Greater Mesopotamia

Greater Mesopotamia

Imaging Phoenician coins at the Royal Library of Belgium

Field WorkPosted by Vanessa Boschloos Mon, October 09, 2017 08:34:12
At the end of the Summer, Vanessa Boschloos continued the PLD imaging sessions at the Coin Cabinet of the Royal Library of Belgium, initiated in December 2015. The collection comprises nearly 40 Phoenician coins of the Persian Period, assigned to the city-states on the Phoenician coast (Arwad, Byblos, Sidon and Tyre) or on Cyprus.They are almost exclusively made of silver, but also include a handful of gold and bronze pieces. The coins were recorded on both sides. This initiative is related to the inventory of Phoenician antiquities in Belgium made by, among others, Eric Gubel and Vanessa Boschloos in the framework of the project Corpus des Antiquités phéniciennes et puniques of the International Union of Academies ( for more information on the Corpus).

Integrated in the last imaging session was the recording of a neo-Babylonian amulet with inscription, which will further be studied by Véronique Van der Stede.

Vanessa, Hendrik and Véronique thank the team at the KBR, especially Christian Lauwers, Johan Van Heesch and François de Callataÿ, for making these objects available and preparing them for the imaging sessions, and for all the support given during these 7 days.

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Network's 2017 annual meeting

ActivitiesPosted by Vanessa Boschloos Tue, September 19, 2017 15:24:49
The final annual meeting of IAP7/14: Greater Mesopotamia: Reconstruction of its Environment and History took place on Monday 18th of September at the Royal Museums of Art and History.

With 19 participants including 4 PhD students, 7 postdoctoral researchers and 8 senior researchers representing 5 network partners and 5 nationalities, the final annual meeting of the GMREH network was centered around presentations of each partner's main activities and research results for 2012-2017, and the - in the meantime traditional - 'oriental lunch'.
This allowed us to catch up on each others current and future projects, and have a short walk down memory lane with a presentation of highlights and memorable moments of the past five years, in the fields of mapping and surveying, archaeology, historical geography, history and chronology, and imaging.

... And we did it OUR way...

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4th NBN Meeting

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Wed, June 01, 2016 11:22:17

4th Neo-Babylonian Network (NBN) Meeting

On the 30th of May 2016 the 4th Neo-Babylonian Network (NBN) Meeting has been organised by Kathleen Abraham and Melanie Groß at the Katholieke Universiteit (KU) Leuven. In the past years these annual meetings have been hosted by the University of Vienna, Leiden University and Pantheon-Sorbonne University in order to provide PhD-students in the Neo-Babylonian field with the opportunity to present and discuss their on-going doctoral research with well-advanced scholars (on the basis of individual responses). This year’s meeting brought together Neo-Babylonian students and scholars from KU Leuven, VU University Amsterdam, Leiden University, Pantheon-Sorbonne University and the University of Vienna. In addition to a session about current PhD research, major projects established at these same universities, including the NaBuCCo project (presented by Kathleen Abraham, Stefania Ermidoro and Melanie Groß), have been introduced in order to encourage scientific exchange on an international level. These meetings of an international network of Neo-Babylonian scholars and students will be continued in the upcoming years.

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ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Tue, May 03, 2016 14:51:22


IAP researcher Anne Devillers attended the 10th ICAANE in Vienna. She presented a communication on “Images of domestication: context and interpretation”.

Abstract: A quantitative evaluation of images featuring animals on seals and sealings from the second half of the third millennium BCE in Upper Mesopotamia shows considerable differences between regions in several parameters, such as the prevalence of some domestic species over others or the ratio of domestic vs wild animals. Examination of how these specificities contribute to the understanding of seal production agency and use and the codes that govern their iconography.

The work carried out within the IAP at the RMAH was further represented by a poster for the team “Greater Mesopotamia, Reconstruction of its Environment and History”.

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Symposium: Identifying Archaeological Finds

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Mon, April 18, 2016 08:40:05
On 15-16 March 2016 the International Multidisciplinary Symposium: Non-destructive and Destructive Methods to Identify Archaeological Finds and their Host Deposits in Arid and Semi-arid Areas was held at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences; an initiative by the IAP partners RMAH and RBINS. The objective was to bring together different methodologies which address issues relating to the identification of materials and their composition. 60 to 70 researchers and students attended the symposium. The two day programme welcomed speakers from Belgium, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Egypt and Israel. The three keynotes to the symposium were:

- Georges Stoops - “The use of micromorphology in archaeology of the Near East“
- Patrick Degryse - “The origin and spread of glass making: The isotopic evidence”
- Dennis Braekmans - Integrating technological and archaeometric approaches to 1st Millennium BC ceramics from the Southern Levant and North Africa

The full programme and abstracts can be found via this link.

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Imaging @ Lausanne

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Mon, April 18, 2016 08:09:58
At the request of dr. Patrick M. Michel - Département des sciences de l'Antiquité - Unité de Mésopotamie (University of Genève) - the small collection of cuneiform tablets at the Musée cantonal d'archéologie et d'histoire (MCAH) at Lausanne was scanned with the Portable Light Dome on 11-12 April 2016. The scans will be used in the context of the on-going study and publication of these texts.

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BANANA Conference

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Thu, March 17, 2016 08:47:13

First International BANANA Conference

Babylonian Name and Name-Giving: What names tell us about social realities

On the 8th and 9th February 2016 the first international conference about Babylonian Name and Name-Giving has been held at the Leuven University (KU) Leuven. This meeting, which is envisaged to be the first one in a row, has been organised by prof. dr. Kathleen Abraham and dr. Melanie Groß (KU Leuven) with the intention to bring together an international group of Babylonian scholars and discuss in a diachronic view current research about linguistic and especially socio-cultural aspects of names which survived by the thousands on cuneiform tablets from southern Iraq.

The conference hosted well-established scholars and promising young researchers in the field of Babylonian studies alike. While the majority came from all different parts of Europe, it has also been possible to welcome colleagues from Israel. Moreover, lectures have been given by members of the Greater Mesopotamia Research Project (Anne Goddeeris, Melanie Groß, Jan Tavernier). In the context of this international meeting about 15 well-prepared and inspiring papers have been presented. While the majority dealt with names and name-giving in Babylonia of the 1st millennium BCE, the participants could also learn about this matter from the perspective of the Old Babylonian material as well as of Babylonia’s neighbours Assyria and Persia.

While plans for future meetings are soon to be developed, we are currently organising the Proceedings of this conference.

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Ancient Kingdom of Oman

ExcavationsPosted by Bruno Overlaet Tue, February 02, 2016 15:39:55

Belgian archaeological expedition in the U.A.E. reveals the existence of an Ancient Kingdom of Oman.

A Belgian team directed by Dr Bruno Overlaet from the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, and working in close collaboration with Sharjah's Department of Antiquities made a discovery of major historical importance at the archaeological site of Mleiha in the central region of the U.A.E. The find was made on 17 December 2015, the last day of the team's fieldwork. The discovery was revealed to the press by the Ruler of Sharjah, His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Muhammed Al Qasimi on 28 Januari 2016.

A monumental tomb measuring approximately 5.20 by 5.20 meter is under excavation, work on it is planned to resume in the fall of 2016. A square building of lime-bricks once stood on top of two underground burial chambers. These chambers, which once contained the deceased and the grave goods, had walls constructed with large boulders. The passage between the rooms was blocked with bricks and a large monumental inscription that had fallen down from the upper structure.

The bi-lingual inscription is written in Aramaic and Ancient South Arabian. The exceptionally well preserved text reveals the identity and the family lineage of the deceased, as well as the date when the monument was built. The central panel of the stone is written in Ancient South Arabian. It states that the tomb was build by the son of a certain ʿAmīd, who was in the service of the king of Oman. An Aramaic inscription is placed on the rim around the central panel. It gives the date when the monument was erected, in the year 90 or 96 of the Seleucid era, the equivalent of 222/221 or 216/215 BCE.

The inscription provides the oldest mention of the name Oman and proves that a kingdom of Oman already existed in the late 3rd century BC. The local Abiel dynasty, known from its coins minted at Mleiha, can in all probability be associated with this title of "King of Oman”. Their kingdom was apparently centered around Mleiha and probably consisted of the territory of the U.A.E. and the Northern parts of the Sultanate of Oman. Up to now, the oldest mentioning of the name was in Classical sources from the 1nd century CE where Omana refers to a harbour on the Oman peninsula. This Omana in the Periplus Maris Erythraei (Voyage around the Erythraean Sea) and in the Natural History by Plinius the Elder, is usually associated with the coastal sites of either ed-Dur in Umm al-Qaiwain Emirate or with Dibbah in Sharjah Emirate, both in the U.A.E. The identification of Mleiha as the royal seat, suggests the Classical authors referred to a harbour that served Mleiha, as the capital of the Oman Kingdom.

At this stage, only the upper part of the burial chambers has been excavated. The excavation will be resumed in the Fall of 2016.


illustrations :

01. Belgian excavations at Mleiha. View of the tomb with the inscription.

02. Belgian excavations at Mleiha. View of the tomb with the inscription.

03. Belgian excavations at Mleiha. The inscription.

04. Eisa Yousef of the Sharjah Department of Antiquities and Dr Bruno Overlaet, director of the Belgian team, examining the funerary inscription.

Short selection of press coverage:


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BANANA Conference 2016

ActivitiesPosted by Melanie Gross Tue, December 22, 2015 10:58:58

The project Greater Mesopotamia Reconstruction of its Environment and History, Work package V: History and Chronology is looking forward to its First International BANANA Conference


which will be held at the University of Leuven on February 8–9, 2016.

Recent years have seen major advances in the prosopographic study of cuneiform sources from second and first millennium BCE Babylonia with the publication of a large number of archival documents containing thousands of personal names from the Old, Middle and Neo-Babylonian periods. Thus we have the resources to look for and define patterns in the selection of names and to evaluate their significance.

The study of Babylonian personal names has hitherto focused primarily on the linguistic characteristics of the names, analyzing their constitutive elements and classifying them in different types. However, names also bear socio-historical information about the name-bearer, his or her family and the society in which (s)he lived. They usually reveal a great deal about cultural origins, social situations prevailing at a given time, changing conditions and changes in the structural make up of society or society’s ethnic make-up.

The aims of the conference are to investigate how cuneiform onomastic data can contribute to our understanding of Babylonia’s social history, and which theoretical and technical frameworks are needed to gather and use the vast onomastic data from second and first millennium BCE Babylonia for this purpose successfully. The conference focuses on given names as well as ancestral or family names, and is not limited to one period of Babylonian history but favors a diachronic approach with the focus on changes in naming trends, especially between the second and the first millennium BCE.

The conference endeavors to include a diverse range of perspectives and disciplines concerned with a span of topics, areas and periods as they relate to names and name giving practices in Babylonia in the second and first millennia BCE.

We welcome talks that situate Babylonia’s onomastic data within theoretical frameworks such as Social Network Analysis or the ongoing structure versus agency debate of the social sciences, and reflect upon the following topics and questions:

- the relationship between the type of name and the person’s belonging to a particular sector of society, as for instance exemplified by the existence of slave names and occupational names (Beamtennamen)

- the appearance of tri-partite names and usage of family names

- the distribution of names and name patterns within families within one generation of the same family and from one generation to the other

- the circumstances surrounding the use of abbreviated names, nicknames (incl. those of the so-called Banana-type), double names and hybrid names (esp. in multicultural environments), and those surrounding the change of name (e.g. passage from one life stage to another; change in the profession, class or status of the person)

- the incorporation of non-Babylonian names into the elite Babylonian families and vice-versa the acceptance of Babylonian names by immigrant populations, and other cross-cultural name combinations seen in the onomastic record that touch upon the elusive concept of “Babylonianess”

- the choice of name in priestly families as a way to express ideological identification

- the feasibility of developing a digital name corpus for first millennium BCE Babylonia through international and interdisciplinary collaboration

More information:


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In Memoriam E. Lagarce

NewsPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Wed, December 02, 2015 08:34:59

IN MEMORIAM : Élisabeth du Puytison-Lagarce (1941-2015)

Avec le décès de notre regretté collègue Élisabeth Martin du Puytison - Lagarce (1941-2015), l’archéologie syrienne ainsi que les études ougaritiques, levantines, phéniciennes et chypriotes ont perdu l’une de leurs figures de proue. Ancienne élève des sœurs Franciscaines à Damas et Beyrouth, Élisabeth avait hérité de son père une passion pour l’histoire du Levant et celui-ci l’avait encouragé à entreprendre des études sur le Proche Orient ancien à Paris. Études qui furent suivies de formations archéologiques sur le terrain, l’amenant ainsi à Enkomi, Alasia, Ras Shamra et enfin, Ras Ibn Hani. C’est là qu’Élisabeth m’a accueilli à de nombreuses occasions avec son hospitalité légendaire, aux côtés de son mari Jacques et de leur fille Bérénice. Les visites de chantier étaient passionnantes, tout comme les discussions lors des visites qu’elle me dispensait à Tell Kazel et à Bruxelles, ainsi que lors de nos rencontres aux de nombreux congrès et colloques en Orient, en Europe ou en Afrique du Nord.

Collaboratrice de Jean Leclant depuis la fin des années soixante, Élisabeth suivit de près les progrès de l’égyptologie et signa plusieurs études dans un domaine pour lequel sa fille allait se passionner à son tour. Paru en 1976, l’ouvrage collectif sur les fouilles de Kition doit en effet beaucoup à sa vaste connaissance bibliographique sur les scarabées et objets en faïence.(1) Trois ans plus tard, elle eut l’occasion d’attirer l’attention de ses collègues sur le substrat syrien de l’iconographie phénicienne à l’occasion du premier congrès international des études phéniciennes et puniques.(2) Sa profonde connaissance de l’Age du Bronze récent lui permit à plusieurs occasions de percevoir la continuation des traditions levantines dans les expressions culturelles d’autres zones méditerranéennes.(3) C’est cette nouvelle orientation qui lui valut le rôle de responsable de groupements de recherche (CNRS 989/URA 995) portant sur le modèle phénicien dans le développement de la période orientalisante en Méditerranée, une décennie avant qu’une longue et pénible maladie frappa son foyer.

Ces quelques lignes ne concernent qu’un seul aspect d’une considérable production scientifique qui fit d’Élisabeth un véritable précurseur de notre Pôle d’Attraction Interuniversitaire Greater Mesopotamia dans ses grands axes (Levant) comme dans ses thèmes plus spécifiques (glyptique). Puissent Jacques et Bérénice y trouver néanmoins quelque confort dans l’attente des notices biographiques plus complètes que d’autres amis publieront bientôt…

Eric Gubel

Coordinateur PAI: Greater Mesopotamia


(1) G. Clerc, V. Karageorghis, É. Lagarce et J. Leclant, Fouilles de Kition, II. Objets égyptiens et égyptisants: scarabées, amulettes et figurines en pâte de verre et en faïence, vase plastique en faïence. Sites I et II, 1969-1975, Nicosie, 1976, cfr. aussi É. Lagarce, “Annexe I. Le scarabée de la tombe 13”, dans P. Courbin, Fouilles de Bassit. Tombes du Fer, Paris 1993 ; 119-123.

(2) É. Lagarce, “Le rôle d’Ugarit dans l’élaboration du répertoire iconographique syro-phénicien du premier millénaire avant J.-C. », Atti del I Congresso InternazIonaLe di Studi Fenici e Punici. Roma, 5-10 Novembre 1979, II, Rome 1983 ; 547-562.

(3) J. Lagarce & É. Lagarce, “Les lingots ‘en peau de bœuf’, objets de commerce et symboles idéologiques dans le monde méditerranéen”, Revue d'études phénico-puniques et d'antiquités libyennes X (1997) : 73-97, cfr. J. Gran-Aymerich & É. Lagarce, « Recherches sur la période orientalisante en Étrurie et dans le Midi ibérique », CRAIBL 139 (1995) : 567-602.

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Endangered Heritage

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Mon, October 26, 2015 10:32:21

The IAP "Greater Mesopotamia" focuses on a study area today troubled by civil wars and far stretching disorder. It’s researchers do not want to ignore this agonizing reality. Within this research network evolutions and revolutions that took place thousands of years ago are being studied and explained. Therefore, as heritage sites all over the Middle East are now endangered and mutilated, more as ever before, members of this IAP take and participate in initiatives that try to find solutions for this new reality:

Wat met het erfgoed in Syrië en Irak?
(Royal Museums of Art and History - 25/11/2015)
Together with colleagues Klaas Vansteenhuyse, Louis Hulstaert & Jan Van Reeth, Hendrik Hameeuw (RMAH – KU Leuven) will focus during this charity event on the abilities offered by registration, recording, documentation and imaging technologies to reconstruct heritage sites and objects lost over the last few years in Syria and Iraq. This event was initiated by ‘Amarant’ and supported by the RMAH. For the programme see

Bel temple in Palmyra (destroyed August 2015)

Journée d’étude Patrimoines en danger
(Musée royal de Mariemont - 27/11/15)

This study day focuses on the recent destructions of heritage in the Near East and Egypt. One of the lectures by Jan Tavernier and Elynn Gorris (both UCLouvain) will deal on Le patrimoine culturel dans les zones de guerre dans l'antiquité et maintenant. The full programme can be found on

North-West palace at Nimrud (destroyed March 2015)

Digital Strategies for Heritage - DISH
(De Doelen, Rotterdam - 8/12/2015)

On the second day of the DISH2015 conference Hendrik Hameeuw (RMAH – KU Leuven) and Daniel Pletinckx (director Visual Dimension bvba) will organize a Table Session on the concept of lost heritage, “What to do if heritage gets lost”. See

Timbuktu library (mutilated January 2013)

>>> Concerning the (virtual) reconstruction of damaged or destroyed heritage in Syria and Iraq, Eric Gubel and Hendrik Hameeuw gave a short interview for the Belgian television (in Flemish):

>>> Concerning the destructions in Syria an article in which GMREH researcher Joachim Bretschneider (KU Leuven) is interviewed has been published in October 2013 in the Flemish Ex Situ journal on archaeology.

>>> On the threatened heritage in Syria an opinion was posted on the KU Leuven Blog by GMREH researcher Hendrik Hameeuw (RMAH-KU Leuven) in january 2014.

>>> GMREH coordinator Eric Gubel (RMAH) wrote an in memoriam for Khaled al al-Asa’ad (Director of Antiquities at Palmyra) in the Flemish Ex Situ journal on archaeology in October 2015, see doc. below.

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Susa and Elam II

ActivitiesPosted by Jan Tavernier Thu, October 08, 2015 13:26:06

2nd Susa and Elam conference: History, Language, Religion and Culture

From 6 to 9 July 2015, an international conference took place at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL). The conference was organised by Jan Tavernier, Elynn Gorris (Université catholique de Louvain) and Katrien De Graef (Universiteit Gent) had as main intention to bring together resarchers on Susa and Elam to discuss the ongoing research on this area in actual Southwest Iran.

Scholars from all over the world (Iran, Europe, USA, Australia, Japan) gathered to present their research in about 30 lectures. As such, one can believe that the conference was a success, both on the scientific and social level. Also various partners of the IAP project (Elynn Gorris, Jan Tavenier, Alexandre Tourovets, Rindert Janssens, Frieda Bogemans and Cecile Baeteman) gave a lecture.

The Proceedings will be published as a volume in the prestigious MDP series (Mémoire de la Délégation en perse).

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Filling the gaps

Field WorkPosted by Rindert Janssens Mon, June 29, 2015 13:19:54

Filling the gaps - Third Lower-Khuzestan campaign, SW-Iran

20/04 – 11/05/2015: Frieda Bogemans & Rindert Janssens (RBINS)

The latest possible week of departure was very stressful as usual. The visas were still lying at the Iranian embassy after 2 months of waiting for our official visa number. Once we got hold on it we jumped onto the airplane and left for Teheran. A short visit to the Geological Survey of Iran in Karaj awaited us followed by a flight to Ahvaz.

Despite the pretty hot temperature it seemed it was again a very fruitful campaign. After 2 years of experience of our local GSI manager Javad and PhD student Reza we managed to fill important gaps needed for a decent reconstruction of the past environments in the study area. Although some areas were still too wet to reach by car, we were able to find all our necessary locations by driving many kilometres back and forth. The result, however, is obvious: 23 new cores until a depth of 12 m. This brings our total number of cores to 67 for this project. Seven samples for age determination and over 100 samples for (clay) mineralogical study were collected.

Before returning home, the Geological Survey of Iran took advantage of the experience of Frieda who explained the methodology of mapping Quaternary deposits because the GSI started such a project. An unexpected impact of IUAP !

Several locations were situated in or around Shadegan, a large irrigated area with a same named city in its centre. This palm green area is known for its delicious but sticky dates and its curious Arab inhabitants. More than once we were accompanied with an audience as if we were part of a movie, waiting for something very funny to happen. This luckily never did. Some other locations were situated in huge sugar cane fields for which we needed specific governmental documents, which we didn’t have last year. Javad organised them this time long before our arrival in Ahvaz.

During the campaign 7 Iranian PhD students accompanied us in order to be trained in describing undisturbed hand drilled cores. To avoid headache they didn’t come all at once but in groups of 1 or 2.

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Mission in Turkey

Field WorkPosted by Jan Tavernier Wed, June 03, 2015 07:53:05

Scientific Mission in Turkey, 12-19/04/2015 (WP III: Historical Geography)

From 12 to 19 April 2015, a team of the Université catholique de Louvain (Jan Tavernier, René Lebrun, Agnès Degrève, Etienne Van Quickelberghe and Johanne Garny) has explored the ancient kingdom of Tarhuntassa, which corresponds nowadays with the region around the Turkish cities Silifke and Karaman. The aim of the mission was twofold. On the one hand, it aims at helping the researchers to find the exact localisation of the ancient capital Tarhuntassa. On the other hand, it sought to give the specialists a better understanding of the territorial extent of the ancient kingdom of Tarhuntassa.

Various 2nd Millennium sites were visited: Sirkeli (fig. 1), Gözlükule (ancient Tarsus), Yumuktepe (ancient Mersin; fig. 2), Kilisetepe, Kızıldağ (fig. 3-4), Karadağ and Meydancikkale (fig. 5-7). The focus was on their geographical environment and their possibility to “host” a large administrative centre. Next to that, some museums were also visited (Tarsus, Mersin, Silifke).

The various results that emanated from this mission will now be connected to the textual evidence of the kingdom of Tarhuntassa in order to extend our knowledge of this highly important 13th-century BC kingdom.

Unexpectedly, when visiting the beautiful site of Tatarlı Höyük (fig. 8-9), to the east of Adana, where excavations only started recently, the idea that this site could very well be the ancient town of Lawazantiya imposed itself. This will be further investigated as a sort of side-project.

