A rural Iron Age site at Zeviya Tivilki: in the construction
zone of the Ilısu Dam, south-eastern Turkey

A. Tuba Ökse, Ahmet Görmüş & Erkan Atay

Figure 1
Figure 1. The location of Zeviya Tivilki within the Ilısu Dam construction zone.
Click to enlarge.

The construction zone of the Ilısu Dam and hydro-electric power station lies on the Upper Tigris River in south-eastern Turkey (Figure 1). The site is located in a plain with steep mountain ridges to the north and east. Intensive archaeological survey of the construction zone has so far identified 15 sites (Ökse et al. 2008, 2009a & b). Salvage excavations were undertaken at two of these sites in 2009: Zeviya Tivilki and Ilısu Höyük. Excavations at Zeviya Tivilki are now complete and brief results are presented here. Salvage excavations will continue in 2010 at Ilısu Höyük and three further sites.

Zeviya Tivilki is located on a natural outcrop of rock at c. 530m asl, 50km north-east of Midyat, 10km east of Dargeçit and 2km west of the Tigris River. The site consists of a single-period stone building complex encompassing 2565m² and divided into three sections (Figure 2). The southern section comprises four rooms and is separated from the northern section by a corridor. Within the northern section, the north-western wing consists of 9 rooms around a central room. The third section, a group of long rooms attached to the north-east of the main building complex, was interpreted as a storage area.

Figure 2
Figure 2. The building complex at Zeviya Tivilki from the south-east.
Click to enlarge.
Form of the buildings

Walls of rough stones bonded with mud were laid directly onto bedrock. There are several postholes, carved into bedrock, with diameters ranging from 70-140cm and depths of 50-140cm. These indicate posts that would have supported the roof. Padstones for posts, also probably used to support the roof, are frequently found in the centre of rooms. Some doorways are stepped, and several limestone doorjambs were found in situ. Other identifiable features include storage pits, a stone water channel and a circular kiln.

The infrastructure of the buildings may be inferred by analogy with traditional buildings located c. 50km to the north-west of the site, in Suçeken (Figures 3 and 4). These buildings are used as winter shelters by a semi-nomadic community who wander with their herds in the eastern Anatolian highlands during the summer. The walls are built using rough stones with thatched roofs supported by rafters on wooden posts.

Figure 3
Figure 3. Modern shelters in Suçeken.
Click to enlarge.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Wooden posts and roof construction of the buildings in Suçeken.
Click to enlarge.

Figure 5
Figure 5. Early Iron Age and New Assyrian vessels from Zeviya Tivilki.
Click to enlarge.

Artefacts discovered at Zeviya Tivilki included grinding stones, sickles, axes, stone and terracotta looms, a small number of iron bracelets, daggers, rings and pottery. Early Iron Age vessels, some with horizontal grooves, like those known from the Upper Euphrates (Hauptmann 1976: Abb. 54; Winn 1980: Pl. 15) and the Upper Tigris (Parker et al. 2001: Figure 14R; Ökse & Görmüş 2006: 142), and handmade vessels resembling New Assyrian standard pottery (Köroğlu 1998: 40-41) as well as a few New Assyrian wheel-made common ware vessels (Curtis et al. 1993: 30) were found together in the same rooms (Figure 5). Neither animal bones nor cereal remains were found.

Figure 6
Figure 6. Pot burials from Zeviya Tivilki.
Click to enlarge.


In an area outside the east corner of the settlement, surrounded by a mortared wall, were 21 graves consisting of cremated bones in urns manufactured in the New Assyrian style (Figure 6). The grave goods included 69 iron tools and daggers (Figure 7), as well as bracelets, fibulae, beads, chisels, arrowheads and spearheads datable to the eighth century BC, and five miniature pots from the Early Iron Age. There were also two cylinder seals manufactured in the New Assyrian style (Figure 8).

Figure 7
Figure 7. Iron tools and weapons found in pot burials at Zeviya Tivilki.
Click to enlarge.
Figure 8
Figure 8. New Assyrian cylinder seals from a pot burial at Zeviya Tivilki.
Click to enlarge.


The Early Iron Age in the Upper Euphrates region is assigned to the period 1150-950 BC (Bartl 2001: 391-6) and in the Lower Euphrates region to 1000-800 BC (Müller 1999: 404). The development of New Assyrian ware in the Upper Tigris region is dated to the end of the Middle Assyrian period (Schachner 2003: 158; Roaf & Schachner 2005: 116). In north Mesopotamia pieces similar to New Assyrian standard ceramics were dated to the eighth/seventh century BC. Stone carvings made under Assurbanipal II (Erkanal & Erkanal 1989: 130-4) also suggest a seventh/eighth-century BC date for the establishment of the New Assyrian period in the Upper Tigris region. The contemporary use of ceramics belonging to two different periods indicates that the Early Iron Age culture here continued into the New Assyrian period.


Salvage excavations were completed in 2009 under the co-direction of the authors and Nihat Erdoğan, director of the Museums in Mardin. Fieldwork, documentation and recording were made by: Murat Eroğlu, Ahmet Güneş, Yeliz Tan, Aziz Ayhan Bayraktar, Sibel Torpil, Adem Öncü, Adem Yücel, Başar Yücel, Mehmet Boz, Yücel Erdaş, Vildan Gürdil, Hüsniye Levent, Zerrin Hamioğlu and Burcu Kaçmaz.


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* Author for correspondence

  • A. Tuba Ökse*
    Kocaeli University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Archaeology, Umuttepe TR-41380 Izmit/Kocaeli, Turkey (Email: tubaokse@yahoo.com)
  • A. Görmüş
    Mustafa Kemal University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Archaeology, Tayfur Sökmen Campus, TR-41380 Antakya/Hatay, Turkey (Email: ahmetgormus@yahoo.de)
  • E. Atay
    Ilısu Dam Construction Area Archaeological Project Co-ordination Center, Mardin, Turkey (Email: erkanatay10@mynet.com)