Bronze Age

•             In 2005 a faience vessel with cartouches bearing the name of Pharaoh Queen Tawosret, the erstwhile wife of Sety II who reigned at the very end of the 19th Dynasty. Three probes were undertaken this season to try once more to clarify the perimeter of a Late Bronze Age building. The difficulties involved rise from the damage caused by a modern tunnel dug through it let alone the disturbances caused by the Iron Age settlement and numerous robber cuts.

•             One probe in the building revealed more faience fragments, one of which belonged to Queen Tawosret’s vessel.

•             Mycenaean materials, mainly rhyta suggesting banquet activities, have also been found. Along with Ras Shamra, to date Sidon possesses the highest percentage of such vessels on the Levantine coast. Further investigations will be undertaken next year.

 

The Late Iron Age

Phoenician levels which previously were only found sporadically on College site were again identified this year, albeit on a small scale. However, this season revealed a great deal of Late Iron Age remains, post-pads and floors covered in plaster with a large amount of local and Attic pottery and 21 terracotta figurines. One area which will require further investigations revealed 9 Persian jars stacked against the section and tilted upright. Another area was related to metalworking activities. Pits contained much metalworking residue including what are probably the broken remains of a furnace or smelting installation as evidence by heat damaged stones and degraded furnace fragments as well as numerous lumps of iron and copper-rich material which may be the semi-smelted residue.

 

The Roman period

Roman layers with large paving slabs and three drains beneath the paving were found. A total of twenty-three coins were found this season in both College and Sandikli sites.

 

Conclusion

As it progresses from year to year, the potential of this excavation is further revealed, without fail, by its consistent stratigraphical continuity.

List of illustrations

1 College site.

2 Sandikli site.

3 Drain found on Sandikli site.

4 Roman cisten on Sandikli site.

5 Early Bronze Age tannour on grey ash-coloured floor. College site

6 Room 6: stone flooring and hearths. College site.

7 Burial 99, College site, Middle Bronze Age.

8 Box made of various decorated antler plaques. College site, Middle Bronze Age.

9 College site. Paving slabs, Roman period.

10 College site. Drains beneath the paving.