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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.
Tell Begum was previously explored by Iraqi archaeologists in the 1960s when excavations revealed a multi-period site. Among the key finds were Halaf period remains that are relatively rare in the region of the Shahrizor plain and included polychrome ceramics suggesting a local variation of the Halaf culture. Recent investigations and excavations in 2011 and 2013 revealed a 5 hectare site inhabited during the Halaf, Ubaid, Late Chalcolithic, and medieval periods. The Halaf site may have had an area of about 3 hectares, making it a relatively large settlement for that period, although its full extent is unclear. Offsite work revealed the area to have been well watered in the past, with likely neighbouring regions of woodland and abundant shrubs. The heavy sedimentation in the region has partially obscured archaeological remains, including possibly Tell Begum's lower mound. The site, nevertheless, shows continuity of settlement, indicating relative stability in settlement over long timespans.
Recent excavations at Tell Sitak in Iraqi Kurdistan contribute new information on the Neo-Assyrian and Sasanian occupation of this region. The site was most likely occupied between the eighth and sixth centuries b.c., in other words during the Neo-Assyrian period and perhaps for some time after. Architectural remains suggest that during this phase its primary function may have been as a fortress; smaller finds include ceramics and one Neo-Assyrian cuneiform tablet. The site was occupied again in the later Sasanian period, perhaps between the fourth and seventh centuries a.d. Remains from this period include ceramics carrying a variety of stamp seal impressions and substantial evidence for ironworking at the site.
The site of Merquly is located in a mountain pass c. 40 km north-west of Slemani (Sulaimaniyah), Iraq. Excavation at the site in 2009 revealed a fortified structure whose rooms at multiple elevations reflect a terraced structure adapted to the steep landscape contours of its setting. Both architectural preservation and quantity of finds were relatively limited; however, despite the nearby presence of a prominent Parthian period rock relief, ceramics suggest a later Sasanian date for the site. The authors discuss the 2009 season's results, and consider possible parallels for the preserved architecture, although further work is needed to securely date and characterize the site.
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.
This is the second article in a series detailing archaeological results from salvage excavations conducted in northern Iraq during the 1980s and early 1990s. An introduction and background information to the overall salvage project and specific information on fifteen excavated sites in the northern Jazirah, near the Iraq-Syria border and mostly within T. J. Wilkinson and D. J. Tucker's North Jazira Survey (NJS; see Wilkinson and Tucker 1995), were provided in the first article (Altaweel 2006). In that article the project was called the Ray Jazirah Project (RJP), and the fifteen sites were referenced as RJP 1–15. Since then I have been informed that a more appropriate name is the Jazirah Salvage Project. Nevertheless, for consistency with the last and future articles, the RJP initials will be maintained for referencing archaeological sites and the project in general.
This report provides data for the second set of excavated sites in the North region of the RJP. As in the first article, my role has been to provide this information to a wider audience prior to publication in Arabic and to conduct comparative analysis of the source material with other archaeological sites. I have attempted to maintain fidelity to the original source material, including using Iraqi conventions such as the system of numbering levels and ceramics, with only my commentary added to help in the interpretation of the data. In a similar manner to the previous report, very detailed descriptions on any one site will not be provided; rather, the primary purpose is to give summary data on the excavation results, with significant emphasis, where possible, on the ceramic remains. A list of the sites' occupation history and a table listing RJP sites with corresponding NJS sites (Table 1) are provided prior to the discussion of archaeological results. This report includes some additional details from a previously discussed site (RJP 5). The new sites discussed, including the first fifteen sites in the earlier article, can be seen in Fig. 1 according to their RJP numbers.
This article is the first in a series that aims to present the results of Iraqi excavations from the Ray Jazirah Project (RJP) that took place between 1987 and 1994. An Iraqi archaeologist involved in the RJP, who has chosen to remain anonymous, has recently provided all the primary data used in this and future reports. Gratitude to my Iraqi colleague, who continues to work in difficult circumstances, must be given for contributions to, and involvement in, our collaboration. I wish to thank this colleague, and other Iraqi archaeologists involved in the RJP, for granting permission to publish their work in English prior to publication in Arabic journals. Several colleagues from Iraq's State Board of Antiquities and Heritage have also made this project possible, and my colleague and I would like to thank them for granting permission for this publication project. We would also like to thank the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TAARII) for making this joint project possible through their generous funding. Professor McGuire Gibson (President of TAARII) first suggested this project and gave his encouragement; Dr Stephanie Platz (Executive Director of TAARII) and Dr Hala Fattah (Resident Director of TAARII) made many of the necessary arrangements to facilitate this effort from its inception. Special thanks are also due to Dr Rafi Altaweel for his tireless work in cleaning and improving the image quality of figures in this and forthcoming publications: many of the figures derive from drawings and photographs that were stored in less than ideal circumstances for almost two decades.
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