The Winter 2017 Issue

Welcome to the latest issue of Mar Shiprim! As you can see, with this new issue comes also a totally new look for the website. We hope you like our new and more minimalist theme! The site is still new, so please let us know if you find any problems or links that are no longer working.

Our first piece this month are two statements from the IAA. The first regards the continuing crisis in the Middle East, and the IAA calls on its members and all parties involved to ‘respect the right to life of all citizens and to work to prevent, minimize and repair damage to the heritage of the region’. The second concerns the order restricting entry to the United States. The IAA Board ‘strongly calls for the immediate suspension of this executive order’, and ‘condemn the chilling impact that it will have on both the study of the affected countries and on their people.’

The spotlight falls on Chuo University, where Fumi Karahashi and her student Naomi Aiba tell us about their work and daily life in Tokyo, as well as the challenges facing the Humanities in Japan. ‘In Popular Culture’ features Sabina Franke, who organized a workshop on communicating knowledge about Assyriology to a wider audience.

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Two statements from the IAA

The International Association of Assyriology has put out the following two statements, regarding the conflict and destruction in the Middle East, and regarding the order restricting entry to the United States.

For the full pdf-versions of the statements, including French, German, Arabic, Italian, and Turkish translations, see the IAA website.

Regarding the continuing conflict and destruction in the Middle East (as of December 2016):

“The growth of humanitarian crises in the Middle East continues to be a tragedy for the residents across the region. The IAA is particularly sensitive to this human tragedy since the ancient societies that we study all had their homes in the region, and our members have a long history of working with colleagues and communities there.

Alongside the danger to human life, these conflicts pose a grave threat to the rich tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the Middle East. Damage to this heritage strikes at the identity and valued traditions of the peoples of the region. There is also a long history of the politicization of the surviving sites, monuments, and remains of the ancient communities of the region.

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In the Spotlight: Chuo University

The spotlight falls on Chuo University, as Fumi Karahashi and her student Naoki Aiba tell us about Assyriology in Japan.

“The Tama campus (home to the Faculty of Letters, the Law School, etc.) is situated to the west of downtown Tokyo, in a place where one can see mountain ranges, including Mt. Fuji, on clear days. I like the environment very much: the air is fresh and the trees green!” – Fumi Karahashi

“I became especially interested in Assyria because I wondered why Assyria, which had existed more than 2,000 years, collapsed soon after unifying the ancient Near East.” – Naoki Aiba

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In Popular Culture: The Future of Ancient Near Eastern Studies

In this second issue of ‘In Popular Culture’, I talk with Sabina Franke about the challenges and opportunities of bringing the Ancient Near East to public attention. She gathers the main conclusions from the workshop ‘The Future of Ancient Near Studies’ she organized on this topic, and shares her experiences teaching and telling about the Ancient Near East.

“I have to admit that it took me years to be able to understand more or less the basic ideas, concepts, and lines of thoughts in the ANE and to realize that it is perfectly OK to simplify and to tell the stories behind the text. As Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: ‘Easy reading is damn hard writing!'”

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In the Field: The Survey of Koya

Cinzia Pappi brings news from the field: her survey of Koya in Iraqi Kurdistan has uncovered many interesting possibilities in a region previously thought to be ‘an empty frontier between empires’. Not only that, but her survey project includes also a teaching program at the University of Koya, where students learn basic archaeological methods and the use of GIS.

The Archaeological Survey of Koi Sanjaq/Koya (Iraqi Kurdistan): Scientific Investigations and Teaching Programs

By Cinzia Pappi

Roughly two hours southeast of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, nestled between the modern districts of Sulaimaniya, Erbil, and Kirkuk, lies the region of Koi Sanjaq/Koya. This rough triangle of about twelve hundred square kilometers is hemmed in from the east by the rising chains of the Zagros piedmont, on the south by the Lower Zab as it descends from the Raniya plateau towards the Tigris and the Assyrian plains.

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Congratulations! To Abather Saadoon

In this issue, our congratulations go to Dr. Abather Saadoon, who has recently completed his PhD at the University of Baghdad. His dissertation is entitled ‘Agricultural Lands in Unpublished Cuneiform Texts from the Akkadian Period in Tell Al-Wilayah’ and combined archaeological and philological approaches to study agriculture in the Old Akkadian period.

