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Press Release 10-054
Archaeologists Uncover Land Before Wheel; Site Untouched for 6,000 Years

Previously unexcavated site reveals clues about world's first cities

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Photo of a red stone seal with an image of a deer.

This red stone seal with an image of a deer is 2 inches by 2 1/2 inches. The stone is not native to the area, but the seal is similar to one found 185 miles to the east near Mosul in northern Iraq.

Credit: Gil Stein, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago


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Gil Stein, lead researcher and director of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute discusses finds discovered at the mound of Tell Zeidan, one of the world's first cities. Researchers hope to gather clues about how early societies evolved through this National Science Foundation-supported project. Tell Zeidan has been untouched for nearly 6,000 years.

Credit: Dena Headlee and Lisa Raffensperger, National Science Foundation

 

Photo of the Tell Zeidan site in irrigated fields.

The Tell Zeidan site is about 48 feet high at its tallest point and covers about 30 acres. It sits in an area of irrigated fields at the junction of the Euphrates and Balikh Rivers in what is now northern Syria.

Credit: Gil Stein, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago


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Photo of project co-directors Annas and Gil Stein examining a sherd of pottery at Tell Zeidan.

Project co-directors Annas al-Khabour from Syria's Raqqa Museum and Gil Stein from the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute look over a shard of pottery from the Ubaid period at the site of Tell Zeidan. Al-Khabour was co-director in the 2008 season.

Credit: Gil Stein, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago


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The first excavation of Tell Zeidan in 6,000 years reveals a society divided by social inequality.

Archaeologists have long surmised that the Ubaid people were among the first in the Middle East to experience division of social groups according to power and wealth. Now, the first excavation of Tell Zeidan in 6,000 years adds confidence to this theory.

Credit: Gil Stein, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago


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Photo of a strainer spouted pitcher painted and impressed in a pattern of connected ovals.

This strainer-spouted pitcher, which is about 8 inches tall and 9 inches across at its widest point, is from the Halaf period and dates from about 5400 B.C. It is painted and impressed in a pattern of connected ovals that is a common motif in the Halaf culture.

Credit: Gil Stein, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago


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Photo of a seven-inch-tall female figurine made from clay.

This seven-inch-tall female figurine is from the Ubaid period and is made of baked clay.

Credit: Gil Stein, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago


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