CAS Annual Symposium Spring 2018

Speaker Abstracts and Biographies

Heather D. Baker (University of Toronto): “Journey to the Late Babylonian City: the Final Phases of Mesopotamian Urbanism”

Interest in southern Mesopotamian urbanism typically focuses on the origins of cities and their early development down to the Old Babylonian period. By the time we reach the first millennium BC, scholarly attention has tended to be devoted to individual cities, especially the capital, Babylon. There is little consideration of Babylonian urbanism as a phenomenon worthy of investigation during the later phases of what has been termed “cuneiform culture”, yet southern Mesopotamia provides a unique opportunity to examine the trajectory of urban development over a remarkably long time span, covering over 3,000 years of recorded history. This paper therefore examines the Babylonian city in its final stages, from the 6th century BC to the 1st century BC, against this background of long-term continuity and change.

Heather D. Baker is Assistant Professor of Ancient Near Eastern History at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the social, economic and political history and material culture of Babylonia and Assyria in the first millennium BC, with a particular interest in urbanism and the built environment. She has trained in both archaeology and cuneiform studies, participating in a number of fieldwork projects in Iraq, Turkey and Jordan. Her publications include The Archive of the Nappahu Family (2004) and a forthcoming monograph, The Urban Landscape in First Millennium BC Babylonia. Since 1999, she has served as Editor-in-Charge of The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire for the State Archives of Assyria Project. She is currently PI of the international project “Machine Translation and Automated Analysis of Cuneiform Languages” (MTAAC), funded through the Trans-Atlantic Platform Digging into Data Challenge.


Roderick B. Campbell (ISAW): “Ancient Urbanism and the Great Settlement Shang”

Ancient urbanism is back! C. K Chang once noted that the in the study of social complexity the topics of “civilization”, “city” and “state” seemed to cycle in and out of fashion. Most recently states, and, briefly, civilizations have had their time in the sun – is it time again for the city? Cities seem to have a decided advantage in tangibility, but could this very obvious materiality actually be problematic? What is an ancient city anyway? Does our long practical and discursive experience with certain kinds of urban forms predispose us to certain assumptions about ancient centers? I will argue that not only are there potential discursive pitfalls inherent in the concept of the ancient city, but that, in keeping with the ontological turn, urban built environments, their institutions, and populations of humans and non-humans, are imbedded in local constitutions of nature-culture and are fundamentally, recursively produced through the networked effects of particular practices, ways of being and worlds. Using the example of the Great Settlement Shang I will show how, in certain ways, Bronze Age China’s best studied-ancient urban center thwarts the expectations of both the traditional Chinese historiographic discourse on the city and that of anthropological archaeology, and, at the same time, provides a case for a broadened and thickened approach to ancient urbanism.

Roderick Campbell is Associate Professor of East Asian Archaeology and History at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. His research has been focused on theorizing ancient social-political organization, social violence and history. His geographical and temporal focus has been late 2nd millennium BC north China, although an interest in broader comparison and long-term change is beginning to draw him beyond Shang China. With training as an archaeologist, historian and epigrapher, his work attempts to unite disparate sources of evidence with contemporary social theory. Professor Campbell’s current fieldwork project, a collaboration with archaeologists from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is a zooarchaeological production analysis on what may be the world’s largest collection of worked bone at Anyang, the last capital of the Shang dynasty.


Dominique Charpin (Collège de France): “The Role of Temples in Mesopotamien Cities : The Case of Ur in the Old Babylonian Period”

The joint excavation of the Penn Museum and the British Museum at Tell Muqayyar between 1922 and 1934 under the direction of Sir Leonard Woolley has provided a very detailed image of Ur, one of the main Mesopotamian cities during three millennia. Thanks to the Ur-online project, direct access to the complete documentation of the expedition is now possible, which sometimes allows better interpretations. The new excavations in 2015 and 2017 contribute to expand our knowledge. This keynote lecture will try to show how temples were not only the places where gods resided, and were cared by priests who dressed them, feed them, etc.: they played a specific role in the city, in relation to the place and role of the divinity within the pantheon. The moon-god Nanna-Sin, main divinity of Ur, had a special role in matter of justice, and we will see how a special building named Dublamah was the place where lawsuits were settled. Nanna-Sin was also the divinity of cattle:  numerous texts allude to his huge herds, and dairies were directly linked to his temple. We will also see the role priests played in education; a particular stress will be put on an intendant of the temple of the goddess Ningal, named Sin-nada,whose house has been discovered in 2017.

