War leaves scars; not only to humans, but to the physical landscape as well. Weapons, bullets, bodies, and destroyed buildings are just some of the remains that signify war. These remains are noticeable many years after their deposition, allowing archaeologists to study warfare of past civilizations. Such warfare archaeology “can provide a… context for… the inevitability of war and its role in modern civilization” [4, pg. 60]. Hamoukar is one such archaeological site that cannot only tell us a great deal about past warfare but can also teach important lessons for today.Hamoukar in northeastern Syria provides evidence for one of the earliest major battles in history, dating to 3,500 B.C. Archaeologists uncovered destroyed walls and buildings with approximately 1,200 sling missiles strewn throughout the site. Furthermore, Uruk pottery was found that arrived shortly after the war meaning that the Uruk civilization was likely the conqueror. This shows that Hamoukar actually developed independently of the Uruk, shining light on a new theory about the beginnings of civilization.  Warfare archaeology in Hamoukar not only reveals direct information, such as who fought the battle and what remains of it, but can also detail the effects of warfare on culture and landscape. At approximately the same time of the military battles in 3,500 B.C., Hamoukar civilization already started to urbanize from high agricultural production. Archaeological evidence shows remains of canals and dams used to irrigate fields. Once war struck these areas, such technologies were not lost but continued to grow. By 2,500 B.C. this area reached a level of urbanism “never again achieved in this area” [3, pg. 67]. Archaeology can unlock these techniques for efficient agricultural production in harsh conditions and provide a means for people today to make better use of land possibly leading to less crowded cities and a richer population. 
These uses of archaeology can also be applied to warfare today. The current Syrian conflict gives archaeologists a new way to look at Hamoukar. Ironically, archaeologists are currently unable to excavate the warfare aspect of Hamoukar due to today’s Syrian conflict. Unanswered questions that can help today’s conflict include how warfare in Hamoukar affected the Syrian landscape. How did the Hamoukar war affect agriculture? How did that conflict change people’s professions and how did it change people’s relationships with the land? Warfare archaeology uniquely studies an aspect of culture that has occurred for thousands of years. In both settings, two groups of people fought, buildings were destroyed, and remains of struggle were left behind. The only difference between these wars is a 5,500 year gap; people then and now still live on the same land and the archaeology of warfare can look at past people’s struggles to provide solutions to living harmoniously today.
 Reichel, Clemens D. Figure 1. Digital image. Annual Reports 2005-2006. The Hamoukar Expedition, 2006. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://oi.uchicago.edu/pdf/05- 06_Hamoukar.pdf>.
 Reichel, Clemens D. Figure 17. Digital image. Annual Reports 2005-2006. The Hamoukar Expedition, 2006. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://oi.uchicago.edu/pdf/05- 06_Hamoukar.pdf>.
 Reichel, Clemens D. “Hamoukar.” Annual Reports 2005-2006. The Hamoukar Expedition, 2006. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://oi.uchicago.edu/pdf/05- 06_Hamoukar.pdf>.
 Sabloff, Jeremy A. Archaeology Matters: Action Archaeology in the Modern World. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast, 2008. Print.
 Wilford, John Noble. “Archaeologists Unearth a War Zone 5,500 Years Old.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 Dec. 2005. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/16/international/middleeast/16battle.html?_r=2>.
Hamoukar, like many disaster sites, is a fascinating case of what archaeologists call “frozen contexts.” University of Chicago’s Dr. Clemens Reichel, one of the original excavators of Hamoukar, says that “as the excavation proceeds…the destruction of Hamoukar will give archaeologists a research advantage, especially if the besieged people were surprised. In that case, all of their possessions would presumably have been buried with them under the debris.” In situ artifacts, he notes, have been helpful in identifying the primary function of the city’s buildings. Archaeologists have already been able to identify domestic sites, cooking/production centers, administrative buildings, and religious sites. The “frozen context” of Hamoukar has given archaelogists new insights into the organization of the city and daily activities of its residents. I strongly encourage you to read about other disaster sites with “frozen contexts.” The classic example is Pompeii, an ancient Roman town preserved by a volcanic eruption. For a more modern example, look to Chernobyl, Ukraine. The city’s rapid evacuation, in the wake of a catastrophic nuclear meltdown, did not allow residents much time to pack their belongings; twenty years later, these in situ artifacts now contribute to our understanding of the day-to-day life in the USSR.
Read more about the Hamoukar excavation here:
For more on the Chernobyl disaster, watch this webinar: https://connect.sunet.se/p78jb3wuw2g/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal
I find it especially interesting how sites that experienced a siege or large scale battle are left in “frozen contexts.” Like Chernobyl or Pompeii, I often see such sites as having been preserved from natural agents as opposed to abandonment. For example, Ashmore mentions in “Discovering Our Past” on page 70 the case of Cerén in El Salvador. Similar to Pompeii, Cerén was preserved in ash from a volcanic eruption which occurred around 600 C.E. Unlike Pompeii, the citizens evacuated the site. Archaeological excavation may show how the citizens knew to leave and when. Below is a link that discusses this site further:
Natural disasters are of course not the only means of preserving sites. Warfare, as in the case of Hamoukar, also preserves artifacts in situ. Last year, archaeologists found 21 deceased soldiers from a WWI bunker. The tunnel caved in after a bomb exploded, thus preserving all the content. Studying the “frozen context” of these bunkers allows archaeologists a first-hand look into the lives of soldiers during WWI that even diaries could not tell. Below is a link to an article about this discovery: