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Greater Mesopotamia

Filling the gaps

Field Work Posted on Mon, June 29, 2015 13:19:54

Filling the gaps – Third
Lower-Khuzestan campaign, SW-Iran

20/04 – 11/05/2015: Frieda Bogemans & Rindert Janssens

The latest possible week of departure was very stressful as
usual. The visas were still lying at the Iranian embassy after 2 months of
waiting for our official visa number. Once we got hold on it we jumped onto the
airplane and left for Teheran. A short visit to the Geological Survey of Iran
in Karaj awaited us followed by a flight to Ahvaz.

Despite the pretty hot temperature it seemed it was again a
very fruitful campaign. After 2 years of experience of our local GSI manager Javad
and PhD student Reza we managed to fill important gaps needed for a decent
reconstruction of the past environments in the study area. Although some areas
were still too wet to reach by car, we were able to find all our necessary
locations by driving many kilometres back and forth. The result, however, is
obvious: 23 new cores until a depth of 12 m. This brings our total number of
cores to 67 for this project. Seven samples for age determination and over 100
samples for (clay) mineralogical study were collected.

Before returning home, the Geological Survey of Iran took
advantage of the experience of Frieda who explained the methodology of mapping
Quaternary deposits because the GSI started such a project. An unexpected
impact of IUAP !

Several locations were situated in or around Shadegan, a
large irrigated area with a same named city in its centre. This palm green area
is known for its delicious but sticky dates and its curious Arab inhabitants. More
than once we were accompanied with an audience as if we were part of a movie,
waiting for something very funny to happen. This luckily never did. Some other
locations were situated in huge sugar cane fields for which we needed specific
governmental documents, which we didn’t have last year. Javad organised them
this time long before our arrival in Ahvaz.

During the campaign 7 Iranian PhD students accompanied us in
order to be trained in describing undisturbed hand drilled cores. To avoid
headache they didn’t come all at once but in groups of 1 or 2.

Congress & Field Campaign Iran 2014

Field Work Posted on Mon, March 24, 2014 08:31:52

International Geoscience
Congress followed by a sunny field campaign, Iran.

1. 1. GSI
conference (16-19/02/2014)

The 1st International Geosciences Congress, organized by
the Geological Survey of Iran, started on 16th of February 2014.
After the official opening in Tehran, a quick flight and sub congress in Urmia
(NW Iran) dealing with the catastrophic human-induced drying of Lake Urmia
(which is largely caused by the construction of a solid highway through the
lake, and irrigation activities) we arrived finely in Chabahar (SE Iran, close
to the Pakistan border) to present our first IAP phase VII results at the
Marine Sciences University. The beautiful landscape and specific geological
features, such as huge mud volcanoes, badlands and raised beaches, were shown
during a splendid field excursion. With some sweet dried dates in our hands,
the views and the knowledge that old civilisations lived here long before in
the same environment makes us dream of those ancient times and… of course of
the processes behind the formation of these beautiful features.

Left: a medium-sized mud volcano near
Chabahar, right: the Mars Mountains with their beautiful badlands

2. Field campaign (20/02 – 06/03/2014)

in the early morning of 20 February in Ahwaz (Khuzestan Province) we just had
time in between some local GSI meetings to visit the nearby ancient fortress
city of Shushtar. Here, the Roman hydraulic water management is an example of
pure geniousity. The dams built by those captured Romans would indeed give a
solution to the above-mentioned drying of the Urmia lake nowadays. The Salasel
fortress, built during the Parthian or Sassanid era, was largely destroyed by
the Arab invasion around 642 BCE.

Hydraulic water management and (middle) dam of Roman architecture, right: destroyed
Salasel fortress

day after, our hard work started in Lower Khuzestan, taking approximately 1.5 cores
a day with an average of 15 m core described per day. A total of 17 cores, with
a maximum depth of 11m were taken and described. The map shows the location of
the cores carried out during previous campaigns and those carried out during
this campaign (labelled with 14-X). We cored in different environments going
from coastal mudflats, freshwater swamps, sabkhas and playas, some of them
disturbed by human activity. These different environments (and other) are also
recorded in the sediments of the subsoil. It is our challenge to make their
reconstruction through time.

showing all the cores in our study area (including previous campaigns). Cores
taken during our 2014 campaign are labelled as 14-x

Top left: tidal gully at core 14-8, top right: dune formation
close by a playa, bottom: a splendid example of sub-tidal deposits around 10 m
depth with daily tidal changes with moreover neap and spring tide sequences

The last core was sampled entirely for palynological
and microfossil research resulting in a 15 kg weighting box to be placed in our
baggage together with 5 kg samples from the other cores (for clay analyses, 14C
determination, etc.). Luckily we were allowed to take 2 bags of 23 kg per
person, otherwise we had to leave our boots and dirty clothes at the guesthouse.

Left: coring and describing on a cold
morning. Right: a too powerful performance after eating kebab.

The use of the
Edelman corer, the gauge auger, the spiral corer and a bag filled with
extension rods was all we needed to get nice undisturbed samples of the
subsurface. A crazy madman driving our first jeep and an old petrol-smelling
jeep, which lost now and then some important motor screws, and finally got
stuck on some small muddy roads, turned our campaign into an ‘old-fashion
safari experience’. The rice and kebab empowered our coring team and the nice
warm sun massaged our brains and muscles.

Again, we want to thank the
Geological Survey of Iran for their excellent logistic support, a special thank
for Dawod the fantastic cook, Ali Reza for his strength, Javad for his
organising skills and roll as core-master, Reza for his sharp observations, the
drivers for keeping us alive and dr. Lak for making this fieldwork possible. A
special thanks goes to our last-year ‘rock ‘n roll’ driver Farhot who passed
away during our stay in Iran.

Towards a third Iran campaign ? “INSH ALLAH” !

Rindert Janssens, dr. Frieda Bogemans and prof. dr. Cecile Baeteman,
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences – OD Earth and History of Life –
Quaternary Unit.