PAMES - Border and Territory in the Middle Euphrates during the Middle Assyrian period (13th century BC)



Code . PTDC/HIS-ARQ/103023/2008

Start . 2010

Duration . 36 months

Principal Investigator Francisco Caramelo (CHAM)



Funding Entity

Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

Main Research Unit

CHAM - Centro de Humanidades


Coordinator institution

Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas / Universidade Nova de Lisboa


Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
Faculdade de Letras / Universidade de Lisboa
Universidade da Coruña


The project focuses on the problematic associated with the definition of the terms territory and border in the Syro-Mesopotamian context, during the Late Bronze II period (c. 1300-1200 BC) in the Syrian Euphrates.

One of the problems found by modern historiography is the setting of definition criteria for border and territory in the Mesopotamian ideology. In the complex history of Mesopotamia, borders had a dynamic nature, they were hardly static, especially during the period we are focusing.

One of the main gaps of the ongoing research, regarding the borders and territoriality of the Late Bronze in the valley of the Syrian middle Euphrates, is the insufficient understanding of the creation process of the Middle Assyrian Empire and, particularly, its western border, located on the river Euphrates. Up until now, the only known references about the Assyrian presence in this region come from a few cuneiform inscriptions of Kings Adad-narari I, Salmanasar I and Tukulti-Ninurta I (1307-1208 BC). However, considering that the main purpose of these texts was propaganda, an archaeological verification of these assertions is needed.

Archaeologically, there little information, scattered and fragile data, insufficient to demonstrate the historical accuracy of these regal inscriptions. Recent research from the Syrian Middle Euphrates Archaeological Project (PAMES) opened new horizons for this topic. PAMES is directed by the University of A Coruña (Spain) and the Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums (Syria) and funded by the Spanish Ministry of Culture, CSIC and CHAM (Universidade Nova de Lisboa). The prospecting and excavation of Tall Qabr Abu al-`Atiq, located in a gorge of the Middle Euphrates, which includes the collaboration of FCSH of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa since 2005, revealed an occupation stage of the III millennium BC (contemporary of Mari I) and, for the first time in the region, the remains of a fortified site (dunnu in Assyrian) of the Middle Assyrian period.

Due to its geographical situation, controlling a natural border, for its Chrono-cultural relevance, and with unprecedented material and possibly textual documentation (given the importance of this location, researchers consider the possibility of an administrative file), Tall Qabr Abu al - `Atiq is an exceptional place to study not only the expansionist policy of the Assyrian Kings on the western border of their empire, but also their interaction with the Hittites.

Given its exceptional conservation, due to the great fire that destroyed it, Tall Qabr Abu al-' Atiq will introduce for the first time, different aspects of a fortified site, associated to the Assyrian border, namely a fortified architecture in adobe and a material culture, highlighting the presence and a specific typology of a Middle Assyrian administrative ceramics.




PAMES seeks to study the northern border of the Kingdom of Mari (2900-1760 BC) in a region of geostrategic importance, the Halabiya gorge, in the valley of the Middle Euphrates. The documentary base of PAMES is the prospection in the region and the excavation of Phase I of Tall Qabr Abu al-' Atiq (2900-2700 BC). The study of Phase II (1275-1200 BC), which corresponds to the Middle Assyrian period, will be the subject of this project, the specific direction of the Portuguese participation in PAMES. For the first time, a Portuguese university will be able to implement a research project on the ancient Mesopotamia, based on the study of documentation obtained first-hand. It is a pioneering project in our country, which will, on the one hand, help fill a gap in the international investigation and, on the other, will contribute to the growth of studies in archaeology and history of ancient Mesopotamia, scarce in Portugal, so that it attains the academic and scientific importance already established in other European countries.

Looking to contribute to the resolution of these problems, this project aims to reach a series of objectives through a specific methodology:

• the compilation of all information concerning the archaeological sites dating from the Late Bronze in the valley of the Syrian Euphrates;

• the compilation of all the textual documentation (in cuneiform) related to these archaeological sites, as well as the one found in the official records of these empires, particularly those regarding this geographical area;

• the archaeological excavation of Tall Qabr Abu al-‘Atiq (Syria);

• the archaeological prospection in the Halabiya gorge, in the valley of the Syrian Middle Euphrates.









Francisco Caramelo    .    Coordenator

Juan Luis Montero Fenollós (Universidade da Coruña; CHAM)

António Joaquim Ramos dos Santos (CH / FL/UL)
Ignacio Márquez Rowe (CSIC)