Category Archives: Archaeology

Iraq’s al-Ahwar Marshes become UNESCO World Heritage Site

Yesterday in Istanbul, Turkey, during the afternoon of the last day of the 40th session, The World Heritage Committee added eight new sites to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Among the added sites is the Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities in Iraq.

A Marsh Village in 1974.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention describes the site as such: “The Ahwar is made up of seven sites: three archaeological sites and four wetland marsh areas in southern Iraq. The archaeological cities of Uruk and Ur and the Tell Eridu archaeological site form part of the remains of the Sumerian cities and settlements that developed in southern Mesopotamia between the 4th and the 3rd millennium BCE in the marshy delta of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The Ahwar of Southern Iraq – also known as the Iraqi Marshlands – are unique, as one of the world’s largest inland delta systems, in an extremely hot and arid environment.”

The marshes are located where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers meet. Despite being home to the Madan, or Marsh Arabs, as well as host to many different types of flora and fauna, the marshes have been continuously depleted for various economic and political reasons. The population dropped from an estimated 500,000 in the 1950s to a mere 20,000 and the total area was greatly reduced. However, following the 2003 American invasion, many of the dams were destroyed and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) did much to help restore the marshes.

Reflecting on the new UNESCO inscription today, Peter Wien, President of TAARII, said, “The inclusion of the Iraqi Marshes on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites is a milestone, not least in terms of an acknowledgement of the importance of cultural heritage preservation for the country on its way towards a sustainable future. Iraq is extremely rich in heritage sites of world renown, of which only a handful have been recognized so far. TAARII hopes that social and political developments in Iraq and the broader region will allow that this is only the beginning in a long line of new admission that highlight Iraq’s central position on a world heritage map.”

Katharyn Hanson, TAARII’s Executive Director, added, “This is really fantastic news!”

The Mesopotamian Site of Ur.

Institutional Member: American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR)

American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), Marian Feldman (Johns Hopkins University), ASOR institutional representative

The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that supports and encourages the study of the cultures and history of the Near East, from the earliest times to the present. Founded in 1900 by twenty-one institutions, ASOR now has three affiliated overseas research centers, more than 90 consortium institutions, including universities, seminaries, museums, foundations, and libraries, as well as more than 1,550 individual members.

ASOR fosters original research, archaeological excavations and explorations; encourages scholarship in the Near East’s basic languages, cultural histories and traditions; builds support for Near Eastern studies; and advocates high academic standards. ASOR also offers educational opportunities in Near Eastern history and archaeology to students from all over the world, and through outreach activities to the public. ASOR communicates news of the latest research findings through its journals, books, lectures, and annual meeting. It awards dozens of fellowships for fieldwork in the eastern Mediterranean annually.

Within ASOR, two primary vehicles for support of the study of Iraq are the Annual Meeting session on the Archaeology of Mesopotamia and the standing Committee on Mesopotamian Civilization. ASOR also hosts a web page dedicated to archaeological research in Iraq, the Iraq information page.

The Committee on Mesopotamian Civilization (commonly referred to as the Baghdad Committee) is dedicated to promoting through research, excavation, and publication, the dissemination of knowledge of Mesopotamian civilization. The committee serves as the functional arm of ASOR’s overseas school in Baghdad, Iraq, which was founded in 1923 through a 1922 bequest (the Nies bequest) to ASOR for excavations and the publication of their results. In 1947, ASOR’s Baghdad School began publication of the Journal of Cuneiform Studies (JCS). The School also sponsored one or more annual professors and fellows until the late 1960s, when residency in Iraq became difficult. The School (with a director) was changed to a Committee (with a chair) in 1970 when the Iraqi government decided to close all foreign schools. Since 1970, the Committee has overseen the Mesopotamian Fellowship. For more information, read a history of ASOR’s Baghdad School that operated in Iraq from 1923–1969.

