Cities and the Shaping of Memory in the Ancient Near East
Ömür Harmanşah, Fellow Spotlight
Ömür Harmanşah is an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Art and Art History. Prior to his appointment at the University of Illinois, he was an Assistant Professor of Archaeology and Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies at Brown University's Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World from 2007 to 2014. He spent the academic year 2013–14 at the University of Texas at Austin as Donald D. Harrington Faculty Fellow in Middle East Studies and Religious Studies. Ömür is a specialist in the field of archaeology, architectural history, and material culture of the Near East. His work focuses mainly on Anatolia, Syria, and ancient Mesopotamia. Ömür studied architecture and architectural history at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, and he received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005. Ömür’s research interests involve examining intersections of place and landscape. He focuses his attention on bodily performance, local knowledge, and collective memory. His research also deals with political ecology. He has lectured and published on cities, urban space and architectural technologies in ancient Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. He is currently working on a cultural biography of rock reliefs and spring monuments in Anatolia and a critical archaeology of place.
Ömür directs the Brown University funded Yalburt Yaylasi Archaeological Landscape Research Project. The focus of this project is a diachronic regional survey addressing questions of place and landscape in the modern province of Konya—covering areas in the counties of Ilgın, Kadınhanı and Yunak—in west-central Turkey. The main objective of the research is to understand the long-term structures of settlement in the survey area with an emphasis on the relationship between local cultural practices and imperial interventions, specifically at the time of the Hittite Empire. The inaugural season took place in 2010, and in the first three field seasons, more than sixty survey units were documented. Ömür is also involved with archaeological projects at Gordion and Ayanis in Turkey. Ömür’s first monograph Cities and the Shaping of Memory in the Ancient Near East was published by Cambridge University Press in March 2013. The book stems from his dissertation on the practice of founding cities in the ancient Near East. It examines the founding and construction of cities by Assyrian and Syro-Hittite rulers, focusing on the Early Iron Age (ca. 1200–850 B.C.E). At this time, a highly-performative official discourse developed that revolved around constructing cities, cultivating landscapes, building watercourses, erecting monuments, and initiating public festivals. Ömür examines archaeological, epigraphic, visual, architectural, and environmental evidence to tell the story of a region from the perspective of its spatial practices, landscape history, and architectural technologies. He looks at political narratives and mythologies in which the creation of a pristine city is envisioned as an ideological project of the ruler or as commissioned by the gods. He delves deeper to understand the complexity of the creation of urban space as a social process. He argues that the cultural processes of the making of urban spaces shaped collective memory and identity as well as sites of political performance and state spectacle.