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Home > Research > Publications > Annual Reports > 1998-99 Annual Report

Individual Scholarship


Tony Wilkinson

Fieldwork in 1998 consisted of rather brief campaigns in Syria (Tell Beydar) in the second half of August and in Turkey (the Amuq) in September (see separate reports). Tony J. Wilkinson spent the remainder of the academic year in Chicago dealing with teaching, writing, and other academic activities.

The academic year started with a new initiative: The Interdisciplinary Archaeology Workshop, which is intended to provide a forum for archaeologists on campus to get together to listen to seminars presented by a wide range of speakers that include both senior faculty visitors as well as graduate students, with an emphasis on the latter. The workshop builds on the foundation laid by the Archaeology Committee of the University of Chicago, especially the long-running workshop, run by McGuire Gibson, "Elementary Structures of Everyday Life." The new workshop managed to draw some good crowds, including some who came from the Oriental Institute as well as the departments of Anthropology, South Asian Studies, Classics, and even beyond the University of Chicago. The primary venue, the downstairs lounge in Pick Hall, was chosen as good symbolic space because it did not represent the "turf" of any member department. The 1998/99 theme "Landscape and Society," was suitably vague to attract a broad and varied audience, as well as a wide range of interpretations of that much abused term "landscape." Probably our most exciting workshop of the series was a special Saturday morning session on 26 March presented by Robert McCormick Adams, former director of the Oriental Institute, and co-worker Jennifer Pournelle, both now affiliated with the University of California at San Diego. The basic thrust of their presentation focused upon the latest results of their program of remapping the Mesopotamian plains using the declassified satellite images (the CORONA series). Not only were they able to provide much additional information on the relict course of the Tigris-Euphrates river systems, but also the fine resolution of the images (taken on United States spying missions in the 1960s and 1970s) enabled them to map what appear to be Parthian, Sasanian, or early Islamic field and irrigation systems. We hope to follow this stimulating and important session with a larger, more formalized meeting in December 1999.

The University of Chicago/Argonne National Laboratory Collaborative Grant (with McGuire Gibson of the Oriental Institute and John Christiansen of Argonne National Laboratory) was renewed for a second year. Steve Cole, visiting scholar for part of 1998/99, was added to the roster and provided exceptionally valuable advice on textual sources for ancient agriculture and population. At the time of writing (July 1999) the first primitive model showing the effects of fallowing on ancient crop yields has emerged, but because some of the parameters employed were estimates from United States analogs, this initial model is more applicable to Iowa than to Subartu. Nevertheless, the initial model demonstrates that progress is being made. At the same time as advances were being made with the collaborative grant, new laboratory space was occupied in the basement of the Oriental Institute. Wilkinson's laboratory is dedicated primarily to remote sensing and Geographical Information Systems and provides space for graduate students Jason Ur and Carrie Hritz to use the United States military declassified (CORONA) images to produce maps of the ancient Bronze Age landscape of northern Syria.

Various lectures were given during the year. On 11 March 1999 a talk on "Differential Sedimentation and Archaeology in the Amuq, Turkey" was presented as part of a Workshop on Geoarchaeology and Archeometry at the University of Laval, Quebec, Canada. Another lecture was given on 21 May 1999, at a splendid workshop at Leiden University, Netherlands, organized by Remko Jas, formerly of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary Project, on "Settlement and Land Use in the Zone of Uncertainty in Upper Mesopotamia"; the meeting brought together specialists in Akkadian, Assyriology, archaeobotany, faunal analysis, geoarchaeology, and archaeology in an attempt to forge a better and more integrated understanding of ancient land use systems in Upper Mesopotamia. Several papers were also presented on the Balikh, that majestic alluvial corridor in northern Syria. Among them was an excellent paper by graduate student Jerry Lyon on settlement associated with the Middle Assyrian frontier around Sabi Abyad.

A number of talks were also given, including: "Bronze Age Settlement, Environment and Terraced Agriculture in Highland Yemen" at the Marching and Chowder Society Annual Meeting, Wellesley College, near Boston, on 24 October 1998; "Settlement Patterns in Northern Syria from the Bronze Age to the Roman/Parthian Period" as part of the Archaeological Institute of America lecture series at the Program of Classical Art and Archaeology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, on 1 December 1998; and also "Problems in Regional Archaeology and Archaeological Survey," at the Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati, Ohio, 1 March 1999, and again on 1 April 1999, at the Department of Anthropology, University of California at San Diego, California.

Talks in and around Chicago included: "Geoarchaeology" at the Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Student Workshop, on 11 November 1998 and again on 9 April for the faculty and others on "Environmental Change and Human Settlement in the Ancient Near East"; also on 18 March 1999, "In Highest Yemen: Origins of Terraced Fields in Ancient Arabia" to the South Suburban Archaeological Society, Homewood, Illinois; and finally, on 26 March 1999, "Archaeological Modeling and Environmental Fluctuations" at the Society for American Archaeology, Annual Meeting, Chicago, Illinois.

In terms of publications, the monograph entitled Settlement and Land Use at Tell es-Sweyhat and in the Upper Lake Tabqa, Syria is gradually attaining its final form prior to being submitted for publication. Articles published during the year included "Settlement and Irrigation in the Balikh Valley, Syria from the Third to the First Millennium bc," in Subartu 4/1: 151-70; "Demographic Trends from Archaeological Survey: Case Studies from the Levant and Near East," in Long-term Demographic Trends in the Mediterranean Basin, edited by John Bintliff and Kostas Sbonias (Oxford: Oxbow Books); "Holocene Valley Fills of Southern Turkey and Northwest Syria: Recent Geoarchaeological Contributions," in Quaternary Science Reviews 18: 555-71; and "Surveys and Excavations in Highland Yemen," with Chris Edens, in Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 10: 1-33.

Revised: July 30, 2007

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