Tell al-Wilayah, writes Saadoon, is a uniquely important site because it provides us with new information about the economic system of Mesopotamia for the Old Akkadian period. Our knowledge of Old Akkadian economy is highly limited, with respect to other periods such as the Third Dynasty of Ur or the Old Babylonian period, in the term of e.g. weights, scales, prices, and wages. Likewise, we know little about the machines that were used in agriculture and irrigation, or about the various stages of agricultural work in this period.

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Oxford Archeology Image Database

The north west face of the ziggurat at Dūr- Kurigalzu in the early 1970s before in the course of restoration showing the original brickwork (OAID 0106b, M. Roaf).
The north west face of the ziggurat at Dūr- Kurigalzu in the early 1970s before in the course of restoration showing the original brickwork (OAID 0106b, M. Roaf).

The Oxford Archeology Image Database is a new project, launched last June, dedicated to preserving and presenting fragile images from archeological excavations. Not only are the images available on the site in the best quality possible, they are also identified with a number of tags, making the images easier to find and identify. Tim Clayden tells us about his motivation for constructing this very useful database.

By Tim Clayden

The digital camera was invented in the 1970s, but the technology did not become available to ordinary users until the early 1990s. By the late 1990s digital photography was commonplace and for at least a decade film based images are now the rarity having been almost fully eclipsed by digital photographs. One immediate result of this technological revolution is that images are easily taken, copied, modified and distributed – all in the click of a keyboard.

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History begins in Mesopotamia

The Louvre museum’s latest exhibition is entitled ‘History begins in Mesopotamia’, and it presents a new panoramic of 3000 years of Mesopotamian history. Dr. Ariane Thomas, curator in charge of Mesopotamian collections at the Near Eastern Antiquities department of the Louvre museum, shares the thoughts that went into making the exhibit.

“The exhibition has enabled a different presentation of the Louvre’s collections, with a deliberately evocative and contextualising scenography supported in particular by models and a wide range of audiovisual and multimedia presentations.”

By Ariane Thomas

The exhibition “History begins in Mesopotamia” presents 3000 years of Mesopotamian history, from the appearance of cuneiform writing in the late 4th millennium B.C. until its abandonment in the first years A.D. While avoiding a Mesopo-centric “origin myth”, this exhibition nevertheless reminds us that – according to current knowledge – a number of fundamental innovations appeared for the first time in this territory now designated “Mesopotamian” but characterised by a number of constants over its 3000 years of history.

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The opening of the Basrah Museum

In September 2016 a major new museum opened in Basrah, in no less a venue than Saddam Hussein’s old Lakeside Palace complex. This moment was the culmination of ten years of hard work. Qahtan al-Abeed, Director of the new Basrah Museum, tells its story from his initial dream, through the difficult journey of finding a building and developing the plan, through to its successful opening, and his ambitions for its future.

By Qahtan al-Abeed

The idea started when I came to Basrah in 2005, the year I got my first job as an employee at the Basrah Antiquities Department. I had spent the previous years in northern Iraq, but I’m originally from Basrah.

When I started, the department was working out of a digging house 15 km south of Basrah, in Al-Zubair, and there was no proper building. I asked them, what about the museum? But they replied that there was no museum: the old one had been looted in 1991, during the first Gulf war, and the building that had been used since as the antiquities office had been lost in the war of 2003. So on my first day, I was really sad: This was Basrah, with its great history, but without any museum at all for 15 years! I began to dream that I could take the opportunity to fix everything.

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Reminder: Deadlines for the 2017 Rencontre

The Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale will take place in Marburg this year, from the 24th through the 28th of July. This will be the 63rd Rencontre, and the 10th to take place in Germany. The organizing committee seems very well prepared, having put out their second circular already in November.

The theme will be ‘Dealing with Antiquity’, and it is split into three themes: relating to the past in ancient times, today, and in the future. The first theme addresses such issues as tradition and cultural memory in Ancient Near Eastern societies, while the second theme explores the present status of cultural heritage in the Middle East. Finally, the third theme will take a look at the future of the discipline, including new technological advances and methodologies, such as digital humanities.

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