News: Amazing discovery

Local archaeologist leads expedition to 3,000-year-old find

10/14/2009

tablet

Expedition team members look at unconserved tablet — held by Dr. Dirk Wicke of Mainz University — just after it was extracted from the ground.


Dr. Timothy Matney, University of Akron associate professor of archaeology, led an international team of archaeologists who last summer discovered the remains of a palace from the ancient Assyrian Empire.

The discovery was made at the site of Ziyaret Tepe, along the banks of the Tigris River in the Diyarbakir Province of southeastern Turkey. Ziyaret Tepe was an important urban center during the late Iron Age, from 882 to 611 BC, and has been identified as the Assyrian Provincial capital of Tushan. Here, Matney discovered clay tablets with cuneiform script written and stored in the palace archives 3,000 years ago.

“This is one of the most important archaeological discoveries anywhere in the world this year,” says Dr. Michael Shott, UA professor of archaeology and chair of the university’s Department of Classical Studies, Anthropology and Archaeology.

Matney says his discovery of the cuneiform tablets, written in the Late Assyrian dialect, includes a list of women’s names. “Because the tablet was found in the reception room of the palace, we are possibly looking at a list of women who were employed by the palace as agricultural workers,” Matney says, adding that surprisingly none of the names on the tablets are Assyrian, but may represent another ethnic group in the area.

Important clues to empire's composition

“This means that these women belonged either to the original indigenous population subordinated by the Assyrians in the 9th century BC, or to a group of foreigners who had been deported to Tushan. The precise identification of their linguistic background awaits detailed analysis and the results will shed an important light on the ethnic composition of this corner of the Assyrian Empire,” writes epigrapher and expedition team member Dr. John MacGinnis, a University of Cambridge archaeologist.

Matney and tablet

Left: Front side of a tablet displaying cuneiform script.

Right: Dr. Timothy Matney, UA associate professor of archaeology, led a research team to discover ancient Assyrian Empire palace remains.

A joint undertaking of UA, Cambridge (UK), the University of Mainz (Germany) and Marmara University (Turkey) Ziyaret Tepe draws scholars and students from all corners of the globe each summer for excavations of both the citadel, or high mound, and lower suburbs. On its most recent expedition, the research team’s excavation at the citadel revealed a major reception room, which likely served as the governor's throne room. Another of the team’s discoveries — cremation burials furnished with bronze and stone vessels, painted and carved ivory furniture fittings and intricately carved stones used to seal documents — were cut into the palace courtyard.

With major federal research program funding support, Matney has directed excavations (some also supported by National Geographic) at Tepe Ziyaret for the past 13 years. The current stage of his work is funded, in part, by a National Endowment for the Humanities.


Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or henryd@uakron.edu.

 

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