First Archaeological Project at AUIS | The American University of Iraq Sulaimani

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First Archaeological Project at AUIS

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 16:30

This summer, an archaeological team from AUIS set out for topographic mapping of Peshdar 36 - an ancient city located near the banks of the Dukan Dam Lake. The site is located about 5 km south of Raniya, in the Raniya Plain, but in the Peshdar administrative district in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.


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]