IRAQ – Khirbet Hatara

  • Project: Eski Mosul Dam; international programme for saving the archaeological sites in the basin of the Tigris dam
  • Site: Khirbet Hatara
  • Scientific director: Antonio Invernizzi
  • Field director: Paolo Fiorina

The archaeological site of Khirbet Hatara is located approximately 40 km north of Mosul, along the old road that led to Zakho and to the Turkish border. It is located in the heart of the hilly area separating the Mesopotamian plain from the slopes of the Zagros mountains, just over 6 km east of the Tigris valley. The area is characterized by a series of low hills sloping towards the river and cut across by several wadis.
Hatara is a tell of modest height, with a flat top and sides gently sloping towards north and south and more steeply towards west. On this side a wadi flowing into wadi Qasrij runs, while to the north a flat valley extends from Jikan, on the shore of the Tigris, to Anzah. From the investigation it emerged that the Hatara site was frequented, albeit with interruptions, over a very long time, from the late Neolithic (Halaf) and Calcholithic (Uruk) periods to the late Islamic period. Ten levels were thus identified, corresponding to the same number of historical/cultural phases.

Level I, dating back to the Halaf and Obeid periods, was architecturally identified in two major soundings from which two distinct dwellings emerged. They were separated by an open area and built with different techniques. One of the two (dwelling 2) had tauf walls, apart from two small brick fragments, and had an essentially cruciform shape. Dwelling 1, built from unbaked bricks, had an outer profile moved by pillars and corners, and a long central area that opened up at one end into two small rooms. The pottery found there dates back for the most part to the Obeid 3 period. On the outside of the dwelling 1, the remains of a large oven paved with pebbles and pottery fragments from the Early- and Mid-Halaf periods were found. Level IIb-a corresponds to the mid-Uruk period. In level IIb the corner of a room, a corridor open on one side and a courtyard containing a large L-shaped structure were found. The latter was probably a platform used for butchering large animals and it had a serife covering. An interesting find in sublevel IIa consists of a comb-like structure lying at the centre of the square. The spaces between the small walls were rich in animal bones and microliths. This led the excavators to believe it was a place where meat was preserved. Level IIIb-a dates back to the late Uruk period. In IIIb a considerable number of silos and pottery kilns were found. It is interesting to note that approximately 20 fusaroles were concentrated at the east corner of the area. The pottery and small objects found in this area would suggest that it was exclusively an open-air craftsmen’s area. In IIIa the area was used as a cemetery: six burials, of which three are in vases, were found. In addition to funerary furnishings, some of them also contained personal ornaments consisting in seashell and obsidian necklaces.
Level IV dates back to the late Uruk period. Sublevel IVb is made up of a dwelling with a vestibule that opens onto two rooms and onto a courtyard in which traces of a round oven were found. The same dwelling was occupied in level IVa with a series of furnaces, especially in the small rooms near the vestibule at the entrance. Level Vb-a can be dated to the transition period between Uruk and Nineveh 5. Architecturally it is represented by a few traces of unbaked-brick masonry.
Level VI dates back to the Accadic period and is also represented by a few wall fragments, stone bases and a few ceramic-filled pits. In level VII, during the mid Assyrian-Mitannian period, the settlement was moved to the other side of the wadi. A sounding there brought to light the remains of a large structure made from pebbles and stones, composed of a courtyard and a room whose corner contained an arch-shaped opening. A gutter led from the courtyard to the outside of the dwelling. On the inside, there was a large ditch used for baking bricks. Level VIII belongs to the Neo-Assyrian period. The findings consist only of a few ceramic fragments, while it was not possible to conduct an excavation that could bring to light the architectural structures, probably concealed under a modern cemetery. Level IXa-b-c dates back to the Hellenistic period. In this case too, the excavation was limited to a small sounding, as the location was occupied by the above mentioned modern cemetery. Several floor surfaces and a few wall structures were brought to light. Level X pertains to a late Islamic phase of occupation.


1997, “Hatara 1. resti faunistici”, Mesopotamia XXXII, 257-270.

1997a, “Hatara, livello 7 – La ceramica mitannica e medio assira”, Mesopotamia XXXII, 189-224.
1997b, “Hatara, livello 6 – La ceramica accadica”, Mesopotamia XXXII, 225-240.

1997, “Khirbet Hatara – La stratigrafia”, Mesopotamia XXXII, p. 7-62.
2001, “Khirbet Hatara - La ceramica del livello 1”, Mesopotamia XXXVI, 1-48.
2007 “Kirbet Hatara : i piccoli oggetti”, Mesopotamia, LXII, 211-229.

2007 “Note su tre sigilli da Kirbet Hatara”, Mesopotamia, LXII, 231-234.

1997, “Clay tobacco pipes from Khirbet Hatara”, Mesopotamia XXXII, 73-86.

1997, “Hatara. I resti umani”, Mesopotamia XXXII, 241-256.

1997, “Hatara, livello 8. La ceramica neoassira”, Mesopotamia XXXII, 163-178.
1998, “Khirbet Hatara (Eski Mosul), i livelli 4° - 5b – 5a - La ceramica”, Mesopotamia XXXIII, 29-147.

1997, “Hatara, livello 9 – La ceramica ellenistica”, Mesopotamia XXXII, 131-162.

1997, “A Late Islamic ceramic group from Hatara”, Mesopotamia XXXVI, 87-130.