The Tell es-Sweyhat Project is an archaeological expedition carrying out excavations at Tell es-Sweyhat, a large mounded site located on the left (east) bank of the Euphrates, ca. 65 km downriver from Jerablus (ancient Carchemish) on the Syrian/Turkish border. The project also involves survey of the surrounding region and excavations at other sites in the area.
Tell es-Sweyhat was excavated for three seasons in the mid-1970's and preliminary reports were published in the journal Levant. The University of Pennsylvania Museum resumed excavations after twenty-five years in 1989 (see Project History).
Tell es-Sweyhat stands in the center of a plain formed by a broad crescent-shaped embayment in the Euphrates-Balikh uplands. Today, the plain borders the northern end of the impound lake (Lake Assad) behind the hydroelectric dam at Tabqa. Prior to the construction of the dam, the site would have been ca. 3 km from the river.
The Tell es-Sweyhat plain has a mean annual precipitation of 200-300 mm and relatively high interannual variability of 25 to 35 percent (de Brichambautand Wallen 1963: 9-10). These factors place it at the southern limit of the semi-arid "transitional zone" between the desert steppe (Arabic badiyah) and the better-watered lands of northern and western Syria (Lewis 1987:1-2). The plain comprises some 4800 ha of arable land (Wilkinson, pers. comm.) and, in terms of the Syrian government's classificication of agricultural land, it falls in Zone 3, where one or two barley harvests are expected every three years (cited in al-Ashram 1990: 167-68). As such yield expectations suggest, dry farming, although possible, is nevertheless precarious and pastoralism would probably have been a critical part of the subsistence economy in the past as it is today. Indeed, some combination of small-scale, non-intensive agriculture and pastoralism could be argued to be the most viable long-term subsistence strategy in such a marginal environment (Lewis 1987). Tell es-Sweyhat is composed of three distinct morphological zones (numbered on the right).