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Greater Mesopotamia

Imaging Phoenician coins at the Royal Library of Belgium

Field Work Posted on Mon, October 09, 2017 08:34:12

At the end of the Summer, Vanessa Boschloos continued the PLD imaging sessions at the Coin Cabinet of the Royal Library of Belgium, initiated in December 2015. The collection comprises nearly 40 Phoenician coins of the Persian Period, assigned to the city-states on the Phoenician coast (Arwad, Byblos, Sidon and Tyre) or on Cyprus.They are almost exclusively made of silver, but also include a handful of gold and bronze pieces. The coins were recorded on both sides. This initiative is related to the inventory of Phoenician antiquities in Belgium made by, among others, Eric Gubel and Vanessa Boschloos in the framework of the project Corpus des Antiquités phéniciennes et puniques of the International Union of Academies ( for more information on the Corpus).

Integrated in the last imaging session was the recording of a neo-Babylonian amulet with inscription, which will further be studied by Véronique Van der Stede.

Vanessa, Hendrik and Véronique thank the team at the KBR, especially Christian Lauwers, Johan Van Heesch and François de Callataÿ, for making these objects available and preparing them for the imaging sessions, and for all the support given during these 7 days.

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.

Mission in Turkey

Field Work Posted on Wed, June 03, 2015 07:53:05

Scientific Mission in Turkey, 12-19/04/2015 (WP III: Historical

From 12 to 19 April 2015, a team of the Université catholique de Louvain
(Jan Tavernier, René Lebrun, Agnès Degrève, Etienne Van Quickelberghe and
Johanne Garny) has explored the ancient kingdom of Tarhuntassa, which
corresponds nowadays with the region around the Turkish cities Silifke and
Karaman. The aim of the mission was twofold. On the one hand, it aims at
helping the researchers to find the exact localisation of the ancient capital
Tarhuntassa. On the other hand, it sought to give the specialists a better
understanding of the territorial extent of the ancient kingdom of Tarhuntassa.

Various 2nd Millennium sites were visited: Sirkeli (fig. 1), Gözlükule (ancient Tarsus), Yumuktepe (ancient
Mersin; fig. 2), Kilisetepe, Kızıldağ (fig. 3-4), Karadağ and Meydancikkale (fig. 5-7). The
focus was on their geographical environment and their possibility to “host” a
large administrative centre. Next to that, some museums were also visited
(Tarsus, Mersin, Silifke).

The various results that emanated from this mission
will now be connected to the textual evidence of the kingdom of Tarhuntassa in
order to extend our knowledge of this highly important 13th-century BC

Unexpectedly, when visiting the beautiful site of Tatarlı Höyük (fig. 8-9), to the east of Adana, where excavations only started
recently, the idea that this site could very well be the ancient town of
Lawazantiya imposed itself. This will be further investigated as a sort of

Fig. 1: Relief at Sirkeli

Fig. 2: Yumuktepe

Fig. 3: Relief of Kartapu (Kızıldağ)

Fig. 4: Luwian inscription on the top of the Kızıldağ

Fig. 5: Monumental entrance of Meydancikkale

Fig. 6: Building at the site of Meydancikkale

Fig. 7: View on Meydanccikale

Fig. 8: Tatarlı Höyük

Fig. 9: Tatarlı Höyük

Study stay and scanning @ Schøyen Collection

Field Work Posted on Tue, May 20, 2014 12:07:48

From 14 till 16 May 2014 IAP researchers Anne Devillers and Hendrik Hameeuw worked, studied and imaged a part of the Schøyen Collection in Norway. For 3 days they were granted access to the Uruk IV-III cuneiform tablets & bullae and to the stamp seal collection. This exceptional material fits in their ongoing research on glyptic studies and joins with WP V (History and Chronology) & WP VI (Imaging and Technology) of the IAP 7/14.

Anne Devillers inspecting cylinder seal impressions on a Uruk III tablet

In total all of the 4th/3rd millenium stamp seals were described and scanned in bulk with the Portable Light Dome. Of the almost 400 Uruk period cuneiform tablets 28 exemplars carried traces of cylinder seal impressions; as for the stamp seals, they were described in detail and scanned. Back in Brussels and Leuven the further study will be continued with help of these descriptions and by consulting the images made with the Portable Light Dome.

Hendrik Hameeuw scanning with the Portable Light Dome at the Schøyen Collection

Inside the Portable Light Dome, scanning a 5000 year old cuneiform tablet

The aim of the research stay is to prepare a publication on the glyptic material in the Schøyen Collection, in the first place, for the seal impression on the Uruk IV-III tablets. This work will be undertaken in close collaboration with Bob Englund of the UCLA (CDLI project, one of the IAP 7/14 international partners) who took the responsibility to publish the Uruk period texts of the collection.