Fig. 1: Relief at Sirkeli

Fig. 2: Yumuktepe

Fig. 3: Relief of Kartapu (Kızıldağ)

Fig. 4: Luwian inscription on the top of the Kızıldağ

Fig. 5: Monumental entrance of Meydancikkale

Fig. 6: Building at the site of Meydancikkale

Fig. 7: View on Meydanccikale

Fig. 8: Tatarlı Höyük

Fig. 9: Tatarlı Höyük

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2nd Campaign Pyla

ExcavationsPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Wed, May 27, 2015 10:02:01
2nd Excavation Campaign Pyla-Kokkinokremos - Cyprus

29.03 – 26.04.2015

Co-directors: Prof. Dr. Joachim Bretschneider, University of Ghent & KU Leuven, Dr. Athanasia Kanta, Mediterranean Archaeological Institute and Prof. Dr. Jan Driessen, Université Catholique de Louvain

To explore the end of the Late Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean and the character of cultural interaction among the peoples during this period the archaeological research at the site of Pyla-Kokkinokremos in Cyprus surfaces as an exceptional opportunity, owing to its founding at the end of the 13th century BC – a time when the Late Bronze Age crisis reached its zenith –, its very short-lived occupation and its seemingly planned abandonment leaving all material in situ. While the settlement was inhabited for what appears to be less than fifty years, the site becomes a very valuable ‘time capsule’ of this critical phase.

Following several earlier explorations of the site of Kokkinokremos, near the village of Pyla on the south-east coast of the island of Cyprus, a second excavation campaign by a joint mission of the Universities of Leuven and Louvain (Belgium) and the Mediterranean Archaeological Institute of Crete (Greece) took place from March 29th to April 26th 2015.

The KU Leuven team continued research in Sector 5 on the eastern slope of the southern protrusion of the Pyla-Kokkinokremos plateau. During the four week campaign the team resumed excavation in order to complete information on the previously uncovered architectural units (Space 1-6) and exposed four more units (Space 7-10). A corridor-shaped space (Space 8) yielding several outstanding finds – such as two imported alabaster vases and a large black stone jar, a female-shaped libation vessel and an amphorid Mycenaean krater decorated with birds – leads to a meticulously plastered room (Space 7). Space 6 comprises of a pit-like structure, measuring 3.5 m in depth, cut out in the bedrock. At the bottom, a circular stone structure, a complete jar and a terracotta recipient filled with burnt organic material were discovered. To be continued …

The members of the 2015 KU Leuven team included Joachim Bretschneider (co-director), Greta Jans, (archaeologist), Anne-Sophie Van Vyve (archaeologist & PhD student), Matthias Mallaerts (IT), Nienke Veraa and Anne-Vera Veen (students). Adeline Hoffelinck, Maarten Praet and Ferdinand Hollenhorst (students) conducted their apprenticeship in Pyla and Wouter Vermeiren (IT) completed the team.

Fig.1: View on the – until now – most eastern wall and rooms (Spaces 9 and 10) of Sector 5.

Fig.2: Stone basin in Space 9.
Fig.3: View from the south on Sector 5 with in front the plastered room (Space 7).

Fig.4: Excavating a complete jar inside the 3.5 m deep shaft (Space 6).

Fig.5: The recipient filled with burnt organic material at the bottom of the pit.

Fig.6: Prof. Karageorghis visiting Pyla; here together with Athanasia Kanta, Manolis Vrachnakis and Joachim Bretschneider.

Fig.7: The 2015 team (always happy in a pit).

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6th archaeological campaign at Mleiha

ExcavationsPosted by Bruno Overlaet Mon, January 12, 2015 14:25:20

6th archaeological campaign at Mleiha, Sharjah (UAE)

The Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels.

A Belgian team works at Mleiha since 2009. The 2014 campaign (20/11-18/12/2014) was mainly a study campaign on the architectural remains, finds and ceramics that are kept in storage at the site. The field activities were limited to surveying and to the continuation of the excavation of two monumental tombs that had started the previous year. At the same time, a drone for aerial photography was tested in various weather conditions and environments. The 2014 expedition is supported by the Royal Museums, the FWO (Research Foundation - Flanders) and the IAP VII (Greater Mesopotamia: Reconstruction of its Environment and History) and works in close collaboration with the Directorate of Antiquities of the Emirate of Sharjah, headed by Dr. Sabah Jasim. The expedition is directed by B. Overlaet (RMAH), members and collaborators of the 2014 team were E. Haerinck (senior archaeologist), B. De Prez, P. Pincé and L. Van Goethem (archaeologists), H. Steenbeke and M. Coppejans (architectural reconstructions) and Patrick Monsieur (amphora identifications).

Fig. 1. The 2014 Belgian field team and local workmen.

The excavations

During the first four years a large surface with 7 monumental tombs and 4 more modest pit graves (zone P) was excavated on the eastern fringes of the site (Fig. 2). In 2013 a ground penetrating radar survey targeted its surroundings, extending the research area eastwards up to the modern wadi. A series of tombs with monumental square superstructures were revealed and the excavations documented the presence of modest pit tombs between the clusters of monumental tombs (Fig. 2). The two monumental tombs excavated in the 6th season are located on the low mound Z. Both tombs were looted but still produced interesting finds such as Rhodian amphora fragments, Mesopotamian glazed luxury vessels, various types of gold beads and alabaster vessels from Yemen. All these point to a date in the first half of the 2nd century BCE. They illustrate the importance and the role of Mleiha on the Arabian trade routes and contribute important elements for the chronology of the Oman peninsula.

Fig. 2. Drone photography of graveyard area AV with the Belgian excavations.

Drones and aerial photography

Drones are ideal for oblique overviews of excavations, vertical photography in view of mapping and measuring and for more general surveying purposes. Drones can replace the use of ladders and scaffolds and of kites or hot air/helium balloons on many digs. Professional drones remain expensive and complex, however, and demand a skilled and well trained pilot, often seconded by someone to operate the camera. In recent years, archaeologists have therefore started to experiment with low budget recreational drones fitted with lightweight cameras. Commonly reported problems of these early attempts were, however, a limited flight time due to battery capacity, low quality photography and particularly the inability to use the drone in anything but very light winds. The latest generation of “consumer drones” have become increasingly user friendly and most of these problems have been solved. We opted to experiment with a standard version of a “DJI – Phantom 2” quadcopter mounted with a 12 MP camera on a damped 2D gimbal for stability. The camera can be tilted in flight between a horizontal and vertical position. An OSD or “On Screen Display” module streams the camera view and technical and navigational data to a monitor on the remote controller. This makes it ideal for low altitude aerial surveys in accordance with aeronautical regulations (below 50 meter). The relatively small drone necessitates video piloting (FPV, First-Person View) via the monitor when surveying larger areas since it is impossible to keep track of it with the naked eye.

Fig. 3. The drone in its transport case and mounted on a backpack.

The drone is kept “flight ready” in a custom made protective transport case at the excavations and can be made ready for flight within minutes. It can thus be used on the spot without delaying any of the excavation activities.

During the 2014 expedition at Mleiha trials were made in different environments and weather conditions. Flights were made above the excavation field in the wadi plain and during surveys around the excavations and on the nearby Jebel Fayah mountain ridge. Surveying flights above the wadi during the early morning hours produced excellent shadow marks. Flights could normally continue for several hours until stronger thermals started to develop and “dust devils” started occurring. The general experience was very positive, however. The drone could be flown in moderate to strong winds and performed well in all conditions. With a maximum flight speed of 15m/s. (54 km/h.) it can even counteract gusty winds.

Fig. 4. Subtle shadow marks of very low mounds with monumental tombs in area AV. The oblique view emphasises the effect of the shadows.

Drone surveying in the mountains demands a somewhat different approach. The drone was mounted on a backpack and used from various points near the top of the Jebel Fayah (see fig. 1). Flights were made early in the morning and halted once thermals, accelerated by their path across the mountain, reached vertical velocities of more than 1m/second. In a mountainous environment is keeping visual track of the drone essential in view of the effect of local winds and turbulences on the flight path close to the relief. Turbulences and thermal activities can be strong and develop rapidly. In general, these first trials on the Jebel Fayah were all together positive. The technical equipment was effective and allows covering large zones in limited timespans. During these first trials, two structures - likely to be a musallahs or prayer area - were located and documented. A general aerial survey of the mountain area could supply important data to identify and protect local archaeological and historical heritage.

Fig. 5. Mountain top of the Jebel Fayah with a square structure, possibly a musallah.

Fig. 6. A Dust Devil, a strong thermal sweeping up the sand, moves over the excavations.

Fig. 7. View from Mleiha towards the Jebel Fayah.

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Excavation Pyla Kokkinokremos Cyprus

ExcavationsPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Wed, December 03, 2014 14:42:00

22 October – 16 November 2014

Pyla Kokkinokremos is the name of a ca. 57 m high rocky plateau, about 800 m from the present southeast coastline of Cyprus, located in the British sovereign base of Dhekeleia. It is located some 10 km east of Kition and some 20 km southwest of Enkomi, two major Bronze Age centres of the 13th-12th century B.C., the period known as Late Cypriot IIC and IIIA.

The site was explored at three previous occasions: first by Dr. P. Dikaios in 1952, by Dr. V. Karageorghis in 1981-1982 and, more recently, in 2010-2013, by Dr. V. Karageorghis and Dr. A. Kanta. Its proximate region also formed the focus of an intensive and systematic surface survey and geomorphological project by an American team under the direction of W. Caraher since 2003, focusing on the Roman and Late Antique occupation.

1: Area 5, view from the north

2: Excavating the stone basin in Room 2

Based on these different explorations, it can be assumed that the entire plateau of ca. 7 ha was densely occupied. Most telling is the excavation of part of a regularly laid-out settlement in the eastern sector of which the outer perimeter wall is assumed to have encircled the entire hill top plateau. The repetition of residential units within the excavated zones seems to suggest that the establishment of the settlement was a deliberate and planned enterprise. Moreover, although some traces of fire were observed, the discovery of material culture including several hidden hoards of precious metals seems to suggest the planned and organised abandonment of the settlement. This and the international character of its finds make it an exceptional site. Moreover, during the 2010-2013 explorations in the west sector, a possible gate was cleared close to which were found two tablets inscribed in Cypro-Minoan, fired intentionally (see:

3: Prof. Vassos Karageorghis visiting the Pyla excavation fall 2014 (with Dr. Athanasia Kanta & Prof. Joachim Bretschneider)

Because of its limited chronological occupation, its location and its specific material culture, Pyla Kokkinokremos plays a major role in the discussion on potential Aegean migrations to Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The aim of the new excavations is to arrive at a better understanding of the nature of the Pyla Kokkinokremos settlement structure, the reasons for its founding and the circumstances of its desertion. At the same time, we want to understand its regional and interregional context both where its socio-political landscape is concerned and its environmental setting. We also hope that a better definition of its material culture, especially where the ethnic mix is concerned, will allow us a better grasp of its historical reality.

4: Unearthing the bronze hoard in Room 2

5: The bronze hoard in situ

Co-directors are Prof. Dr. Joachim Bretschneider, University of Ghent & KU Leuven, Dr. Athanasia Kanta, Mediterranean Archaeological Institute and Prof. Dr. Jan Driessen, Université Catholique de Louvain.

The members of the 2014 KU Leuven team included Joachim Bretschneider (co-director), Greta Jans, (archaeologist), Anne-Sophie Van Vyve (archaeologist & PhD student), Pierre Van Hecke (philologist – cuneiform writing), as well as Shanah Deboeck and Thomas Maréchal (students).

6: Selection of objects of the bronze hoard

The 2014 excavation campaign by the University of Leuven team focused on the eastern slope of the southern protrusion of the Pyla-Kokkinokremos plateau (Area 5). Three weeks of excavation has uncovered a total surface of 140 m2 and yielded surprising results. Six architectural units have been partially excavated. A plausible outer or casemate wall has been uncovered within a unique context. The architectural features and installations – like a plastered basin, a stone ‘basin’ and a hearth – as well as the numerous ceramic and small finds – with a hoard consisting of 30 metal objects – will certainly enrich our knowledge concerning this unique settlement.

