UNC Researchers Begin On-Site Study of Buried Ancient City in Iraq

Preliminary findings provide evidence of streets, buildings, more

Assistant Professor Andrew Creekmore gathers data from a magnetometer in Iraq

Assistant Professor Andrew Creekmore uses a magnetometer as part of a project to map an ancient city in Northern Iraq.

Photos Courtesy of Andy Creekmore

University of Northern Colorado researchers have begun a multi-year collaborative project to study and map an ancient city buried in Northern Iraq to learn more about how early cities developed and were structured.

Assistant Professor of Anthropology Andrew Creekmore, freshman Anthropology major Nick Ownby and recent Colorado State graduate Josh Brookhouser spent six weeks this past summer near Erbil, the capital city of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, for the first phase of the study on Mesopotamian urbanism in the middle Bronze Age (2000-1200 B.C.)

During their time there, they used a magnetometer to survey the site, the equivalent in size to 220 football fields, to reveal its internal organization and help determine where future excavation should occur. Creekmore said preliminary findings provide evidence of streets, buildings, kilns, and a mounded wall with fortification towers surrounding the city, possibly the ancient city of Qabra.

"Our ultimate goal is trying to understand what a city in middle Bronze Age Mesopotamia looked like," Creekmore said. "One of our questions is how people organized themselves into the urban environment, which provides a window into socio-political organization."

They are collaborating on the grant-funded project with Johns Hopkins professor and project director Glenn Schwartz, who has received partial funding for the project through the National Science Foundation.

The group plans to apply for more grant funding and return to the area next May to continue their work, which is expected to take several years.

Creekmore has conducted archaeological research in Israel, Turkey and Syria since 1994. He recently established an archaeogeophysics lab at UNC with support from a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Grant.

Closer to home, Creekmore and his students have used a magnetometer and ground-penetrating radar to identify buried grave markers and unrecorded burial shafts at Elmwood Cemetery in Brighton.

"It provides another opportunity to train students and fulfill a community need," Creekmore said.

The group will return in spring to continue the work.

Creekmore's research in Iraq is supported by The National Science Foundation, Major Research Instrumentation Award # BCS-1229061; an award from the UNC Provost Fund for Faculty Scholarship and Professional Development -- Research, Dissemination and Faculty Development Program; and an award from the UNC Summer Support Initiative for Research, Scholarship, Creative Works, and Grant Writing.

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