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

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Workshop Borelli/Scazzosi

After the Harvest. Storage strategies and food processing in Bronze Age Mesopotamia

Organisers: Noemi Borrelli (Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”) / Giulia Scazzosi (Università degli Studi di Pavia)


The reliance on agricultural production defined multiple aspects of the Mesopotamian society and identity. Agriculture cycle scanned everyday rhythm as much as the idea of grain abundance or shortage scanned historical moments in literary fictions and royal chronicles. From North to South, agriculture was one of the core units of the Mesopotamian economy, despite the environmental challenge or the risks it entailed. Among its by-products, grain represented the greatest cultural unifier of this society: unlike fish or meat, grain and vegetables were staple foods on every Mesopotamian tables regardless the social milieu. Apart from constituting an essential food and drink source, grain was indeed associated to a large set of meanings and practices: means of exchange, marker of power, and even political tool. Grain and vegetables were cultivated, collected, directly consumed or processed in a wide variety of secondary products, both in a collective effort and on a domestic scale. While production and redistribution systems have been so far extensively investigated, far less has been outlined about storage practices and processing methods.
This workshop aims at investigating these two specific steps of the agricultural chaine opératoire during the Bronze Age. Storage practices and food processing will be equally explored through written sources and archaeological evidence, in the attempt to understand these dynamics both at a macro and micro-economic level, and to highlight aspects of continuity and change between North and South. The debate on this topic among scholars coming from complimentary lines of inquiry (i.e. archaeology and philology) will help to bridge the difference in the available documentation and to integrate data within the larger quest of “vegetable economy” in Mesopotamia.
Contributions may focus on:
- case-study analyses at any managerial or administrative level (including connections with the territory; micro and macro-level impact)
- discussions of lexical, archaeological and/or bioarchaeological evidence of material culture (studies on pottery, tools, textual documents dealing with storage and food-processing, or palaeobotanical remains in contexts related to food storage or production).
Archaeological, philological, historical, or other interdisciplinary approaches are all welcome with the aim to embed the presented data in the historical perspective of the Bronze Age.


Henrike Backhaus (University of Cologne)
Noemi Borrelli (Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”)
Armando Bramanti (Sapienza – Università di Roma, CCHS – CSIC Madrid)
Elena Devecchi (Università di Torino)
Aron Dornauer (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
Claudia Glatz (University of Glasgow)
Tate Paulette (North Carolina University)
Elsa Perruchini (University of Glasgow)
Alexander Pruß (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz)
Giulia Scazzosi (Università di Pavia)
Arkadiusz Soltysiak (University of Warsaw)
Jaime L. Toney (University of Glasgow)
Klaus Wagensonner (Yale University)


9:15 Introduction
9:30 Klaus Wagensonner: Grain, sheep, and fish: Insights into methods of food processing and storing based on the early textual evidence
10:00 Alexander Pruss: Grain storage and grain distribution in the 3rd millennium BC Upper Mesopotamia
10:30 Armando Bramanti: Before the Harvest? Land-grain Accounts in Early Dynastic Umma
11:00 Coffee Break
11:30 Henrike Backhaus: De-centralized storage facilities in the residential quarters at Early Bronze Age Tell Chuera
12:00 Noemi Borrelli: In and Out: Institutional storage and control network in the Ur III province of Lagaš
12:30 Tate Paulette: It’s all about the ingredients: Archaeological perspectives on beer and brewing in Mesopotamia
13:00 Lunch Break
14:00 Arkadiusz Sołtysiak: Bioarchaeological evidence of grain import to the area of Terqa during the Bronze Age
14:30 Aron Dornauer: Tasty intermediates – Prepared instant intermediates for the Mesopotamian food and beer production
15:00 Giulia Scazzosi: “Eat the Bread, Enkidu”: Bread-baking and the role of bakeries in late 3rd-early 2nd millennium BC Mesopotamia
15:30 Elena Devecchi: Granaries and the management of stored crops in Kassite Babylonia
16:00 Coffee Break
16:30 Elsa Perruchini/Claudia Glatz/Jaime L. Toney: Beer production and consumption in the Kassite period: An interdisciplinary study of second millennium BC drinking vessels from the Sirwan/Upper Diyala Region
17:00 Final Discussion