Frame 2a. Mesopotamia and Egypt

Aims 1 and 2

Prof. Olof Pedersén, Jakob Andersson, Dept. of Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University, Prof. Paul Sinclair, Dept. of Archaeology and ancient history, Uppsala university. Advisor: Prof. Hartmut Kühne, Berlin.

The Middle East, the area with the longest large scale perspective on urban life, will be used for developing the concept of Urban Mind from comparative studies of long term development of urbanism and shorter term studies of urban cognitive forms and organization in the region.

In the broader perspective, all major ancient cities in the whole Middle East will be analysed using Google Earth. Periods of significant environmental change in the Middle East will be identified, using the available high-resolution multi-proxy data in combination with existing archaeological and philological research. With an integration of physical and humanistic aspects, the climatic and other hydrographic changes in Egypt and Mesopotamia and the effects on the early civilizations will be studied.

The city of Babylon will be used for a preliminary case study for understanding socio-environmental interactions in time depth by a preliminary study of specific urban complexes in that city.

Benefit of achieved aim
Better understanding of the long-term aspects of cities from the Middle East with its longest history of large-scale city life.

Scope of study
The study will apply a multi-disciplinary approach. With Google Earth an integration of geography, archaeology, history in a chronological perspective will be attempted in order to create a useful working tool for future research on Urban Mind and related research areas.

The preliminary case study of Babylon will also integrate geography, archaeology, and history and make a reconstruction of sections of the city in order to illustrate the adaptation to changing environmental circumstances and political wishes.

Intellectual background – previous research
Integration of human history and earth system history is important for understanding global change. During recent decades, research on Mesopotamia has advanced the reconstruction of the changing courses of the Euphrates and Tigris. Studies exist on the changing seaside of the Persian Gulf in ancient times. Especially the changing rivers had dramatically effects on city life and even the existence of many cities in Mesopotamia. High ground water level and increasing concentration of salt and the effects thereof have been studied.

In recent years, there has been more focus on possible effects on a climate change ca 2200 BC. Studies on these questions have often been with a focus on north Mesopotamia, especially north Syria.

The geographical distribution of town and cities will be studied by means of plotting them on the satellite images in Google Earth. The sites have to be identified in archaeological reports or on detailed maps. The aspect of size and as far as possible time has to be considered.

The preliminary detailed study of parts of Babylon will use a combination of archaeological and philogical methods and be presented in a digital 3D model illustrating the city’s adaption to environmental and political circumstances.

From the fourth millennium BC onwards we have the first larger areas with cities in Mesopotamia and in Egypt, and we see the emergence of early urban centres. The archaeological and textual material relating to urbanism is extensive and growing, and settlement investigations as well as reappraisals of old excavations have fundamentally changed our understanding of important sites. The examination will use excavation reports, archaeological surveys, and cuneiform historical texts and incorporate it as archaeological and historical data into Google Earth as placemarks. This will be analysed in comparison with available climatic proxy data for critical periods.

For example, the impact of climate change at the end of the Old Akkadian period ca 2200 BC has recently been studied for northern Mesopotamia, The integration of climate change data with the social and political history of Egypt and the Near East will be explored through case-studies; large parts of southern Mesopotamia, for example, seem to have been abandoned for some hundreds of years after ca. 1600 BC, and this corresponds to the politically unstable and decentralised Second Intermediate Period in Egypt (ca. 1650-1550 BC). The archaeological record of urban settlements in these regions – often spanning several thousand years – combined with detailed textual records from the same sites allow for both low-resolution analysis of settlement patterns and changes, as well as high-resolution case studies of individual urban sites.

The preliminary case study of Babylon 1900-300 BC will combine the data from the old large-scale excavations with new detailed studies available or in process.

Expected results
The results of the limited two year period of idea development will include collection of data, placemarks of the important ancient cities in the Middle East for Google Earth as a working tool, a digital 3D model of parts of Babylon, and preliminary discussions on general questions related to historical dimensions of the environment and cities in the Middle East and specific questions related to the environmental and political change in Babylon as a chapter on the book about Urban Mind to be produced by the project.