7: The drone above the excavation – Area 4

8: The drone in action

9: The Pyla 2014 team

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DigHum @ ARTS KU Leuven

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Wed, September 10, 2014 15:46:20
Members of the KU Leuven and RMAH teams of the IAP network 'Greater Mesopotamia', presented lecture and poster at the 2014 Digital Humanities Summer School held at the faculty of Arts at the Leuven University:

"Multi-light recording, interactive HD imaging executable by any researcher" (lecture by Hendrik Hameeuw)


"Imaging Greater Mesopotamia’s Heritage: New techniques, New opportunities" (poster presentation by Hendrik Hameeuw, Vanessa Boschloos, Sam Van Overmeire, Véronique Van der Stede, Anne Devillers)

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More on imaging @ UCL

NewsPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Fri, July 04, 2014 08:56:25
On the website of the Musée de Louvain-la-Neuve a short article was published on the recordings of Mesopotamian Heritage which were made by the IAP WP VI-team several months ago (see also blog post 20). This article will also appear in the forthcoming number of the museum's bulletin, Le Courrier 31 (September): Druart E., Hameeuw H. and Tavernier J.: Numérisation de la collection Proche-Orient ancien.

screenshot of webpage Musée de Louvain-la-Neuve

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Belgian research @ Karon (Tajikistan)

ExcavationsPosted by Bruno Overlaet Tue, July 01, 2014 10:03:44

Belgian research at Karon on the Oxus, Badakhshan - Tajikistan

Royal Museums of Art and History & Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

Following a first visit to the site in October 2013 by B. Overlaet (RMAH) and the identification of quern stones near the site as related to gold mining, an interdisciplinary team set out to investigate this industrial activity and its impact on population and landscape. This research wanted to complement the ongoing work at Karon by Tajik and Russian expeditions. The Belgian team consisted of Prof. Dr. Bruno Overlaet, Laurence Van Goethem (Royal Museums of Art & History, Brussels) and Rindert Janssens (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels). During this first campaign at Karon (21/5 – 12/6/2014), a survey was made, an Islamic graveyard was explored and geological and biological samples were collected for analysis.

Karon is situated on a mountain top along the Panj river (Oxus) between Khalai Khumb and Kevron in the Darwaz region of Tajikistan. Since 2012, the site is studied by Prof. Y. Yakubov (Academy of Sciences, Tajikistan) and Dr. A. Nikitin (Hermitage Museum, Saint-Petersburg), who were now joined by the Belgian team.

Karon: view towards the mountaintop palace, sunken garden and pavilion.

Karon has a long history of human occupation, shown by the presence of various types of tombs and isolated finds such as Kushan and Sogdian coins. Yet, most of the constructions we see today date from the 15th-16th century, the time of the Timurid and Shaybanid rulers. There is a huge walled area with a palace, terrases, a large sunken garden and several pavilions and buildings, many of which remain to be excavated. It is clear, however, that the wealth of local rulers was based on the control of the ancient trade route and on gold mining. A huge landslide has landed rotary stone querns, used for the milling of gold containing quartz, at the riverbank of the Panj.

The palace, on the highest point of the site, overlooks a large valley with several constructions, among them a sunken garden, a pavilion, a graveyard, a wine press and a large open space, referred to as the polo field. The “Sunken Garden” is a deepened area of 50 by 90 meter with three descending terraces and a rectangular area, possibly a pond, accessible from a staircase along the eastern side. The retaining walls are strengthened with half-columns. Karon’s Sunken Garden is one of the many garden complexes that were created in this part of Central Asia under the Shaybanid dynasty (1428-1598 AD) and that are known to have been inspirational to Muhammad Zahir al-Din Babur (1526-1530 AD), the first Mughal emperor. The use of terraces, ponds and retaining walls with half-columns resembles Bagh-e Babur near Kabul

The “Polo Field” is a large area with a terraced embankment on one side and a large dry stone wall along the other, and has the approximate size of a modern polo field, hence its name. In a large complex such as Karon, a Maidan, a large open area where various activities could take place, is a feature that is to be expected.

In between the “Sunken Garden” and the “Polo Field” lies a square pavilion, possibly a mausoleum, built in dry stone technique combined with bricks for the curvature of the arches. The monument is still under investigation but it is clear that it has known many building phases. Several overlapping platforms are present at its base and at some point, the building was encased in walls with half-columns, much like those of the Sunken Garden, that completely closed the access to the building. A 6th-7th century coin found in the upper part of the pavilion is the only find at present and suggests the core of the building may predate the Shaybanid era. Its central position in the valley emphasizes its importance.

Karon: the central pavilion.

Industrial gold mining activities

The Belgian team set out to investigate the gold mining activities and survey the area. A large number of rotary quern stones are present amidst landslide debris along the right bank of the Panj river, just below the mountaintop site of Karon. These were mostly lower quern stones but also some upper mill stones and two upper mill stones which had been in the process of being extracted. Their present location and their position (many are tilted or even upside down) is not their original place of use. They have been moved, most probably by a landslide but recent roadworks involving rock blasting may also have had an impact.

Rotary quern stones nr. 6 and 7 (top) and upper mill stones 25 and 26 during the extraction (bottom)

Contrary to the exploitation of alluvial gold from the river, which is a relatively simple technique (panning or washing out), the use of quern stones indicates the more complicated exploitation of gold containing quartz veins. This requires a large skilled labour force and a central power that organises and oversees the complex workflow of mining, ore reduction and smelting. The technology is documented in Egypt and consists of the following steps:

1. 1. The ore mining : the veins of gold containing quartz can be mined in open areas or by following the veins in underground tunnels (often open fire is used to break down the quartz veins to workable lumps).

2. 2. The quartz ore had to be crushed and milled to obtain a powdery material that could be further concentrated by washing. Large blocks were crushed with hand hammers or pestles on dimple stones; the smaller particles were then milled in rotary querns to a fine substance.

3. 3. Smelting of the ore (on-site or in a specialised refinery) followed by “gold from lead separation” techniques. These chemical processes involved heavy metals which may have impacted on the environment and involved individuals.

The geological and archaeological survey was directed at locating possible mining and industrial areas. Iron smelting activities are attested in rooms near the mountaintop palace, which is considered to be the local seat of power. The presence of Chinese export porcelain and painted muqarnas dates this palace to the 15th-16th century. Possibly the smelting and refining activities took place in this area, where excavations are ongoing. The geological survey was based on a petrological analysis whereby in-situ rocks were described and sampled for further chemical, mineralogical and petrological research. On the field 5 rock units were observed: (1) fylite (high diagenetic equivalent of mudstone), (2) fylite with quartz veins, (3) shists (medium diagenetic equivalent of mudstone), (4) granite-granodiorite and (5) granodiorite intruded with quartz veins. The shists may be reformed to saprolite by chemical and fysical weathering of this rock-type and in some zone’s well-formed pyrite crystals up to 1 cm3 occur.

There were no archaeological traces of the mined quartz veins, possibly they were located in the landslide area to the west of the mountaintop palace. Any open mining activities in the saddle areas between the mountaintops, may be hidden by recent erosive depositions.

The environment and impact of gold mining activities on humans

The sunken garden in front of the mountaintop palace was studied and sampled to establish its use and flora. This was done by digging a pedological window of 1 m3 in the square lowest area of the garden (though to be possibly a pool) and describing the sedimentological and pedological features. Samples now need to be processed.

location of the graveyard and view of tombs 1 to 5

A graveyard on the slope descending from the mountaintop palace towards the sunken garden was partly excavated. A row of 8 cist tombs was discovered. The tombs were constructed on the natural bedrock, the long sides with shist stones, the front and top with large slabs. The tombs were protected upslope by a low dry stone wall, in front of the tombs was a narrow paved path. The downslope short side of several tombs was destroyed by erosion. One of the tombs had been re-used and contained two skeletons. The individual had been killed by two cuts in the head, one of which had removed part of the skull. The second skeleton was only partially preserved. Since the graveyard belonged to the Islamic era, the skeletal remains were reburied. However, biological samples were collected from five tombs. They will be tested for the presence of heavy metals as possible side-effect from ore refining activities and analysed with regard to nutrition. Carbon 14 dating on the different individuals will provide a time range for activities at Karon.

general view and detail of tomb 5

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The RMAH glyptics team ROCKS!

ActivitiesPosted by Vanessa Boschloos Mon, June 23, 2014 15:52:36

A training session on the identification of stones used in the manufacture of cylinder and stamp seals took place at the RMAH on Thursday June 19th. The training was organized by and aimed at the young researchers working on the Antiquity Department’s glyptic collections, and quickly joined by other colleagues from the department.

Geologist Thierry De Putter of the RMCA was invited to share his expertise and kindly offered to present an overview of the rocks and minerals we generally encounter in museum collections.
By taking a closer look under the microscope at a selection of objects, particularly a number of cylinder seals in various dark-coloured stones dating from the Djemdet Nasr and Akkadian periods, the GMREH’s glyptic team discovered the subtleties in distinguishing between stones that, at first glance, look very similar.

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Vocatio Award Elynn Gorris

NewsPosted by Jan Tavernier Thu, June 19, 2014 11:39:39

The UCL team is proud to announce that Elynn Gorris, one of our youngest IAP members, has received a vocatio Award 2013-2014 (10.000 €). With this award, she will attend 6 intensive language courses of modern Persian at the University of Tehran (9 months in total), which will allow her to read the recent investigations and archaeological reports of Iranian colleagues and integrate their results into her research on the Neo-Elamite kingdom.

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UNESCO meeting for Syrian Heritage

ActivitiesPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Fri, June 13, 2014 14:57:27

Participation of Joachim Bretschneider to the international expert meeting “Rallying the International Community to Safeguard Syria’s Cultural Heritage” in the headquarters of Unesco - Paris 26 - 28 of May 2014.

The meeting brought together more than 120 experts from 22 countries to share information, devise policies and improve international cooperation during the conflict and beyond. They included cultural heritage specialists from Syria and the Syrian diaspora, representatives of Syrian NGOs, archeologists, and members of UNESCO institutional partners, as well as academics from universities in the Middle East and beyond. Representatives of major international auction houses also took part in the meeting.

“In some areas we are reaching the point of no return where Syria’s cultural heritage is concerned,” cautioned Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. “The destruction of heritage represents a cultural hemorrhage in addition to the tragic humanitarian crisis and suffering experienced by the people of Syria”.

© UNESCO / Professor Maamoun Abdul Karim, Aleppo & Apamea

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@ Conference "Money and Cult"

ActivitiesPosted by Anne Goddeeris Wed, May 28, 2014 11:27:05

From May 24th until May 25th, Anne Goddeeris participated in a conference on Money and Cult, The Role of the Temple in the Ancient Economy, in Dublin, Ireland. Besides giving a paper titled "It comes with the job. The duties and benefits attached to temple during the old Babylonian period (1900 – 1600 BCE)", she actively participated in the round table discussions.

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Study stay and scanning @ Schøyen Collection

Field WorkPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Tue, May 20, 2014 12:07:48
From 14 till 16 May 2014 IAP researchers Anne Devillers and Hendrik Hameeuw worked, studied and imaged a part of the Schøyen Collection in Norway. For 3 days they were granted access to the Uruk IV-III cuneiform tablets & bullae and to the stamp seal collection. This exceptional material fits in their ongoing research on glyptic studies and joins with WP V (History and Chronology) & WP VI (Imaging and Technology) of the IAP 7/14.

