Tille Excavation

Location: near Geldibuldu village; Adıyaman Province

Years: 1978-1990

Project Director: David French

Participants: Pamela French, James Crow (1978-1979), David Williams (1978), Mehmet Ündemiş (1978), Richard Kelly (1979), Catherine Kelly (1979), Alistair Killick (1979), Robert Killick (1979), Jane Moon (1979), John Morter (1979), Alun Sheen (1979-1980), James Simson (1979), Brian Williams (1979, 1982, 1986, 1990), Ülge Göker (1979-1981), S. Clews (1980), Ahmet İşçimen (1980-1981), J. Moore (1980), Robert Philpott (1980-1981), V. Shelton-Bunn (1980), S. Vaughan (1980), Robert Whieldon (1980-1981), Funda Z. Sabri (1980-1982), Stuart Blaylock (1981-1990), Esin Dal (1981), Berin Kuşatman (1981), Sara Langdom (1981), Ann Murray (1981-1982), Malcolm Reid (1981), Harry Russell (1981-1984), Diana Russell (1981), Decca Warrington (1981-1982), Tuğrul Çakar (1981-1990), Robert Payton (1981-1984), Theresa Breznau (1981), Ahmet Bal (1981), Baki Yığıt (1981), Joanna Bailey (1982-1983), Wayne Cocroft (1982), Anne-Marie Fahy (1982), Robert Halliday (1982), Jennifer Inkpen (1982), Charles Mundy (1982), Andrew Pye (1982), John Moore (1982-1983), Lynn Grant (1982), Jonathan Drake (1983), Mark Duncan (1983), Christine Rowley (1983), Catherine Tutton (1983), Emini Atakan (1984), Tim Crump (1984), Özgür Çalga (1984), Denny Edwards (1984), Çiğdem Kafesçioğlu (1984), Gül Pulham (1984), Filiz Taner (1984), Geoffrey Summers (1985-1990), Katherine Baker (1986), Anne Sutton (1986-1987), Johanna Pinder-Wilson (1986), Trevor Carbin (1986-1990), Julie Edwards (1986-1987, 1990), Shahina Farid (1986-1987, 1989-1990), Alison and Martin Hicks (1986-1987), Shirely Simpson (1986-1987), Jeremy Youle (1986), Kirsty Norman (1986), Derek Kennet (1987), Kirsty Norman (1987), Ayda Oral (1987), Françoise Summers (1987-1990), Angela Taylor (1987), Janet Clougherty (1987), Robert Entwistle (1987), Jennifer Harding (1987), David Connolly (1988-89), Shona Cox Connolly (1988-1989), Tasha Guest (1988), Peter Hart (1988), Caroline Jamfrey (1988), Christine Phillips (1988), Shirley Simpson (1988-89), Helle Strehle (1988), Neslihan Akan (1988), Adnan Baysal (1988-1990), Defne Olgaç (1988), Nurcan Yalman (1988), Haluk Sağlamtemir (1988), Fiona Baker (1989), Pervin Bilgen (1989), Janet Edmond (1989), Jane Goddard (1989), Piotr Odrobinski (1989), Duncan Schlee (1989), Shirley Blaylock (1990), Helen Boyd (1990), Amanda Wallace (1990), Helen Kingsley (1990), Christine Murray (1990), and others

Government Representatives: Mehmet Armağan (1979), Mehmet Şener (1979), Ali Zafer Çakmakçı (1979-80), Vehbi Uysal (1982), Ali Önder (1983), Oğuz Girit (1984), Murşit Yacızı (1986), Mesut Güngör (1987), Enver Üstündağ (1988), Cengiz İçten (1989), Levent Eğemen Vardar (1990) N. Önder Öztürk (1990) 

Funding: BIAA, British Academy, British Museum, Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies

Website: N/A


Tille Höyük, an ancient mound site, is located in Tille – subsequently renamed  Geldibuldu – village, in Adıyaman Province.  It had been visited by F. K. Dörner and his Commagene exploration team in the 1960’s, and then by Özdoğan and Serdaroğlu in 1977.  It was opened for excavation in 1978, initiated as part of the rescue project connected to the building of the Karakaya hydroelectric dam.  The BIAA was invited to join the efforts and allotted the site of Tille Höyük.  The first season of work was undertaken in November 1978 by a team of four, simply for the purpose of reconnaissance and becoming acquainted with the site and surrounding area.

