This research project, funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office - BELSPO in the framework of the Interuniversity Attraction Poles (IAP), focuses on the Ancient Near East, a region extending from ancient Iran and the Arabian Peninsula to the eastern Mediterranean.
In previous phases, a considerable part of the project concentrated on Syrian Upper Mesopotamia. The present phase represents a geographical extension towards “peripheral” regions such as Anatolia, the Levantine coast, Cyprus and the Persian Gulf. One of the opportunities the present phase offers, is that it allows exploiting the mass of previously collected data from Syria. The groundwork and stimulation of research provided by the previous IAP phases will allow a very efficient synergy.
The network is composed of four Belgian partners; the Royal Museums of Art and History (coordinator), the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, the KU Leuven and the Université Catholique de Louvain and of four international partners, Université Paris I, Université Toulouse III, University of California – Los Angeles and the University of Budapest.
The work falls under three main axes of investigation: 1) environmental changes and their impact on societies, 2) the transition between the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age, including the centuries leading up to this period of unrest and its aftermath (seen through the situation in the Levant, Anatolia and Iran) and 3) historical studies. Within these primary axes of research, the practical execution of these projects is organised through six thematic work packages (for details, please see under “network”):
From a methodological point of view, this research approaches the history of the Ancient Near East (in its broadest sense from material history to cultural phenomena) from a combined environmental, historical and archaeological viewpoint. At the same time, it re-examines a number of fundamental key-stone topics such as chronology, climate evolution, seashore variations and material culture sequences. This pluridisciplinarity cannot consist of a side-by-side contribution of archaeology, geology, philology, historical geography and history that would only produce more data within the confinement of each of these disciplines. A fully integrated synergy of these approaches is essential. Such an ambitious undertaking could, of course, never be realized by any single team. It will take the added value of a comprehensive network.
The objective of this project is to provide entirely new perspectives of major historical processes through the integration of palaeo-environmental data, cuneiform writing, archaeological site exploration and palynological analyses, in order to study the interaction of man with his environment and the development of, and interaction between, societies in the course of the regional history.