Current Excavations

Season 2: 2021

The second season of archaeological research at Tell al-Hiba (ancient Lagash) took place over the months of October and November 2021. The team undertook geoarchaeological sampling and aerial survey to complement work begun in 2019.

In addition to our work at Lagash, we employed similar methods at the archaeological site of Ur, as part of the Penn Museum’s new permit for Tell Muqayyer, directed by Dr. Steve Tinney.

We look forward to reporting on our results once all datasets have been analyzed. Stay tuned!


Rotary Drill

We shipped a customized rotary drill to our colleagues at Almaaqal University in Basra ahead of our arrival. This drill can reach a depth of 130 meters and is shared with our Iraqi colleagues in geology for training and data acquisition.

Drill Arrival

The drill was assembled just to the west of Tell al-Hiba and setup in a low-lying depression in an area that is seasonal marsh.

Geoarchaeological Coring

A combination of rotary and percussion drilling was used to extract geoarchaeological sediment cores for high-resolution analysis of paleoenvironmental change.

Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction at Lagash

We recovered finely laminated cores for high-resolution reconstruction of interannual environmental change across the entirety of the Holocene.

Percussion Drill

Percussion drilling under the direction of PhD student Khaleel Alsoudani enabled us to expand lateral coverage of sample locations once we established the depth of the Holocene with the rotary drill.

Paleoenvironmental Research at Ur

We also located a deep core in a low-lying location just to the north of Ur.

Other Methods and Projects

Aerial Photography and Mapping

Dr. Paul Zimmerman flew a Phantom 4 RTK UAV with centimeter-level horizontal and vertical accuracy to create a high-resolution topographic map. He also photographed architectural traces and across the site’s surface and is currently working with Marc Marin to illustrate the findings and prepare for ground-truthing in fall 2021.

Walking Survey

Dr. Zaid al-Rawi took advantage of the unusually low output of local river system and directed a walking survey of the low mounds just to the east of Tell al-Hiba.

Cultural Resource Management at Ur

Part of the Penn Museum’s mission at Ur is to preserve and restore ancient architecture. 3D models of various buildings and features were generated under consultation with Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage for planning purposes.

New Applications in Absolute Dating

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has developed a new methodology of radiometric dating that eliminates contamination of organic content in highly-mixed matrices (such as alluvium). The Lagash Archaeological Project is using this method to correct and expand the absolute dating of archaeological contexts throughout southern Mesopotamia but is demonstrating the method first at the sites of Lagash and Ur through the study of exposed sections.