A cylinder seal impression depicting a walking lion on a Uruk Period clay tablet

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.

Imaging Mesopotamian Collection UCL

Field Work Posted on Fri, March 14, 2014 12:15:48

From 18 to 21 November 2013 the Portable Light Dome was used at the Musée de Louvain-La-Neuve (UCLouvain, Belgium) for a recording programme of cuneiform documents, Mesopotamian seal impressions, antique coins, Etruscan mirrors, gold leaf inscriptions, scarabs and other archaeological objects. In the IAP: Greater Mesopotamia these actions take place within WP VI, i.e. the recording of Mesopotamian Heritage kept at the home institutions of the IAP 7/14 partners to allow a (re)new(ed) study of this material. This initiative was made possible thanks to the hospitality of Etienne Duyckaerts and Emmanuelle Druart of the Musée de Louvain-la-Neuve.

Shortly after the recording sessions the first results were already presented to the public in one of the exhibition showcases of the Musée de Louvain-la-Neuve (below). The audio-visual services of the UCLouvain prepared a video (below, in French and Dutch) on the event. During the stay, a demo on the applied imaging technique was organised.

Video in French – © Dirk Vanden Elshen.

Video in Dutch – © Dirk Vanden Elshen.

Neo-Elamite objects of the Louvre Museum

Field Work Posted on Fri, October 18, 2013 14:56:04

On August
30 2013, E. Gorris (UCLouvain) visited the Louvre Museum to take detailed
digital images of Neo-Elamite monumental objects, displayed in the exhibition
rooms of the Near Eastern Department. These images will contribute to a detailed
paleographic study of the cuneiform signs, which will serve as an instrument to
determine the chronology of the Neo-Elamite kings. This study frames in E.
Gorris’ PhD dissertation on the History of the Neo-Elamite Kingdom as part of Work Package V, “History and Chronology” of the Greater Mesopotamia IAP. Especially the steles of Atta-hamiti-Inshushinak
and Shutruru, of which no detailed photographs are published, were taken as the
main focus.

Research at Cornell University

Field Work Posted on Tue, August 20, 2013 11:41:27

This Summer a team of four members of the IAP project ‘Greater Mesopotamia’ is working at the collection of cuneiform tablets stored at Cornell University. The team consists of Prof. Kathleen Abraham, Gabriella Voet and Prof. Karel Van Lerberghe (University of Leuven), and of Hendrik Hameeuw (Royal Museums of Art and History & University of Leuven). From June till November 2013 work is focusing on 700 new unpublished texts dealing with social and economic problems in Mesopotamia during the reigns of king Samsuiluna (1749-1712 BCE) and his successor Abiešuḫ (1711-1684 BCE). Most of the tablets are registered by using the Portable Light Dome. In time, these dynamic images will be made available for the international scientific community via the ‘Greater Mesopotamia’ website and are being stored on the Leuven University servers. At the same time, the images are also being published, together with transliterations, translations and comments in three books in the series CUSAS. A first volume, dealing mainly with tablets originating from the Enlil temple at Dūr-Abiešuḫ has been published in 2009 as CUSAS 8 (Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology).

Prof. em. Karel Van Lerberghe en Prof. Kathleen Abraham in the Tablet Room

This dossier gives evidence for the abandonment of Southern Mesopotamia in the late Old Babylonian period in a period of economic distress due to environmental changes. The clergy of Mesopotamia’s religious capital, Nippur, moved to the North and built a new center at Dūr-Abiešuḫ where they erected the new Ekur-temple for their chief deity Enlil. The next one, CUSAS 25, containing some 300 new tablets, is scheduled for 2014. It gives most important information on the activities of the mercenaries in the Babylonian rulers’ army controlling and protecting the Tigris river, the irrigation system and the Babylonian cities from enemies (most probably from the Sealand). Those mercenaries come from various areas such as Maškan-šapir, Gutium, Damrum and even Aleppo (Ḫalaba). The volume contains administrative and juridical documents and related letters (e.g. on the siege of Nippur). All seal impressions are copied and described and the use of the seals is being investigated.

During our stay at Cornell other tablets were studied as well. These will make up a third volume in the CUSAS series with texts dating from before the collapse of the Babylonian empire (under king Samsuiluna) and from the beginning of the decline (under king Abiešuḫ).

Hendrik Hameeuw with the Portable Light Dome in the Tablet Room

With de PLD-minidome some test were run with a new HD camera (GX6600c, ca. 28 mill. pixels). Recordings were made with the trusted and normally used lower definition camera, the Manta G504C IRC, and compared with images taken with the GX of one and the same cuneiform tablet. The outcome is used to establish an understanding on in which cases (type of tablets, with or without seal impressions) low or high definition is requested and can or can not be seen as an added value. (see illustration, left with Manta, right with GX)

As always, our stay at Cornell is extremely pleasant thanks to the staff of the Rosen Seminar helping us in many ways. David and Susan Owen should be thanked here in the first place. We also wish to mention: Jeff Zorn, Alex Kleinerman and Laura Johnson-Kelly.

