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Reconstructing the Rural Landscape of the Ancient Near East

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image of Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

The reconstruction of ancient Near Eastern history has mainly concentrated on urban (and especially palace) environments, leaving the rural landscape outside these analyses. Recent advances in archaeological and palaeobotanical fields greatly help in the recovery of the general outlines of rural exploitation in Mesopotamia and the surrounding regions; yet they cannot but miss the details of the individual exploitation units (fields and orchards), whose size and shape can be reconstructed on the basis of textual data such as cadastral texts (and other administrative recordings) and legal texts (related to the transfer of landed properties). Continuing the author's earlier work on the shape of fields in Ur III (ca. 2100-2000 B.C.), based on cadastral documents from Lagash province in lower Mesopotamia, this article examines, by way of ‘gross’ generalization and occasional exemplification, the entire history of the Mesopotamian landscape from the first administrative landscape in “late-Uruk” documents (ca. 3000 B.C.), down to the Neo-Babylonian documents of the Archaemenid period (ca. 500 B.C.).

Affiliations: 1: Roma


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