Tell Afis is situated in the Syrian province of Idlib, 50 km SE of Aleppo. The archaeological project directed by Stefania Mazzoni took place between 1986 and 2010, and produced documented evidence of an occupation stretching from the fourth millennium BCE to the Neo-Assyrian period. Areas E2-E4, opened on the western edge of the acropolis, have yielded a continuous sequence, divided into eight phases, spanning the Late Bronze and Iron Age periods. These volumes present the final excavation report of phases V-I which cover the period between the end of the 13th and the 8th c. BCE. During these centuries the Northern Levant was marked by important events which deeply changed its political, social and economic order. The political rise and the sudden fall of the Hittite empire, the collapse of the city-state political system, the emergence of new cultural entities attributed to migrants identified with the Sea Peoples quoted by the Egyptian kings Merneptah and Ramses III and the re-organization of the territory in regional polities ruled by Luwian and Aramaean dynasties, are all factors which contributed to the formation of the cultural and political landscape of the 9th-8th c. BCE. The sequence of Areas E2-E4 yields a picture of a site which actively participated in these changes and was able to cross this troubled period by constantly reshaping its cultural and economic structure until becoming in the 8th c. BCE a flourishing center, likely to be identified with Hazrek, the capital of the Aramaean king Zakkur. The publication is composed of two volumes: the first dedicated to text, the second to plates. The arguments in Volume I are divided into six parts with the following subjects:
Part I is dedicated to a general description of the site and its region and to the history of the site’s excavations. Also presented are the methods used in material recording and the database setting.
Part II is dedicated to the stratigraphy of phases V-I. At the end of each phase description a chapter is devoted to the planimetric analyses of the buildings and to the functional partition of their spaces. Part III is dedicated to the typological analysis of pottery, divided into chapters corresponding to the different phases. The assemblages are analyzed both on a diachronic level and in comparison with other regional pottery horizons. This part concludes with a chapter in which the development of the Tell Afis production is synthesized together with a relative chronology proposal based on diagnostic materials. Part IV presents a selection of the collected small finds, arranged in functional and typological categories. Part V is dedicated to the presentation of the analyses carried out on the organic and ceramic materials. Chapter V.1 shows the results of 14C analyses which have allowed an absolute chronology proposal, discussed in comparisons with the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean documentation. Chapter V.2 presents the petrographic and geochemical analyses on a selected group of sherds with a particular emphasis on Iron Age I Aegeanizing pottery.
Part VI is divided into six chapters and it presents the excavation data framed in their historical context. Chapter VI.1 analyzes the site in 13th c. BCE and the dynamics linked to the political expansion of Hittites in the SE Syrian provinces. Chapters VI.2-3 discuss the complex issue concerning the identification of the Sea People migration throughout textual and material culture, the impact that the new Aegeanizing elements had in the Tell Afis local cultural framework and the patterns of their progressive assimilation. Chapter VI.4 is dedicated to the emergence in the site (and in its region) of the Aramaeans. Finally Chapters VI.5-6 are dedicated respectively to the Iron Age periodization of the Northern Levant and the conclusions.
Volume II is divided into the following five sections: I-II – Introduction, architecture and stratigraphy (maps and plans) III – The pottery (drawings) IV – The small finds (drawings) II-III-IV – Architecture, pottery and small finds (photos) V – 14C and minero-petrographic/geochemical analyses (photos)
Fabrizio Venturi completed his PhD in Archaeology at the University of Pisa with a dissertation on "Syria between the end of the Late Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age" ("La Siria nell’età delle trasformazioni" (XIII-X sec. a.C.). Nuovi contributi dallo scavo di Tell Afis: Bologna 2007). In his capacity as field director, he took part in the Syrian excavations of Tell Afis, between 1988 and 2010, and Arslan Tash, between 2007-2009. He was research fellow between 2004-2010 in the Department of Linguistic and Oriental Studies at the University of Bologna and he has taught History of Art and Archaeology of the Ancient Near East at the Universities of Bologna, Ravenna and Trapani. He is author of several studies that focus chiefly on Levantine architecture and material culture of the Late Bronze and Iron Age periods.