Dominique Charpin is Professor of Assyriology at the Collège de France and a  correspondant of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, specialized in the Old Babylonian period. He has served as field epigraphist for the French excavation projects at Mari (Syria) and Larsa (Iraq), and more recently, for the American excavations at Ur. He is the director of the "Revue d'assyriologie" and co-director of the "Archives Royales de Mari" publication project, as well as director of the “Archibab” website. He is the author of Hammurabi of Babylon (2012), Reading and Writing at Babylon (2012), Writing, Law, and Kingship: Essays on Old Babylonian Mesopotamia (2010), Gods, Kings, and Merchants in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia (2015), and La vie méconnue des temples mésopotamiens (2017).


Michael Frachetti (Washington University in St. Louis): "Urban Scaling, Nomadic cities, and Network Modularity: New paradigms in ancient urbanism"

The discovery of small to mid-sized cities (Tashbulak and Tugunbulak) built by the Qarakhanids in high elevation illustrates that urban centers used by nomadic khanates may have operated under a unique model of “modular” urbanism, which we define as a hybrid form of urban development where cities and towns functioned as economic, political, and religious nodes within more expressly “modular” networks yet unlike established oasis cities, these high-altitude centers acted as the crossing points for a much larger, dispersed nomadic population (who were not living in the town/city itself).  Modularity here is used to mean that regional power was generated through scalable clusters of connectivity between these urban transfer-hubs, where power, wealth etc, helped defined wider communities of participation and enabled growth overall without significant population pressure in the towns themselves.  As such, the growth or decline of particular centers (within a module) might not change quantitatively the overall functionality of the cluster, unless broader systemic connectivity expanded or collapsed.  In addition these theorized “modular” urban systems allowed for improved environmental sustainability in environmental settings that would otherwise be unable to sustain demographic pressure.  This paper explores this conceptual turn in understanding Silk Road cities and towns, and illustrates preliminary results on modeling how modular urbanism might have functioned in Medieval Central Asia.

Michael Frachetti is an associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. His work focuses on the dynamic strategies of pastoral nomadic societies living in the steppe region, mountains, and deserts of Central and Eastern Eurasia in the Bronze Age. Since 2002 he has co-directed the Dzhungar Mountains Archaeology project, studying nomadic sites in the Semirech'ye region of Kazakhstan. In 2008 he expanded his fieldwork as the co-director of the MALGUZAAR project in south eastern Uzbekistan, studying the development of nomadic adaptations in the mountainous regions of southern Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the medieval period. His first book, Pastoralist Landscapes and Social Interaction in Bronze Age Eurasia (2008) deals with the ecology and regional interactions of mobile pastoralist societies living in the mountains of Inner Asia and their cultural and economic relationships with other communities across the Eurasian steppe from the 3rd to 1st millennia BC.


Lothar Haselberger (University of Pennsylvania): "From Plato to Philly: Planning the best city"

Planning a city was for Plato, in the 4th century BC, only part of a larger societal endeavor: designing the best form of a community. But even with the best theory at hand, so Plato and others before him recognized, the most tangible and effective way of impacting human behavior was turning theoretical insights into material form. Hence the paramount importance of art, as well as the obsession of Greek city planners with building a city in the best possible shape, place, and orientation and with composing treatises for transmitting such knowledge. Through Vitruvius, the Roman engineer who summarized the rules of his time for paradigmatic building, Renaissance architects applied those instructions creatively, including ideal plans for cities and communities. For the grand-style rebuilding of London after the great fire of 1666, such rules were pondered, but eventually abandoned, while William Penn realized them shortly thereafter in the New World, in Philadelphia.

Lothar Haselberger is professor emeritus in Roman Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. Trained as architectural historian, architect, and city planner at the Technical University of Munich and at Harvard University, he primarily works on the theory and practice of Graeco-Roman architecture and urbanism, especially on the ancient construction plans he discovered at the Temple of Apollo at Didyma, Turkey, as well as on the Augustan city of Rome and the Pantheon. A volume he initiated on the debate of the controversial Horologium of Augustus appeared in 2014, and a book on Hermogenes is in preparation, with an advance chapter published in the Journal of Roman Archaeology 2015. Haselberger was a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and at the American Academy in Berlin, and he received the University of Pennsylvania’s Ira Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching. He is an elected Life Member of the German Archaeological Institute and serves in its external review boards of the Jahrbuch and Römische Mitteilungen.


Renata Holod (University of Pennsylvania): “On Streets, Markets, Lanes and Houses in not–so–Ancient Cities”

From city histories to descriptions of routes and realms to manuals for market inspectors, sources in Arabic and Persian deal with the urban entities, their founding, organization and administration. This lecture will explore differences between founded and inherited cities, and the ways in which a city plan would have been transformed through time under the pressures of commerce, transportation, inheritance and usage.

