Cultures of Europe and the Near East: Research

The Anthropology Department at The Field Museum has had a long history of fieldwork in Europe and the Near East. From Henry Field’s excavations at the ancient Mesopotamian city of Kish to James Philips’ field work in Egypt, to William Parkinson’s current research in Hungary and the Balkans, Field Museum researchers have been studying how human communities grow and become more politically and economically complex over time.

The Kish Project, Mesopotamia, 1923-1933

In 1921, Stephen Langdon of Oxford University wrote to Berthold Laufer, then Chief Curator of the Anthropology Department of The Field Museum, to propose a joint Mesopotamian expedition. Laufer expressed The Field Museum’s interest, and in 1921-22 the expedition’s eventual chief financier, Mr. H. Weld-Blundell, conducted a survey of important sites in Mesopotamia, settling on Kish as the site holding the most interest and archaeological potential. In March of 1923, Mr. Ernest Mackay, protégé of the famed archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie, began the first season of excavations of the Joint Oxford-Field Museum expedition to Kish. Excavations continued during the winter months of the next ten years, from 1923-33, under the absentee direction of Stephen Langdon who, although serving as the director of the project, visited the excavations only twice, in 1924 and 1926. Mackay served as field director through the 1925-26 season, after which Mr. Louis Charles Watelin became field director. Watelin served as field director for the remainder of the project.

The Kish Project,2004-2006

The Diros Project, Greece

The Diros Project is an international, multi-disciplinary, Greek-American research project that addresses anthropological and archaeological questions that explores human social dynamics on the Mani Peninsula of southern Greece. Specificallly, we seek to examine the role of Alepotrypa Cave in the Mani Peninsula within long-term processes of cultural change associated with the European Neolithic, during which time agriculture lifestyles were introduced and people gathered in larger, more complex settlements. In particular, we seek to learn to what extent the Mani’s unique Neolithic trajectory – ranging from closed to open systems of engagement – and its remote geographic location – at the southernmost tip of the European continent – influenced the degree to which the region was integrated through time into different social, political, and economic interaction spheres. During the Neolithic the Mani Peninsula occupied an intriguing role in interactions between the Greek mainland, the Greek islands, and the greater Mediterranean region, but the nature of these interactions has not been examined from an anthropological, as opposed to a historical, perspective.

The Körös Regional Archaeological Project, Hungary

The Körös Regional Archaeological Project is a multidisciplinary, collaborative, research project directed by William A. Parkinson, of the Department of Anthropology, The Field Museum, and Attila Gyucha of the Field Service of Cultural Heritage, Hungary. Richard W. Yerkes of the Department of Anthropology, Ohio State University is field director, and co-director of the Körös Regional Archaeological Project Field School. The project brings together an international team of geophysists, geologists, geographers, botanists, and other specialists to understand the various social changes that occurred in the Körös River Valley on the Great Hungarian Plain nearly 6,500 years ago, during the time when metals first began to be extensively exploited in the nearby Balkan and Carpathian mountains. This time period - the transition from the Neolithic to the Copper Age - is a time marked by significant social transformations in the organization of households and settlements throughout the Great Hungarian Plain. Unfortunately, our current anthropological understanding of these social changes has been clouded by a lack of research into settlements dating to the Copper Age. Over the last decade, the Körös Regional Archaeological Project has been conducting systematic research into the organization of Copper Age settlements near the town of Vésztõ in southeastern Hungary. As a result of our research, the economic and political organization of Copper Age societies is gradually becoming better understood, allowing us to understand the nature of the changes that characterize the end of the Neolithic in the region. This, in turn, allows us to model the dynamic social processes that occur within 'tribal' societies more generally.