Climate Change and State Evolution

Despite substantial evidence on the short-term effects of adverse climate shocks, our understanding of their long-term impact is limited.  To address such a key issue, research has focused on ancient societies because of their limited economic complexity and their unparalleled experience of environmental and institutional change.  Notably, ‘Collapse Archaeology’ literature has reported statistical evidence consistent with the mantra that severe droughts trigger institutional crises.  This view, however, has recently been challenged by literature summarized in the paper Climate Change and State Evolution by Giacomo Benati and Carmine Guerriero.

Ziggurat w Nippur (współczesny Nuffar, Irak), niegdyś centrum religijne południowej Mezopotamii. Nawet jeśli uznajemy wywołany przez przemiany środowiska upadek starożytnych społeczeństw, to aby właściwie ocenić pełny wpływ zmian klimatycznych i związanych z nimi zmian politycznych, musimy odpowiednio połączyć wyniki analiz nauk przyrodniczych i społecznych © G. Benati
Ziggurat of Nippur (modern Nuffar, Iraq), once at the center of a key religious Mesopotamian polity and cultic center. Even if the environmental induced collapse of ancient societies has attracted much attention, to correctly evaluate the full impact of climate change and inform policy intervention we need to properly combine natural and social sciences. 
©  G. Benati

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Migration in Europe at the turn of Antiquity and the Middle Ages

An international team led by Prof. Aleksander Bursche has recently finished compiling the course and processes of migration in Central Europe at the end of Antiquity in a monographic form. The two-volume publication is the result of a six-year Maestro NCN project, during which archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and palaeobotanists studied cultural, ethnic, social, demographic and ecological relations from the late 4th to the late 6th centuries. It resulted in the re-evaluation of written sources, archives, archaeological and palynological materials.  A number of excavations were also carried out during the course of the project, as well as numerous anthropological, geophysical and palaeobotanical analyses of the sediments and pollen collected.

Monografia Migrations in Europe on the turn of the Antiquity and Middle Ages © P. Deska, A. Zapolska
Monograph Migrations in Europe on the turn of the Antiquity and Middle Ages
© P. Deska, A. Zapolska

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Bioarchaeology of the Near East – volume 14 is now available

After a few months of pandemic delay, the new volume of Bioarchaeology of the Near East has been issued online. This time, there are four regular papers and five short fieldwork reports, as well as the obituaries of Holger Schutkowski and Alina Wiercińska, two longtime members of the journal’s Editorial Board who passed away in the last two years.

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Modular construction in Byzantine Marea (Egypt)

Marea was an important port and trading center in northern Egypt in ancient times. Until now, archaeologists have focused on the study of individual single buildings on the site. In 2017, work began on a comprehensive identification of the urban grid, consisting of the buildings, streets, and the port. The results of the study, recently published in Antiquity, indicate that modular construction in Byzantine Marea was part of a larger urban program, one of the few at the end of Antiquity.

Budynki modułowe w Marei © M. Gwiazda, na licencji CC BY 4.0
Modular construction in Marea
© M. Gwiazda, published under CC BY 4.0

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Enigmatic Material from the Time of the Egyptian Pyramid Builders

There are many myths surrounding metalworking technologies from the time of the ancient Egyptian pyramid builders. The most common are that no tools have been preserved for research and that ancient Egyptians were only familiar with pure copper. Neither is correct, however: a recent study by Czech researchers, published in the renowned international Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, enriched our knowledge of Old Kingdom metalworking technology based on archaeological material originating from Giza.

Giza, dolny lewy owal zaznacza miejsce, z którego pochodzą badane zabytki fot. M. Odler © Filozofická fakulta, Univerzita Karlova, Praha, Český egyptologický ústav
Giza, the bottom-left oval marks the place where the studied finds originated
photo Martin Odler © Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Czech Institute of Egyptology

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Chimú vessel found in Biłgoraj county, eastern Poland

A Facebook post published on the 16th of July described an unusual find in Biłgoraj county in eastern Poland. In the 2nd half of 2020, a very fragmented and destroyed pottery vessel, found in the attic, was delivered to the Biłgoraj Region Museum. After the initial analysis, this pottery artifact was identified as the product of the Peruvian Chimú culture, a strange find indeed. The vessel has a characteristic incised and anthropomorphic decoration as well as an iconic form of the stirrup spout bottle. The dark color of the surface is the result of low oxygen reduction atmosphere in which the pot has been fired.

 

 

Naczynie kultury Chimú odnalezione w okolicach Biłgoraja © K. Grochecki
Chimú vessel found in the Biłgoraj county
© K.Grochecki

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Poles on the Fringes of Mesoamerica

Archaeologists from the University of Warsaw have commenced archaeological excavations at a pre-Hispanic site in El Salvador. Apart from a few mentions in the literature and sporadic, mostly informal, visits by local and foreign archaeologists, the site of San Isidro remained hitherto uninvestigated.

Wykopaliska na El Cerrito – największa struktura San Isidro © J. Szymański / PASI, zdjęcie na licencji CC BY 4.0
Excavations at El Cerrito – the largest structure at San Isidro
© J. Szymański / PASI, zdjęcie na licencji CC BY 4.0

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[INTERVIEW] Rolling in the deep – emerald mines in the desert

Some time ago we wrote about the ancient port of Berenike on the Red Sea coast. This time we had an opportunity to talk with dr Joan Oller Guzmán from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, who in 2020 and 2021 conducted an archaeological survey in the Mons Smaragdus region of the Egyptian Eastern Desert. This region was known in Antiquity as the only source of emeralds within the borders of the Roman Empire! 

We invite you venture further into this article, where dr. Guzmán tells us about exploring underground galleries and what they have found in the dungeons deep.

“Świątynia południowa” w Wadi Sikait, Egipt © J. O. Guzman
“South temple” in Wadi Sikait, Egypt
© J. O. Guzman

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Animal dung as a strategic resource in the kingdom of Mari

Kings of Mari controlled an important trade route in the valley of the Euphrates River in the 3rd and early 2nd millennium BCE. Although their country was situated in an area with unfavourable conditions for agriculture, the economy of the kingdom of Mari could support a big population. The key to understanding this paradox is animal dung.

The kingdom of Mari was the most powerful country of north Mesopotamia in the 3rd and early 2nd millennium BC. Its power is reflected both by the size of its capital (modern archaeological site of Tell Hariri), which occupied an area of more than 60 hectares – more than Cracow in the 13th century – and by the fact that six of its rulers were included in the Sumerian King List, that is a record of the dynasties that were regarded as those holding superior power in Sumer. The dynasty from Mari was the only dynasty from north Mesopotamia on this list. 

Sala tronowa w pałacu Zimri-Lima, ostatniego króla Mari fot. Herbert Frank (opublikowano na licencji CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
The throne room in the palace of Zimri-Lima, the last Mari king
Photo: Herbert Frank
(Published under CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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