What is a Tell?; Persian Textiles from Pazyryk, Siberia; Nazca Lines, Peru.

What is a Tell?

A tell is an artificial mound that has built up over time through layers of living occupation. They date from the neolithic period, c.8500 BC, onward.

Cross section through Tell Hesy - Flinders Petrie Public Domain
Cross section through Tell Hesy – Flinders Petrie
Public Domain

The construction material used for the houses and other structures was mostly from mud brick, and as these broke down over time, they were just built upon. Buildings constructed, and that form tells, include homes of everyday people, shrines, government buildings, religious buildings, and military buildings.

Catal Hüyük Excavations ©Stipich Béla – Wiki Commons
Catal Hüyük Excavations
©Stipich Béla – Wiki Commons

The most famous tell site is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Çatalhöyük, located in Turkey. Excavations have been ongoing there since 1958. It has an amazing history and one which is still being pieced together today.

The main areas where tells have been uncovered are Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and the Middle East. They are also called by different names in different regions; in Turkey they are commonly called hüyük; in Arabic they are commonly called tell; in Slavic they are called mogila; other variations include tal, depe, tepe, and til, but there are a mixture of names across all regions mentioned.

Tell es sultan Public Domain
Tell es sultan
Public Domain

Other well known tell sites include Citadel of Arbil, Göbekli Tepe, Güreütepe, Sultantepe, Tall al-Ajjul, Tall Jawa, Tel Be’er Sheva, Tel Bet Shean, Tel Dan, Tel Hazor, Tel Lachish, Tel Magiddo, Tell Barri, Tell Bazmusian, Tell Shemshara, Tell Ab Hawam, Tell el-Ghassil, Tell Mastuma, Tel Kinrot, Tell Qarqar and many, many more!

The tells really are a unique type of site and such an exciting one to excavate as you never know what you may turn up from as far back as the neolithic period!


  • Steiner. M. L. & Killebrew. A. E. 2014. The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Levant: C. 8000-332 BCE. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wagemakers. B. 2014. Archaeology in the ‘Land of Tells and Ruins’: A History of Excavations in the Holy Land Inspired by the Photographs and Accounts of Leo Boer. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
  • Tell es sultan – By Fullo88 at it.wikipedia (Transferred from it.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.
  • Catal Hüyük Excavations – By Stipich Béla. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons –


Archaeology Wow!! –  Persian Textiles from Pazyryk, Siberia

Persian textiles were well known in history for their luxurious textures and bright colours. They were sort after across the world for their quality and luxury. In times of war they were stolen as part of the spoils, in some areas they were paid as tribute, they were traded widely, were very expensive and had great economic value.

The textiles included carpets,  hangings and garments, and a few of these items have actually managed to survive to this day. Textiles do not usually survive in the archaeological record, however, under the right circumstances they can – and this has been the case in some tombs in Siberia where very low temperatures have meant that Persian textiles dating from as far back as the 4th century BC have survived!

Pazyryk Carpet Public Domain
Pazyryk Carpet
Public Domain

They were discovered inside a tomb of a high status family in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. The tomb is beleived to have belonged to a Siberian Princess due to the luxury of the goods that were buried with her. The above image of a carpet from the tomb illustrates the beautiful workmanship and amazing bright colours of the textiles.

Colours often used in Persian textiles included dark red, blue, green, yellow, and orange. The vibrancy of the colours are amazing, and some of the textiles were even decorated with gold thread. Other pieces were hemmed, demonstrating the care and attention to detail that would have gone to make these works of art sort after across the world, resulting in their expensive cost and connections to luxury.

Pazyrik Horseman Public Domain
Pazyrik Horseman
Public Domain

The tomb of the Siberian princess were the textiles were found, was first excavated in 1929. It had been previously robbed of a number of its items, but lucky for archaeology they left the textiles! They are the oldest remains of Persian textiles in the world and due to their location, and where they were found, it also shows that there was wide spread trade for the items as far away as China.

An awesome and amazing find and one which sheds more light onto the life and times of people living in the past!



  • Miller. M. C. 2004. Athens and Persia in the Fifth Century BC: A Study in Cultural Receptivity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Руденко. C. И. Frozen Tombs of Siberia: The Pazyryk Burials of Iron Age Horsemen. California: University of California Press.
  • Rolle. R. 1989. The World of the Scythians. California: University of California Press.



Archaeological Site Guide – Nazca Lines, Peru

The Nazca Lines are a truly unique and incredible site situated in Peru, South America. They are a collection of geoglyphs dating from as far back as 500 BC – AD 500 and were created by the Nazca Culture.

Nazca Monkey Public Domain
Nazca Monkey
Public Domain

The images are best viewed from above as they are so large, with the largest one, a Pelican, measuring 285 meters across! No one knows why they made such huge images, or who they made them for, but many believe they are meant to be viewed from above.

The geoglyphs were made by scraping together and piling up the natural gravel of the ground, making it into small mounds, giving the outlines. Another method that was used was to pull the gravel away in lines exposing the lighter ground beneath it. We do not know how they managed to get their shapes so exact, but the remains of wooden stakes have been found at the ends of some of the lines, so we do know that there was some planning and measuring put into their designs.

Lignes de Nazca oiseau ©Marcito
Lignes de Nazca oiseau

The images are of birds, animals, humans, flowers, plants and trees. Some of the animal represented include birds, fish, lamas, jaguars, monkeys, hummingbirds, sharks, orcas, and lizards. There are some human forms too.

The Nazca lines were first recorded on paper in 1553 by Pedro Cieza de Léon, but were then forgotten about until 1927 when the Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe came across them. He bought the worlds attention to the lines when speaking about them at a conference in Lima in 1939. Between 1940-1941, whilst World War II was raging away on the other side of the world, the lines were officially studied by Paul Kosok from Long Island University. He discovered that the area in which the geoglyphs were situated covered  500 m 2.

Nazca Lines Public Domain
Nazca Lines
Public Domain

The chronology for the site has been put forward as follows

  • 1st Phase – Chavian Period = 500 – 300 BC
  • 2nd Phase – Paracas Phase = 400 – 200 BC
  • 3rd Phase – Nazca Phase = 200 BC – AD 500

Theories have been put forward for their use, meaning and significance, including, but not limited to, astronomy, cosmology, an observatory, heavenly shapes, associated with religious practices, and even alien encounters!

Unfortunately the site is currently threatened by pollution, erosion and deforestation, as well as visitors and heavy rains. They have lasted so long – lets hope they last another couple of thousand years so future generations can enjoy them and guess over what they may mean. Nazca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


  • Bauer. B. S. 2010. The Sacred Landscape of the Inca: The Cusco Ceque System. Texas: University of Texas Press.
  • Kroeber. A. L., Collier. D., & Carmichael. P. H. 1998. The Archaeology and Pottery of Nazca, Peru: Alfred L. Kroeber’s 1926 Expedition. Maryland: Rowman Altamira.
  • Silverman. H., & Proulx. D. 2008. The Nasca. Indianna: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Lignes de Nazca oiseau – “Lignes de Nazca oiseau” by Marcito – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lignes_de_Nazca_oiseau.jpg#/media/File:Lignes_de_Nazca_oiseau.jpg



Great Books to Read…….



Great Web Pages to Look At…….


Activity – word-search-24 April-2015-docx

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