University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

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The Zagros Interaction Sphere at the Beginning of the Bronze Age

Saturday 19 November 2016, 02:00pm - 02:20pm
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Steve Renette, Junior Fellow, will deliver a paper in Session 11A. Locating Mesopotamian Civilizations in Highland-Lowland Encounters at the 2016 ASOR Annual Meeting, November 16–19, San Antonio, Texas.

During the Late Chalcolithic (ca. 4500–3100 B.C.E.), Mesopotamia and its neighbors became increasingly entangled both economically and culturally. Interaction during this time was organized through a network of colonial enclaves and diasporas reaching from the Mesopotamian lowlands into the surrounding resource-rich highlands. Following the collapse of this exchange network, the region underwent dramatic changes leading to increased regionalization and ruralization. Scholarly discourse posits that only after centuries of isolation and impoverishment there came a phase of renewed social complexity and interregional interaction visible in Mesopotamian urban centers during the Early Dynastic III period (ca. 2500–2300 B.C.E.). However, while distinct cultural zones during this early period display only very little contact in material culture (especially ceramic traditions), limited evidence of shared glyptic traditions and occurrence of metals and stone artifacts do suggest continued interregional exchange.

Based on new evidence from work at Kani Shaie in Iraqi Kurdistan and a reappraisal of evidence from Early Bronze Age sites in the Zagros region, this paper argues that the distinct cultural zones of the Ninevite V, Scarlet Ware, Godin III, and Hasan Ali traditions between the Tigris River and the highest reaches of the Zagros chains maintained periodic interaction. This Zagros Interaction Sphere facilitated the distribution and exchange of desired resources while maintaining social ties across dispersed communities inhabiting different ecological zones. These highland-lowland interactions characterize an alternative development of social complexity within this mountainous landscape resulting in the formation of indigenous polities and ethnic identities well known from Early Dynastic and Akkadian historical sources.


Location : San Antonio Ballroom A, La Cantera Resort and Spa, San Antonio, Texas
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