Anne Devillers inspecting cylinder seal impressions on a Uruk III tablet

In total all of the 4th/3rd millenium stamp seals were described and scanned in bulk with the Portable Light Dome. Of the almost 400 Uruk period cuneiform tablets 28 exemplars carried traces of cylinder seal impressions; as for the stamp seals, they were described in detail and scanned. Back in Brussels and Leuven the further study will be continued with help of these descriptions and by consulting the images made with the Portable Light Dome.

Hendrik Hameeuw scanning with the Portable Light Dome at the Schøyen Collection

Inside the Portable Light Dome, scanning a 5000 year old cuneiform tablet

The aim of the research stay is to prepare a publication on the glyptic material in the Schøyen Collection, in the first place, for the seal impression on the Uruk IV-III tablets. This work will be undertaken in close collaboration with Bob Englund of the UCLA (CDLI project, one of the IAP 7/14 international partners) who took the responsibility to publish the Uruk period texts of the collection.

A cylinder seal impression depicting a walking lion on a Uruk Period clay tablet

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Royal visit at Riyadh Exhibition

NewsPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Mon, May 12, 2014 13:34:38
Organizing (together with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities) the exhibition concerning the joint Saudi-Belgium project in the Al-Ghat region - National Museum in Riyadh. Opening: 15.03.2014.

15.03.2014: Princess Astrid, the representative of King Philip of Belgium, visits the archaeological exhibition of the joint Saudi-Belgian project at Al-Ghat in the National Museum in Riyadh. Upon arrival, Princess Astrid was welcomed by Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) and a number of officials. Princess Astrid was accompanied by Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Didier Reynders.

Princess Astrid, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and Minister Reynders were briefed by Prof. Joachim Bretschneider on the recent discoveries of the joint Saudi-Belgian excavation mission at Al-Ghat.

See also:

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Al-Ghat excavations 2014

ExcavationsPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Mon, May 12, 2014 13:24:19

The second study season in the Al-Ghat region was conducted between the 1st and the 18th of March 2014. The project works under the aegis of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, Riyadh and the University of Leuven, Belgium.

The project is directed by Mr. Mohammed Ali Alsalouk and Joachim Bretschneider. The Belgian team consisted of Prof. Joachim Bretschneider, Prof. Philip Van Peer, Nicolas Kress, Greta Jans, Anne-Sophie Van Vyve, Dave Geerts, Marjolein Van der Waa, Shanah De Boeck en Ellen Van Belle.

Looking for early human activity, some areas like the Wadi Markh, were extensively surveyed. Several excavation quadrants were opened on Jebel Markh and Qurayy as Sumur and these sites were topographically documented.

Lithic artifacts from Jebel Samar and Jebel Markh

At work at the Jebel Markh

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Al-Ghat excavations in the News

NewsPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Tue, May 06, 2014 10:50:27
Over the last days an interview with the excavators of the Al-Ghat expedition (KU Leuven) has been published in several media, below a selection:

Campuskrant April 2014

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workshop on NaBuCCo online project

ActivitiesPosted by Kathleen Abraham Wed, March 26, 2014 09:21:06

On March 17-18th 2014 Kathleen Abraham, Shai Gordin (KU Leuven) and Michael Jursa (Universität Wien) organized a workshop at Leuven in which they discussed the set-up of a Neo-Babylonian Cuneiform Corpus (=NaBuCCo) website aimed at making available the large corpus of archival documents from first millennium BCE Babylonia to historians of the ancient world in general and Assyriologists in particular.

NaBuCCo project

NaBuCCo is a text-oriented website that aims at putting textual metadata of an estimated 20,000 published Babylonian documentary sources created between roughly 800 and the end of the pre-Christian era online. It will collect all meta-textual data from the sources, make the data available online, and link them to the original source documents from which they are extracted. There will be four main categories of metadata (Fig. 1): (1) identifiers (NaBuCCo no, CDLI no, museum no, collection no, duplicates, joins, publication, period, date, archive, provenience), (2) physical characteristics (dimensions, orientation, sealings, markings, philological notes), (3) content (text type, transaction object, quantifiable data, keywords, main persons, paraphrase) and (4) bibliography.

Fig. 1: Metadata – Tablet identifiers

The paraphrase (or Descriptive Summary) is one of the project’s key elements (Fig. 2), explaining and clarifying the source texts. By providing such descriptive summaries in narrative style and directly linking them to the original source documents from which the content data are extracted, we will make the difficult to interpret cuneiform corpus more accessible.

Fig. 2. Paraphrase: descriptive summary of text’s content

We hope that the project will benefit the research community, and will enhance the possibilities of conducting historical and social investigations into Babylonia’s multicultural society of the first millennium BCE. The end-product will significantly enrich the resources for the study of the political, economic, social and cultural history of Babylonia, and constitute the basis for advanced fundamental research.

Pilot Version

Within six months (October 2013 - March 2014) Abraham and Gordin have designed the input model, in close cooperation with the KU Leuven LIBIS team whose consultant has been configurating their software program CollectiveAccess to our needs (, s.v. Heron).

In the next stages we will start with the data input and develop the end-user application that will allow online access to the data.

NaBuCCo and Digital Humanities

The NaBuCCo project is firmly situated in the Digital Humanities area of research. It follows recent research trends and projects in Europe and worldwide which integrate state-of-the art philological research of cuneiform documentary sources with computer sciences.

In the study of the ancient world and more specifically in the discipline of Cuneiform Studies a sweeping digitalization movement is taking place. There are several projects, in the Anglo-Saxon scholarly world, in Continental Europe, and in the United States in particular, which are rapidly moving towards a digitized research environment in which tools are freely accessible online. The range is broad: from full-text and metadata databases dealing with Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Hittite texts from various regions, to quality-controlled wiki-environments for editing ancient documents. These are essential tools to perform innovative fundamental research.

It is worthy that our IAP 07/14 funded research group join in such initiatives and offer the scholarly community the fruits harvested by our research. Against this background we have set up the NaBuCCo project at the KU Leuven.

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Congress & Field Campaign Iran 2014

Field WorkPosted by Rindert Janssens Mon, March 24, 2014 08:31:52

International Geoscience Congress followed by a sunny field campaign, Iran.

1. 1. GSI conference (16-19/02/2014)

The 1st International Geosciences Congress, organized by the Geological Survey of Iran, started on 16th of February 2014. After the official opening in Tehran, a quick flight and sub congress in Urmia (NW Iran) dealing with the catastrophic human-induced drying of Lake Urmia (which is largely caused by the construction of a solid highway through the lake, and irrigation activities) we arrived finely in Chabahar (SE Iran, close to the Pakistan border) to present our first IAP phase VII results at the Marine Sciences University. The beautiful landscape and specific geological features, such as huge mud volcanoes, badlands and raised beaches, were shown during a splendid field excursion. With some sweet dried dates in our hands, the views and the knowledge that old civilisations lived here long before in the same environment makes us dream of those ancient times and… of course of the processes behind the formation of these beautiful features.

Left: a medium-sized mud volcano near Chabahar, right: the Mars Mountains with their beautiful badlands

2. Field campaign (20/02 – 06/03/2014)

Arriving in the early morning of 20 February in Ahwaz (Khuzestan Province) we just had time in between some local GSI meetings to visit the nearby ancient fortress city of Shushtar. Here, the Roman hydraulic water management is an example of pure geniousity. The dams built by those captured Romans would indeed give a solution to the above-mentioned drying of the Urmia lake nowadays. The Salasel fortress, built during the Parthian or Sassanid era, was largely destroyed by the Arab invasion around 642 BCE.

Left: Hydraulic water management and (middle) dam of Roman architecture, right: destroyed Salasel fortress

The day after, our hard work started in Lower Khuzestan, taking approximately 1.5 cores a day with an average of 15 m core described per day. A total of 17 cores, with a maximum depth of 11m were taken and described. The map shows the location of the cores carried out during previous campaigns and those carried out during this campaign (labelled with 14-X). We cored in different environments going from coastal mudflats, freshwater swamps, sabkhas and playas, some of them disturbed by human activity. These different environments (and other) are also recorded in the sediments of the subsoil. It is our challenge to make their reconstruction through time.

Map showing all the cores in our study area (including previous campaigns). Cores taken during our 2014 campaign are labelled as 14-x

Top left: tidal gully at core 14-8, top right: dune formation close by a playa, bottom: a splendid example of sub-tidal deposits around 10 m depth with daily tidal changes with moreover neap and spring tide sequences

The last core was sampled entirely for palynological and microfossil research resulting in a 15 kg weighting box to be placed in our baggage together with 5 kg samples from the other cores (for clay analyses, 14C determination, etc.). Luckily we were allowed to take 2 bags of 23 kg per person, otherwise we had to leave our boots and dirty clothes at the guesthouse.

Left: coring and describing on a cold morning. Right: a too powerful performance after eating kebab.

The use of the Edelman corer, the gauge auger, the spiral corer and a bag filled with extension rods was all we needed to get nice undisturbed samples of the subsurface. A crazy madman driving our first jeep and an old petrol-smelling jeep, which lost now and then some important motor screws, and finally got stuck on some small muddy roads, turned our campaign into an ‘old-fashion safari experience’. The rice and kebab empowered our coring team and the nice warm sun massaged our brains and muscles.

Again, we want to thank the Geological Survey of Iran for their excellent logistic support, a special thank for Dawod the fantastic cook, Ali Reza for his strength, Javad for his organising skills and roll as core-master, Reza for his sharp observations, the drivers for keeping us alive and dr. Lak for making this fieldwork possible. A special thanks goes to our last-year ‘rock ‘n roll’ driver Farhot who passed away during our stay in Iran.

Towards a third Iran campaign ? “INSH ALLAH” !

Rindert Janssens, dr. Frieda Bogemans and prof. dr. Cecile Baeteman, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences - OD Earth and History of Life – Quaternary Unit.

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International Conference @ Louvain-la-Neuve

ActivitiesPosted by Jan Tavernier Mon, March 17, 2014 12:33:59

On Thursday 27 and Friday 28 February 2014, an international conference entitled “Topography and Toponymy in the Ancient Near East: Perspectives and Prospects” took place at the Oriental Institute of the Université catholique de Louvain. This conference, organized by the research group “Ancient Near Eastern Studies” of the aforementioned institute, was held within the framework of Work Package III (“Historical Geography”) of the IAP-Project 7/14.

The conference was organized in five sessions: “Water”, “The Lands”, “Routes”, “Fields” and “Methodological Approaches”. International and Belgian speakers (see programme) delivered interesting and qualitative contributions followed by profound discussions. The conference covered all regions of the Ancient Near East (Anatolia, Levant, Mesopotamia and Elam-Iran) as well as the 2rd and 1st Millennium. Proceedings of this conference will be published.

Sincere thanks for the smooth organisation of this conference go to the Organizing Committee consisting of Prof. Dr. J. Tavernier, Prof. Em. R. Lebrun, Dr. A. Tourovets, Dr. Ch. Lebrun, Dr. J. De Vos, A. Degrève, E. Gorris and E. Van Quickelberghe.


Jeudi 27 février / Thursday 27 February

09h00-09h15: Accueil / Reception

09h15-10h00: Introduction

Prof. V. Yzerbyt, Prorecteur à la Recherche of the Université catholique de Louvain.
Prof. P. Hiligsmann, Dean of the Faculté de philosophie, arts et lettres.
Prof. J. den Heijer, Président of the Centre d’Etudes Orientales – Institut Orientaliste.
A. Devillers & Prof. J. Tavernier, Introduction to the IAP Project « Greater Mesopotamia: Reconstruction of its Environment and History ».

Session 1: Les Eaux / Water (Président de session / Chair : René Lebrun)

10h00-10h30: Kathleen Abraham (KU Leuven)

Perennial Water for Nippur: The Location of the Sumundar Canal

10h30-11h00: Karel Van Lerberghe (KU Leuven)

Where’s Waldo ?