TAARII Supports the Blue Shield Statement on the Protection of Iraqi Cultural Heritage Sites

Blue Shield – June 17, 2014
PROTECTION OF IRAQI CULTURAL HERITAGE SITES

Blue Shield is appalled by the great suffering and loss of life in the current fighting in Iraq and expresses great concern about the safety of Iraq’s invaluable cultural and historical heritage.
Blue Shield urges all armed combatants to observe the international laws that protect cultural heritage and to act responsibly, safeguarding the testimony of Iraq’s unique history for the enrichment of future generations.

Iraq is home to some of the world’s oldest and most significant archaeological and cultural sites. Iraq has three UNESCO World Heritage sites and twelve tentative World Heritage sites. Iraq’s museums, particularly the national museum in Baghdad and the regional museum in Mosul, are repositories for countless irreplaceable artefacts that record this unique history.

In the event of international military action, Blue Shield calls on any participating countries to be mindful of obligations under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols; the 1972 UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage; the additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions; and customary international law to avoid targeting cultural heritage sites and repositories and to minimize collateral damage to cultural heritage wherever possible.

Iraq ratified the 1954 Hague Convention and its First Protocol in 1967, thereby acknowledging and committing to the protection and preservation of cultural heritage in the case of armed conflict. Blue Shield urges the international community to help Iraq fulfil its obligations to this Convention and also urges all parties to the conflict to abide by Iraq’s Antiquities Law, Law Number 55 of 2002.

Blue Shield is concerned that archaeological and cultural objects may be removed from museums, libraries, archives, and archaeological sites and placed on the illegal international art market. The actions of all governments in preserving this heritage should be consistent with the terms and spirit of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, of which there are ninety-six States Parties. Blue Shield implores auction houses and other art outlets to ensure that no illegally exported material is sold.

Blue Shield


Blue Shield is the protective emblem of the 1954 Hague Convention, the basic international treaty formulating rules to protect cultural heritage during armed conflict. The Blue Shield network consists of organizations dealing with museums, archives, libraries, monuments and sites.

Blue Shield intervenes strategically with decisionmakers and relevant international organisations to prevent and to respond to natural and man made disasters.

http://www.blueshield-international.org/cms/en/

http://www.blueshield-international.org/cms/en/press-room

Fellow Update: Tate Paulette (2008 US TAARII Fellow)

I was awarded a TAARII Fellowship in 2008 to support the data collection phase of my dissertation project, an examination of grain storage practices in Early Bronze Age (ca. 3000–2000 BC) Mesopotamia. The funding from TAARII came at a crucial point in the research process and allowed me to broaden the geographical scope of the dissertation significantly. In particular, I was able to cover not only the dry-farming plains of northern Mesopotamia, as originally planned, but also the irrigated lowlands of southern Mesopotamia (i.e., southern Iraq), the region that has produced the most extensive written evidence for centrally managed systems of grain storage and redistribution. The writing phase of this dissertation project is now nearing completion.

While a TAARII Fellow, I took part in the Global Long Term Human Ecodynamics Conference in Eagle Hill, Maine, and was asked to contribute a chapter to a resulting edited volume. My chapter, titled “Domination and Resilience in Bronze Age Mesopotamia,” explores the archaeological and written evidence for environmental hazards and their impacts in Bronze Age (ca. 3000–1200 BC) Mesopotamia. The entire book, Surviving Sudden Environmental Change: Answers from Archaeology (eds. J. Cooper and P. Sheets), can be downloaded free from the University Press of Colorado website.

Surviving Sudden Environmental Change: Answers from Archaeology

In recent years, I have also been involved in a number of other projects dedicated to the archaeology and history of early Mesopotamia. As a member of the Modeling Ancient Settlement Systems (MASS) Project, for example, I took part in the construction of an agent-based computer simulation designed to interrogate the complexities of settlement growth and collapse — and, in a broader sense, human-environment dynamics — in Bronze Age Mesopotamia. I contributed a series of chapters to a recent monograph, Models of Mesopotamian Landscapes (eds. T. J. Wilkinson, McG. Gibson, and M. Widell), dedicated to the MASS Project and published by BAR in 2013. My own chapters, two written as sole author and two as co-author, focus on food consumption, storage, pastoralism, and mobility.

