In archaeology, a tell or tel (borrowed into English from Arabic: تَلّ, tall, 'mound' or 'small hill'),[1] is an artificial topographical feature, a species of mound[a] consisting of the accumulated and stratified debris of a succession of consecutive settlements at the same site, the refuse of generations of people who built and inhabited them, and of natural sediment.[3][b][5][6]

Tell Barri, northeastern Syria, from the west; this is 32 meters (105 feet) high, and its base covers 37 hectares (91 acres)
Tel Be'er Sheva, Beersheva, Israel

Tells are most commonly associated with the ancient Near East, but they are also found elsewhere, such as Southern and parts of Central Europe, from Greece and Bulgaria to Hungary and Spain[7][8] and in North Africa.[3][9][10][11] Within the Near East, they are concentrated in less arid regions, including Upper Mesopotamia, the Southern Levant, Anatolia and Iran, which had more continuous settlement.[12] Eurasian tells date to the Neolithic,[13] the Chalcolithic, and the Bronze and Iron Ages.[14] In the Southern Levant the time of the tells ended with the conquest by Alexander the Great, which ushered in the Hellenistic period with its own, different settlement-building patterns.[citation needed] Many tells across the Near East continue to be occupied and used today.[15]

Etymology Edit

The word tell is first attested in English in an 1840 report in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society.[16] It is derived from the Arabic تَلّ (tall) meaning 'mound' or 'hillock'.[1][16] Variant spellings include tall, tel, til, and tal.[17]

The Arabic word has many cognates in other Semitic languages, such as Akkadian tīlu(m), Ugaritic tl,[18] and Hebrew tel (תל).[19] The Akkadian form is similar to Sumerian DUL, which can also refer to a 'pile' of any material, like grain, but it is not known whether the similarity reflects a borrowing from that language, or if the Sumerian term itself was a loanword from an earlier Semitic substrate language.[20] If Akkadian tīlu is related to another word in that language, til'u, meaning 'woman's breast', there exists a similar term in the South Semitic classical Ethiopian language of Geʽez, namely təla, 'breast'.[18] Hebrew tel first appears in the biblical book of Deuteronomy 13:16 (ca. 500–700 BCE),[21] describing a heap or small mound, and appearing in the books of Joshua and Jeremiah with the same meaning.[citation needed]

The Citadel of Aleppo, northern Syria, on top of a tell occupied since at least the third millennium BCE
Tel Megiddo, northern Israel

There are lexically unrelated equivalents for this geophysical concept of a town-mound in other Southwest Asian languages, including kom in Egyptian Arabic,[22] tepe or tappeh (Turkish/Persian: تپه), hüyük or höyük (Turkish), and chogha (Persian: چغا, from Turkish çokmak and derivatives çoka etc.).[23] These often appear in place names,[17] and the word itself is one of the most common prefixes for Palestinian toponyms.[24] The Arabic word khirbet, also spelled khirbat (خربة), meaning 'ruin', also occurs in the names of many archaeological tells, such as Khirbet et-Tell (roughly meaning 'heap of ruins').[25]

Formation Edit

A tell can only be formed if natural and man-produced material accumulates faster than it is removed by erosion and human-caused truncation,[6] which explains the limited geographical area they occur in.[original research?]

Tells are formed from a variety of remains, including organic and cultural refuse, collapsed mudbricks and other building materials, water-laid sediments, residues of biogenic and geochemical processes, and aeolian sediment.[26] A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with sloping sides[27] and a flat, mesa-like top.[28] They can be more than 43 m (141 ft) high.[23]

Occurrence Edit

Southwest Asia Edit

Tell Barri, northeastern Syria. Note the person standing in the middle for scale

It is thought that the earliest examples of tells are to be found in the Jordan Valley, such as at the 10 meter-high mound, dating back to the proto-Neolithic period, at Jericho in the West Bank.[3] Upwards of 5,000 tells have been detected in the area of ancient Israel and Jordan.[29] Of these Paul Lapp calculated in the 1960s that 98% had yet to be touched by archaeologists.[29]

In Syria, tells are abundant in the Upper Mesopotamia region, in which they scatter along the Euphrates, including Tell al-'Abr, Tell Bazi, Tell Kabir, Tell Mresh, Tell Saghir and Tell Banat.[30] The latter is thought to be the site of the oldest war memorial (known as the White Monument), dated back to the 3rd millennium BCE.[31]

Europe Edit

Tells can be found in Europe in countries like Spain, Hungary, Romania,[8] Bulgaria,[32] North Macedonia, and Greece.[8]