11h00-11h20: Pause-café / Coffee Break

11h20-11h50: Guy Labarre (Université de Franche-Comté ; laboratoire ISTA)

Les cités riveraines des lacs pisidiens Askania (Burdur) et Limnè (Eğridir)

11h50-12h20: Stéphane Lebreton (Université d’Artois)

Réflexions sur les hydronymes d’Asie Mineure

12h15-14h00: Lunch

Session 2: Les Régions / The Lands (Président de session/Chair : Alexandre Tourovets)

14h00-14h30: Eric Gubel (RMAH)

La topographie historique de la plaine du Akkar : bilan provisoire

14h30-15h00: Danièle Michaux-Colombot (Académie d’Orléans)

Locating the country Meluḫḫa mentioned in cuneiform sources and identifying it with that of MḎ3 from Egyptian sources

15h00-15h30: Julien De Vos (Université catholique de Louvain)

La localisation du pays de Qedy/Qode : Une évidence à réévaluer

15h30-15h50: Pause-café / Coffee Break

15h50-16h20: Laurent Colonna d’Istria (Université de Liège) et Sébastien Rey (Université de Liège)

Mari et son terroir à l’époque des šakkannakū

16h20-16h50: Hadrien Bru (Université de Franche-Comté ; laboratoire ISTA)

Topographie et toponymie de la Phrygie Parorée

16h50-17h20: Etienne Van Quickelberghe (Université catholique de Louvain)

Entre Assyrie et Anatolie : La topographie du pays d’Isuwa

19h00: Dîner / Dinner (Il Doge, Louvain-la-Neuve)

Vendredi 28 février / Friday 28 February

Session 3: Les Itinéraires / Routes (Président de session/Chair : Mikko Luukko)

10h15-10h30: Accueil / Reception

10h30-11h00: Elynn Gorris (Université catholique de Louvain) & Greta Van Buylaere (Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg)

Elamites on the Road to Hara(n)

11h00-11h20: Pause-café / Coffee Break

11h20-11h50: Alexandre Tourovets (Université catholique de Louvain)

The Assyrians in the Zagros : Problems concerning the localisations of toponyms

11h50-12h20: Gian Pietro Basello (L’Orientale - University of Naples)

Administrative Topography in Comparison: Overlapping Jurisdictions in the Acropole Tablets from Susa and in the Persepolis Fortification Tablets (6th Century BC)

12h20-14h00: Lunch

Session 4: Les champs / The Fields (Président de session/Chair : Gian Pietro Basello)

14h00-14h30: Anne Goddeeris (Universiteit Gent / KU Leuven)

The Fields of Nippur

14h30-15h00: Katrien De Graef (Universiteit Gent)

In Susa’s Fields. On the Topography of Fields in Old Babylonian Administrative Documents from Susa

15h00-15h20: Pause-café / Coffee Break

Session 5: Président de session/Chair : Guy Labarre

15h20-15h50: Mikko Luukko (Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg)

Observations on Neo-Assyrian Practices of Naming Places

15h50-16h20: Lauriane Locatelli (Université catholique de Louvain)

Ariassos et Pergé, deux toponymes anatoliens. Hypothèses et tentatives d’interprétation

16h20-16h40: Conclusion / Concluding remarks (René Lebrun)

17h00: Conférence inaugurale d’Oriental Lecture Series. Prof. Christian Robin (CNRS Paris)

Toponymes et ethnonymes du Yémen : permanences et changements

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Imaging Mesopotamian Collection UCL

Field WorkPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Fri, March 14, 2014 12:15:48
From 18 to 21 November 2013 the Portable Light Dome was used at the Musée de Louvain-La-Neuve (UCLouvain, Belgium) for a recording programme of cuneiform documents, Mesopotamian seal impressions, antique coins, Etruscan mirrors, gold leaf inscriptions, scarabs and other archaeological objects. In the IAP: Greater Mesopotamia these actions take place within WP VI, i.e. the recording of Mesopotamian Heritage kept at the home institutions of the IAP 7/14 partners to allow a (re)new(ed) study of this material. This initiative was made possible thanks to the hospitality of Etienne Duyckaerts and Emmanuelle Druart of the Musée de Louvain-la-Neuve.

Shortly after the recording sessions the first results were already presented to the public in one of the exhibition showcases of the Musée de Louvain-la-Neuve (below). The audio-visual services of the UCLouvain prepared a video (below, in French and Dutch) on the event. During the stay, a demo on the applied imaging technique was organised.

Video in French - © Dirk Vanden Elshen.

Video in Dutch - © Dirk Vanden Elshen.

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Mleiha excavations have Flair

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Tue, January 28, 2014 09:35:49
Science Outreach in the Belgian's women magazine Flair. Not really a scientific report, but as we can see: "Archaeology is Fun"

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Fundraising for Syria

ActivitiesPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Thu, January 23, 2014 14:23:29

On the 16th of January, some members of the KU Leuven team have transformed the New Year’s drink of the faculty into a fundraising event to support SOS Syrian Children, a Belgian organization which brings medical and educational material to the refugee camps in the surroundings of Aleppo.

Anne Goddeeris, Greta Jans, Joachim Bretschneider and Anne-Sophie Van Vyve have asked the dean, Luc Draye, to cancel the order for snacks and have called on their colleagues of the faculty to prepare their own delicacies, which resulted in a 15 meter long buffet of exquisite appetizers. This was even adequate to attract some very important people of the University like (former) (vice-)rectors: Prof. Rik Torfs, Prof. Danny Pieters, Prof. André Oosterlinck en Prof. Marc Vervenne. An impression of the event can be seen on the facebook page of the arts faculty (

The guests at the drink enthusiastically supported the initiative, with culinary masterpieces as well as financially. At the end the money box contained 1722 euro! And yesterday, we have rounded the cape of €2000! Thanks to our KU Leuven Letteren colleagues! Additional contributions may still increase the amount of money which we offer to Suzy Bochi and her team who are transporting wheelchairs, school books, powdered milk, hospital beds and other scarcities over the Syrian border through Turkey (

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Christmas gift: looking for inspiration?

NewsPosted by Vanessa Boschloos Wed, December 11, 2013 11:55:12

Casterman recently published a new album in the 'Voyages d'Alix' series, dedicated to ancient Babylon!

Jacques Martin's hero Alix guides us through the city, with its Hanging Gardens, colorful Ishtar Gate, impressive temples and palaces... But we also get the opportunity to visit ancient Assur, Khorsabad and Ninive.

The very detailed drawings by the hand of Jean-Marie Ruffieux and the accompanying texts by art historian Anne Deckers make it all come to life.
And as the proverbial icing on the cake, we are treated to an enthusiastic preface by our own Eric Gubel!

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Glyptic Seminar @ Brussels

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Tue, November 12, 2013 10:06:30
Thursday the 31st of October, the Royal Museums of Art and History of Brussels were the stage for several eloquent speeches by the members of the Belgian IAP Project “Greater Mesopotamia”, associated researchers, domestic and foreign specialists. After a short welcome by Eric Gubel, head of the project and president of this seminar, there were a total of three sessions with eleven lectures of twenty minutes each (and this limit was - quite surprisingly – respected by all speakers). The first two sessions were dedicated to research within Mesopotamia proper, the third discussed new findings in peripheral areas, such as Syria and Cilicia. The various presentations gave an insight into the bounteous possibilities that research into ancient seals has to offer – and the ingenuity of the scholars who succeed in exploiting every last one of these possibilities to their full potential. After the final coffee break, Dominique Collon presented a lecture for the Assyriological Center Georges Dossin on second millennium glyptic, after a previous (surprise) discussion of several seals earlier that day.

book of abstracts

picture gallery


11.00-11.10 ERIC GUBEL (RMAH-VUB)


11.10-11.30 HENDRIK HAMEEUW (RMAH-KU Leuven)

Abba-Kala the Knight, Louis Speleers was Correct!: Ur III Seal Impressions of an Equestrian


The Palace Glyptic of Nabada in the 3rd Millennium BC


Absence of Evidence or Evidence of Absence ? Missing Species in Ancient Near Eastern


– Lunch –

13.45-14.05 KATRIEN DE GRAEF (UGent)

Gala's Galore. The Seals of an Old Babylonian Gala Family

14.10-14.30 ANNE GODDEERIS (KU Leuven)

Sealing Practices on Old Babylonian Contracts

14.35-14.55 DENYSE HOMÈS-FREDERICQ (hon. curator RMAH - Em. Prof. VUB)

Glyptic of the Neo-Assyrian Archives of Ma‘allānāte

15.00-15.20 ZOLTÁN NIEDERREITER (Eötvös Loránd University Budapest)

Typology of the Adad-nērārī III Style Cylinder Seals

– Coffee break –


Geometric Seal Impressions on Pottery from al-Lahun (Jordan) in the Early Bronze I


The ‘Green Jasper Seal Workshop’: Evidence from Byblos

16.40-17.00 ERIC GUBEL (RMAH-VUB)

A New Central Levantine Transitional LB - IA Cylinder Workshop?


Le symbole de l'autorité royale au IIe millénaire : De la Cilicie à Karkémish

17.30-17.40 ERIC GUBEL (RMAH-VUB)

Concluding remarks

– Coffee break –

18.00 Key-note lecture (Assyriological Center Georges Dossin):

DOMINIQUE COLLON (hon. curator British Museum London)

Témoignages de la glyptique au 2e millénaire avant J.-C. – Réseaux internationaux le long de

la côte et de la méditerranée

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Neo-Elamite objects of the Louvre Museum

Field WorkPosted by Elynn Gorris Fri, October 18, 2013 14:56:04
On August 30 2013, E. Gorris (UCLouvain) visited the Louvre Museum to take detailed digital images of Neo-Elamite monumental objects, displayed in the exhibition rooms of the Near Eastern Department. These images will contribute to a detailed paleographic study of the cuneiform signs, which will serve as an instrument to determine the chronology of the Neo-Elamite kings. This study frames in E. Gorris’ PhD dissertation on the History of the Neo-Elamite Kingdom as part of Work Package V, “History and Chronology” of the Greater Mesopotamia IAP. Especially the steles of Atta-hamiti-Inshushinak and Shutruru, of which no detailed photographs are published, were taken as the main focus.

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Research at Cornell University

Field WorkPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Tue, August 20, 2013 11:41:27

This Summer a team of four members of the IAP project ‘Greater Mesopotamia’ is working at the collection of cuneiform tablets stored at Cornell University. The team consists of Prof. Kathleen Abraham, Gabriella Voet and Prof. Karel Van Lerberghe (University of Leuven), and of Hendrik Hameeuw (Royal Museums of Art and History & University of Leuven). From June till November 2013 work is focusing on 700 new unpublished texts dealing with social and economic problems in Mesopotamia during the reigns of king Samsuiluna (1749-1712 BCE) and his successor Abiešuḫ (1711-1684 BCE). Most of the tablets are registered by using the Portable Light Dome. In time, these dynamic images will be made available for the international scientific community via the ‘Greater Mesopotamia’ website and are being stored on the Leuven University servers. At the same time, the images are also being published, together with transliterations, translations and comments in three books in the series CUSAS. A first volume, dealing mainly with tablets originating from the Enlil temple at Dūr-Abiešuḫ has been published in 2009 as CUSAS 8 (Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology).

