Long-Term Environmental and Social Change in Mesopotamia

Wednesday, May 23 - Thursday, May 24

Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
5701 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637

The archaeological landscape of Mesopotamia is unique because it is a record of thousands of years of complex human-environment interactions. Its river systems especially have been subject to both natural and human influences. This conference will assess the interplay of environment and culture in Mesopotamia from prehistory to early modern times, based on findings from cuneiform texts and other written sources, archaeology, and natural sciences, as well as the preliminary findings from Neubauer Collegium–funded fieldwork and analyses. While evidence from all of Mesopotamia (the Tigris-Euphrates watershed) has been considered, the conference will focus on southern Iraq (ancient Sumer and Akkad).

This conference is co-sponsored by the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

Wednesday, May 23

10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Session 1: Overview of Long-Term Environmental and Social Change in Mesopotamia

McGuire Gibson (Professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology, Oriental Institute): Overview
Hermann Gasche (Field Director of Belgian Expeditions in Iraq and in South-Khuzestan, Iran): "Ancient River Networks in Babylonia and Khuzestan"

11:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Coffee Break

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Session 2a: Archaeology and Natural Science Investigations –Results from Recent Neubauer Collegium–Supported Field Studies

Mark Altaweel, (Reader in Near East Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology, University College London): "A New Understanding of the Role of Environmental Dynamics in the Rise of Early Southern Mesopotamian Complex Societies"
Jaafar Jotheri (Deputy Dean of Faculty of Archaeology, Assistant Professor in Geoarchaeology, Department of Archaeology, University of Al-Qadisiyah, Iraq): "Sampling of Ancient Channels and Sawa Lake – Southern Mesopotamia" (to be presented by Dr. Mark Altaweel)
Discussant: Stephen F. Lintner (Visiting Professor of Geography, King’s College London)

1:00 – 2:00 p.m.

2:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Session 2b: Archaeology and Natural Science Investigations: Results from Recent Neubauer Collegium–Supported Field Studies

Anke Marsh (Research Associate- Landscape Archaeologist, University College London, United Kingdom): “Integrating environmental proxy data in the understanding of fluvial dynamics of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers during the early to mid-Holocene”
Dominik Fleitmann (Professor of Palaeoclimatology and Archaeology, University of Reading, United Kingdom): “Nature and Socio-economic Impact of Droughts in the Middle East during the Last Two Millennia”

3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Session 3a: Archaeology and Natural Science Investigations

Jennifer Pournelle (Research Associate Professor, University of South Carolina Environment and Sustainability Committee): “On the Marche: Origins and Resilience of the World’s Oldest Cities”
Abdulameer Hamdani (Archaeologist, State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, Iraq/Visiting Researcher, Durham University): "Research on Settlement and Environment in the Area of the Marshes of Southern Iraq” (tentative)

4:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Coffee Break

4:30 – 6:00 pm
Session 3b: Archaeology and Natural Science Investigations

Carrie Hritz (Associate Director for Research at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), University of Maryland): “Shifting Land Use: The Role and Impact of Ecological Diversity in Ancient Mesopotamia”
Zaid Alrawi (Ph.D. Candidate, Pennsylvania State University): “Using Geospatial Tools to Explore 3rd Millennium Rural Economy of Mesopotamia”
James Armstrong (Research Associate, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago): “The View from a Tell: Gaps in the Nippur Archaeological Sequence and Their Significance”

6:00 – 6:15 p.m.
Closing Remarks

McGuire Gibson (Professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology, Oriental Institute)

Thursday, May 24

9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
Session 1a: Evidence from Ancient Texts

Stephanie Rost (Visiting Assistant Professor, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University): “Environmental Data Gleaned from Late 3rd Millennium Written Sources: The Case of Precipitation and Flood Control” (virtual participation)
Steven Cole (Senior Lecturer in Classics, Assistant Dean for Faculty Advancement, Northwestern University): “The Euphrates Regime in the Area of Babylon and Borsippa in the First Millennium BC”

10:30 – 11:00 a.m.
Coffee Break

11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Session 1b: Evidence from Ancient Texts

Hervé Reculeau (Assistant Professor of Assyriology, Oriental Institute): “Adapting Valley Irrigation to a Changing Environment in Middle and Late Bronze Age Upper Mesopotamia”
Discussant: Piotr Steinkeller (Professor of Assyriology, Department of Near Eastern Languages, Harvard University)
Discussant: ​Magnus Widell (Senior Lecturer in Assyriology, University of Liverpool) (virtual participation)

1:00 – 2:00 p.m.

2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Session 2: Historical Investigations of Hydraulic Works

Isacar A. Bolaños (PhD Candidate, Department of History, Ohio State University): “Conquering Nature in Ottoman Iraq: An Overview of Ottoman Hydraulic Works along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers during the Late Ottoman Period”
Faisal H. Husain (PhD Candidate, Department of History, Georgetown University): “The Ecology of Mobile Pastoralism in Ottoman Iraq, 1534-1590”

3:30 – 4:00 p.m.
Coffee Break

4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Session 3: Work Plan for Future Interdisciplinary Investigations

McGuire Gibson (Professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology, Oriental Institute)
Stephen F. Lintner (Visiting Professor of Geography, King’s College London)