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2/21/13: What have we done?

The 2013 Kurru season is now officially over, and it’s time to try to figure out what we’ve accomplished. Further apologies for the delay in posting, but the end of season rush overtook us all. This has truly been a remarkable season—some amazing successes, some continuing frustrations, and a great deal of work for the future.

First, we have established that there are truly monumental remains at El Kurru quite apart from the royal cemetery itself.

We found Reisner’s palace well and showed that while the well itself was a significant excavation through solid rock, the stairs around the well were even more monumental, being dug nearly 5 meters (16 feet) underground and descending farther down into a tunnel in the rock. A feature of this scale surely deserves more attention…among other things, we have no clear idea of its date. We would have to destroy the house of Abdullah and his family in order to investigate further—and of course would have to provide him with a new house. So this will take some time to organize.

We located Reisner’s small “mortuary temple”—just the very tops of the walls, but we can expect them to be preserved nearly 3 meters (10 feet) high based on Reisner’s sketch section through the room, which shows two entirely subterranean rooms. Reisner’s idea that this was a temple is not well founded, and I think we have to consider the possibility that this structure was actually a residence. Perhaps Kurru’s ancient inhabitants lived mostly in rock-cut houses.

We also located what appears to be part of Reisner’s 200-meter-long city wall, and then found that all the material directly associated with it was dated to the Christian period (say around 900 AD) Surprising, but not conclusive—the Christian pottery was in an ash dump that was piled against the wall, which wouldn’t have been done if the wall was still in active use as a defensive structure. The wall itself is also constructed of blocks of stone that would be quite unusual for the classic Christian period. So the possibility remains that the wall might relate to the cemetery itself, but this will require extensive excavation to evaluate in more detail.

And finally, the big temple was a major surprise—its state of preservation, the existence of doorways cut into the rock, the “squatter” level that left pots on the floor as well as ancient graffiti. All of this will require years of work to excavate, document, preserve, and finally make accessible to visitors.

So we have not yet solved the “mystery” of the settlements at El Kurru, but we have some promising leads that we can follow next season.

Thank you all for reading along!