Prof. em. Karel Van Lerberghe en Prof. Kathleen Abraham in the Tablet Room

This dossier gives evidence for the abandonment of Southern Mesopotamia in the late Old Babylonian period in a period of economic distress due to environmental changes. The clergy of Mesopotamia’s religious capital, Nippur, moved to the North and built a new center at Dūr-Abiešuḫ where they erected the new Ekur-temple for their chief deity Enlil. The next one, CUSAS 25, containing some 300 new tablets, is scheduled for 2014. It gives most important information on the activities of the mercenaries in the Babylonian rulers’ army controlling and protecting the Tigris river, the irrigation system and the Babylonian cities from enemies (most probably from the Sealand). Those mercenaries come from various areas such as Maškan-šapir, Gutium, Damrum and even Aleppo (Ḫalaba). The volume contains administrative and juridical documents and related letters (e.g. on the siege of Nippur). All seal impressions are copied and described and the use of the seals is being investigated.

During our stay at Cornell other tablets were studied as well. These will make up a third volume in the CUSAS series with texts dating from before the collapse of the Babylonian empire (under king Samsuiluna) and from the beginning of the decline (under king Abiešuḫ).

Hendrik Hameeuw with the Portable Light Dome in the Tablet Room

With de PLD-minidome some test were run with a new HD camera (GX6600c, ca. 28 mill. pixels). Recordings were made with the trusted and normally used lower definition camera, the Manta G504C IRC, and compared with images taken with the GX of one and the same cuneiform tablet. The outcome is used to establish an understanding on in which cases (type of tablets, with or without seal impressions) low or high definition is requested and can or can not be seen as an added value. (see illustration, left with Manta, right with GX)

As always, our stay at Cornell is extremely pleasant thanks to the staff of the Rosen Seminar helping us in many ways. David and Susan Owen should be thanked here in the first place. We also wish to mention: Jeff Zorn, Alex Kleinerman and Laura Johnson-Kelly.

The hospitality of our hosts is well-known in Assyriological circles and we had the pleasure to meet once again several colleagues equally working at the Rosen Collection: Prof. Jean-Marie Durand (Collège de France et Membre de l’Académie Française), Dr. Grégory Chambon (Université de Brest), Dr. Michaël Guichard (Université Paris I) and Dr. Bertrand Lafont ( CNRS, Paris).

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Syrian heritage at risk

NewsPosted by Vanessa Boschloos Fri, August 09, 2013 12:07:03
Syria has six UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Palmyra, Damascus, Bosra, Aleppo, the ancient Villages of Northern Syria, and the crusader castles Crac des Chevaliers and Saladin’s Castle. Some of the oldest cities in the world are located in Syria and a great diversity of civilisations left their mark.
GMREH had to move its archaeological activities to other regions, but its researchers continue their work on the material culture, archaeology, epigraphy and history of ancient Syria.

Here are some reports and columns published online, for those who want to know more about the threats to Syria’s heritage:

- ICOM /UNESCO has recently published its Red List of Syrian Cultural Objects at Risk, to illustrate the categories of cultural goods protected by legislation and most vulnerable to illicit traffic. The list was established with the help of experts and institutions, including the RMAH. It is available for download at:

- For a column by IAP-researcher Klaas Vansteenhuyse (KU Leuven) on Syrian heritage in danger in Knack magazine (August 2013) [in Dutch], see:

- In March 2012, Le Vif/L’Express magazine interviewed Belgian archaeologists Marc Lebeau (ECUMS - Tell Beydar excavations), Eric Gubel (RMAH - Tell Kazel excavations) and Didier Viviers (ULB - Apamea excavations) on Belgian archaeological activities in Syria [in French]:
- For a report on damaged sites (dated May 2012) by Emma Cunliffe (Durham University), see:

- More links on:

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Research stay in Crete

Field WorkPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Fri, August 02, 2013 15:24:47
In the framework of interrelations between the Levant and the Aegean world, Prof. Joachim Bretschneider and Greta Jans from the KU Leuven conducted a research excursion on Crete from the 6th until the 20th of July. They visited the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion and several sites in northern and eastern Crete, like Knossos, Malia, Sissi, Dreros, Ithanos, Palaikastro and Azoria.

Prof. Bretschneider and Greta Jans were generously guided by Prof. Jan Driessen (UCLouvain) at the site of Malia and Sissi, by Dr. Florence Gaignerot (Université de Picardie Jules Verne) at Dreros, by Prof. Carl Knappett (University of Toronto), Dr. Tim Cunningham (UCLouvain) and Dr. Nicoletta Momigliano (University of Bristol) at Palaikstro, by Prof. Donald Haggis (University of North Carolina) at Azoria and by Prof. Didier Viviers (rector ULB) and Prof. Athena Tsingarida (ULB) at Ithanos.

At the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion Joachim Bretschneider rendered digital images of sphinxes on mural painting and plaster reliefs for the research of his doctoral student Nadine Nys.

A short introduction to the visited sites:


The famous Knossos, near Heraklion, was excavated by the British School at Athens. It is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and was inhabited continuously from the Neolithic period until the 5th century AD. The palace of Knossos was undoubtedly the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. It appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and storerooms close to a central square. The palace was abandoned at the end of the Late Bronze Age.


The excavation of Malia is under the direction of the French Archaeological School at Athens. It is situated by Hersonissos in Northern Crete and is one of the largest Middle and Late Bronze Age urban centres on Crete. It was first built around 1900 BC. It subsequently followed the same cycle as the other palaces of the time, and it was destroyed around 1650 before it was immediately rebuilt. The ruins at the site today reflect this second rebirth of the palace and the excavations reveal a place of significant economic and political activity which lasted until its final destruction by fire in 1450 BC. An extensive complex of settlements had developed around the palace itself.

With Prof. Driessen at Malia


The Sissi Archaeological Project (S.Ar.P.edon) is a collaboration of the French and Dutch speaking universities of Louvain/Leuven directed by Prof. Jan Driessen (UCLouvain) and operates under the auspices of the Belgian School of Athens. The archaeological site of Sissi lies just a few kilometres from Malia, and was occupied in the Middle Bronze, Late Bronze and Early Iron Age. Between 1450 and 1200 BC, Sissi was probably the most important regional centre.

With Prof. Driessen at Sissi


Dreros excavations are directed by the French Archaeological School at Athens. Dreros, near Neapoli in the regional unit of Lasithi, existed as an Iron Age settlement that later grew to become a classical city-state.

With Dr. Gaignerot at Dreros


Since 1996 the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) has been conducting fieldwork in the North Necropolis under the direction of Prof. Didier Viviers. Ithanos is a city-harbour located in Eastern Crete. The archaeological record shows that the site was occupied from the 10th century BC to the 6th century AD. Earlier excavations focused on the urban centre of the city. The recent campaigns in the North Necropolis brought to light a densely occupied cemetery dated to the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods (4th-1st c. BC), and early funerary activity dated to the Geometric – Orientalizing periods (8th and 7th c. BC).

With Prof. Viviers, Prof. Tsingarida, Prof. Driessen and Dr. Gaignerot at Ithanos


The excavation of the site is directed by Prof. Carl Knappett, Prof. Alexander MacGillivray, and Prof. Hugh Sackett under the patronage of the British School of Archaeology in Athens. The Bronze Age town is situated some kilometres north of the Minoan town and palace of Zakros at the edge of the eastern coast of Crete. The site was occupied from the Early Bronze Age until the end of the Late Bronze Age. The site ceased to be inhabited at the same time when Zakros was abandoned (1450 BC) but was reoccupied during the Late Minoan III period (1300-1200 BC).

With Prof. Knappett, Prof. Driessen and Dr. Cunningham at Palaikastro


Fieldwork is conducted by permission of the Greek Ministry of Culture under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Archaeological Service of Eastern Crete. The Azoria Project is directed by Prof. Donald Haggis of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The project is investigating an Early Iron Age and Archaic site to the southeast of Agios Nikolaios.

With Prof. Haggis, Prof. Driessen and Dr. Gaignerot at Azoria

The close resemblance between some cultural phenomena of the Aegean and the Levant makes a partnered research very beneficial. An attempt was made to synchronize certain assemblages of archaeological material in the Northern Levant and the Eastern Mediterranean, like the transitional Late Bronze - Early Iron Age evidence, with the ‘Sea Peoples’ coming from the Aegean to the Near East. For example, large amounts of hourglass-shaped loom weights - a type of weight generally interpreted as a cultural marker of the ‘Sea Peoples’ - were excavated in Sissi as well as in Tell Tweini.

A further challenging research topic focused on the Syro-Phoenician influence on the architecture and architectural decoration of the oldest Greek temple at Prinias (8th -7th c. BC) decorated with sculptures. Most recent finds (from miniature house and temple models in Syria and Palestine) allow new interpretations of the impact of Levantine cultures on the Prinias religious architectural decoration of the Archaic Period.

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Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale 59

ActivitiesPosted by Anne Goddeeris Mon, July 22, 2013 18:19:59

From the 15th until the 19th of July, the international community of Assyriologists has landed in Ghent for its yearly “Rencontre” (RAI 59). The theme of this edition, “Law and (dis)order” could be approached from different angles, which resulted in a variety of contributions on law, linguistics, gender, economy and chronology, to name just some of the topics.

Hendrik Hameeuw (RMAH-KU Leuven) presented a poster "Interactive Cuneiform Imaging for Research and Publishing", Anne Goddeeris (KU Leuven) gave a talk on a disordered calendric system, “A Tangled Framework. A Calendric Innovation by Rim-Sîn”, and Jan Tavernier (UCLouvain) on drunkenness and hangovers, “Disorder in the Head! Alcohol Abuse and Hangovers in the Ancient Near East”. Young IAP members Elynn Gorris and Etienne Van Quickelberghe participated in the congress as well. Jan Tavernier and Anne Goddeeris have each chaired a session closely related to their research interests.

The coffee, lunch and evening breaks were well spent making and renewing acquaintances and discussing future plans (besides trying out the advices given in Jan Tavernier’s paper).

a bunch of Assyriologists

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Research stay PennMuseum, Philadelphia

Field WorkPosted by Anne Goddeeris Mon, July 22, 2013 18:08:23
From June 30th until July 13th, Dr. Anne Goddeeris studied a number of cuneiform tablets in the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. The research stay took place in the framework of Work Package V, “History and Chronology” (supported via WP VI) of the Greater Mesopotamia IAP and was additionally financed by the FWO-Vlaanderen.

In the museum, she studied legal and administrative texts from Nippur, the religious capital of Babylonia, dating from 1900-1700 BC. These archives, excavated by the Babylonian Expedition at the end of the 19th century, are dispersed over three collections, now kept in Istanbul (Turkey), Jena (Germany) and Philadelphia (US). The texts in Philadelphia have been collated, situated in their archival context and recorded with the Portable Light Dome system.

CBS 1354

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CDLI on tour in Brussels

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Mon, June 17, 2013 15:23:10

17 - 21 June 2013. CDLI -one of the international partners in the IAP 7/14: Greater Mesopotamia- scans a large portion of the cuneiform documents housed at the Royal Museums of Art and History and the National Bank of Belgium, both located in Brussels.
This work for the CDLI database is conducted by Laura Hawkins of the University of Oxford. The collaboration aims at the continuation of the efforts to digitally safeguard these images and making qualitative scanned images quickly available to the scientific community and to the broad public.

Laura Hawkins scanning @ RMAH

These scanning sessions were made possible thanks to Robert Englund (UCLA), Bertrand Lafont (Paris), Jacob Dahl (Oxford), Eric Gubel (RMAH) and Marianne Danneel (Museum of the National Bank of Belgium).

