Journal of a Rowanduz Archaeological Project (RAP) Participant

Posted in: ASOR, Excavations, Scholarships
Tags: ASOR, excavation, excavation fellowships, Fellowship, Kyra Kaercher, Platt Fellowship, RAP, Rowanduz Archaeological Project
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By: Kyra Kaercher, PhD Candidate and 2013 Platt Fellowship Recipient
Department of Archaeology, Boston University

June 6th, 2013

While waiting for our permit to be signed for the Rowanduz Archaeological Project (RAP), we went to a few gatherings hosted by the Mayor of Rowanduz. RAP is a project located in Northern Iraq, in the Autonomous Kurdish Region. This project is a joint venture between Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania. The first season occurred this summer, from May to July. The Mayor of Rowanduz, Sirwan, was a violinist in the South Dakota Symphony and he was translating at most of these functions. These gatherings started with a speech about how pleased the Kurdish people are to have Americans visit and work in Kurdistan, because Americans helped to remove Saddam from power. This inevitably leads to a discussion about their history where Saddam was massacring thousands of Kurds, trying to wipe them from the map. Even with this history, we have found them to be super warm and welcoming.

Kyra 1

A Picture of Allison Cuneo, Allison Ripley, and I with the daughters of the family that made us lunch in Sidekan.

When we are surveying, we run across farmers who are willing to share any information they may have about the area with us. In Sidekan, a family who was living in the ruins of an Ottoman fort invited us to lunch. We are surrounded by modern history, the good and the bad. On surveys we run across villages that Saddam has either destroyed, or forced the population to move. Many of the hilltops have sniper ditches dug into them as well as lots of shells, anti-aircraft shells, and mortars spread around them. These are remnants from both the Iran-Iraq war as well as the tribal fighting that occurred through most of the 1990s. We are also running across villages that have sprung up in the past 10 years by Kurds who are moving back to the area after living in refugee camps in Iran and around the world.

Even with their horrific past that is ever present, marked by the amount of young people missing from the population, the Kurds are hopeful for a new future brought about by the help of the outside world. I would expect a population that has gone through what they went through to be distrustful of outsiders, but the Kurds are anything but. The sister of our fixer, Rozhhad, remembers much of what happened under Saddam’s rule. Talking with her brought more insight to what occurred during this time as well as the hope that is ever present for the future of Iraqi Kurds.

Thanks to ASOR for awarding me the Platt Fellowship to support this research!

July 10th 2013

We have just wrapped up the Mosul University Archaeological Program 2013 Workshop.  It was a success! The workshop lasted from July 4-8th in Erbil at the Iraqi Conservation Institute. The workshop is part of the US-Iraq University Linkages Program where a team led by Michael Danti, from Boston University, will partner with the Mosul University Archaeology Program and focus on curriculum development, online courses, and cultural study programs. This year the program was held in conjunction with the Rowanduz Archaeological Project (RAP).

This first workshop was designed to help foster collaboration between professors at Mosul and specialists.  There were lectures on Ceramics, Bioarchaeology, GIS and GPR, and Culture History.  As well as, lectures from the Mosul professors on excavations at Nineveh and ceramic reconstruction.  I taught the lectures on Ceramics and led a ceramics lab.  The first lecture covered what one can tell from the study of ceramics as well as the history of ceramic studies.  The second lecture covered how to record ceramics, as well as how to interpret reports and publish ceramics.  The lab was a hands-on explanation on how to draw ceramics.

The group of 22 Iraqi Scholars and our project.

Many of the scholars knew about the history of the discipline and what you can learn from ceramics but were not sure about how to draw the ceramics and what these illustrations can tell us.  They were also interested in the conservation and reconstruction of ceramics; however, I do not have practice with that, so one of the Iraqi scholars taught a session on the reconstruction of vessels from Nineveh.

July 29th 2013

The end to a successful season for the Rowanduz Archaeological Project (RAP) led by Boston University! We had a rocky start waiting for the permit, but we finally signed it on July 8th, 2013.  We were then able to start excavation at Gird-i Dasht, a site outside of Soran.  We decided to excavate this site because it will give us a good chronology for the area.  It is located at the opening of the Rowanduz Gorge, as well as the route from Iran through Sidekan.  This is a large mounded site with an Islamic component.  Towards the end of the 10 days of excavation we were turning up Middle Bronze Age Pottery (ca. 2000 BC).

On July 18th, we received a call from Abdulwahab Soleiman, the regional director of the Kurdish Antiquities Department, about a possible site near the border with Iran.  A bulldozer that was extending the road to Iran had hit a corner of a tomb as well as exposed an expanse of a city.  We extended our stay for a week to help excavate the tomb and record the city.  Based on the pottery and bracelet, the tomb dates to the Iron Age (ca. 800 BC). A snake headed bracelet and a few earrings were discovered along with five intact jars.  Since the tomb was relatively intact we can assume that the rest of the pottery that we collected can be reconstructed.  The burned city (Gund-i Topzawa) is likely part of the early Iron Age kingdom of Musasir/Ardidi.

The illustrator, Hardy Maass and I excavating the tomb.

Next year we are set to excavate at the city, which also dates to the Iron Age. As well as continue excavations at Gird-i Dasht in order to strengthen the chronology of the area. Our project will also continue to study the pottery from the tomb as well as the human material to get a better understanding of the people who live in this area.

Thanks to ASOR for awarding me the Platt Fellowship to support this research!

Kyra Kaercher
PhD Candidate
Department of Archaeology
Boston University

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