2005 US Fellows

Dr. Mark Altaweel, Argonne National Laboratory
“Development of Ancient Settlements in Northern Iraq”

This project focuses on studying the material culture of seventy-three sites excavated by Iraqi archaeologists in northern Iraq in the 1980s and 1990s. The occupation history of these sites ranges from the early prehistoric periods (prior to 6000 B.C.) to the early Ottoman period (sixteenth century A.D.). Preliminary results already have been extremely helpful in providing a better understanding of Iraqi history. Some of the results include: a large second millennium B.C. palace or temple, a well-preserved Islamic khan, a large Roman or Parthian fortress, an Ashur-style grave structure, and several sites with southern Mesopotamian Akkadian remains. The ceramics, photographs, small finds, architectural drawings, site plans, and section drawings still need to be fully analyzed and reworked for publication; however, a preliminary publication will be written soon and submitted to the journal Iraq. An Iraqi colleague also plans on submitting a preliminary report in Arabic to an Iraqi publication. This project is the first joint Iraqi-American project that utilizes remote sensing and GIS technologies to study previously excavated sites in addition to being one of the first joint Iraqi-American archaeological projects since the first Gulf War. Hopefully, over 500 sites surveyed in northern Iraq will be examined in the next phase of this project.

Dr. Mariana Giovino, Independent Scholar
“Publication Preparation of Interpretations of the Assyrian Sacred Tree: 1894–2004”

This project transformed Giovino’s dissertation, “Interpretations of the ‘Assyrian Sacred Tree,’ 1849–2004,” into a camera-ready copy for publication. This project was accepted for publication by the series Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis at the Fribourg Academic Press. This study presented the vast secondary literature of the Assyrian sacred tree, which spanned over 150 years, and used iconographic analysis to challenge many of the pre-existing interpretations. This type of approach allowed her to disentangle evidence. During this past year, outside reviews and comments were incorporated into the manuscript. Photographs and copyright permissions were obtained from various museums. Further, she revised the third chapter after acquiring additional United Nations publications. A professional editor who specializes in text and image for- matting of ancient Near Eastern art and archaeology manuscripts prepared the text for publication. The manuscript will be submitted for publication this summer and will be published by the end of 2006.

Ms. Bridget Guarasci, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
“Eden Again: The Technologies of Nostalgia and Reconstruction in Iraq’s Marshes”

This project explores the current effort to restore the southern marshlands of Iraq. This initiative represents a multi-million dollar global humanitarian project mandated with recreating an Edenic paradise from the ruins of the wetlands drained by Saddam Hussein following the 1991 Shi'a uprising. The United Nations, a host of NGOs, and a number of states argue that the marshes must be restored to repatriate Marsh Arabs now living as refugees in Iran, who desperately long to return. Yet, media reports indicate that Marsh Arab refugees do not want to go back to the marshes. This projects investigates the central question: If Marsh Arabs do not want to return, for whom are the marshes being restored and for what purpose? Research suggests that efforts to revive the area do not stem primarily from a concern for the welfare of Marsh Arabs, but instead may be designed to promote international investments and nationalist agendas. This research project considers what the restoration of the marshes reveals about the reconstruction of Iraq in general and the struggle to define the future of the nation.

Ms. Yasmeen Hanoosh, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
“Chaldeans between Iraq and America: Shifting Spaces of a Christian Minority’s Discourse”

This project aimed to expand a previously written research paper on the Chaldeans of Iraq and the U.S. into a publishable monograph of approximately 150 pages. An overview of this Christian minority’s social and political status during Ottoman rule and after the formation of the nation-state of Iraq is provided. Hanoosh also examines interactions between Iraqi governments and the Chaldean community during the twentieth century, com- pares their status with that of other ethnic minorities in Iraq — particularly their Assyrian counterpart — and examines the different waves of Chaldean migration to the U.S. since their outset in the early stages of the last century and up to the present day. The main chapters of the book center upon configurations of Chaldean transnational identities, affiliations, and patterns of social remittance practiced between the native homeland and the U.S. These transnational trends are assessed through an examination of discourses performed by and on Chaldeans, both in Iraqi and Western literatures.

Ms. Lisa Lital Levy, University of California, Berkeley
“Jewish Writers in Iraq, 1870–1950”

During a trip to Tel Aviv between May 28 and June 10, Levy interviewed elderly Iraqi Jewish writers who had published in Baghdad in the 1920s–1950s. In the case of deceased writers, close family members were interviewed. Among those interviewed were the journalist Murad al-'Imari; the poet Ibrahim 'Obadia; Blanche Lev and Tsvi Lev, wife and brother of the short-story writer and poet Ya'qub Bilbul; Norma (Nuriyya) Bar-Moshe, wife of writer Yitshak Bar Moshe; and Kamal Shina, the son of Salman Shina. Shina, with the participation of the famous Iraqi Jewish writer Anwar Shaul, founded the journal al-Misbah, which appeared inBaghdad in the 1920s. Additionally, the well-known novelist Eli Amir was inter- viewed about his uncle Meir Mu'allim, a writer and the editor of the short-lived al-Barid al-Yawmi (Baghdad, 1948). By phone, Levy also interviewed writer Nir Shohet. For information concerning the Baghdadi Jewish poet and scholar Dahud Semah, the archives of the Babylonian Jewish Heritage Center in Or Yehuda were consulted. The interviews and archival work contribute directly to Levy’s dissertation project, “A Forgotten Enlightenment: Jewish Writers in the Arab East,” which investigates the work of Jewish writers in Iraq and Egypt between 1865 and 1935. Post-doctoral revisions plan to extend the scope of this research to 1950.

Mr. John Nielsen, University of Chicago
“A Comprehensive Editing of All Babylonian Economic Tablets Dated from 747 to 626 B.C. Located in Collections in Great Britain”

From September 1 to December 15, 2005, Nielsen examined Neo-Babylonian legal and administrative tablets dating from 747 to 626 B.C. in British collections. Most of the relevant tablets are in the possession of the British Museum, but he also looked at tablets in the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh, the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro, and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. In addition to collating published tab- lets, he has been preparing copies of unpublished tablets and making notes on their contents. This research is be- ing carried out in support of his dissertation, a study of Neo-Babylonian kin groups prior to the accession of Nabopolassar. Further, it has already proved useful for making corrections and additions to the personal name index that was prepared using published material and notes compiled by J. A. Brinkman, D. Kennedy, and G. Frame.

Professor Neal Walls, Wake Forest University
“Reading Gilgamesh: A Critical Introduction to the Epic of Gilgamesh”

The goal of this project is to produce a critical introduction and literary analysis of the Standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh that mediates between specialists in the cuneiform literature of ancient Iraq and the modern, educated reading public. A masterpiece in any age, the twelve-tablet Epic of Gilgamesh is the world’s earliest surviving epic poem of substantial length (ca. 3,100 lines) and a classic of world literature. Yet, there is not a single, book-length critical introduction to the interpretation of this ancient Babylonian poem printed in English. What is sorely needed is a close reading and nuanced appreciation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, led by a knowledgeable guide who will point out the epic’s central themes, symbolism, and literary charms for a general audience. Therefore, this project will remedy this shortcoming in a book contracted with the Harvard University Press. Indeed, the Epic of Gilgamesh should take its rightful place among other heroic poems that have received renewed public attention as post- modern readers return to the wisdom and beauty of pre-modern literature.

These fellowships are funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs through a sub-grant from the Council of American Overseas Research Centers.