After an absence of over two decades, foreign archaeology has returned in earnest to one of the “cradles of civilization” in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Two wars, international sanctions, and internal unrest had together brought archaeological research nearly to a standstill; only a few under-funded Iraqi teams and a handful of intrepid Europeans attempted fieldwork following the first Gulf War of 1991. Following a decline in political violence that began in 2008, archaeologists have returned to the Republic of Iraq. The resumption of fieldwork in the southern “heartland of cities” has been significant but slow, and hampered by internal politics. In the autonomous Kurdistan Region, however, foreign research has expanded rapidly and continuously, in partnership with local archaeologists and institutes. This essay reviews these new developments, discusses how the new discoveries are challenging long-held ideas and filling blank spaces on the archaeological map, and suggests some new directions for the future of Mesopotamian studies.
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