In the spring of 1979, with a brief extension in the autumn, work on the site was formally initiated.  Three areas were initially investigated, though work on one was discontinued when it yielded no evidence of having been inhabited anciently; the remaining two areas were located on the north and south sides of the road running between Adıyaman and Urfa.  At the north site, Roman structures were found, with Hellenistic remains existing below, which yielded stamped tiles and some pottery.  In the south trench, they discovered what they believed to be the remnant of a bathhouse, which exhibited a coarse mosaic floor and some abandoned, empty rooms containing stamped tiles.  Sites and structures in the area were also visited, some of which were watchtowers that had been erected along the frontier.  One of these was excavated in part during the season’s extension in autumn, at which point some remains and late Hellenistic or early Roman graves were found.

In June and July 1980 the work was focused on three areas: the first was the exposing the top of the mound, the second was the excavation of a step trench on the mound’s northeast corner, and the last was the continuation of work on the Roman remains found the previous season.  From the evidence found an incomplete plan of a large building on the top of the mound could be constructed, and was dated to sometime during the earlier Medieval period.  In the step trench little pottery came to light, but some sherds dating back to the middle of the third millennium were found.  Some evidence of a stone wall was seen in the side of the ditch, and turned out to be Roman.  Some team members carried out a topographic survey of the mound, as well as the village and surrounding area.

In 1981 the team was successful in carrying out one of their main objectives: to uncover more of the Medieval period structures on top of the mound.  Nearly the entire top of the mound was excavated, and remains – such as pottery, bronzes, small objects, and a few coins – were discovered.  The Medieval remains were cleared away so the Hellenistic structures underneath could be investigated.  They were also partially successful in extending excavation in the Roman levels off the mound.

In 1982 the team carried on work for ten weeks between April and July then two weeks across October and November.  It became apparent that the site had been a defended stronghold during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.  In the spring session, the removal of the Medieval layers on the mound was completed, and a large section of the Hellenistic levels was excavated.  Work continued in the autumn on a small segment, where a well-constructed building underlying the Hellenistic levels and possibly dating back to the eighth century BC was exposed, which featured walls, mud bricks covered with plaster, traces of red paint, and hearths.

A spring season was carried out by the permanent Ankara staff between 27 May and 26 June 1983, wherein the entire Hellenistic level was uncovered.  Between 18 September and 24 November they were joined by the others.  In the autumn session, the last three weeks were unsuitable for work due to heavy rain, but much was accomplished during the time remaining.  The stratigraphic sequence for the Hellenistic period was developed, with three levels clearly definable.  There were few finds, though they did come across some pots and metal work, as well as some imported objects like Egyptian scarabs and beads.  In the lower levels, some walls, floors, terracotta figurines, graves and burial items, and two Aramaic inscriptions were revealed.

In 1984, work at Tille was limited to one long autumn campaign, as the spring season was cancelled due to administrative issues that delayed the excavation permit.  The Hellenistic levels were excavated completely, and the underlying Neo-Assyrian levels were inspected.  As they worked, the Hellenistic stratigraphic sequence grew more complex, and the discovery of some silver coins led to the proposal of 275 BC as the date of the earliest phase of level 2.  The Neo-Assyrian levels were proposed to be Achaemenid in date, yet there was no material evidence from these levels to assist in dating.  Some pots and jars were observed, as well as a pebble mosaic on the floor.  The 1984 season at Tille was tragic for the hepatitis epidemic that affected four of the thirteen team members, and from which Denny Edwards passed away.  Work was halted immediately.

A ten-day campaign was taken in July 1985 to complete the unfinished work from the previous season, led by Geoffrey Summers with the assistance of the Ankara staff.  After this, work commenced for ten weeks across August, September, and October.  Some planning and drawing of stone footings was undertaken in late August, then excavation work began.  Firstly, the black and white pebble mosaic was exposed, and then some poor structures around it, along with a perimeter wall.  Some small finds dating to the seventh or sixth century BC were also found.  Two more building levels were reached, though fairly unimpressive, which yielded pottery fragments from the ninth and eighth centuries BC.  A burnt level was reached, and appeared to be more impressive, though only a small area was excavated.  Three large pithoi were found as well as some sherds dating to 1250 BC.

