Greater Mesopotamia

Greater Mesopotamia

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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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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