Photo © Alexei Jankowski-Diakonoff 2017

Recent geomorphological and palaeoclimatologic research shows that irrigational agriculture was not an absolute condition for settlement of Southern Mesopotamia starting from the 11th millennium BCE. Between the 6th and the 4th millenia BCE, a marine transgression took place. As a result, the entire territory from Tell Oueilli and Eridu up to Nippur became a wetland ecosystem, with Tell Oueilli, Ur and Eridu being not far from the outer delta edge. With this “Ubaidian transgression” coming to an end and reversed, accompanied by a further aridisation, the inhabitants of the Southern alluvium had to rely more on the levee agriculture, while still continuing to take advantage from the wetland resources and from the seasonal marshland pastures. The reasons which led to the creation and collapse of social complexity, urban society and state in Southern Mesopotamia invite a study in the light of deltaic processes supported by modern ethnographic data. Several international collaborations are planning or already conducting a study of the Mesopotamian Marshes for similar reasons, but with different approaches. Ours is to first acquire a better understanding of the current situation of the Marshland, its modern and ancient hydrology and its inhabitants, humans and animals as well. The Institute of Oriental Studies of Moscow will send two dialectologists to study the language processes in different communities of the Marshes, and the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (St. Petersburg) is going to send a team of ornithologists and entomologists.

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