Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Archaeologists explore Iraqi marshes for origins of urbanization

Date:
March 31, 2011
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
The first non-Iraqi archaeological investigation of the Tigris-Euphrates delta in 20 years was a preliminary foray by three women who began to explore the links between wetland resources and the emergence and growth of cities last year.

Ziggurats were massive pyramid-shaped religious buildings of the ancient Mesopotamian valley. Here, the remains of the Anu Ziggurat are in the distance. In the foreground is the Ur-Nammu Ziggurat, near the center of the ruins of the city of Uruk.
Credit: NSF

The first non-Iraqi archaeological investigation of the Tigris-Euphrates delta in 20 years was a preliminary foray by three women who began to explore the links between wetland resources and the emergence and growth of cities last year.

"Foreign investigations in Iraq stopped in the 1990s," said Carrie Hritz, assistant professor of anthropology, Penn State. "Iraqis continued research, but because their work is unpublished, we are unsure of where they surveyed."

The marshlands in Iraq and Iran were drained between 1950 and the 1990s. While initial explanations were that Iraq needed the land for agricultural uses, more often than not, politics played a role. After the first Gulf war, Saddam Hussein drained the areas between the Tigris and Euphrates to control and punish Shia dissidents among the Marsh Arabs.

Restoration of the Hammar marshes is now a high national priority. If we do not act quickly, the window of opportunity for conducting work in this region will close, according to the researchers who include Hritz; Jennifer Pournelle, research assistant professor, School of the Environment, University of South Carolina, and Jennifer Smith, associate professor of geology, Washington University in St. Louis.

The project aims to investigate the contributions of the early-mid Holocene shoreline of the gulf and marshes to the economic foundations of Mesopotamian cities. The researchers are looking at archaeological sites from 5,000 B.C. to Islamic times.

"Our interest is in early settlement," Hritz told attendees March 31, 2011 at the annual meeting of the Society of American Archaeology in Sacramento, Calif. " The early period of settlement is always linked to the development of agriculture."

Hritz notes, however, that marshes have all the resources necessary for settlement -- fish, game and plants. She suggests that people would need a wide resource base to create urban areas in the midst of the Tigris-Euphrates delta and that the early cities in the marshes might have been precursors to agricultural settlements.

Carrying out any type of survey in a country at war is difficult and making arrangements becomes a daunting task.

"Ultimately, we found that the only way to get into the country that was cost effective was to go on a tour with a British tour company," said Hritz. "While in Bagdad, we met with the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, and they encouraged us to visit the sites with a SBAH representative and report back to them any observations."

The researchers also used local Iraqi security for their trip rather than hiring a foreign security firm. They spent a week on their British tour going from Bagdad to Basra and then spent five days with a private guide doing geoarchaeological survey in the Basra area.

"We saw everything we intended to see except for one area that was flooded," said Hritz. "We did not have the proper equipment to enter the flooded area."

Beside the preliminary survey, their aim was to establish collaborations with researchers at the University of Basra. They gave lectures at the university and met with geologists to determine what the researchers needed and the part that researchers and university could play.

Looting and damage to university laboratory equipment occurred during the initial stages of the current war in Iraq. The researchers plan to include the University of Basra scientists in their future work and hope to use not only their expertise, but also enhance their facilities.

"One thing we were able to do was to move forward the process to get the University of Basra access to JSTOR," said Hritz. "They now have access." JSTOR is an online database of more than 1,000 academic journals.

A National Science Foundation High Risk grant in archaeology supported this work.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Archaeologists explore Iraqi marshes for origins of urbanization." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110331075704.htm>.
Penn State. (2011, March 31). Archaeologists explore Iraqi marshes for origins of urbanization. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110331075704.htm
Penn State. "Archaeologists explore Iraqi marshes for origins of urbanization." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110331075704.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) After testing DNA from a shawl found near one of Jack the Ripper's victims, a scientist said he'd identified the killer. New reports refute the claim. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins