At Tell Zeidan in Syria, a few hours' drive from Aleppo, archaeologists believe they will find rich discoveries about the culture that flourished there before the first cities appeared further south.
The site contains artifacts of the Ubaid period, less studied than the subsequent Uruk period during which civilization is traditionally believed to have spring up around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Tell Zeidan has not been built over by subsequent cultures and is readily accessible. Gil Stein, the director of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, said the excavations "are planned to be the most comprehensive yet at a large Ubaid settlement, possibly yielding discoveries for decades. 'I figure I’m going to be working there till I retire,' said Dr. Stein, who is 54."