Can someone please help me better understand how ancient Tell’s are created/unearthed/made sense of?


I completely understand that the cities ruin and then something new is built on top of them. Then we find a Tell (mound of layers of ancient cities) and start unearthing it.

The problem is that I look at these pictures of those excavations and have a very hard time putting this together in a cohesive manner that I can understand if there isn’t an artistic model to fill in the gaps with.

All I ever see is rocks in rectangular shapes. I get it, they are the foundation of buildings BUT it always just looks like rocks to me!

Im so frustrated bc I really want to view these photos of the various sites and appreciate these ancient peoples lives but I just see rubble.

Also I don’t understand how people just are okay with living on a hill that’s clearly part cemetery, part ancient ruins. Why aren’t they saying “hey? I think we should move and stop building here and maybe check out what is here.”

Help! Lol

In: 9

Cities are placed where they are for good reasons, and those only change very slowly over time. When civilizations collapsed the cities were usually flattened, many times almost literally. So when the tides of barbarians receded the locals (or the barbarians who settled and became locals) were left with primo real estate that just needed a bit of clearing and leveling to become cities once more. Lather, rinse, repeat, and over centuries/millennia the height of the floor increased but the reasons for building didn’t change.

The reason why it’s hard for you to see is the reason archeology is a major in the humanities. It takes practice to see the difference between a geological feature from the corner of a building’s foundation. And you wouldn’t believe the information that can be gleaned from simple changes in the color of the dirt. Archeological digs have super-neat walls because it makes the stratigraphy easier to make out.

A personal story: During my Historical Archeology course one of the instructors hauled us all out to the oldest known cabin still above ground in NW Arkansas. On the way, he pointed out where the old railroad once ran. It was only by almost literally peering down his arm that I made out a dark, slightly elevated mound running straight through a field. Later, when we arrived, he spent the next hour explaining the house itself. By that time, it was two walls of bleached logs and a ruined fireplace. All I could’ve said about it was “house fall down.”

Oh, and as to why people didn’t mind living on a cemetery or weren’t curious about the history of where they were living? It’s hard to emphasize how poor people were before modern times. When your daily life is a struggle to survive, what’s below your feet or what came before is simply not a priority. Which is not to say those ancient people weren’t *concerned* about what they’d built on top of. One of the enduring practices of all ancient peoples was how to make sure the dead were kept so happy they didn’t decide to entertain themselves by ruining your life. But it wasn’t enough to make them move away.

If you want to get a sense of how this all works go searching for Time Team episodes on YouTube, if you haven’t already. You’ll become an expert at recognizing hidden features in the landscape in no time!