Tell, tel or tall (تلّ, tall, and , tel), meaning "hill" or "mound", is a type of archaeological site in the form of an earthen mound that results from the accumulation and subsequent erosion of material deposited by long human occupation. A tell mostly consists of architectural building materials containing a high proportion of stone, mudbrick, or loam as well as (to a minor extent) domestic refuse. The distribution of this phenomenon spans from the Indus valley in the east to Central Europe in the west. There are about 50,000 visible tells in the Middle East, a testament to the long settlement of the area.
The word is commonly used as a general term in archeology, particularly in Near Eastern archaeology. It is also sometimes used in a toponym, that is, as part of a town or city name, the best known example being the city of Tel Aviv (Hebrew, "Hill of [the season] Spring"), although Tel Aviv doesn't actually rest on a tell. A modern city is often located next to an ancient mound with a similar tell name, for example the city of Arad, Israel, is a few kilometers away from an ancient mound called Tel Arad. A proper use is in the case of the Tell of Akka, a hillock on which the actual city of Akka is situated.
Occasionally the word "tell" is misapplied to a site whose form does not warrant the designation. The site of Amarna in middle Egypt, frequently misnamed "Tell el-Amarna", is the best example of such an error; or the Tell Atlas (الاطلس التلي) mountains in the Maghreb, whose naming is unrelated to the word "Tell".
The Turkish word for tell is höyük, as in Çatalhöyük, or tepe. Toponyms indicating settlement mounds in the Balkans are often translated as "grave": magoula or toumba (because small tells can be confused with burial mounds) in Thessaly and Macedonia. The word mogila is used in Bulgaria, gomila in Slovenia, and magura in Romania.
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