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Flat sites and stone sites

In this section you will learn about types of site which do not appear as tells.

In addition to tells, many other types of site exist. Some may be large stone built structures such as medieval castles and Roman temples, but others may be more difficult to spot, even thought they are the remains of large towns and villages. Some sites simply appear on imagery as areas of soil colour difference. This is often the case where a site has been flattened through heavy ploughing over a long period of time.

While stone-built sites can sometimes be remarkably visible – particularly where soil accumulation is limited, such as in arid landscapes – structures built using stone are often visible as little more than piles of rubble or lines of stone walls. They are less likely to form tells than sites where a lot of mudbrick is used, because mudbrick buildings erode quickly causing earth to gradually build up into a tell. Stone does not weather easily and is more likely to be reused, so it is less likely to accumulate (we will cover formation processes in more detail in Weeks 4 and 5).

Below are images of three important settlement sites built primarily of stone. Study the images and see what features you can identify, and what gives them away. Tell us what you find or ask any questions you have in the Comments!

The ancient city of Palmyra is seen by satellite. A large wall punctuated by bastions encircles a largely bare landscape, but within is the square plan of the monumental palace, with many of its columns and much of its walls still standing, casting a heavy shadow. Several other stone features survive, including a theatre and some other square structures, as well as the plans of a residential district in the middle of the city.
Figure 1: Palmyra, Syria, in December 2016. © 2021 CNES/Airbus. (Click to expand)

The temple of Zeus at Cyrene seen by satellite. Most clearly visible is the temple, which still stands and whose walls and columns cast dense shadows. Around this, dense stony concentrations show the foundations of surrounding buildings.
Figure 2: The site of Cyrene, Libya. © 2018 DigitalGlobe. (Click to expand)

The city of Anjar seen by satellite. The exposed remains show a rigidly planned settlement on an orthogonal grid system, crossed by two central colonnaded streets dividing the space into even quarters, with many of the columns still standing and casting clear shadows.
Figure 3: The site of Anjar, Lebanon as seen on Google Earth. Image © 2021 Maxar Technologies(Click to expand)

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