The Sealands Archaeology and Environment Program Connecting viable pasts to sustainable futures.

The Sealands Archaeology and Environment Program

The Sealands Archaeological Reconnaissance

Over a three-week period September–October 2010, travelling by vehicle between locations, and on foot thereafter, we conducted short, preliminary ground reconnaissance of major archaeological sites throughout southern Iraq, and of previously unreported, remotely sensed landscape features in Basra Governorate. We were accompanied by representatives of the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) at all archaeological sites. For geoarchaeological investigations in Basra governorate, we first consulted with specialist faculty in the University of Basrah’s Department of Geology and Marine Sciences Centre, then were accompanied by Badir Alabadran, Professor of Sedimentology and Chair, Department of Geology, University of Basrah. An overview of the trip, and a summary of findings, are available in this Final Report.

The Girsu Archaeology Project

Tello, or "Place of Tablets," was first excavated in the early 20th century, and identified as the ancient city of Girsu. Located on the left bank of the Shatt al-Gharraf river and at the boundary of the fertile Babylonian plains and the lawless southern marshes, Girsu is 400 ha in size and 25m high at its highest point.  A visit to the site in September 2010 revealed it is under immediate threat from both modern agricultural expansion and looting. 

Given the long history of settlement at the site, new investigation at Girsu will test models of the role of broad subsistence resources in the process of urbanization.  Recent cultural ecology and landscape archaeology studies have stressed the importance of biodiversity in the development of social complexity. In southern Mesopotamia, the earliest cities are located at the edges of the floodplain and marshes with access to a wide variety of resources.  

Excavation and survey can also address specific historical questions regarding the social, political, and economic organization of an early Sumerian city. While past clandestine excavation produced texts and sculpture, the context of these finds is missing and a crucial component of historical narrative is lost. New excavation will use systematic methods and include the specialists to place excavated material into its proper context. This project represents a rejuvenation of archaeological work in southern Iraq.

Basra Province Archaeological Survey

In 2012, we plan to commence a 5-year program of extensive archaeological survey throughout Basra Province. Our initial focus will be on areas threatened by marsh reclamation, petroleum exploration, and urban development.

Sealands Paleoenvironmental Survey

Complementing our archaeological program...

Old Town Field Station for Landscape Research

Within the heart of the former Hammar marshes of southern Iraq....

Basra Marshlands Restoration Project

Marshes provide critical environmental services...

Water for the Sealands

Perhaps the greatest tragedy to befall all of southern Iraq since 1991 was…

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Images From the Sealands: Reeds & Reed Construction