The hospitality of our hosts is well-known in Assyriological circles and we had the pleasure to meet once again several colleagues equally working at the Rosen Collection: Prof. Jean-Marie Durand (Collège de France et Membre de l’Académie Française), Dr. Grégory Chambon (Université de Brest), Dr. Michaël Guichard (Université Paris I) and Dr. Bertrand Lafont ( CNRS, Paris).

Research stay in Crete

Field Work Posted on Fri, August 02, 2013 15:24:47

In the framework of interrelations between
the Levant and the Aegean world, Prof. Joachim Bretschneider and Greta Jans
from the KU Leuven conducted a research excursion on Crete from the 6th until
the 20th of July. They visited the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion and
several sites in northern and eastern Crete, like Knossos, Malia, Sissi,
Dreros, Ithanos, Palaikastro and Azoria.

Prof. Bretschneider and Greta Jans were
generously guided by Prof. Jan Driessen (UCLouvain) at the site of Malia and
Sissi, by Dr. Florence Gaignerot (Université de Picardie Jules Verne) at
Dreros, by Prof. Carl Knappett (University of
Toronto), Dr. Tim Cunningham (UCLouvain) and Dr. Nicoletta Momigliano (University of Bristol) at
Palaikstro, by Prof. Donald Haggis (University
of North Carolina) at Azoria and by Prof. Didier Viviers (rector ULB) and Prof. Athena Tsingarida (ULB) at Ithanos.

At the Archaeological
Museum of Heraklion Joachim Bretschneider rendered digital images of sphinxes
on mural painting and plaster reliefs for the research of his doctoral student
Nadine Nys.

A short introduction to the visited sites:


The famous Knossos,
near Heraklion, was excavated by the British School at Athens. It is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and was inhabited continuously from the Neolithic period until the 5th
century AD. The palace of Knossos was undoubtedly the ceremonial and political
centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. It appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and
storerooms close to a central square. The palace was abandoned at the end of
the Late Bronze Age.


The excavation of Malia is under the direction of the
French Archaeological School at Athens. It is situated by Hersonissos in
Northern Crete and is one of the largest Middle and Late Bronze Age urban
centres on Crete. It was first built around 1900 BC. It subsequently followed
the same cycle as the other palaces of the time, and it was destroyed around
1650 before it was immediately rebuilt. The ruins at the site today reflect
this second rebirth of the palace and the excavations reveal a place of
significant economic and political activity which lasted until its final
destruction by fire in 1450 BC. An extensive complex of settlements had
developed around the palace itself.

With Prof. Driessen at Malia


The Sissi
Archaeological Project
is a collaboration of the French and Dutch speaking universities of
Louvain/Leuven directed by Prof. Jan Driessen (UCLouvain) and operates under
the auspices of the Belgian
School of Athens
. The archaeological site of Sissi lies just a
few kilometres from Malia, and was occupied in the Middle Bronze, Late Bronze
and Early Iron Age. Between 1450 and 1200 BC, Sissi was probably the most
important regional centre.

Prof. Driessen at Sissi


Dreros excavations are directed by the French
Archaeological School at Athens. Dreros, near Neapoli in the
regional unit of Lasithi, existed as an Iron Age settlement that later grew to
become a classical city-state.

With Dr. Gaignerot at Dreros


Since 1996 the Université
Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) has been conducting fieldwork in the North Necropolis
under the direction of Prof. Didier Viviers. Ithanos is a city-harbour located
in Eastern Crete. The archaeological record shows that the site was occupied
from the 10th century BC to the 6th century AD. Earlier excavations focused on
the urban centre of the city. The recent campaigns in the North Necropolis
brought to light a densely occupied cemetery dated to the Late Classical and
Hellenistic periods (4th-1st c. BC), and early funerary activity dated
to the Geometric – Orientalizing periods (8th and 7th c. BC).

Prof. Viviers, Prof. Tsingarida,
Prof. Driessen and Dr. Gaignerot at Ithanos


The excavation of the site
is directed by Prof. Carl
Knappett, Prof. Alexander MacGillivray, and Prof. Hugh Sackett under the patronage of the British School of
Archaeology in Athens. The Bronze Age town is situated some kilometres north of
the Minoan town and palace of Zakros at the edge
of the eastern coast of Crete. The site was occupied from the Early Bronze Age until the end of the Late
Bronze Age. The site ceased to be inhabited at the same time
when Zakros was abandoned (1450 BC) but was reoccupied during the Late Minoan
III period (1300-1200 BC).

