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Archaeologies of the Near East

Spring 2012

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World

Brown University

Meets: Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:30-3:50 pm Rhode Island Hall 008 (Seminar Room in the Basement)

A course with Ömür Harmansah, Asst. Prof of Archaeology and Western Asian Studies, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World)
Ömür’s Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 4-5 pm
Office: Rhode Island Hall

Course Description
Writing, urbanism, agriculture, imperialism: the ancient Near East is known as the place where earliest agriculture flourished, cities were developed and writing was invented. In the recent decades, the Middle East has largely been a place of political instability and unrest, while the archaeological field research in the region has been overwhelmingly impacted by the current socio-political climate. In this course we will explore the archaeological history and current archaeological practice in the Middle East, in connection with Western colonialism, the formation of nation states and ongoing military conflicts. The social and cultural history of the Near East from prehistory to the end of Iron age (300 BC) will be covered. Throughout the semester, we will also investigate some of interpretive approaches and theoretical frameworks used within Near Eastern archaeology. The main goal of the course is to develop a critical understanding of ancient societies and their material culture from an interdisciplinary, and explicitly post-colonial perspective.
We will study the art, literary, visual and material cultures of various Middle Eastern societies of Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolian peninsula and the Caucasus, Levant, and Iran. We will explore their major cities like Ur, Nineveh, Babylon and Persepolis as well as their countryside, their festivals and rituals, their kings, priests, craftsmen as well as their peasants, their monuments as well as modest mudbrick houses; their mythologies, poems, royal inscriptions as well as mundane letters. We will explore how the textual sources and archaeological evidence can be put together to arrive at novel interpretations of the past. In the Middle East, archaeology is frequently a politicized field, and the contemporary political circumstances have a massive impact on how the ancient past is documented, studied and represented. Using several archaeological case studies in the ancient Middle East, the course intends to unpack the modern scholarly and public context of archaeological discourses. It will not only provide a broad empirical basis for the region’s social and cultural history but also will allow students to see how particular ways of writing history is embedded in contemporary socio-political climate. The class will be a mixture of lectures and seminar discussions.

Tuesday session will usually and primarily be reserved for lectures, while the Thursday meetings will be used for discussion on weekly selected topics and student presentations.

A course wiki site has been created for this course, and all readings and assignments will be posted there. The wiki will also serve as a discussion platform, to be used site interactively for out-of-class discussions, posting of announcements, assignments, and the like. Please familiarize yourself with the wiki, and make sure to check the site regularly, at least before each class meeting. Here is the wiki-site:
Reference Books

You are recommended to purchase the following books although all assigned chapters will be posted on the wiki as well (as pdfs). There are also copies of these books on reserve at the Rock.

Matthews, Roger; 2003. The Archaeology of Mesopotamia: Theories and Approaches. London and New York: Routledge.

Van de Mieroop, Marc; 2004. A History of the Ancient Near East. ca 3000-323 BC. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Kuhrt, Amélie; 1995. The Ancient Near East: c. 3000-330 B.C. 2 Vols. Routledge: London and New York.

Postgate, J. Nicholas; 1992. Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the dawn of history. Routledge: London and New York.

Akkermans, Peter M.M.G. and Glenn M. Schwartz; 2003. The archaeology of Syria: from complex hunter-gatherers to early urban societies (ca. 16,000-300 BC). Cambridge World Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Roaf, Michael; 1996. Cultural atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East. New York; Facts on File.

Sagona, Antonio and Paul Zimansky; 2009. Ancient Turkey. Routledge: London and New York.
Course Requirements
Each student is expected to do the weekly readings thoroughly, participate in Thursday discussions and take extensive notes during class lectures and discussions. It is strongly recommended that you keep detailed notes as you do your weekly readings and during lectures and class discussions. It is a hard task to form sustainable memories.
Throughout the semester, students will be asked to acts as discussants of selected articles in class and posing relevant discussion questions to the class during the Thursday sessions. There will be a take-home exam (a midterm), and a final research project (explained in detail below).

