AIA Lecture: “New Discoveries from the Empire’s Edge: Investigations of the Assyrian period Occupation at Bestansur, Iraqi Kurdistan” (Lisa Cooper)

Speaker: Dr. Lisa Cooper, CNERS, UBC

This lecture presents the results of investigations at the site of Bestansur, located in the fertile, well-watered Shahrizor Plain of the Sulaymaniyah Province of Iraqi Kurdistan, well in view of the rugged, snow-capped Zagros Mountains to the north-east. Bestansur was a favoured locale for early sedentary societies as attested by its extensive early Neolithic occupation which has now yielded considerable evidence for varied subsistence strategies and complex funerary behaviour dating back as early as the 8th millennium BCE. The site also has occupation from the late 7th century BCE, during which the region around Bestansur had been conquered by the Neo-Assyrians and turned into one of its imperial provinces. It is this Assyrian phase that a UBC team has been endeavouring to uncover and understand through excavations in a large trench about 35 metres southeast of the central mounded tell. With the capable assistance of a sizeable force of Kurdish workers from the village of Bestansur, the team has been able to expose several domestic units separated from one another by alleyways and open areas, some paved with pebbles. Knowing from textual sources that the region in which Bestansur was located comprised a mixed population of Assyrians, deported persons from southern Iraq and local inhabitants, our investigations are using a variety of analyses of archaeological data, including studies of pottery, foodways and the built environment, to elucidate the social-cultural identities of the site’s Assyrian period inhabitants and to gain some sense of how the Assyrians controlled this distant province on the edge of its vast empire.