With Prof. Knappett, Prof.
Driessen and Dr. Cunningham at Palaikastro


is conducted by permission of the Greek Ministry of Culture under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Archaeological Service of Eastern
Crete. The Azoria Project is directed by Prof. Donald Haggis of the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The project is investigating an Early Iron
Age and Archaic site to the southeast of Agios Nikolaios.

Prof. Haggis, Prof. Driessen and Dr. Gaignerot at Azoria

The close
resemblance between some cultural phenomena of the Aegean and the Levant makes
a partnered research very beneficial. An attempt was made to synchronize
certain assemblages of archaeological material in the Northern Levant and the
Eastern Mediterranean, like the transitional Late Bronze – Early Iron Age
evidence, with the ‘Sea Peoples’ coming from the Aegean to the Near East. For example, large amounts
of hourglass-shaped loom weights – a type of weight generally interpreted as a cultural
marker of the ‘Sea Peoples’ – were excavated in Sissi as well as in Tell

A further challenging research topic focused on the Syro-Phoenician
influence on the architecture and architectural decoration of the oldest Greek
temple at Prinias (8th -7th c. BC) decorated with sculptures.
Most recent finds (from miniature house and temple models in Syria and
Palestine) allow new interpretations of the impact of Levantine cultures on the
Prinias religious architectural decoration of the Archaic Period.

Research stay PennMuseum, Philadelphia

Field Work Posted on Mon, July 22, 2013 18:08:23

From June
30th until July 13th, Dr. Anne Goddeeris studied a number
of cuneiform tablets in the University Museum of the University of
Pennsylvania. The research stay took place in the framework of Work Package V,
“History and Chronology” (supported via WP VI) of the Greater Mesopotamia IAP and was additionally financed by the FWO-Vlaanderen.

In the museum,
she studied legal and administrative texts from Nippur, the religious capital
of Babylonia, dating from 1900-1700 BC. These archives, excavated by the
Babylonian Expedition at the end of the 19th century, are dispersed
over three collections, now kept in Istanbul (Turkey), Jena (Germany) and Philadelphia (US). The texts
in Philadelphia have been collated, situated in their archival context and
recorded with the Portable Light Dome system.

CBS 1354

Geological Survey Iran 2013

Field Work Posted on Mon, March 11, 2013 14:08:10

Field work in the Lower Khuzestan plain (SW Iran), February 2013
by the partner of the Geological Survey of Belgium (The Royal Belgium Institute
of Natural Sciences).

Changing positions of the shoreline of
the Persian Gulf in relation to
sea-level changes and sediment supply by the rivers and the sea played an important role in the southern Mesopotamian
history and the patterns of human settlement. Changing shoreline positions in
Lower Khuzestan (SW Iran) are associated with changing landscapes such as tidal
flats, marshes, sabkhas and fluvial plains. The data for the reconstruction of
the changing landscapes in time, or the palaeogeography, are recorded in the
subsoil and hence, recovered by coring.

The first coring campaign of this IAP 7/14 project took place in
February 2013 in an area of about 4000 km2 surrounding Shadegan. The
one-month field campaign was carried out by Prof. Cecile Baeteman and MSc
Rindert Janssens from the Geological Survey of Belgium (The Royal Belgium
Institute of Natural Sciences) with the joint effort by colleagues of the
Geological Survey of Iran (GSI) and 2 PhD students of the University of
Teheran. Dr. Razi Lak from the GSI organized the excellent logistic support
together with the Environmental Office of Abadan.

27 hand-operated undisturbed cores until a depth of 11 m were described and
sampled for further investigation (14C dating, mineralogy, XRD, palaeontology). Particularly the information at greater depth (that
was not attained during the 2 campaigns of the previous IAP P5/14 project) provided
new ideas of the palaeogeography and environmental changes. Tidally influenced
deposits were found until about 50 km northwest of the present-day shoreline of
the Persian Gulf; marsh deposits alternating with river deposits indicate
periods of frequent flooding; dust deposits in the fluvial record were now
discovered as well as a former course of the river Jarrahi in the eastern part
of the study area.

Dust deposits in the fluvial record.

Small boats were used to get access for coring in the
Shadegan marshes.

At the occasion of his stay in Abadan, Rindert Janssens was invited by Prof.
Dr. Dadolagi Sohrab and his team of the Khorramshahr University of Marine
Sciences and Technology in Abadan to present the preliminary results of the
field work. A future collaboration with this university will also be
established because of their great interest in the results about the Holocene
geology that hitherto was unknown to them.

Coring in cold weather, despite the semi-arid warm climate.

Exeptional flooding of the Lower Khuzestan plain
between Abadan and Shadegan, February 2013.

A well deserved and well organized lunch after the hard