  • Short writing assignments (20 %)

Assignment 1- Curious maps of the Midde East (1 page) 5%

Assignment 2- Museum artifact analysis- cultural biography of things (4-5 pages) 15%

  • Attendance, participation and class presentations (25 %)

  • Midterm examination (20 %) (March 16-19, 2012)

  • Research project (includes proposal, oral presentation, draft, and final paper- the grade is less on the final product but more on the whole process of developing the project). (35%)

Research project
You are expected to choose a research topic in collaboration with Ömür and turn it into an individual research project. The final paper should involve a critical discussion of an archaeological case study from the Near East, in the light and with the guidance of a theoretically informed approach. The main aim in the research project is the bridge the apparent gap between theoretical discussions in archaeology and the material evidence. It is very essential that you make effective use of the theoretical and material-based readings you will be doing throughout the semester in the final paper. The submissions will include a 1 page proposal with preliminary bibliography, a 5-8 page draft and a 12-15 page final paper (14-20 for the graduate students).

Weekly Schedule

Week 1: Jan. 26. Introduction
Thu: Introduction: scope of the course, methods, overview.
Week 2. Jan. 31-Feb 2. Archaeology, politics and the “presence of the past” in the Middle East
Tue: Archaeology, modernity and the Near Eastern history: Speaking of the (ancient) past in the (modern) present
Schnapp, Alain; 1997. “Archaeology and the presence of the past,” in The discovery of the past. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 11-37.
Thu: Where is Mesopotamia, Near East, Middle East? Imperialism and the politics of defining a region. Heritage of the Middle East: who owns the past? Ideologies of the present.
(Assignment 1 due on the wiki: Curious maps of the Middle East)
Scheffler, Thomas; 2003. “ 'Fertile crescent', 'Orient', 'Middle East': the changing mental maps of Souhwest Asia,” European Review of History 10/2: 253-272.

Bahrani, Zainab; 1998. “Conjuring Mesopotamia: imaginative geography and a world past,” in Archaeology under fire: Nationalism, politics and heritage in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. L. Meskell (ed.), Routledge: London and New York, 159-174.

Mourad, Tamima Orra; 2007. “An ethical archaeology in the Near East: confronting empire, war, and colonization,” in Archaeology and capitalism: from ethics to politics. Yannis Hamilakis and Philip Duke (eds). Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, 151-168.
Week 3: Feb. 7-9. Landscapes of the Near East
Tue: Landscapes of the Ancient Near East: understanding the environment and a cultural geography.
Postgate 1992: “Mesopotamia: the land and the life,” 3-21.

Roaf, Michael; 1996. Cultural atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East. New York; Facts on File, 18-27.

Wilkinson, Tony; Archaeological Landscapes of the Near East. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 15-32.
Thu: In the marshes of Iraq: Landscapes of Near East in the archaeological record, the social imagination, and cultural experience. What is the state of landscape archaeology in the Middle East?
Ingold, Tim; 1993. "Temporality of landscape" World Archaeology 25/2: 152-174.

Black, Jeremy; “Sumerians in their landscape,” in Riches hidden in secret places. T. Abusch (ed.). Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 41-61.

Kouchoukos, Nicholas and Tony Wilkinson; 2006. “Landscape archaeology in Mesopotamia: past, present, and future,” in Settlement and society: essays dedicated to Robert McCormick Adams. E.C. Stone (ed). Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, 1-18.

Smith, Adam T.; 2001. “On landscapes in the ancient Near East,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 44: 363-371.

Week 4: Feb 14-16. Prehistory: the Neolithic in the Near East
Tue: From hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists: early settled communities- Göbekli Tepe, Nevali Cori, Ain Ghazal. Agricultural revolution.
Matthews 2003: “Tracking a transition: hunters becoming farmers,” 67-92.

Boyer, Peter, & Neil Roberts & Douglas Baird; 2006. “Holocene environment and settlement on the Çarşamba alluvial fan, south-central Turkey: Integrating geoarchaeology and archaeological field survey” Geoarchaeology 21: 675–698.

Hodder, Ian; Craig Cessford; 2004. “Daily practice and social memory at Çatalhöyük,” American Antiquity 69: 17-40.


Thu: architecture, everyday life, symbolism, and wall painting at Çatalhöyük and Göbeklitepe.
Hodder, Ian and Lynn Meskell; 2011. “A ‘curious and sometimes trifle macabre artistry’: some aspects of symbolism in Neolithic Turkey” Current Anthropology 52: 235-263.

Lewis-Williams, David; 2004. “Constructing a cosmos: architecture, power and domestication at Çatalhöyük,” Journal of Social Archaeology 4: 28-60.

Peters, Joris and Klaus Schmidt; 2004. “Animals in the symbolic world of pre-pottery Neolithic Göbekli Tepe, southeastern Turkey: a preliminary assessment,” Anthropozoologica 39: 179-218.

February 21. Long weekend: No class.

Week 5. Feb. 22. Towards urbanization and social complexity: Uruk Period in Southern Mesopotamia
Thu: Emerging social complexities in Mesopotamia: the Chalcolithic in the Near East. Ritual at Uruk, the city: Inanna and the temple household.
(Cultural Biography of Things paper due)
Matthews 2003: “States of mind: approaches to complexity,” 93-126.

Wengrow, David; 1998. “The changing face of clay: continuity and change in the transition from village to urban life in the Near East,” Antiquity 72: 783-795.

Pollock, S.; 2001. “The Uruk period in Southern Mesopotamia,” in Uruk Mesopotamia & its neighbors: cross-cultural interactions in the era of state formation. M. Rothmann (ed.), School of American Research Press: Santa Fe: 181-231.

Algaze, G.; 2008. Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization: the Evolution of an Urban Landscape. The University of Chicago Press, 11-27.

Bahrani, Z.; 2002. “Performativity and the image: narrative, representation and the Uruk vase,” in Leaving no stones unturned: essays on the Ancient Near East and Egypt in honor of Donald P. Hansen. E. Ehrenberg (ed.). Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2002: pages 15-22.
Week 6. Feb. 28-March 1. From memory to history: the urban, literate cultures of southern Iraq
Tue: The first written word: The invention of cuneiform writing. Economy, state bureaucracy, poetry. The Early Mesopotamian city in the city laments.
Postgate 1992: “The written record,” 51-70.

Cooper, Jerrold S.; 2004. “Babylonian beginnings: the origin of the cuneiform writing system in comparative perspective,” in The first writing: script invention as history and process. S.D. Houston (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 71-99.

Thu: Burying the dead: Royal Tombs of Ur (discussion).

Pollock, S.; 2007. “The Royal Cemetery of Ur: Ritual, tradition and the creation of subjects,” in Representations of political power: case histories from times of change and dissolving order in the Ancient Near East. M. Heinz and M. H. Feldman (eds.). Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 89-110.

Dickson, Bruce; 2006. “Public transcripts expressed in theatres of cruelty: the Royal Graves at Ur in Mesopotamia,” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 16/2: 123-144.

Winter, Irene J.; 1999c. “Reading ritual in the archaeological record: deposition pattern and function of two artifact types from the Royal Cemetery of Ur,” in Fluchtpunkt Uruk: Archäologische Einheit aus methodischer Vielfalt: Schriften für Hans Jörg Nissen. Hartmut Kühne, Reinhard Bernbeck, Karin Bartl (eds.); Rahden/Westf.: Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH, 230-256.

Zettler, R. L. and L. Horne(eds.); 1998. Treasures from the royal tombs of Ur. Philadelphia: University of Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Skim through the catalogue.
Week 7. March 6-8. From the temple-city to the territorial state: Mesopotamia in the Early Bronze Age
Tue: Revisiting the so-called Sumerian Temple-State. Early Dynastic period (Early Bronze Age) in the Diyala River Basin. The sites of Khafajah and Tell Asmar: temples and urban neighborhoods.
Van de Mieroop 2004: “Competing city-states: the Early Dynastic period,” 39-58.

Postgate 1992: “Cities and dynasties,” 22-50 and “the Temple” 109-136.

Diakonoff, Igor M; 1974. “Structure of society and state in Early Dynastic Sumer,” Sources and monographs: Monographs of the ancient Near East 1.3. Undena Publications: Los Angeles.

Foster, Benjamin R.; 1981. “A new look at the Sumerian temple state,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 24: 227-241.

Thu: Kingship, war, narrative and the Early Mesopotamian state: Umma and Girsu
Winter, Irene J.; 1985. “After the battle is over: the stele of the vultures and the beginning of historical narrative in the art of the ancient Near East”, Studies in the History of Art. 16:11-32.

Cooper, Jerrold S.; 1983. Reconstructing history from ancient inscriptions: the Lagash-Umma border conflict. Undena Publications: Malibu.

Michalowski, Piotr; 1983. “History as charter: some observations on the Sumerian king list,” JAOS 103: 237-248.
Week 8. March 13-15. Akkad and Sumer: narratives of royal ideology, cultures of seeing.
Tue: The Akkadian kingdom: Sargon, Naram-Sin and the mythical kingship.

