The Project


The archaeological site of Tell Nebi Mend is situated within the upper Beqa’a Valley in present-day Syria, 30km south-west of the city of Homs, where the river Orontes is joined from the west by its major tributary, the Muqadiyah (Fig. 1). The site is dominated by a large tell c. 10ha in area, which reaches a height of 29m above the surrounding plain (Fig. 2). Tell Nebi Mend is widely accepted to be the ancient Bronze and Iron Age site of Qadesh (Akkermans and Schwartz 2003:10) and during its later occupation, in the 3rd century BC, the Roman outpost of Ladociea ad libanum.

Figure 1. The location of Tell Nebi Mend in the Homs-Tripoli Gap

Figure 2. The archaeological site of Tell Nebi Mend at the confluence of the Orontes and Muqadiyah rivers, with the main mound, lower mound and enclosure shown (from Parr 2015)

Excavations at Tell Nebi Mend were first undertaken in the 1920s by a French expedition (Pézard 1931). However, the majority of work at the site was carried out between 1975 and 1996 by the University of London, Institute of Archaeology, under the direction of Peter J. Parr (Parr 1983, 2015; Mathias and Parr 1989). During this time 11 trenches where opened up on the main mound, lower mound to the south and in a surrounding enclosure area. Archaeobotanical investigation formed a key part of the research strategy at Nebi Mend, with approximately 300 samples being collected for this purpose. 

Archaeobotanical research

A series of preliminary analyses have been carried out on botanical material from Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age levels at the site (Smith and Moffett 2015; Walker 2013). However, there remains an acute need to complete a full analysis of the plant remains from Tell Nebi Mend and our primary objective is to systematically analyse plant material from all levels of the site as part of a single, coherent effort. This will allow us to investigate change and continuity in plant management and consumption through time at the site.

Key research questions include:

  • What crops were people growing at Tell Nebi Mend and what plants were they consuming?
  • Where, how and in what ways were people cultivating plants and can we observe changes in farming practice(s) through time?
  • How do plant management and consumption at Tell Nebi Mend vary in relation to fluctuations in climate and geo-politics across the region?

To address these questions, our approach combines traditional methods of archaeobotanical analysis with high-powered microscopy (Fig. 3) and cutting-edge morphometrics. The application of stable crop isotope analysis (carbon and nitrogen), in conjunction with weed-ecological analysis, will serve as a basis for reconstructing crop-husbandry practices and growing conditions at Tell Nebi Mend.

Finally, c. 30–40 samples of charred plant material have been selected for direct radiocarbon dating as part of a comprehensive programme of absolute dating of the site. This will expand on previous dates obtained from charred plant remains (c. 25 samples) and provide a robust chronological framework for our analyses, as well as helping to situate Tell Nebi Mend within its wider regional sequence.

Figure 3. SEM photomicrograph of charred grape with crystalline features visible on the surface, suggesting that it had been dried prior to charring

For the bibliography follow this link.

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