The spring session was renewed between 24 April and 10 May 1986, with a small group working to clear away the walls of the Achaemenid level and to lift the pebble mosaic.  They were joined on 22 September by the rest of the team and worked until 15 November.  An additional week was then spent planning and recording, then conservation and illustration tasks were undertaken between 1 and 19 December at the Adıyaman Museum.  During eight weeks of excavation, they were successful in exposing 1000m, and the whole of the Iron Age level.  A sequence of alteration is evident in the Achaemenid structures.  Two phases are identifiable in the Iron Age level, with complete pots discovered in a room from the second phase.  Another pebble mosaic was discovered on the terrace.

In 1987 work started later than expected due to inclement weather, beginning on 7 September and continuing to 20 November.  They were successful in examining early Iron Age deposits, recording and lifting the pebble mosaic, and completely excavating the Neo-Assyrian buildings.  A range of pre-Assyrian buildings were also excavated.  The pottery discovered appeared to exhibit an Assyrian influence but was likely manufactured locally.  Pots, iron tools, and weapons such as blades, spearheads, and arrowheads were found in the earlier Iron Age levels.

The eleventh season lasted between 5 September and 7 November 1988.  The team easily achieved their goal of completing the Neo-Assyrian level, removing all areas except along the southern edge.  In the process they discovered a pit with some iron weapons and a group of pots.  The plan of the pre-Neo-Assyrian levels was then extended.  Though difficult to interpret, the building plans were informative, with nearly every room containing one or two rows of stone post bases.  Some 30 pots (in complete or restorable condition) were found, along with iron tools and weaponry, and stamp seal.

In the penultimate season of work their start date was pushed back from 4 September to 20 September 1989, and work continued until 20 November.  It appeared as though one level was destroyed by a fire which had centered on the gateway then continued to the north and east.  Some 45 pots were found in the burnt building, but no iron items.  Nothing had been in the Roman deposits since 1979 because of their location in harvested fields; when the land was officially expropriated in 1988 it became possible to recommence work there.  A hired excavating machine did the work of preliminary trenching, at which point a wall, room, and what had perhaps been a barrack building were found.

1990 was the final season in which work could be undertaken due to the dam’s progress; in fact, water had already started encroaching on site premises.  Due to the need to work quickly, three projects were taken on simultaneously.  One was an architectural survey of three monastic sites north of Tille in the Euphrates gorge, carried out from 11 September to 13 October.  The excavation of the Roman bath and connected buildings was undertaken simultaneously by a different team.  And thirdly, the northwest corner of the mound was excavated in order to investigate the remaining levels of Early Iron Age and Late Bronze Age, ongoing between 7 September to 22 October.  On the mound, a long sequence of twelve occupation levels was discovered beneath the burnt structure, most of which were poorly preserved.  Four different types of pottery could be distinguished, and some other finds – including bronze pins, a Hittite seal, and a polished stone box – were also discovered.  The burnt building was dated to the Late Bronze Age.  At the Roman site, a hole was dug to the south of the long building to see if a fort was connected to the bath house, but nothing was found, though stamped tiles from the bath house seem to indicate a military establishment nearby.  Some vessels, glass fragments, and stamped tile fragments were found and collected, as were nine coins.  Finally, excavation materials were moved from the depots to the museum, where the team was engaged in packaging, listing, and recording until 17 November. 


1979: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 29: 3

1980: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 30: 197-198

1981: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 31: 3-6

French, D.H., Moore, J., Russell, H.F. 1982: ‘Excavations at Tille 1979-1982: An Interim Report’ Anatolian Studies 32: 161-187

1983: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 33: 6-7

1984: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 34: 4-6

1985: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 35: 5-6

1986: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 36: 5-6

1987: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 37: 6-8

1988: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 38: 6-8

1989: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 39: 7

1990: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 40: 5-8

1991: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 41: 3-7

See also:

Moore, J. 1993: Tille Höyük 1: The Medieval Period. London

Summers, G.D. 1993: Tille Höyük 4: The Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age Transition. Ankara

Blaylock, S. 2009: Tille Höyük 3.1: The Iron Age: Introduction, Stratification and Architecture. Ankara

Belongs to;
Archaeology Related Disciplines

View other research