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Najaf Sea Palaeoshorelines, Western Iraq


Wednesday, February 24, 2021 @ 6:00 pm-8:00 pm

Najaf Sea Palaeoshorelines in Western Iraq

This talk presents the context and importance of the Najaf Sea; shell and heavy mineral analyses and optically-stimulated luminescence dating results.

By Ali Khadr

Investigation of palaeolake deposits in arid regions is important for determining the palaeohydrological conditions that imposed controls on human communities throughout antiquity. This is particularly important in Iraq where many early civilisations were located. Resolving this debate is critical because freshwater availability would have been vital for local populations and the development of agriculture in the early to mid Holocene. Ephemeral lakes in Iraq have the potential to make a useful contribution to these debates by providing data for the north of the Arabian Peninsula.

Between the Mesopotamian floodplain in the centre of Iraq and the western desert on the western border are a series of north-west to south-east aligned depositional basins which currently contain ephemeral lakes of varying sizes (Habaniyah, Razazza, Najaf, Sawa). These follow the line of the Abu-Jir-Euphrates fault zone and are fed by a series of wadis aligned across the desert from the southwest. Prior to the tectonic uplift that created these depressions, these wadis fed large fans. Whilst there is evidence of prehistoric cave dwelling in the natural caves formed in the Injana Formation that underlies the fan deposits, there is no direct age control on the fan deposits or the initial formation of these basins. It is therefore not known when these depressions began to fill with water and whether lake volumes have been greater in the past. The Najaf Sea has in recent memory been completely dry (1980s, satellite images). To the east of Najaf Sea, detailed investigation and radiocarbon dating of palaeochannels of the Euphrates has shown that the Euphrates river flowed close to this depression from 125 BC to 1258 AD (Jotheri et al., 2016).

In this project we aimed to date previous extents of the Najaf Sea, shown in paleoshorelines. This talk will present the context and importance of the Najaf Sea, fieldwork results from September 2019, shell and heavy mineral analyses and optically-stimulated luminescence dating results. We have recently been awarded NERC funds for radiocarbon analyses from the samples and also plan phytolith analysis.

Dr Becky Briant

Dr Becky Briant is a Reader in Quaternary Science at the Department of Geography, Birkbeck, University of London. She has a BA in Geography from the University of Cambridge (1993-1996) and an MSc in Quaternary Science from Royal Holloway, University of London (1997-98). She has been working on understanding Quaternary landscapes since her PhD in 1998-2002, focussing mainly on river and coastal deposits in the United Kingdom, improving radiocarbon dating pretreatments at the limits of the technique (Briant and Bateman, 2009; Briant et al., 2018a), undertaking large-scale optically-stimulated luminescence dating on river deposits (Briant et al., 2006, 2009, 2012) and working with numerical modellers to understand landscape processes (Briant et al., 2018b,c). Becky has worked with Palaeolithic archaeologists for many years to understand the timing and deposition of the sediments within which artefacts are found (Bates et al., 2007, 2010). Her interest in Iraqi landscapes began in 2017 whilst hosting Dr Ismael Al-Ameri for a year’s study visit working on records from the Mesopotamian marshes (Al-Ameri and Briant, 2019).

Dr Jaafar Jotheri

Jaafar Jotheri holds a PhD in Geoarchaeology from Durham University, he has over 15 years of experience in conducting archaeological excavations and surveys in Iraq focusing on the landscape of ancient Iraq and the ancient paths of rivers and canals that flowed through the lands in the past. Jaafar has more than 15 articles published in worldwide prestigious journals.

Jaafar is currently an Assistant Professor and Vice-Dean in the Faculty of Archaeology at the University of Al-Qadisiyah, Iraq, where he teaches and supervises both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

He has cooperated with several international universities conducting archaeological and historical projects in Iraq, including University College London, Manchester University, Durham University, Sapienza University of Rome, and Tokushima University. Jaafar has recieved funding from several international organisations, such as the British Institute for the Study of Iraq (London), the Nahrain Network (London), the Academic Research Institute in Iraq (USA), and the British Academy (London).

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

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@ 6:00 pm-8:00 pm


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, Virtual 



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