Dr. Tobin Hartnell, AUIS professor and director of the Center of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (CACHE), discusses the destruction of the ancient site of Nimrud in Northern Iraq, with PBS NewsHour's Marcia Briggs and Iraqi archaeologist Layla Salih. The ISIS campaign of terror, murder and conquest has been well-documented, but the group has also used its particular interpretation of Islam to justify the destruction of historical treasures in what is known as the Fertile Crescent, the area in Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where the earliest recorded civilizations began. From the ancient ruins of Nimrud in Northern Iraq, special correspondent Marcia Biggs reports.
Staff and faculty are invited to attend the launch event for the International Studies Honors Society on April 27, 2016.
In the last five years there have been a tremendous amount of new discoveries relating to the earliest history of the Kurdish highlands. In a symposium organized by the AUIS Center of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (CACHE) on October 28, 2015, local and international guest speakers discussed some of these latest discoveries. The symposium brought together scholars from the US, Portugal, Belgium and the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The panel included: Dr. Tobin Hartnell, director of AUIS Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Center Dr. Hashim Hama Abdullah, director of Sulaimani Museum Dr. Kozad Ahmed, director of Archaeology at University of Sulaimani Steve Renette, AUIS Archaeology/CACHE Fellow, University of Pennsylvania André Tomé, Universidade di Coimbra Dr.Kozad opened the symposium with a presentation on the historical evidence of the earliest states in the region of Kurdistan. You can listen to his talk in the AUIS podcast below. The highlight of the discussion was a talk on the latest discovery of the Tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh by Dr. Hama. The tablet has been acquired by the Sulaimani Museum and is on display there. André Tomé talked about the exciting findings from their excavation at the historical site of Kani Shaei near Sulaimani. He explained that the discoveries are related to different periods, including Ubaid, Uruk, early Bronze Age, Hellenistic period, and the Islamic period. Steve Renette then discussed some of the pottery and grave findings from the excavation site. The Portuguese team hope to continue their excavation project next year. You can find out out more about the Kani Shaei Archaeological Project on their website. Podcasts of talks by all speakers will be posted here soon. Contributed by Shatoo Diyar Bakir - Communications student volunteer
The team from AUIS, together with Mr. Barzan Shwenawar, Director of Antiquities at Raparin, worked at the site for four days from July 25 to July 29. Assistant Professor Dr. Tobin Hartnell from the Social Sciences Department led the team which included Dr. Sarbast Rasheed from the Engineering Department, Mustafa Ahmed, the program coordinator for Archaeology at AUIS, and Shatoo Diyar Bakir, a first year International Studies student. Dr. Jessica Giraud of Institut francais du Proche-Orient (ifpo) dated Peshdar 36 to the Sasanian period based on pottery parallels. As no pottery or other artifacts were collected during the AUIS topographic mapping project, the report will concern other potential datable features at the site, particularly stone masonry. The technique of working limestone blocks at the site resembles Paikuli (late 3rd Century AD), but there are two complicating factors. Firstly, the style of carving horizontal stone blocks resembles the Sasanian tower at Paikuli and places the structures after the monumental walls at Rabana and Zewe, where blocks are individually carved in a variety of shapes to fit each other like a puzzle. Given the style of flat relief at Rabana and Zewe, those monumental structures are probably Parthian. Secondly, at least in the pecked masonry walls, there is no use of plaster (sarouj), which is common at other Sasanian sites like Tepe Barzan. This sarouj is most common in Iran and Iraq after Shapur’s defeat of the three Roman Emperors (c. AD 260). This suggests that at least some of the walls may come after Zewe and Rabana and before Shapur’s architectural innovations that derived from his conquests, such that a late Parthian/early Sasanian date may be plausible for some structures. There is a possibility that the sizes of baked bricks used in monumental constructions at the site will have chronological significance after excavations. For now, no complete bricks were found on the surface. In total, the project recorded 877 points as the basis for creating a base map. The map will need some time to complete because it needs to be formatted using Quantum GIS (QGIS) and the point conversions will take time. The team would like to thank Mala Awat, Director of KRG Department of Antiquities, Barzan Shwenawar, Director of the Raparin Department of Antiquities, and Kamal Rashid, Director of the Slemani Department of Antiquities for their assistance. For more information about this project, and about Archaeology at AUIS, contact Dr. Hartnell at [email protected]
Alexander Whitcomb's latest article for Rudaw highlights the dangers to Iraq's and Kurdistan region's cultural heritage from extremist forces as well as unplanned and rapid development over heritage sites, as discussed by experts at the Iraq Cultural Heritage Symposium, hosted by the AUIS Social Sciences Department and the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS).
