The thirteenth season of excavation carried out by the British Museum in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities of Lebanon on the mound of the ancient city of Sidon took place between the 4th of June and the 17th of July 2011. Two areas were investigated:
– College site which had already produced important new historical information from the excavations of 1998-2010. Sidon’s continuity of occupation from the third millennium BC to the Roman Period has proved to be exceptional and will undoubtedly lay the foundations for a chronological sequence for the Lebanon as a whole which is currently nonexistent. This season’s College site excavations involved:
The Third millennium BC
The further investigation of a previously uncovered building consisting of 10 rooms. The further uncovering of a rectangular warehouse with storage-rooms (26 found to date) revealed a new store room built in stone and not mud brick as previously encountered. It contained emmer (triricum dicoccum), one of the oldest varieties of domesticated wheat first found in Syria as early as the Neolithic period. This new discovery only adds to the 160 kgs of barley (ordeum sativum) which together with the wheat had been completely burnt in a fire which destroyed the building around 2500-2400 BC. In addition to the wheat a large heap of logs placed outside and against this newly discovered stone store room were found burnt in situ. These carbonized logs must have been contained in a bag or attached together in a bundle as they were found still piled up in their initial position prior to the fire that destroyed the building.
The Middle Bronze Age
– To date, 120 burials have been found on College site of which 109, dating back to the first half of the second millennium, have been excavated so far. Particularly noteworthy this year was the discovery of a multiple burial of at least 8 individuals of which only two were juveniles. A large quantity of pottery, a cylinder seal, faience beads and animal deposits were also found in this burial. Strips of incised bone inlay decorated with geometric patterns commonly represented in Palestine found during the 2009 season in the burial of a high-ranking woman and were again found this season in a newly discovered burial (burial 120). Aside from the criss-cross pattern, longitudinal and diagonal lines, it is the first time that a silhouette depicting a bird has been found.
The monumental building which was identified as a temple and in which a breakage ceremony took place during the Hyksos period was further excavated this year. The southernmost wall of this building was uncovered with a large platform buttressed neatly in the corner. The size and well-built condition of this outer wall show that structurally there is no clear reason why it should need any internal reinforcement of this kind. The platform therefore may well have been used for either decorative purposes, or as a base for something associated with the use of the building.
The Late Bronze Age
A series of 9 intercutting pits and a circular stone-lined feature containing high quality Mycenaean pottery all related to feasting ceremonies were found during this excavation season south of the remains of a Late Bronze Age building (3124-3125) . The best preserved stone lined-pit (7195) consists of sandstone and limestone blocks. A number of the blocks are red suggesting that they may have been burnt. Along the northern side of the lining one of the stones is oval and seems to have been carved in a series of oval grooves.
The Late Bronze/Beginning of the Iron Age
The 12th century at Sidon was represented by the discovery in 2005 of a faience vessel with a hieroglyphic inscription referring to Queen Tawosret who ruled Egypt only for two years at the very end of the 19th Dynasty. 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 utmost. One bell-shaped bowl with a spiral motif of the Mycenaean IIIC: 1b type with a monochrome decoration dating to the 12th century was found this year inside a building which may well reveal a continuation from the Late Bronze Age and the appearance of Iron Age I types in an uninterrupted stratigraphy. Sidon’s dominant position among the Phoenician coastal cities in the late 12th and 11th centuries seems clear from the surviving historical record, namely the story of Wenamun and an inscription of Tiglath-Pileser I. Further research will be needed next year to confirm this very important historical point.
The Late Iron Age
New monumental temples belonging to the Iron Age have emerged during the 2011 season. One was constructed with large ashlar blocks and will require further investigation. In another earlier temple 16 terracotta figurines (fig. 12 a-b) were found together with a number of finds in stone pottery and bronze. Particularly noteworthy is the discovery of a bronze musical instrument, namely a sistrum, which is a sacred instrument used in dances and religious ceremonies and in the worship of the Egyptian goddess Hathor. The U-shape of the sistrum’s handle and frame depicts the face and horns of the cow goddess. This sistrum is further proof of the continuity of feasting activities on College site over the past millennia. Dozens of jars (fig. 14) were found lying on top of each other facing different directions outside of the temple and might have been used by those attending the temple then discarded. The jars appear to be partly surrounded by supporting stones.
The Sandikli site
is a newly excavated site where two soundings were undertaken. A new trench (trench 3) was opened this year in order to enlarge the excavation area. A pavement measuring 3.6 m long and 35 cm to 1.5 m wide made of large sub-rectangular limestone slabs is oriented north/south but the smoothed slabs themselves are laid in an east/ north, east/west and south/west alignment. A wheel rut running through the pavement in a north/south direction for approximately 2 m indicates that the slabs are still in situ. Additionally, a small drain structure was found under the pavement. Iron Age levels were reached at the end of the season and these will be investigated in the next year’s campaign. The Iron Age in trench 3 revealed a Phoenician glass head pendant.