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Demo and trial imaging @ UCL

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Mon, June 17, 2013 08:36:44

On the 13th of June 2013 a demo and trial session was organized at the Musée de Louvain-la-Neuve in regard to the imaging efforts of Mesopotamian heritage conducted by the IAP network (work package VI). IAP-partner UCLouvain keeps at their museum a small collection of a few dozen of cuneiform texts and some stamp & cylinder seals. This first visit with the Portable Light Dome (PLD) to the museum was organised to inspect the to image material and to demonstrate to the museum curator, photographer, employees and UCL researchers the potential the PLD technique. As such, we settled a complete week of recordings, scheduled for November 2013. In addition, not only cuneiform documents and seals will be scanned, but we plan to test the use of the PLD-technique on selected series of other epigraphic and archaeological objects safeguarded at the Musée de Louvain-la-Neuve.

We sincerely thank Emmanuelle Druart, Etienne Duyckaerts and Jan Tavernier for organizing this trial.

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First Annual Meeting (2013)

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Thu, May 30, 2013 08:00:43
On the 29th of May 2013 the IAP Greater Mesopotamia organized its first annual meeting of phase VII of the network. At the Royal Museums of Art and History coordinator prof. dr. Eric Gubel invited all national and international partners to join this event and report on their work of the past year and discus future research plans. The meeting was, as it should for a network focusing on the ancient Near East, preceded by an oriental (Lebanese) lunch.

Photographer H. Hameeuw might be missing on the group picture

Oriental lunch @ RMAH

Presenting the IAP's research, in this case the on-going study on the finds from Tell Kazel (Syria)

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Emeritus in the news

NewsPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Thu, May 30, 2013 07:30:54
In the KU Leuven info-journal 'Campuskrant' prof. em. Karel Van Lerberghe (member of this IAP-network) has been interviewed on his career as an assyriologist at his home university, his days at Ghent and Leiden University, his participations to archaeological digs and inter-disciplinary projects and his on-going research at Cornell University (Ithaca-US)

the article:

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Blog on a Blog

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Thu, April 18, 2013 09:20:01
Master Thesis on new developments with the Portable Light Dome (Minidome)

Since a few months Groep T (Association KU Leuven) student Vincent Vanweddingen works on the development of an online application to allow visualization of the Portable Light Dome results. He posts his progress and steps in a blog and has uploaded some images and video's on this new online viewer.

This IAP 7/14: WP VI, collaborates with Vincent's work and provides him with the necessary feedback and comments. Since March 2013 several members of our IAP are running and testing the beta version(s) he has developed.

As many members of this IAP network are pioneering and using the Portable Light Dome extensively for their on-going research, this new approach will allow our researcher to share the material they work than ever before. Secondly, it will give new possibilities in making the university and museum collections (within the IAP network and beyond) on Mesopotamian Heritage available for both the scientific as well as the broad public.

Vincent's blog:

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Geological Survey Iran 2013

Field WorkPosted by Cécile Baeteman Mon, March 11, 2013 14:08:10

Field work in the Lower Khuzestan plain (SW Iran), February 2013 by the partner of the Geological Survey of Belgium (The Royal Belgium Institute of Natural Sciences).

Changing positions of the shoreline of the Persian Gulf in relation to sea-level changes and sediment supply by the rivers and the sea played an important role in the southern Mesopotamian history and the patterns of human settlement. Changing shoreline positions in Lower Khuzestan (SW Iran) are associated with changing landscapes such as tidal flats, marshes, sabkhas and fluvial plains. The data for the reconstruction of the changing landscapes in time, or the palaeogeography, are recorded in the subsoil and hence, recovered by coring.

The first coring campaign of this IAP 7/14 project took place in February 2013 in an area of about 4000 km2 surrounding Shadegan. The one-month field campaign was carried out by Prof. Cecile Baeteman and MSc Rindert Janssens from the Geological Survey of Belgium (The Royal Belgium Institute of Natural Sciences) with the joint effort by colleagues of the Geological Survey of Iran (GSI) and 2 PhD students of the University of Teheran. Dr. Razi Lak from the GSI organized the excellent logistic support together with the Environmental Office of Abadan.

27 hand-operated undisturbed cores until a depth of 11 m were described and sampled for further investigation (14C dating, mineralogy, XRD, palaeontology). Particularly the information at greater depth (that was not attained during the 2 campaigns of the previous IAP P5/14 project) provided new ideas of the palaeogeography and environmental changes. Tidally influenced deposits were found until about 50 km northwest of the present-day shoreline of the Persian Gulf; marsh deposits alternating with river deposits indicate periods of frequent flooding; dust deposits in the fluvial record were now discovered as well as a former course of the river Jarrahi in the eastern part of the study area.

Dust deposits in the fluvial record.

Small boats were used to get access for coring in the Shadegan marshes.

At the occasion of his stay in Abadan, Rindert Janssens was invited by Prof. Dr. Dadolagi Sohrab and his team of the Khorramshahr University of Marine Sciences and Technology in Abadan to present the preliminary results of the field work. A future collaboration with this university will also be established because of their great interest in the results about the Holocene geology that hitherto was unknown to them.

Coring in cold weather, despite the semi-arid warm climate.

Exeptional flooding of the Lower Khuzestan plain between Abadan and Shadegan, February 2013.

A well deserved and well organized lunch after the hard work.

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Saudi-Belgian Campaign at Al-Ghat

ExcavationsPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Wed, February 06, 2013 10:55:40

First Saudi-Belgian Research Campaign in the Al-Ghat Region

with the participation of two IAP partners (the KU Leuven and the Université Catholique de Louvain)

The research in the Al-Ghat region - an area with a very rich history located in the Alhamada valley in North Central Saudi Arabia - was inspired by the Abdulrahman Al-Sudairy Foundation and His Excellency Marc Vinck, the Belgian ambassador in Saudi Arabia.

The project works under the aegis of the following institutions:

- the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, Riyadh (represented by Mr. Mohammed Ali Alsalouk) and

- the University of Leuven, Belgium (represented by Prof. Dr. Joachim Bretschneider, Faculty of Arts - Near Eastern Studies)

This first study season - in cooperation with the Université Catholique de Louvain (represented by Prof. Jan Tavernier) - was conducted between the 27th of December 2012 and the 12th of January 2013 and followed a primary visit of Prof. Joachim Bretschneider in 2011 and a first survey looking for early human activity by Prof. Philip Van Peer in 2012.

The project was five-fold:

1. A survey project in the Al-Ghat region looking for early human activity in the area.

2. The study of the textual and iconographical material incised on rocks.

3. Topographical documentation of some significant sites in the Al-Ghat region.

4. A didactic student program concerning the study of mud brick architecture in the old town of Al-Ghat.

5. Stratigraphical sounding in the old town of Al-Ghat.


This first joint Saudi-Belgian Mission confirms the archaeological, epigraphic and historic high potential of the Al-Ghat region. Concerning our research topics (survey for prehistoric material, textual and iconographical study) cutting edge science activities can be expected from further large scale research projects including surveys and landscape studies. The region of Inner Arabia can surely provide archaeological, epigraphic and iconographical data which will stand in the focus of the international scientific community.

Photos J. Bretschneider: Old North Arabian inscriptions and rock art at Jebel Markh (Saudi Arabia, Al-Ghat region).

Photo J. Bretschneider: Jebel Al-Samar (Saudi Arabia, Al-Ghat region): Middle Paleolithic Levallois core.

Photo J. Bretschneider: The high amount of Levallois cores and flakes on the Jebel Al-Samar confirms that the hill was used and intensively exploited by Middle Paleolithic hunter gatherers.

The team (starting right on top): Dr. Michel Debruyne, Wim Verhulst, Elynn Gorris, Greta Jans, Romy Heyrmans, Jaza Abdullah Al Harbi, Prof. Jan Tavernier, Dave Geerts, Nicolas Kress, Mohammed Ali Alsalouk and Prof. Joachim Bretschneider.

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Excavations in Tyre (Lebanon), summer 2012

ExcavationsPosted by Vanessa Boschloos Tue, December 04, 2012 11:27:15

The Phoenician temple of Sector 7

In view of the political situation in Syria and the temporary shutdown of the excavations at Tell Kazel, the Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut moved its archaeological activities to southern Lebanon in 2012, where Leila Badre was assigned a new project by the Lebanese Directorate General of Antiquities. The continued collaboration with the RMAH ensured that the Belgian component of the Archaeological Mission of Tell Kazel (Eric Gubel and Vanessa Boschloos) joined the new excavations, in the city of Tyre. Originally an island, this ancient Phoenician port city was connected to the mainland by a causeway constructed by Alexander the Great during his siege of the city in 332 BCE. The site is known for its Roman ruins, particularly a hippodrome that was inscribed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1984.

The aim of the 2012 excavation campaign was to reach the pre-Hellenistic levels in a sector located on the island site of ancient Tyre, Sector 7. The unexpected presence of an already excavated building at the site was due to the loss of all records of a 1970s campaign conducted by Emir Maurice Chehab in this sector. Nevertheless, during the 2012 excavations soundings were carried out inside the structure and in the adjacent units, to gather the little information that could still be recovered. The architecture, the pottery assemblage and an animal bone pit inside the structure point towards a temple, consequently representing one of the oldest cultic structures unearthed in Tyre thus far. It has a surface of at least 160 m² and its northern part consists of a podium on which an altar is erected with a height of 1.60 m. It is topped by a large monolithic bloc of limestone. The level of groundwater in Sector 7 (at 0.75 to 0.95 m above sea level), however, did not allow excavating to bedrock but the results of the soundings, together with an analysis of the pottery finds and the architectural remains, allowed postulating a late Persian-Hellenistic date for this structure.

See also: press releases and a short video of the excavations.

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Recording Tablet Collection Ghent University

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Mon, December 03, 2012 13:55:51

The University of Ghent (Belgium) keeps some 45 cuneiform tablets that originate from the Susa excavations (chantier A). One of the IAP project goals sketched in Workpackage VI is to allow the in house expertise on imaging Mesopotamian heritage to be used by partners outside the network to facilitate research in Greater Mesopotamian studies. In that regard, on November 29 and 30 this small collection was scanned with the Portable Light Dome equipment.

It will allow prof. Katrien De Graef and her team at Ghent to tackle the content of these documents and shed new light on the history of Susa, in particular into the Old Babylonian period to which most of the tablets in this collection date.

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New Visualization Systems Cuneiform Studies

ActivitiesPosted by Hendrik Hameeuw Wed, September 26, 2012 16:08:53
Work Package VI of the Greater Mesopotamia IAP deals on Imaging and Technology. In this regard, the IAP partners organized on 13 and 14 September 2012 an international Seminar on 'New Visualization Systems within Cuneiform Studies. Opportunities and Hazards'. For the digital registration of cuneiform tablets and several other types of archaeological objects, such as seal impressions or coins, the IAP partners have built up experience since years with the so-called PTM technology. In particular, the KU Leuven team has scanned hundreds of tablets and objects and prepared publications based on these images and wrote papers dealing on the used technologies. WP VI of our IAP aims to consolidate this and expand its use on the archaeological collections of the RMAH, the UCLouvain, KU Leuven and other additional collections or objects from archaeological excavations. During the last decade, several other research groups around the world have experimented also with similar techniques with as test objects cuneiform tablets.

Based on this background and in regard to the IAP partnership with CDLI we organized this Seminar at the KU Leuven department of ESAT and the RMAH department of Antiquities. Researchers working with PTM, RTI and 3D modeling within Cuneiform Studies at Southampton, Oxford, Heidelberg, Leuven and Brussels were asked to join this series of lectures, demonstrations, discussions and workshops to scope on the possibilities these techniques allow, the benefits they have proven scholars in the field of Assyriology and analyze the results they deliver. During two these two days at Leuven and Brussels, the participants (invited scholars, graduate students, doctoral students, postdocs, professors and managers in the heritage sector) were both introduced to what the technologies are about and took the opportunity to approach them critically.
Workshop on RTI-technology by James Miles (University of Southampton)

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