On May 28, 2015, the Head of Art History at University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Holly Pittman, was invited to AUIS to give a talk on Queen Puabi, one of the most famous queens of Sumer, the oldest civilization of Mesopotamia, and the treasures of the Royal Tombs of Ur. The site was excavated first in the 1920s and has provided one of the greatest collection of artefacts from ancient Sumer. Dr. Pittman has recently been working on a travelling exhibit of the Royal Tombs of Ur in the United States. Queen Puabi’s graves at Ur showcase the immense wealth of the earliest cities of Iraq and also raises questions about the status of women and the role of the afterlife in the ancient Mesopotamia. Puabi's grave is exceptional in that a large number of courtiers, both men and women, were sent to their deaths along with her when she died. It is the most famous case of mass suicide in ancient Mesopotamia. Listen to Dr. Pittman’s lecture in the podcast below. Dr. Pittman was visiting AUIS as part of a group of American archaeologists currently travelling through the Kurdistan region. She was accompanied by Elizabeth Carter, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at UCLA, who has spent many years working in Iran and Iraq and has written an important textbook on Iranian archaeology. The presentation began with Dr. Carter providing a brief introduction to Sumer and Ur. Dr. Pittman then talked in detail about the Royal Tombs of Ur and specifically about the artefacts discovered from Queen Puabi’s graves. The presentation ended with a short talk by Breton Langendorfer, a Ph.D. student of Near Eastern Art History specializing in ancient Assyria. He talked briefly about his dissertation on Assyrian reliefs and how they tell the story of destruction of cities in ancient Assyria. The lecture was arranged by Tobin Hartnell, archaeologist and assistant professor of Social Sciences at AUIS. Check out our Facebook page for photos from the presentation.
The Department of Social Sciences and the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), organized the first annual Iraq Cultural Heritage Symposium on April 26, 2015. The symposium, “Iraqi Cultural Heritage in Crisis: Strategies for the Future”, brought together prominent scholars, policy makers, government officials, cultural professionals, and journalists from the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, and beyond to discuss the complex and pressing issues relating to cultural heritage in the region. The Symposium addressed vital issues pertaining to preservation and management of Iraq’s cultural heritage in three different panels. The discussions were moderated by Tobin Hartnell, an archaeologist and professor of social sciences at AUIS. Panel 1: From Mesopotamia to Iraq: Valuing the Past for Iraq’s Future The speakers in the first panel spoke about the importance and value of cultural heritage and why it is important to safeguard and preserve it. They included: Gyorgy Busztin, Deputy-Secretary of UN Assistance Mission Iraq (UNAMI) - Building a Positive Future through Cultural Heritage Mala Awat, Director of the Erbil Directorate of Antiquities - Cultural Heritage in the KRG Hashem Hama Abdullah, Director of the Sulaimani Museum - Restoring the Museum and Future Projects Iqbal Kadhim Aajeel, Director of the Nasriyah Museum - Provincial Museums and Cultural Heritage: A Closer Look at Nasriyah Museum Marie Labrosse, Lecturer, AUIS - Preserving Archives against a Future of Conflict The discussion was followed by a musical performance by internationally renowned Kurdish musician and daf (frame drum) player, Hajar Zahawy. Panel 2: Destruction and Sale of Iraqi and Kurdish Civilization The second panel focused on the destruction of important heritage sites by the Islamic State (ISIS), as well as the smuggling and looting of antiquities in Iraq and Kurdistan. The speakers included: Axel Plathe, Director of UNESCO, Iraq - UNESCO’s Mission to Protect Cultural Heritage in Iraq Ahmad Kamel Mohammed, Director of Iraqi Museum in Baghdad - The Significance of Reopening the Iraqi Museum Bilal Wahab, Assistant Professor, AUIS - Funding ISIS with the Illicit Trade in Antiquities Muayad Said Damerji, Former Director of Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage - Managing Cultural Heritage during Sanctions Panel 3: The Future of Cultural Heritage Management in Iraq The final discussion focused on the