11th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East

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Workshop Baldi/Iamoni/Peyronel/Sconzo

The Late Chalcolithic of Upper Mesopotamia and the Interaction with Southern Uruk Communities: New Data and Interpretations for a Better Understanding of the Early Urban World

Organizers: Johnny Samuele Baldi (Ifpo Beirut)/ Marco Iamoni (University of Udine)/ Luca Peyronel (IULM University of Milan)/ Paola Sconzo (University of Tubingen)


Between the 5th and 4th millennia BC, Mesopotamia witnessed major changes leading ultimately to the emergence of the first proto-urban and urban experiences. In the last decades, surveys and excavations have fashioned an overall picture in which social complexity and urbanisation processes took place independently in North and South Mesopotamia. Also, the Uruk “colonial” expansion, implying different modalities of culture-contact between north- and south-Mesopotamia continues to be a main topic of archaeological research.
Now in the 2010s, survey and excavation in Iraqi Kurdistan further challenge our knowledge of local Late Chalcolithic developments and the modes and outcomes of north-south interaction. On the one hand, the general evolutionary panorama of the first complex societies remains valid, but, on the other hand, ideas about chronology and cultural dynamics within the Mesopotamian world are being questioned by new data. In particular, proto-urban Mesopotamia appears to be characterised by a multifaceted landscape of regions where north-south interaction may have (or may have not) affected the development of local socio-economic dynamics. Mobility of people, objects and ideas, as well as the role of long-distance exchanges and contacts/interactions between southern Mesopotamian/Uruk and northern Mesopotamia communities (from Anatolia to the Iranian northern plateau) have to be re-assessed in the light of recent research.
The purpose of this workshop is to discuss this mosaic of contacts/interactions, with the goal of evaluating the role of material and social mobility in the emergence of the first Mesopotamian complex societies and cities.
In this regard, we will welcome papers on the following topics: [re-order from general large scale to specific]
• The role of natural resources in the formation of new contacts and economic dynamics
• Tigris vs Euphrates: regional (diverging?) patterns in the emergence of north-south contact routes
• Contrasting socio-cultural entities (with peculiar architectural traditions or social practices) at the macro-regional scale
• Changes in the settlement pattern as a consequence of social stresses (e.g. demographic pressures) as well as of new stimuli (e.g. new subsistence strategies)
• Mesopotamian artifact technology, production systems, technology and modalities of circulation (of individuals, objects and/or ideas)
• Material culture, traditions and Mesopotamian proto-urban social identities, including the discussion of regional and supra regional chronologies
The aim of the workshop is not to offer a radically new image of Late Chalcolithic Mesopotamia, but rather to test schematic ideas and suggest new research topics. Is the rigid division between north- and south-Mesopotamian evolutionary paths still valid? How can we enhance the heuristic value of the recent surveys and excavations?
Contributors will be asked to place their case study in a broad regional and supra-regional context, whether as far as chronological aspects, production systems, cultural identity of the producers, or the interpretation of ancient technology, social practices and cultural change.


Johnny Samuele Baldi (Ifpo Beirut)
Francesca Balossi Restelli (Sapienza Università di Roma)
Carlo Colantoni (University of Leicester)
Maria Bianca D’Anna (Freie Universität, Berlin)
Marco Iamoni (University of Udine)
Michael Lewis (Cambridge University)
Catherine Marro (CNRS-UMR 5133, Lyon)
Augusta McMahon (Cambridge University)
Daniele Moscone (Department of Classics, Sapienza-University of Rome)
Simone Mühl (LMU München)
Tim Boaz Bruun Skuldbøl (University of Copenhagen)
Luca Peyronel (IULM University of Milan)
Paola Sconzo (University of Tubingen)
Agnese Vacca Sapienza – University of Rome
Judith Thomalsky (DAI Berlin/Teheran)


1. Ecology, Economy and Settlement Patterns
9:30 Tim Boaz Bruun Skuldbøl/Carlo Colantoni: Unravelling early urbanism and the dynamics of cultural encounters in Late Chalcolithic Mesopotamia. New insights from the Danish Archaeological Expedition to Iraq (DAEI)
10:00 Paola Sconzo/Marco Iamoni: The Uruk presence in the Upper Tigris of Iraqi Kurdistan and the interaction with local LC societies
10:30 Maria Bianca D’Anna: Un air de famille. Preliminary notes on the Late Chalcolithic period in the Shahrizor Plain (Slemani, Kurdistan)
11:00 Coffee break
2. Techniques, Production Systems and Social Organization
11:30 Judith Thomalsky: Lithics as interacting entities – or - how to define an urban lithic industry?
12:00 Daniele Moscone: Current Research on Chipped Stone Artifacts from Tell Helawa (Iraqi Kurdistan)
12:30 Michael Lewis: Social Transformations and Modes of Ceramic Production during the Late Chalcolithic in the Shahrizor Plain, Iraqi Kurdistan: A Geochemical and Petrographic Study
13:00 Lunch break
14:00 Agnese Vacca/ Luca Peyronel: Household Economy and Labour Organisation: Pottery Production and the Emergence of Social Complexity at the Late Chalcolithic site of Tell Helawa, Iraqi Kurdistan
14:30 Johnny Samuele Baldi: Bits of Uruk before and outside the Uruk colonial sphere. The Qara Dagh area and some early thoughts on a reassessment of the Uruk expansion
3. Complexities in Contact
15:00 Augusta McMahon: Resourcing the City: Tell Brak LC 2-3 Container Sealings
15:30 Catherine Marro: Beyond the Great Mountains: the integration of Late Chalcolithic Caucasian Communities into Middle-Eastern dynamics
16:00 Coffee break
16:30 Francesca Balossi Restelli: What complexity? Late Chalcolithic developments at the site of Arslantepe in the Upper Euphrates region
17:00 Discussion
On the basis of recent and still ongoing surveys and excavations, the debate will focus on differences and regularities in the relationships between proto-urban northern and southern Mesopotamia. Their respective organizational modalities, some specific cultural traits, as well as their contact trajectories (both in an evolutionary and physical sense, along the Tigris and Euphrates routes) will be discussed among the participants, but interventions from the public will also be welcome.