Work Package I: Mapping and Surveying
During the past IAP phases maps, satellite images, and information provided by Arab geographers and European traveller’s accounts have been digitalized and integrated in a GIS system. These data concern mainly the Mesopotamian alluvial plain, northern Syria, the Syrian coast and western Iran. Additional fieldwork and a re-examination of the existing data on the basis of the results of the investigations carried out in the other WP’s will allow insights into the evolution of the landscape. This is particularly true for the fluvial systems and the changing coastlines, on the basis of which landscape evolution models can now be developed which in turn will have their role to play in our (re)assessment of the history of this region.
1. Changing environments on the coasts of Iran and northern Levant (RBINS)
•Lower Khuzestan (RBINS)
The broad-scale palaeo-geographical picture of the vast Lower Khuzestan plain during the last 9000 years has been documented during IAP phase V on the basis of limited data collected over a large area. The palaeo-geographical reconstruction was refined in the previous phase (VI) in particular with details of the changing river courses on the basis of solely satellite images. The limited additional undisturbed coring with age determination carried out in the coastal area during the preceding phase indicated, however, that the replacement of the tidal environment by a floodplain as from about 2500 cal BP was not continuous as previously suggested. The cause has not been investigated yet, because many proxy data will have to be considered such as changes in sea level and marine sediment input, climate change resulting in a changing wave regime, and possibly human activity. The storage of sediment in the upper valley of the rivers and in the numerous irrigation canals might have reduced riverine sediment transport to the marine environment causing an imbalance of the sediment budget and coastal erosion.
The detection of periods of short- or long-term stabilization of the different landscapes and their geographical distribution, alternating with periods of active sedimentation will contribute to document the potential settlement areas for particular time periods and can be used for integration in the archaeological context. The evidence of these changes is found in the sedimentary record.
The Khawr Musa embayment and the adjacent nearshore area (general and detailed view)
Therefore detailed investigations will be undertaken in the area between Shahdegan and Bandar-e Imam Khomeini, including the Khawr Musa embayment and the adjacent nearshore area (see images above). Undisturbed coring with a gouge auger to a depth of about 10 m along a series of parallel transects will be carried out and will be complemented with seismic surveys and shallow vibrocoring in the nearshore zone. The latter will be carried out in collaboration with the Geological Survey of Iran, Dept. of Marine Geology with whom we already carried out joint field work, and the Renard Centre of Marine Geology of the University of Gent. The sedimentary facies in the cores will be studied in the light of the reconstruction of the sedimentary palaeo-environments. Special attention will be attributed to the salt-marsh deposits since their identification in the sedimentary record can aid in the palaeo-environmental reconstructions of ancient marginal-marine successions. The vertical and lateral changes in facies of the different sedimentary environments (floodplain, coastal sabkha, salt marsh, inter- and subtidal flat, channels) will be elaborated in stratigraphical cross-sections on the basis of facies association. These data will provide the stratigraphical framework. The results of the sedimentological work will be complemented by age determination, and microfossil and pollen analyses undertaken by specialized European laboratories. The proxy data on climate change resulting from the palynological research will of course be integrated for the elaboration of the stratigraphical framework in the context of changes in sediment supply to the coastal area.
•Tell Tweini, Syria (KU Leuven)
The alluvial plain surrounding Tell Tweini has been mapped during the preceding phase on the basis of a dense boring grid. The investigation was restricted to the determination of the lithology and facies characteristics of the sediments, which were carried out in the field. On the basis of this work preliminary results about a changing environment could be suggested. These preliminary results will be further investigated in the context of climatic change and possible impact by human activities. Neotectonic movements will be considered as well. A major question that still remains is whether Tell Tweini was once connected to the open sea. During the field work numerous samples have been taken for further analyses for palynology and microfossils that will be carried out in this phase to refine the preliminary results.
•Akkar plain and Tell Kazel, Syria-Lebanon (RMAH - RBINS)
Palaeo-geographical reconstructions of the Akkar plain will be examined, both in the immediate periphery of Tell Kazel and along the adjacent coastal area down into Lebanon. The fluvial system, and more particularly its changing watercourses, will be investigated in order to place the tell in its natural environment through the ages. The seafront area of the fluvial plain will be surveyed in order to detect possible changing shorelines during the last 3000 years.
2. Geophysical surveying
•The urban development at Tell Tweini, Syria (KU Leuven)
During previous campaigns, geophysical surveys were carried out in order to locate architectural remains and to place the already excavated areas in a broader urban context. The geomagnetic results show the ground plan of the city as it was during the 9th and 6th centuries BCE and could be joined with the excavated structures of the Iron Age. Several large structures and densely urbanised city quarters are prevalent on the plan. Further research will supply us with a more complete city plan for the Early Iron and Late Bronze Age and help us to understand the patterns of urbanisation.
•Geophysical prospection at Tell Kazel, Syria (RMAH)
A geophysical prospection mapping the entire tell will provide better insights into the urban planning of this ancient capital of Amurru. The course of the city walls, its gates and concentrations of buildings will also come out on the survey map, allowing to refine the excavations tactics. Finally, prospection at the foot of the tell will help to plot the extent of a dam on the river Abrasch and, hopefully, to provide more information on the cavities under the tell which had possibly been used for royal burials in the Bronze and Iron Ages.
•Geophysical prospection at Mleiha, United Arab Emirates (RMAH)
A geophysical prospection at Mleiha is planned with the aim of recognizing the physical remains and the outlay of the cemetery and adjacent buildings. The excavations have up to now revealed the general extension of the graveyard and the existence of clusters of tomb-towers with interspaced areas and smaller graves. The information provided by ground penetrating radar will undoubtedly offer an insight into the spatial distribution and allow targeted excavations to gain a more balanced understanding of the site.