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New Archaeological Investigations in South Iraq

Stephanie Rost

ISAW Visiting Assistant Professor

The region surrounding the ancient city of Umma is of great historical significance. It has been the arena of the first documented water conflict between the city-state Umma and its neighbor Lagash in the 3rd millennium BC. Later, Umma became a well-known province of the kingdom of the 3rd Dynasty of Ur (aka Ur III Period), which unified Mesopotamia at the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. The Ur III Period is known for its exceptionally rich historical record – in particular on the workings of an early state economy. Hence, the available historical record of the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC provides us with a detailed insight into the regions’ history. However, this insight remains one-sided, as the Umma region has never been adequately investigated archaeologically until recently. The lack of archaeological data has not only hampered our interpretation of the available ancient texts but also prevented us from gaining a nuanced understanding of the regions historical and environmental development. The mission of The Umma Survey Project aims to address this shortcoming by conducting an intensive archaeological reconnaissance over the course of five years. Our project builds on the survey work conducted by Dr. Abdulameer al-Hamdani and his team in 2003–2009  and will include a broad scale remote sensing as well as a detailed intra site analysis which has not been utilized previously.

Stephanie Rost (2017-2019 Visiting Assistant Professor at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU) earned her BA at the Free University of Berlin, her MA at Vienna University, and her PhD from the State University of New York at Stony Brook (2015). Her research interests focus on the investigation of early state economies with an emphasis on agricultural systems and political ecology. Her dissertation research was concerned with the technical and social aspects of water management of the late 3rd millennium B.C. southern Mesopotamia as a means to assess the degree of political centralization in early state societies. Her future research agenda focuses on the reconstruction of the historical geography of late 3rd millennium B.C. southern Mesopotamia to build a framework in which the rich data sets of economic documents from this period can be explored to their full potential. Her research will be based on remote sensing techniques, the collection of archaeological settlement data, textual and ethnographic data.

Stephanie Rost was trained primarily as an archaeologist and anthropologist but has a strong background in ancient languages. She adopts the approach of historical archaeology in her research by combining archaeological and textual data. Prior to joining NYU, Stephanie Rost was the 2015-2017 postdoctoral fellow at the Oriental Institute and organized the 2016 Oriental Institute Symposium on “Irrigation in Early States: New Directions” – currently in preparation for publication.

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