Using The Seleucia Records at The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

I. Introduction

Fieldwork was begun at Seleucia on the Tigris, in Iraq, under the direction of Professor Leroy Waterman, November 10, 1928, after a season of preliminary exploration. The expedition was sponsored jointly by the Toledo Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the University of Michigan.

After the 1931-32 season the financial effects of the depression were felt, and the field work of the expedition was discontinued. In 1936/37 another expedition was sent into the field under the direction of Professor Clark Hopkins.

Seleucia is now a group of mounds covering some five square miles, the average height of the mounds is 25 feet above the present level of the plain. Owing to the vast extent of this area, the work of the first two seasons was largely exploratory. Systematic excavation was carried on, however, at a point nearest to the Tigris and resulted in the uncovering of a Parthian villa in Level I and a date wine and molasses factory in Level II.

Aerial photographs of the ruins were secured during the first two seasons through the services of the British Royal Air Force [Close up and Composite site view (The composite view is 1.6 MB)]. The gridiron pattern of the streets of the Hellenistic city was visible on the photographs, particularly over the central parts of the city.

One of the city blocks, technically block B, later known as G6, was selected for excavation. These excavations showed that the entire block consisted of a single great house. During the 1930-32 seasons work largely concentrated on block B and resulted in the clearing of the first three levels.

During the 1936-37 season work was continued on Block B, and some houses of Level IV, the Hellenistic level, were cleared. A topographical survey was conducted with the help of new air maps, and a general plan of the site and location of some of the more important buildings was established. Excavation of two temple areas was also begun.

Objects from this excavation now survive in Baghdad, at the Kelsey Museum, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

(For more information regarding site history, topography, and archaeology, please see Seleucia.)

II. Numbering Systems and Catalogues

A. Accession Numbers

The objects housed in the Kelsey Museum have a four or five digit accession number, generally between 14000-19000 or 30000-40000. The coins generally have numbers between 1985.4.1 and 1985.4.148.

B. Field Numbers

All of the objects excavated at Seleucia should have a Field Number which consists of the letter of the season (A-F) in which the object was excavated and a one to five digit number reflecting the order of its discovery that season.

A: 1-1178
B: 1-1874
C: 1875-3573
D: 3574-8003
E: 8004-12263
F: 1-9005

Please note that the numbers overlap which can and does cause confusion if the letter of the season is not included.

C. Van Ingen Numbers

Van Ingen numbers are found on figurines which are catalogued by Wilhelmina Van Ingen in Figurines From Seleucia. The catalogue number consists of the letters "VI" plus a one to four digit number. This numbering system is not limited to objects in the Kelsey collections.

D. McDowell Numbers

Stamped and inscribed objects may have a number on them such as AIa(1). This corresponds to the table in McDowell's catalogue Stamped and Inscribed Objects from Seleucia, pp. 15-24. From this table one may find a catalogue description in the chapter entitled "Catalogue of Impressions", pp. 36-126. This numbering system is not limited to objects in the Kelsey collections.

Coins from Seleucia are numbered according to McDowell's catalogue Coins from Seleucia. They have a Roman numeral corresponding to the catalogue number, followed by a decimal point and another Roman numeral for the individual coin. Unfortunately, most coins appear to be dissociated from their Field Numbers.

E. Pottery Catalogue

Information on Parthian pottery from Seleucia can be found in the Debevoise catalogue Parthian Pottery from Seleucia on the Tigris. This information is organized according to field numbers and is not limited to objects in the Kelsey collections.

F. Small Finds Catalogue

Information on jewelry and other small finds is located in S. Yeivin's manuscript entitled Small Finds from Seleucia-on-the-Tigris Illustrating Daily Life in the City. This is an unpublished manuscript from 1935.

III. Site and Chronology

A. The site and its grid

Seleucia is located approximately twenty miles south of modern Baghdad, in Iraq. Although it was originally on the Tigris River, the river has since changed course and now lies to the east of Seleucia. The city was arranged on a rectangular street pattern with city blocks measuring approximately 140x70 meters, the excavation location system was based on a grid with letters on the vertical axis and numbers on the horizontal axis, based on the rectangular blocks (see Map). Initially Trial Trenches were dug. The area excavated most heavily by the U of M team in the 20's and 30's was a city block "G6" (formerly "Block B", originally "Trial Trench 20-21"). Other excavated areas were Tell Umar, the Parthian Palace/Seleucid Heroon, and Temples A and B.

B. Provenance Numbering System

In the excavation and accession books, the provenance of the excavated materials generally includes the location (grid block or trial trench), the level, the room, and the depth below surface.

Examples of provenance numbers are:
-II, R.68. sub.
-G6, III R.57A on floor.

- The Roman numerals I-IV refer to the principal levels of occupation. They are dated:

Level I (116-227 AD.) From burning by Trajan to end of the Parthian
Level II (43-116 AD.) Parthian to burning by Trajan
Level III (141 BC.-43 AD.) Autonomous city
Level IV (307-141 BC.) Seleucid Capital

- "G6", or other grid loci refer to the grid blocks. (In season A, the four principle levels are not identified, but the trial trench numerals are marked as TT 4, TT (4), TT (4)', TT(4)2 and can be located on Map B.

- "Surface" refers to the surface of the mounds.

- "P.P." followed by an Arabic numeral refers to a pottery pit and its number.

- "R" followed by an Arabic numeral refers to a specific room.

- "St." followed by an Arabic numeral refers to a street and its number.

- "Sub" when an object appears to be below the floor area in any given level, but there is doubt as to whether the object should be assigned to this level or to the next below, the higher of the two levels is read followed by the description "Sub".

IV. Archive Material

A. There are several sets of classification files on 5x8 cards, They are:

1. Set A, Classified by Object Type.
2. Set B, Classified by Provenance.
3. Set C, Classified by Materials.

B. There are several sets of field notebooks which are long hand renditions of the daily activities at the excavation site (Hopkin's are apparently the most reliable):

1. Leroy Waterman's diaries from 1927-1932.
2. Clark Hopkin's diary from Oct.-Dec. 1936.
3. Levelling and Stadia notes from 1927-32.

C. There are several classes of photographs pertaining to the Seleucia excavations, They are:

1. Individual Object photographs.
2. Site and excavation photographs from all six seasons of U of M involvement.

D. There are a large number of 8x10 typed pages of object and material "frequency files".

E. There are other miscellaneous papers including lists of the superimpostion of levels, and of types, locations, and orientations of burials. As well, there are records known as "Grave Cards" which detail the nature of almost every excavated grave. Finally, there are a number of unpublished manuscripts which pertain to different aspects of the site.


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