Renata Holod is an art historian specializing in the Islamic world. She is a professor in the History of Art Department at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a curator of the Near East Section at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Professor Holod has conducted archaeological and architectural fieldwork in Syria, Iran, Morocco, Central Asia, Turkey, and Ukraine. She currently directs a project, supported by a Getty Collaborative Grant, engaged in the analysis of the grave goods of a medieval kurgan from the Black Sea steppe. She has co-authored and edited several books including: City in the Desert: An Account of the Archaeological Expedition to Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi, Syria (1978), Architecture and Community: Building in the Islamic World Today (1983), The Mosque and the Modern World (1997), Modern Turkish Architecture (2005), The City in the Islamic World (2008), and An Island through Time: Jerba Studies I (2009), and is currently preparing a monograph entitled The Last Kurgan: A Thirteenth Century Prince's Burial in the Black Sea Steppe.


Lisa LeCount (University of Alabama): “The Preclassic ‘City’ of Actuncan: How Collective Action Created and Transformed an Early Ritual Center in the Maya Lowlands”

The nature of urban settlements across Mesoamerica has recently become a focus of debate as archaeologists examine the kinds of relationships and practices that bound people together into cities. Although some cities were densely populated, most are notable for their low population densities, especially during the Preclassic period (1000 BC-AD 300) in the Maya lowlands.  Like many other Preclassic Maya cities, Actuncan is relatively small in size and averages around 8 people per square hectare. One wonders how such impressive cities---with their massive temples, intricately decorated monuments and sprawling urban spaces---were built by so few people. While ritual is the commonly evoked answer to describe why disparate Maya were attracted to certain places on the landscape and inspired to participate in construction projects, it does not explain the enduring social and political relationships that developed between people who came to live there or journey there on a regular basis.  For this, I suggest we must look at the collective actions of ancient people. Actuncan’s urban layout, household architecture, artifact assemblages, and burial practices are presented to explore the degree to which governing elites provided commoners public goods and services, and how these relationships shaped urban settlement and design. 

Lisa LeCount (Ph.D. UCLA 1996) is an anthropological archaeologist who interests center on social and political practices that build alliances and create identities in ancient Latin American state-level societies. Currently, she is a Professor at The University of Alabama and director of the Actuncan Archaeological Project in Belize, where she has worked since 1992.


Luca Maria Olivieri (Università di Bologna): “Bazira/Vajirasthana/Barikot. An Early-Historic city in northern Gandhara (Swat)”

As confirmed by large-scale archaeological evidence and radiocarbon data, the fortified urban settlement at Barikot was established (on the ruins of an Early Iron age proto-urban settlement) around the 6th-5th century BCE. The site was re-fortified in a mature phase of the Indo-Greek kingdoms, around the mid-2nd century BCE, with a massive defensive wall, which remained in use until the beginning of the 2nd century CE. After a long and wealthy phase, in the second half of the 3rd century CE the city was eventually abandoned. The event, although, occurred after massive destructions caused by two earthquakes, can be related to a more general crisis, which followed the collapse of the Kushana system of power.

Luca Maria Olivieri received his PhD from the Freie Universität in Berlin. He is currently affiliated with the University of Bologna. He has worked with the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan since 1987, and has served as co-director since 2006. He currently directs the ACT-Field School project in the Swat valley. In 2017, he was awarded the prestigious Sitar-e-Imtiaz prize by the President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussein, as an acknowledgement of his work.


Timothy R. Pauketat (University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana): "The Spirits of Ancient Cahokia and the Case for American Indian Urbanism"

The historical trajectory, layout, and internal organization of greater Cahokia—a cluster of monumental civic-ceremonial precincts in a 20 square kilometer area located in the floodplain of the Mississippi River—have been well delineated in recent years thanks to the large-scale public archaeology of the region. Lasting two centuries (1050-1250 CE), Cahokia’s urban qualities are easily delineated: monumental ritual-residential precincts were comprised of neighborhoods occasionally subject to urban renewal events and surrounded by an intentionally ruralized agricultural landscape. In this form, Cahokia had remarkably far-flung and long-term historical impacts. These included the ‘Mississippianization’ of the Midwest and Midsouth via a series of emplaced shrines and colonial sites. Recent explanations of how and why this urban phenomenon happened give considerable weight to the affective, spiritual attractions of the greater Cahokia region and the Mississippi valley. Foremost among these are the “immanent” qualities of water, earth, sky, and maize, as highlighted by tracing the material relations embodied by Cahokia’s pots, plasters, and monumental alignments.

Timothy R. Pauketat is a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He is best known for his investigations at Cahokia, the major center of ancient Mississippian culture in the American Bottom area of Illinois near St. Louis, Missouri. His research focuses on the broad relationships between history and humanity, materiality and agency, affect and ontology, and religion and urbanism. His publications include: Medieval Mississippians: The Cahokian World (2015), An Archaeology of the Cosmos: Rethinking Agency and Religion in Ancient (2013), Big Histories, Human Lives: Tackling Problems of Scale in Archaeology (2013), The Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology (2012).