future of the cultural heritage in Iraq. Speakers talked about government policies, training and international support for preserving and managing cultural heritage in the region. Experts presented examples of cultural heritage restoration in the Kurdistan Region using the latest methods and technology. AUIS Professor, Tobin Hartnell, also discussed the opening of an Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Center at AUIS in the future, one dedicated to training and educating local cultural heritage management professionals. The speakers on the third panel at the symposium included: Simone Mühl, Assistant Professor, Ludwig-Maxilimian-Universität - Rescue Excavations and Cultural Heritage Management Jessica Giraud, Research Fellow, Institut Français Proche Orient, Head of French Mission to Sulaimani - The Potential of Remote Sensing in Cultural Heritage Management Tobin Hartnell, Assistant Professor, AUIS - The Future of Archaeology at AUIS Kozad Ahmed, Head of Archaeology at University of Sulaimani - Investigating the History of Ancient Kurdistan Mustafa Ahmed, Research Fellow, Institut Français Proche Orient - Syrian Culture in Crisis The conference was held at a pivotal time, as ISIS is systematically destroying the cultural heritage of northern Iraq. However, the recent openings of the Baghdad and Nasriyah Museums highlight the positive role cultural heritage can play as an alternative to the extremist narrative. As cultural heritage management requires local, regional, national, and international collaboration to be successful; this symposium hopes to provide a regular platform for addressing these issues and build ever-closer collaboration between the most important stakeholders around the region and the world. The event was sponsored by Vinci, an architecture and interior design company in Sulaimani. See more photos of the event on our facebook page.
Tobin Hartnell, an AUIS professor and archeologist with almost two decades experience in the field, uses the latest technology and satellite imagery to discover the ancient cities of Iraqi Kurdistan. Dr. Hartnell points out that present day Iraq - known in classical antiquity as Mesopotamia - is home to the oldest civilizations in the world, with a cultural history of over 10,000 years. Some of the earliest developments of human civilizations and technological advances started in Mesopotamia, today’s Iraq. Iraqi Kurdistan was a vital part of this civilization, yet not enough documents are recorded on its contribution to Mesopotamian civilization. As Hartnell explains, the prosperity of Mesopotamian civilization began in the Fertile Crescent, a quarter-moon shaped land that goes from the Arabian Gulf, through south of Iraq - Euphrates and Tigris - all the way to the north (Kurdistan), across Syria and Southern Turkey and then to the Mediterranean sea. This unusually fertile soil - known as the Cradle of Civilization - is regarded as the birthplace of agriculture, urbanization, and the domestication of animals. The cultivation of wild grains and wheat was widespread, irrigation of agricultural crops was developed, writing, trade, and science were adapted and villages and cities began to rise. This then led to the emergence of early complex societies. Iraqi Kurdistan was one of the most important places in Mesopotamia and thus the early history of the world, yet researchers don’t understand it as relatively few archaeology projects have been conducted and a large part of the region remains relatively unknown. As an archaeologist himself, he, along with a group of AUIS students and faculty members will expedite an archaeology survey and excavation to identify, map, and date all pre-modern habitation sites, as well as mapping ancient irrigation systems (karez) by using the latest technology and satellite imagery. Satellite imagery can be used as a methodological procedure for analyzing archeological sites in an accurate and quantified manner. “It has become an increasingly important tool for archaeologists,” Hartnell says, “because it can link information to exact physical locations and it can integrate information drawn from multiple sources.” "The latest digital technologies, such as the iPad and Tablet, can bring different experiences for archaeologists," says Hartnell. Technology has changed the process of exploration so much that archaeologists no longer need notebooks, sketchpads, or pencils. Time is also important, as