Northeastern Bulgaria has a rich archaeological heritage of eneolithic[c] tells from the 5th millennium BCE.[32]

In Neolithic Greece, there is a contrast between the northern Thessalian plain where rainfall was sufficient to permit densely populated settlements based on dry-farming and the more dispersed sites in southern Greece, such as the Peloponesus, where early villages sprang up around the smaller arable tracts close to springs, lakes and marshes.[34] There are two models to account for the tell structures of this part of southern Europe, one developed by Paul Halstead and the other by John Chapman. Chapman envisaged the tell as witness to a nucleated communal society, whereas Halstead emphasized the idea that they arose as individual household structures.[35] Thessalian tells often reflect small hamlets with a small population of around 40–80.[36]

The Toumbas of Macedonia and the Magoulas of Thessaly are the local names for tell sites in these regions of Greece.

See also Edit

Notes Edit

  1. ^ 'Artificial mounds are a characteristic feature of permanent and semipermanent settlement locations in past cultural landscapes, particularly on sedimentary plains, but also in arid and semiarid regions.'[2]
  2. ^ 'It is a paradox that a tell cannot by definition begin life as a tell – its earliest incarnation is as a flat site, like other flat sites in its vicinity. Such places did not take on the visual characteristics of tells for some generations but remained in statu nascendi. There is a critical time between the first reoccupation of a placed and the physical manifestation of a mound-a period of generations, if not centuries… The physical transformation of a tell-to-be into a tell depends upon two long-term physical concentrations – of people and house daub.. The nucleation of people in households living close to one another is the first prerequisite of tell-becoming.'[4]
  3. ^ 4900–3800 B.C.E.[33]

References Edit

  1. ^ a b Kirkpatrick, E. M., ed. (1983). Chambers 20th Century Dictionary (New ed.). Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. p. 1330. ISBN 0550102345.
  2. ^ Orengo&al 2020, p. 18240.
  3. ^ a b c Shaw 2002, p. 566.
  4. ^ Chapman 2000, p. 207.
  5. ^ Negev, Avraham; Gibson, Shimon, eds. (2001). "Tell". Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land. New York and London: Continuum. p. 497. ISBN 0-8264-1316-1. Retrieved 9 October 2021.
  6. ^ a b Matthews (2020), Introduction and Definition
  7. ^ Bailey&al 1998, p. 373-396.
  8. ^ a b c Blanco-González & Kienlin 2020, ch. 1, see map.
  9. ^ MacDonald 1997, pp. 40–42.
  10. ^ Davidson&al 2010, pp. 1564–1571.
  11. ^ Kotsakis 1999, p. 66.
  12. ^ Wilkinson 2003, pp. 100–127.
  13. ^ Blanco-González & Kienlin 2020, ch. 1.
  14. ^ Chapman, John. In Blanco-González & Kienlin 2020, ch. 14.
  15. ^ "TerraWatchers, UCSD, and ASOR CHI Partner to Monitor Archaeological Sites". American Society of Overseas Research (ASOR). 17 January 2019. Retrieved 2021-10-13.
  16. ^ a b "tell". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  17. ^ a b Hirst 2019.
  18. ^ a b Leslau 1958, p. 55.
  19. ^ tel in Strong's Concordance via
  20. ^ Suriano 2012, p. 214, notes 17-19.
  21. ^ Bos, James M. (2013). Reconsidering the Date and Provenance of the Book of Hosea. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-0-567-06889-7.
  22. ^ Shaw 2002, p. 567.
  23. ^ a b Matthews 2020, p. 7260.
  24. ^ Warfield 1885, p. 274.
  25. ^ Wagemakers 2014, p. 40.
  26. ^ Wilkinson 2003, p. 108.
  27. ^ Albright 1949, p. 16.
  28. ^ Suriano 2012, p. 213.
  29. ^ a b Lapp 1975, p. 1.
  30. ^ Anne Porter (2018). "The Tell Banat Settlement Complex during the Third and Second Millennia BCE" (PDF). Vorderasiatische Archäologie.
  31. ^ Anne Porter; et al. (2021). ""Their corpses will reach the base of heaven": a third-millennium BCE war memorial in northern Mesopotamia?". Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–19. doi:10.15184/aqy.2021.58.
  32. ^ a b Bailey&al 1998, p. 378.
  33. ^ Bailey&al 1998, p. 375).
  34. ^ Bintliff 2012, p. 53.
  35. ^ Bintliff 2012, pp. 53–54.
  36. ^ Bintliff 2012, p. 55.

Works cited Edit

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