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The Shahrizor Prehistory Project has targeted prehistoric levels of the Late Ubaid and Late Chalcolithic 4 (LC4; Late Middle Uruk) periods at Gurga Chiya (Shahrizor, Kurdistan region of northern Iraq), along with the Halaf period at the adjacent site of Tepe Marani. Excavations at the latter have produced new dietary and environmental data for the sixth millennium B.C. in the region, while at Gurga Chiya part of a burned Late Ubaid tripartite house was excavated. This has yielded a promising archaeobotanical assemblage and established a benchmark ceramic assemblage for the Shahrizor Plain, which is closely comparable to material known from Tell Madhhur in the Hamrin valley. The related series of radiocarbon dates gives significant new insights into the divergent timing of the Late Ubaid and early LC in northern and southern Mesopotamia. In the following occupation horizon, a ceramic assemblage closely aligned to the southern Middle Uruk indicates convergence of material culture with central and southern Iraq as early as the LC4 period. Combined with data for the appearance of Early Uruk elements at sites in the adjacent Qara Dagh region, this hints at long-term co-development of material culture during the fourth millennium B.C. in southeastern Iraqi Kurdistan and central and southern Iraq, potentially questioning the model of expansion or colonialism from the south.
Recent fieldwork and archival sedimentary materials from southern Iraq have revealed new insights into the environment that shaped southern Mesopotamia from the pre-Ubaid (early Holocene) until the early Islamic period. These data have been combined with northern Iraqi speleothem, or stalagmite, data that have revealed relevant palaeoclimate information. The new results are investigated in light of textual sources and satellite remote sensing work. It is evident that areas south of Baghdad, and to the region of Uruk, were already potentially habitable between the eleventh and early eighth millennia B.C., suggesting there were settlements in southern Iraq prior to the Ubaid. Date palms, the earliest recorded for Iraq, are evident before 10,000 B.C., and oak trees are evident south of Baghdad in the early Holocene but disappeared after the mid-sixth millennium B.C. New climate results suggest increased aridity after the end of the fourth millennium B.C. For the third millennium B.C. to first millennium A.D., a negative relationship between grain and date palm cultivation in Nippur is evident, suggesting shifting cultivation emphasising one of these crops at any given time in parts of the city. The Shatt en-Nil was also likely used as a channel for most of Nippur's historical occupation from the third millennium B.C. to the first millennium A.D. In the early to mid-first millennium A.D., around the time of the Sasanian period, a major increase in irrigation is evident in plant remains, likely reflecting large-scale irrigation expansion in the Nippur region. The first millennium B.C. to first millennium A.D. reflects a relatively dry period with periodic increased rainfall. Sedimentary results suggest the Nahrawan, prior to it becoming a well-known canal, formed an ancient branch of the Tigris, while the region just south of Baghdad, around Dalmaj, was near or part of an ancient confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates.
Recent palaeoenvironmental, historical, and archaeological investigations, primarily consisting of site reconnaissance, in the Shahrizor region within the province of Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan are bringing to light new information on the region's social and socio-ecological development. This paper summarises two seasons of work by researchers from German, British, Dutch, and Iraqi-Kurdish institutions working in the survey region. Palaeoenvironmental data have determined that during the Pleistocene many terraces developed which came to be occupied by a number of the larger tell sites in the Holocene. In the sedimentary record, climatic and anthropogenic patterns are noticeable, and alluviation has affected the recovery of archaeological remains through site burial in places. Historical data show the Shahrizor shifting between periods of independence, either occupied by one regional state or several smaller entities, and periods that saw the plain's incorporation within large empires, often in a border position. New archaeological investigations have provided insight into the importance of the region as a transit centre between Western Iran and northern and southern Mesopotamia, with clear material culture links recovered. Variations between periods' settlement patterns and occupations are also beginning to emerge.
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