Van de Mieroop 2004: “Political centralization in the late Third Millennium,” 59-79.

Liverani, Mario (ed.); 1993. Akkad : the first world empire : structure, ideology, traditions. Padova: Sargon, pages tba.

Kuhrt, A; 1995. "The Third Dynasty of Ur" The Ancient Near East c. 3000-330 BC. London: Routledge, 56-73.

Liverani, Mario; 1995. “The deeds of ancient Mesopotamian kings,” in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. J. Sasson (ed). Vol. 4, 2353-2366.
Thu: Powerful objects: Technology, agency and new perspectives on material culture. Powerful visions: Ritual objects and cultures of seeing in Early Mesopotamia. The dedicatory statues of the Abu Temple at Tell Asmar.
Gell, Alfred; 1992. “The technology of enchantment and the enchantment of technology,” in Anthropology, art and aesthetics. Jeremy Coote and Anthony Shelton (eds.). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 40-63.

Text: Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta

Winter, Irene J.; 2000. “The eyes have it: votive statuary, Gilgamesh’s axe, and cathected viewing in the Ancient Near East” Visuality before and beyond the Renaissance. R.S. Nelson (ed.). Cambridge, 22-44.
Fri: Midterm essay questions distributed

Week 9. March 20-22. Cities and nomads along the Euphrates: Syria in the Middle Bronze Age.
Mon: Midterm essays due
Tue: New cities, new temples in Syria (Ebla and Aleppo). Kings of Ashur and Mari: nomads and the city.
Akkermans and Schwartz 2003, “Regeneration of complex societies”, pages 288-326.

Matthiae, Paolo; 1997. “Ebla and Syria in the Middle Bronze age,” in The Hyksos: new historical and archaeological perspectives. Eliezer D. Oren (ed.); The University of Pennsylvania Museum Monograph 96: Philadelphia, 379-414.

Thu: The Middle Euphrates problem: Trans-humance, dimorphic urbanism and half-nomads.
Documentary: Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life.

(directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack) A 1925 documentary that follows the journey of the Bakhtiari, a nomadic tribe in Iran, as they herd their livestock up snow-covered mountain passes to get to the grazing lands on the other side of the mountains.

Liverani, Mario; 1997a. “‘Half-nomads’ on the Middle Euphrates and the concept of dimorphic society,” Altorientalische Forschungen 24: 44-48.

Rowton, Michael B.; 1974. “Enclosed nomadism,” JESHO 17: 1-30.

Buccellati, Giorgio; 1990. “ ‘River bank’, ‘high country’, and ‘pasture land’: the growth of nomadism on the Middle Euphrates and the Khabur” in Tell al Hamīdīya 2. S. Eichler, M. Wäfler, D. Warburton (eds.), Göttingen: 87-117.

Porter, Anne; 2012. Mobile Pastoralism and the Formation of Near Eastern Civilizations: Weaving Together Society. Cambridge University Press.

March 24-April 1. Spring recess- no class
Week 10. April 3-5. Greetings to my brother! Great kings, the Late Bronze age in the Levant and the Hittite Empire
Tue: Geography of Anatolia and the wandering kings of the Hittite empire. Hattusha: the city of one thousand gods. Rock reliefs in Anatolia.
Gorny, Ronald L.; 1989. “Environment, archaeology and history in Hittite Anatolia,” Biblical Archaeologist 52: 78-96.

Hawkins, J.D.; 1998. “Hattusa: home to the thousand gods of Hatti,” in Capital cities: urban planning and spiritual dimensions. J. G. Westenholz (ed.), Bible Lands Museum: Jerusalem, 65-81.

Glatz, C.; 2009. “Empire as network: spheres of material interaction in Late Bronze Age Anatolia.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 28: 127-141.
Thu: Eastern Mediterranean, cross-cultural exchange and cultural hybridity.
Sherratt, Andrew and Susan Sherratt; 1991. “From luxuries to commodities: the nature of Mediterranean Bronze age trading systems,” Bronze Age trade in the Mediterranean: papers presented at the conference held ate Rewley House, Oxford, in December 1989. N.H. Gale (ed.); Jonsered: Paul Åströms Förlag, 351-386.

Feldman, M. H.; 2002. “Luxurious forms: refining a Mediterranean ‘international style,’ 1400-1200 BCE,” Art Bulletin 84: 6-29.

