Monday, February 17, 2020

Ancient Near Eastern Agriculture: Insights Gained from Archaeobotany

Speaker: Melissa S. Rosenzweig, PhD

February 23, 2020 • 3:00pm

Dr. Melissa Rosenzweig, Northwestern University Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology, will be our presenter at the February 23 meeting.

Her talk will address her area of methodological expertise – archaeobotany, and its application in the field of Near Eastern archaeology.

Archaeobotany is the study of human interactions with plants in the past. This scientific approach provides information on a range of topics, from human diet to agricultural production practices, to environmental reconstructions. 

For archaeologists of the ancient Near East, archaeobotany has been critical to understanding the origins of agriculture, the rise of cities and states, and the development of large scale crop irrigation. 
Dr. Rosenzweig’s work has focused on examining the intersections of agriculture and empire, and in particular the ways in which the Neo-Assyrian empire of northern Iraq (ca. 900 – 600 BCE) manipulated agriculture in its quest to pull off the largest territorial expansion the world had ever seen in the first millennium BCE. 

In her talk, she will review some of the archaeobotanical studies that she has conducted, and explain how data on plants can be used to understand imperial politics.
Dr. Rosenzweig is an anthropological archaeologist specializing in environmental archaeology of the ancient Near East.  Her research incorporates regional specialization in northern Mesopotamia and the Levant, methodological expertise in archaeobotany, and theoretical specialization in human-environment interactions.

Through her research on the ancient Mesopotamian empire of Neo-Assyria (ca. 900 – 600 BCE), one of the world’s earliest and largest imperial projects, she brings a focus on relationships of power and inequality embedded in agrarian lifeways.  Political ecology informs her archaeological analysis of the ways in which agricultural practices shape political subjectivities, foment imperial ideologies, underwrite colonial acts, and facilitate subaltern resistance. 

Dr. Rosenzweig received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2014.  She was an NEH fellow at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research for 2014-15.  From 2015 to 2018 she was an Assistant Professor of Archaeology in the Departments of Anthropology and Classics at Miami University in Ohio.

Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the American Research Institute in Turkey, the American Schools of Oriental Research, the National Geographic Society, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Her current fieldwork projects take place in Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan.

Her current book project, Under Assyria’s Green Thumb, is a multi-sited comparative study of cultivation practices at Neo-Assyrian settlements distributed throughout the empire.  Working from the position that land use practices always have political inflections, she analyzes macrobotanical remains recovered from several Neo-Assyrian sites for signs of imperial agrarian investment, environmental destruction or abandonment, and subject autonomy to discern the myriad entanglements of empire and agriculture.

Her teaching includes courses on Archaeological Theory and Method, Archaeology of Power, Old World Archaeology, Political Ecology, Environmental Justice and Environmental Anthropology.
CAS members invite the public to join us at 3:00pm for a social period and the talk at 3:30pm. 

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