An international research team that includes assistant professor of anthropology and geography Suzanne Pilaar Birch has been awarded Arts and Humanities Research Council UK funding for their four-year project on Radical Death and Early State Formation in the Ancient Near East.
Using new evidence from the Early Bronze Age graves of Başur Höyük, on the Upper Tigris, the project will examine how ritual killing was implicated in the political transformations of the third millennium BC.
The basis for this study is an original analysis of human remains from the site’s funerary record, which includes evidence for sacrifice and mass burial. Stable isotope analysis, aDNA, spatial modelling, and osteological techniques will be employed to extract the maximum information from this unique dataset. The findings from Başur Höyük will be interpreted through comparison with cases of orchestrated killing elsewhere, including not just the famous Royal Tombs of Ur, but also instances from early polities in Africa, East Asia, and the Americas.
"The rise and fall of cities and states is a process we still see ongoing today, with its roots in the early civilizations of Mesopotamia," Birch said. "This project will enlighten us on the human aspect of state formation, providing insight into how these early citizens lived-and died."
Highly competitive AHRC grants fund independent research teams in the full range of scholarly humanities investigations, from history, archaeology, digital content and philosophy to languages, design, heritage, and the performing arts. The award of 550,000 GBP, approximatley $780,000, covers four years where Birch will be collaborating with University College London as an international coinvestigator.
Image: map showing Başur Höyük, Siirt in modern day Turkey (Aghdznik province of Greater Armenia, via Science Direct