Greater Mesopotamia: Reconstruction of its Environment and History

This research project (Interuniversity Attraction Poles 7/14) is focused on the Ancient Near East, a region extending from ancient Iran and the Arabian peninsula to the Mediterranean. Its objective is the study of the interaction of man with his environment and the development of, and interaction between, societies in the course of the regional history. The project builds upon the previous phases of this long standing IAP, the last one of which earned the very highest marks among the humanities IAP projects. This excellence in research has attracted new partners in Belgium and abroad. The expertise of four Belgian teams from two Belgian Universities and two Federal Scientific Institutions will now be fully integrated. The groundwork and stimulation of research provided by the previous IAP phases will allow a very efficient synergy.

The objective of this project is to provide entirely new perspectives of major historical processes through the integration of palaeo-environmental data, cuneiform writing, archaeological site exploration and palynological analyses. The aims are to assemble new data by the use of disciplines from the humanities and natural sciences in order to recreate the evolution of the environment and action of man. The changes in climate and the reconstruction of ancient environments will be studied by the various IAP partners by means of textual information, archaeological and environmental fieldwork. The study of seals and sealings is bound to produce an added value in this new phase of GMREH, by illustrating cross-cultural relations and (inter)actions of ancient societies.

From a methodology point of view, this research approaches the history of the Ancient Near East (in its broadest sense from material history to cultural phenomena) from a combined environmental, historical and archaeological viewpoint. At the same time, it re-examines a number of fundamental key-stone topics such as chronology, climate evolution, seashore variations and material culture sequences. This pluridisciplinarity cannot consist of a side-by-side contribution of archaeology, geology, philology, historical geography and history that would only produce more data within the confinement of each of these disciplines. A fully integrated synergy of these approaches is essential. Such an ambitious undertaking could, of course, never be realized by any single team.  It will take the added value of a comprehensive network, such as the one proposed.

The general structure of the project counts six Work Packages:

I. Mapping and Surveying
II. Archaeology in context
III. Historical Geography
IV. Environmental Geo-Archaeology
V. History and Chronology
VI: Imaging and Technology

More information: