The transformative political events in the Middle East over the past two years have had, among many other unexpected outcomes, profound effects on the direction of research in Near Eastern archaeology.War and civil unrest act as both a carrot and a stick, forcing the cessation of fieldwork in some areas, while promoting new investigations in places that might otherwise have gone unexplored. The geopolitics of the post-Arab Spring world are changing where we are able work, and by consequence they will shape the research questions we investigate, as well as the regions where future generations of scholars will likely specialize. But the present moment of realignment is far from unique—our discipline has been shaped from the beginning by the tumultuous political history of the Middle East.
In the spring of 1920, James Henry Breasted and a group of scholars from the University of Chicago’s newly founded Oriental Institute embarked on a survey of major archaeological sites in Mesopotamia and Syria. It was Breasted’s hope that the return of political stability under British rule after the end of World War I would facilitate renewed investigations in Mesopotamia. Having traveled by steamer from Egypt, via Bombay, to Basra in southern Iraq, the team began making their way up the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, visiting many of the most prominent sites in the region, including Uruk, Babylon, and Nineveh.
Oriental Institute expedition team members pose with British officers at the west gate of Dura Europos, May 1920. (Image reproduced courtesy of the Oriental Institute Museum’s Photographic Archives http://oi.uchicago.edu/museum/collections/pa/).
By: Sara Rich, 2012 Platt Fellow, Mazotos Shipwreck Excavation, Cyprus
Last summer, I received a Platt Foundation Fellowship to return for the third season of the Mazotos Shipwreck Excavation in Cyprus. The 18-m long cargo vessel went down a few decades before the Kyrenia, during the Late Classical Period (mid-fourth c. BC). Previous years had exposed three lead anchor stocks and sections of preserved hull and keel wood at the bow. Last year, we were to start excavating the stern, and since ship timbers are an important part of my research, I was anxious to get back. However, at that point, I was in the third year of my PhD at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium) and “in between” funding opportunities. I am so grateful to have received one of the fellowships because, besides being a stowaway, there is no way that I would have been able to return to the project without it. Continue reading →
By: John C. Franklin, University of Vermont, AIAR Annual Professor
Kinyras is the legendary king of Cyprus, generallyknown onlyfor his incestuous seduction by his daughter Myrrha (Ov. Met. 10.298–502). Yeta large body of scattered references—never completely assembled—ranges from Homer to Byzantine poets and scholars, and even the sixteenth-century Franco-Cypriot historian Étienne de Lusignan. Homer knew Kinyras as a Great King who treated with Agamemnon (Il. 11.19–23). The lost epic Cypria dealt with Kinyras’ faithless promise to join against Troy. Alcman’s ‘moist charm of Kinyras’ (3.71 PMGF) connects him with a Cypriot perfumed-oil industry going back to the Late Bronze Age. Pindar, invoking Kinyras as an exemplum for Hieron, has ‘Cypriot voices much resound around Kinyras’, makes him ‘cherished priest of Aphrodite’, and ‘golden-haired Apollo’s gladly-loved’ (Pyth. 2.15–17), and recalls an ancient Cypriot thalassocracy when he refers to the ‘blessed fortune . . . which once upon a time freighted Kinyras with riches in Cyprus on the sea’ (Nem. 8.17–18). All of these sources accord with Kinyras’ great proverbial wealth (Tyrtaeus 12.6 etc.). Continue reading →
By: A. Bernard Knapp Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute, 11 Andreas Demetriou, 1066 Nicosia, Cyprus.Email.
Throughout its long prehistory and protohistory, the island of Cyprus was strategically situated between the cultures of ancient western Asia and the Aegean, if not those of the central Mediterranean. As a consequence, in literature both academic and popular, the island is frequently referred to as a ‘crossroads of civilizations’. This is especially the case for the Late Bronze Age (henceforth LBA, between ca. 1700-1100 BC), but it also holds true for the Iron Age, the Hellenistic and Roman periods, the Medieval and even the modern eras, albeit in very different ways.