Knapp, A. Bernard and Emma Blake; 2005. “Prehistory in the Mediterranean: the connecting and corrupting sea,” in The archaeology of Mediterranean prehistory. Emma Blake and A. Bernard Knapp (eds.). Malden MA: Blackwell, 1-23.
Week 11. April 10-12. The new countryside: Early Iron Age and the Assyrian Empire
Tue: Returning to the village after collapse: Early Iron age in Northern Mesopotamia. The cities of the Assyrian Empire: Kalhu and Nineveh. Syro-Hittite states. (Final paper proposals due)
Akkermans, and Schwartz; 2003. “Iron Age Syria” in The archaeology of Syria, 360-397.

Hawkins, John David; 1995a. “Karkamish and Karatepe: Neo-Hittite City-States in North Syria” in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. J.M. Sasson (ed.); New York, vol. II, pp. 1295-1307.

Postgate, J N; 1992. “The Land of Assur and the Yoke of Assur,” World Archaeology 23: 247-263.

Gilibert, Alesssandra; 2011. Syro-hittite Monumental Art and the Archaeology of Performance: The Stone Reliefs at Carchemish and Zincirli in the Earlier First Millennium BCE. Walter de Gruyter.

Thu: The writing on the wall: Orthostats as a shared architectural technology and ideological platform. Bronze bands at temple gates.
Winter, Irene J.; 1981a. “Royal rhetoric and the development of historical narrative in Neo-Assyrian reliefs”, Studies in Visual Communication 7: 2-38.

Pittman, Holly; 1996. “The White Obelisk and the problem of historical narrative in the art of Assyria,” Art Bulletin 78: 334-355.

Marcus, Michelle I.; 1995. “Geography as visual ideology: landscape, knowledge, and power in Neo-Assyrian art,” in Neo-Assyrian geography, Mario Liverani (ed.); Università di Roma “La Sapienza,” Roma: Sargon srl, 193-202.

Harmansah, Omur; 2007. “Upright stones and building narratives: formation of a shared architectural practice in the ancient Near East” in Ancient Near Eastern Art in Context: Studies in Honor of Irene J. Winter by Her Students. Culture and History of the Ancient Near East. Jack Cheng and Marian H. Feldman (eds.). Leiden: Brill Publishers, pp. 69-99.

Week 12. April 17-19. To the edges of the world: Neo-Babylonian and Persian worlds
Tue: A city of imagination and learning: Babylon. The hanging gardens of Babylon? Paradise in Babylonia and Persia. The akitu festival.
George, Andrew R.; 1993. “Babylon revisited: archaeology and philology in harness,” Antiquity 67: 734-46.

Dalley, S.; 1994. “Nineveh, Babylon and the hanging gardens: cuneiform and classical sources reconciled,” Iraq 56: 45-58.

Black, Jeremy A.; 1981. “The new year ceremonies in ancient Babylon: ‘taking Bel by the hand’ and a cultic picnic,” Religion 11: 39-59.

Winter, Irene J.; 2000. “Babylonian archaeologists of the(ir) Mesopotamian past,” in Proceedings of the First International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. P Matthiae et al (eds.); Università degli studi di Roma “La Sapienza”: Roma, 1785-9.

Thu: Pasargadae to Persepolis: the Persian conquest of the world
Van de Mieroop 2004; “The Persian Empire” 267-280.

Stronach, D; 1997. “Anshan and Parsa: Early Achaemenid history, art and architecture on the Iranian plateau,” in Mesopotamia and Iran in the Persian period: Conquest and imperialism 539-331 B.C. J. Curtis (ed.), British Museum Press: London; 35-53..

Week 13. April 24-26. Politics of cultural heritage in the Middle East
Tue: Sites of violence: archaeological site and museum as places of conflict. Looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad and archaeological sites in the Middle East.
Meskell, Lynn; 2005. “Sites of violence: terrorism, tourism and heritage in the archaeological present,” in Embedding ethics. Lynn Meskell and Peter Pels (eds.). Oxford: Berg, 123-146.

Shoup, D. 2006. “Can archaeology build a dam? Sites and politics in Turkey's southwest Anatolia project.” Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 19.2: 231-258.

Atakuman, Çiğdem; 2010. “Value of Heritage in Turkey: History and Politics of Turkey’s World Heritage Nominations” Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 23: 107-131
Thu: Student Presentations (Final paper drafts due)
Reading period (April 27-May 8)
May 12 Final papers due

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