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Revisiting the Sealands: Report of Preliminary Ground Reconnaissance in the Hammar District, Dhi Qar and Basra Governorates, Iraq1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 April 2014

Carrie Hritz
Department of Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University, 516 Carpenter Building, University Park, PA 16802-3405,
Jennifer Pournelle
University of South Carolina, Environment and Sustainability Program, School of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, Byrnes Building, Suite 430 A, 901 Sumter Street, Columbia, SC 29208,
Jennifer Smith
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis, Campus Box 1169, 1 Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO. 63130,


The flourit of early Sumerian civilization in southern Iraq marked a degree of economic differentiation, sociopolitical complexity, and urbanization previously unseen in the ancient world. This article reports the results of recent geo-archaeological investigation of three complementary resources in southern Mesopotamia that are thought to have offered an ecological advantage, thus laying the economic foundations for these developments: (1) expansive irrigable plains; (2) vast pasture lands; and (3) the littoral resources of levee back swamps/deltaic marshes. Focusing on the area of the Hawr al-Hammar marshes, the authors conducted preliminary archaeological, geological and landscape investigation over the course of 18 days in the autumn of 2010, funded by a U.S. National Science Foundation High Risk Research in Physical Anthropology and Archaeology grant.

Research Article
Copyright © The British Institute for the Study of Iraq 2012

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Conducted September 11–22,2010 under NSF-HRRPAA Award # 1045974, with permission from the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), and the Iraq Ministries of Culture, Interior, and Tourism. We are especially grateful to: SBAH Director Quais Hussein Rasheed and SBAH representatives from Dhi Qar and Nasiriya for their support; Sheikh 'Ali ibn Muhammed al-Ghizi and Dhaif Muhsen Al-Ghizi, Site Curator of Ur, for their hospitality, support, and guidance; and to the Iraq Ministry of the Interior for providing police escorts within each governorate and city district.


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