archeologists get one chance to record as much information as possible during excavation before it is ruined. Therefore, collecting data when the discovery is made is very essential. iPads, even smart phones for example, have become the normal way of collecting, mapping and archiving information first hand. “With iPads and other tablets, archaeologists at the site can take notes as they excavate items, look up information on relational databases, create spreadsheets, complete drawings, take photos and make audio and video recordings to insert into their notes as they work.” Hartnell says, “it makes the process much easier and less time consuming.” Harnell divides the project into four stages; stage one will use satellite images and aerial photos to identify potential undiscovered sites; stage two involves going to the sites and collecting informations on the ground first hand; then Hartnell and his team will choose the most important sites and use specialized geophysical survey equipment, such as magnetometry, to map the remains that lie underneath the surface. These new tools can literally peer beneath the soil and create a map of the structures lying below. Finally, the team will excavate those structures that offer the most potential to reveal more about the history of Iraqi Kurdistan. As the project matures, Hartnell expects that AUIS students will quickly take a greater role, and conduct original research in archaeology as part of their university experience. This project is currently funded by USAID and private donations.
Historians know little about the economy in the Zagros Mountains during the Sasanian Empire (224-651 CE). As a result, some believe that the area had limited agriculture and a small population. New archaeological work suggests that the Sasanians invested heavily in the highlands as part of a new industrial age. Yet, local people built the new agricultural networks instead of the ancient kings. The talk will also discuss the cultural ideas that shaped local agriculture in the mountains.
The workshops were arranged by Dr. Tobin Hartnell, assistant professor of Social Sciences at AUIS. The workshops came about as ifpo and AUIS are discussing the framework for future collaboration and cooperation between the two institutes on archeological work in the region. The workshops were led by Dr. Jessica Giraud, research fellow and resident archaeologist at Ifpo and Cécile Verdellet, also a ceramics archaeologist at Ifpo. Dr. Giraud delivered the first training workshop on May 2nd on the “principles of landscape archaeology”. She explained in great detail the concept of landscape archaeology and how it adds value to historical research. The students also learned about geographic coordinate systems and how to locate specific areas using modern GPS systems. It was a very useful exercise since most AUIS students do not use maps in their daily lives, but are now familiar with how maps are produced and how coordinate systems work. Cécile Verdellet led the second workshop on ceramics and pottery analysis on May 9th. It was an all-day training session on how archaeologists select and use particular pieces of pottery or ceramics to gain valuable insight about the past. They also learned about the special properties of clay that make it one of the most valuable artistic mediums of the pre-modern world. Students learned about how specialists would collect clay, shape vessels, fire vessels, and what ancient residents would use these vessels for. The third and final workshop was a field a trip to the Ranya Plain on May 16th to study landscape archaeology. Dr. Giraud used different historical sites and structures to explain and teach how archaeologists see and document landscapes for research purposes. The students also collected and reviewed samples of pottery and ceramics from some of the historical sites. Dr. Giraud was a very good guide and the site she chose systematically dealt with different issues of landscape archaeology to provide valuable lessons in archaeological survey. Overall, the workshops served as an excellent introduction to archaeological survey and training for the students. AUIS now aims to explore the possibility of running a more sustainable and systematic training program with Ifpo, Erbil to create a strong foundation for archaeological fieldwork in the region. See photos of the workshops on our facebook page. A full report of the workshops can be viewed online here.