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.
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.
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)
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)