Paulette_book_02

Since 2012, I have also taken a leading role in a unique effort to recreate Mesopotamian beer using authentic equipment, ingredients, and brewing methods. This ongoing project, a collaboration between the Oriental Institute (University of Chicago) and Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland, Ohio), has received a good deal of media attention. Articles have appeared, for example, in the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, and I have taken part in radio interviews on Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and VoiceAmerica. I have presented public lectures about the project at a series of tasting events in Chicago and Cleveland, and events in several other cities are slated for the near future. I am also currently working on a co-authored article that provides a general introduction to beer and brewing in Mesopotamia, as well as a more detailed look at our foray into experimental archaeology.

Brewing Mesopotamian beer. A collaboration between the Oriental Institute (University of Chicago) and Great Lakes Brewing Co. (Cleveland, OH). Tate Paulette adds bappir or "beer bread" to a ceramic fermentation vessel crafted by Brian Zimerle.  (Photo credit: Brian Zimerle)

Brewing Mesopotamian beer. A collaboration between the Oriental Institute (University of Chicago) and Great Lakes Brewing Co. (Cleveland, OH). Tate Paulette adds bappir or “beer bread” to a ceramic fermentation vessel crafted by Brian Zimerle. (Photo credit: Brian Zimerle)

Drinking Mesopotamian beer. Adventurous attendees sample Mesopotamian beer through long straws during a tasting event at Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland, OH. In the background, a cylinder seal impression from ancient Mesopotamia provides guidance.  (Photo credit: Kathryn Grossman)

Drinking Mesopotamian beer. Adventurous attendees sample Mesopotamian beer through long straws during a tasting event at Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland, OH. In the background, a cylinder seal impression from ancient Mesopotamia provides guidance. (Photo credit: Kathryn Grossman)

 

Our Institutional Members: University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas is home to the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies (http://uark.edu/rd_arsc/mest/4749.php), bringing together faculty and students from many different disciplines to explore the history, culture and politics of the Middle East. Through its endowment, the Center is able to fund faculty research, undergraduate and graduate training, as well as lectures, colloquia, symposiums, and translation projects.

In part through support of the Center, the University of Arkansas maintains active research and educational programs in the archaeology of Iraq and greater Mesopotamia. Dr. Jesse Casana (Associate Professor, Dept. of Anthropology) is currently the co-director of an archaeological field project in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the Upper Sirwan/Diyala Regional Project. In October 2012, he and colleagues Claudia Glatz (University of Glasgow) and Tevfik Emre Şerifoğlu (Bitlis Eren University) undertook a short reconnaissance of the region and signed a five-year agreement with antiquities officials to conduct archaeological survey and other investigations in a study area extending from Kalar to Darbandikhan. A second season in planned for May 2013, and several University of Arkansas students will participate.

The University of Arkansas’ Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (http://www.cast.uark.edu/), a global leader in geospatial research with a longstanding commitment to application of these technologies in archaeology, has also recently agreed to collaborate with the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) to provide training to Iraqi cultural heritage officials and students. Recent Arkansas graduate, Dr. Tuna Kalayci, will offer a two-week course on archaeological GIS at the IICAH in May 2013, and future course offerings are currently being planned.

In addition to its work in archaeology and cultural heritage, several University of Arkansas Ph.D. students in history are investigating topics pertaining to modern Iraq.

