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Despite the difficult situation in North Iraq, torn by war against the ISIS insurgents, the third field season of the UGZAR - "Settlement history of the Iraqi Kurdistan" project started on August 16. 

The field program of this season seeks to continue the work in the part of the survey area located in the Duhok province. The area to be covered extends from the city of Akre to the south and east, towards the valley of the Greater Zab river (Fig. 7) constituting a border between the Duhok and Erbil/Hawler provinces (MAP).

The field team, led by Professor Rafał Koliński (Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University), is composed of: Dr. Dorota Ławecka (deputy director, Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw), Ms. Joanna Mardas, Ms. Agata Smilgin, Mr. Adam Lokś (all Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University), Mrs. Xenia Kolińska (deputy director, Past and Present Foundation), and photographer, Mr. Dariusz Piasecki, (freelance). The Department of Antiquities of the Duhok province is represented by Mr. Sarkaft Amer, and Mr. Khaleed Aziz (Fig. 16)., both of the Akre Office of Antiquities. 

From August 16 to 29, the team limited to only four persons was completing documentation of architectural monuments referring to the history of Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities in the area west of Akre (Fig. 14) and in Akre itself (Fig. 4, 13, 16, 17). This period was also devoted to the analysis of pottery collected during the two previous seasons that has not been fully studied (sites S020-037 of the season 2012 and S080-099 of the season 2013). The field survey will begin after August 29, when three more team members will arrive from Poland.

The first two weeks of the actual survey (August 29 to September 12) were devoted to documentation of the ancient settlements in the area located south of Akre, between the Akre-Rovia highway and the Şaxi Sarta mountains. The area turned out to be densely settled only in the part adjacent to the Navkur plain (six sites documented). There were identified numerous settlement mounds witnessing usually a long settlement history. The remaining part of the territory under scrutiny revealed an entirely different character, with only a few, relatively late sites in evidence (eight sites documented on the area of c. 300 km2). Therefore, the fieldwork strategy was modified. Instead of going everyday to the field with a full team, some days were devoted to reconnaissance only, others to transects along wadis, and only when the number of sites was identified, the full team was in the field documenting them. This strategy had several advantages: it helped to use time and resources more reasonably; it also allowed for continuous processing of the material collected on the already documented sites, as well as of some sherds from the 2013 season. 

The following two weeks (September 14 to 30) were devoted to the survey of the remaining part of the Navkur plain, between Daratu and Rovia (Sectors G1-G2). Eight settlement mounds were observed there, basing on the study of satellite imagery (Fig. 11). It was thus expected that a substantial amount of pottery will be collected in the area. During the survey it turned out that many of those sites have extensive lower cities (in four cases as large as 16 ha in area). In all, 17 archaeological sites of various size were documented, witnessing intensive settlement of the area during the Bronze (Fig. 6)  and Iron Ages (Fig. 19). Such was the conclusion of the fieldwork on the alluvial plain.

The latest period of the field survey was devoted to research in the easternmost area, between the Greater Zab valley (Fig. 3, 15)and Şaxi Pirat (Fig. 22). This territory, c. 300 km2 in area, is a typical highland area cut by deep valleys of seasonal streams (Fig. 1, 2, 8) discharging into the Greater Zab. This extensive area yielded very scarce evidence of ancient settlement, exclusively of later date (Parthian, Sasanian and Islamic)(Fig. 9, 10, 12). A few of them were located on the Greater Zab, and the remaining ones at the foot of the mountains (Fig. 20, 21), leaving a wide belt of unsettled country. The reason for such a state of the matter is difficult to explain, as the sites are absent even in valleys of a few perennial streams present in the area. A possible explanation may be related to poor quality of soils at the bottom of the valleys, and on the hills that precluded permanent settlement.


Despite difficult conditions (a threat of the Islamic State) the UGZAR field team achieved all the objectives of the 2014 field season. Most of the area of the work permit belonging to the Duhok province of Iraqi Kurdistan has been covered by survey (the remaining area, a triangle formed by the Greater Zab river, Şaxi Zilka Bardaraş and the meridian 43° 40’, was located too close to the conflict zone to be surveyed). In this area altogether 103 archaeological sites and 22 architectural objects were located and documented. Half of the sites (53) were located on the fertile, alluvial plain of Navkur in the southernmost part of the surveyed territory, and the remaining ones along the mountains and the Greater Zab valley, with a remarkable unsettled zone in between. All the finds collected on the sites during the three seasons of fieldwork were documented, allowing for drawing final conclusions before the end of the actual research project (July 2015).

New grant awarded by National Centre for Science in November 2014 will allow for the continuation of fieldwork in the governorate of Erbil (Fig. 5)  in years 2015-2017 and for the preparation of the final publication of the project for the beginning of 2018. 


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