This summer, thanks to an ASOR Heritage Fellowship, I traveled to Cyprus to participate in the Kalavasos and Maroni Built Environments Project (KAMBE). The project, led by Sturt Manning of Cornell University and Kevin Fisher from the University of Arkansas, focuses on several Late Bronze Age sites in southern Cyprus. Most of the research has involved the use of geophysical techniques to survey the landscapes surrounding previously excavated LBA sites. Continue reading →
Carrie excavating in the trench North of Building 1 at Maroni-Tsaroukkas. Photo: Sturt Manning.
By: Carrie Fulton, 2012 Platt Fellow
In 1897, an expedition by the British Museum to Cyprus opened a number of pits in search of tombs in the lower Maroni Valley at Tsaroukkas, removing many objects of interest and backfilling the pits they had created. Fast-forward about 115 years later and thanks to the generous funding from the Platt Fellowship through ASOR I was able to join the Kalavasos and Maroni Built Environments (KAMBE) Project for a month of excavation. The project, led by Dr. Sturt Manning (Cornell University) and Dr. Kevin Fisher (University of Arkansas), has focused on using geophysical survey to elucidate patterns in the Late Bronze Age occupation for this region of Cyprus, and this season they added excavation to ground truth their findings. I would like to take you through one of the trenches I worked on as I learned about stratigraphy and site formation processes.
By: Sara Rich, University of Leuven, 2012 Platt Fellow
I’d like to tell you about my best day in the field – ever. Honestly, between the promise of keel wood and the dolphins, there isn’t even a close runner up.
This morning the waters off the south-central coast of Cyprus were calm despite the storm that was supposed to be blowing in from the west. This was already a good sign. Bad weather and transportation issues meant that my dive yesterday had to be canceled. The past couple of days we’ve had some technical problems with the “rib” (acronym for “rigid inflatable boat”) that takes us out to the site every day, where the support vessel, Marilena, is stationed directly above the wreck. So in lieu of the rib, we’d been hitching rides out to sea and back on local fishing boats. This was great fun, but rather time-consuming, as you can imagine. Well this morning by 6am that problem had been resolved, so we arrived on site as planned by 7am via not one, but two fully-functioning ribs.
Thanks to a generous Platt Fellowship from ASOR, I was able to participate this summer as a square supervisor in Lycoming College’s Expedition to Idalion, Cyprus. Since the late 1980s, Dr. Pamela Gaber has directed the excavations and field school at Idalion, which has gained a reputation for excellence in providing students with a solid foundation in archaeological field methods. This season brought one of the largest crews seen in recent years, with students from Lycoming, Virginia Tech, and SUNY Albany, enabling excavation to take place in three separate areas of the site.
The field in which I worked is known as the Lower City East–an area originally dug by Lawrence Stager and Anita Walker in 1971. Findings there included a large basin with ashlar masonry and a plaster facing, in addition to a number of stone walls. These finds were interpreted as being part of a Roman villa and bath complex; however, last year this area of the site was reopened for the first time in over three decades, and findings were made that challenged the original identification of these features. Dr. Gaber believes this area to have, in fact, been part of an industrial installation. Continue reading →
It is with great pleasure we announce that on April 24, 2010, the ASOR board of trustees unanimously adopted the â€œStrategic Plan as a blueprint to move ASOR forward.â€ A considerable amount of work has been done by the Strategic Planning Task Force that was chaired by ASOR President Tim Harrison. We thank President Harrison and the rest of the committee (Susan Ackerman, Jimmy Hardin, Morag Kersel, Sten LaBianca, P. E. MacAllister, and Carol Meyers) for their efforts and excellent work. To review ASORâ€™s Strategic Planning documents, please click here.
The Strategic Plan sets forth a blueprint for ASOR to move forward, but it intentionally did not resolve many implementation issues. The next step will be for President Tim Harrison to appoint an â€œImplementation Task Forceâ€ that will be charged with bringing specific recommendations for implementing the goals set forth in the Strategic Plan to the board of trustees. Updates on the progress of this committee will be posted online and in upcoming ASOR Newsletters.
Please contact Tim Harrison with any questions or comments on the Strategic Plan and with recommendations for the implementation stage. This is an exciting time for ASOR and we look forward to collaborating with our members in the years to come.
Posted by ASOR’s executive director: Andrew G. Vaughn