An Update from Mark Altaweel (2005 US TAARII Fellow)

2005:  Development of Ancient Settlements in Northern Iraq

I had received funds from TAARII to conduct an archaeological documentation project with Iraqi scholars in 2005. This project was highly successful in that it not only produced some valuable results that resulted in two academic articles and helped publish my book (entitled:  The Imperial Landscape of Ashur: Settlement and Land Use in the Assyrian Heartland), it also resulted in several other funded projects I went on doing in cooperation with Professor McGuire Gibson and Iraqi scholars from different regions of Iraq. These resulted in other publications and I continue to receive requests to assist Iraqi scholars with publication and Western scholars have greatly benefited from this as well.

What was great about TAARII’s support is that it assisted Iraqi scholars to share their data and allowed us to have close cooperation between Western researchers and Iraqis during a very difficult time after the 2003 war. The TAARII grant also assisted effort in training some Iraqi colleagues on the use of GPS and satellite imagery, as I was able to demonstrate these approaches while working in Jordan in 2005 and 2006. I think in terms of impact, both scholarly and practically in helping Iraqi archaeology, the relatively small TAARII grant has delivered well above one would expect and has continued to benefit my research in leading to even larger grants and assistance to more Iraqi colleagues. Just recently I had mentored an Iraqi colleague to publish in a Western journal their archaeological results. This experience was based on this initial funding I had received from TAARII.

The following publications have benefited from this fellowship:

Altaweel, M. 2006. “Excavations in Iraq:  The Ray Jazirah Project, First Report.” Iraq 68: 155–81.

Altaweel, M. 2007. “Excavations in Iraq: The Jazirah Salvage Project, Second Report.” Iraq  69: 117–44.

Altaweel, M. 2008. The Imperial Landscape of Ashur: Settlement and Land Use in the Assyrian Heartland. Heidelberg: OrientVerlag.

Image of inscribed baked brick pavement from an official building at Khirbet al-Bughala (Photo credit: Mark Altaweel)

Image of inscribed baked brick pavement from an official building at Khirbet al-Bughala (Photo credit: Mark Altaweel)

Image of a relatively well-preserved Ubaid building from Khirbet al-Akhwein 1 (Photo credit: Mark Altaweel)

Image of a relatively well-preserved Ubaid building from Khirbet al-Akhwein 1 (Photo credit: Mark Altaweel)

Ubaid pottery from Khirbet al-Akhwein 1 (Photo credit: Mark Altaweel)

Ubaid pottery from Khirbet al-Akhwein 1 (Photo credit: Mark Altaweel)

 

An Update from Amy Gansell (2012 US TAARII Fellow)

Amy Gansell’s project “Dressing the Neo-Assyrian Queen in Identity and Ideology” is quite literally wrapping up! She has been preparing illustrations, based on tomb finds, of the manner in which the deceased queens from Nimrud (c. 9th–8th centuries B.C.E.) were adorned. Many of the ornaments found in the tombs appear to have been garment decorations; therefore, she was also faced with the task of reconstructing a queen’s garment. Only small tufts of fabric were preserved in the tombs, and only profile views of queens are preserved in art. In order to determine what a queen’s garment would have looked like from the front and back, Dr. Gansell worked with two of her students, Rwitobrato Datta and Roscoe K. Franklin, at State University of New York’s (SUNY) Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) to physically reconstruct a garment consisting of drapery over a tunic. Using yards of muslin and lots pins, patience, and creativity they now have a sample.

Rwitobrato Datta and Roscoe K. Franklin of the SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology physically reconstruct the garment

Rwitobrato Datta and Roscoe K. Franklin of the SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology physically reconstruct the garment (Photo credit: Amy Gansell, 2013)

A work in progress!

A work in progress! (Photo credit: Amy Gansell, 2013)

A sample garment of a Neo-Assyrian Queen based on Dr. Gansell's research

A sample garment of a Neo-Assyrian Queen based on Dr. Gansell’s research (Photo credit: Amy Gansell, 2013)

Dr. Amy Gansell poses with the finished garment

Dr. Amy Gansell poses with the finished garment (Photo credit: Amy Gansell, 2013)