Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On the eve of Halloween, Flagler College received a special treat from the St. Augustine Archaeological Association. In conjunction with their bi-monthly meeting and co-sponsored by FPAN, we hosted a guest lecture from Dr. Jason Ur, Harvard’s youngest assistant professor.

With the Flagler Room as the back drop, Dr. Ur’s topic for the evening was based around archaeological evidence of Urbanization in Mesopotamia. Focusing on the fieldwork conducted by Dr. Ur and his colleagues in the North East region of Syria, the audience enjoyed slides from excavations and intensive surface surveys. An added thrill was his use of
Google earth to demonstrate just how easy it is to see the area of Mesopotamian Urbanization from a bird’s eye view.

Tell Brak, the area where Dr. Ur bases his current research, has gone through several stages of growth and reduction spanning over at least 12,000 years. Over this period of time, the urban settlement Nagar (Brak’s ancient name) ranged in size from roughly 136 acres to 321 acres. From the image provided by Google earth, it is easy to see that there was a centralized urban area with suburban communities located along the outskirts. Interest
ingly, the original center of the urbanized area is far beneath the ground due it being buried by a number of later occupations. One of the most interesting points of Dr. Ur’s presentation was the method in which his team gathered artifacts. Since the site was used by people for such a long time, along with the large number of people living there, artifacts are actually present on the surface of the ground. The team of archaeologists did not have to look hard and were able to collect thousands of pottery sherds. Dr. Ur explained that another reason why it is easy to find artifacts in this region is because of the environment. Syria is a very dry area, which means no water to create mud or vegetation which would cover up the artifacts.

In Dr. Ur’s closing, he was ecstatic to see the turn out of the lecture. A whopping 80 attendees were on hand hailing from Flagler College, the SAAA, FPAN, and the general public. He also promised a future visit and presentation on the urbanization of St. Augustine in the months to come. As a side note, Dr. Ur credits his parents for his interest in archaeology. Dr. Ur’s mother, Lynn Ur, volunteers on a regular basis with Carl Halbirt, St. Augustine’s city archaeologist.

--Rosalie Cocci

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