BIPS Travel Grant Report
Published on July 30, 2019
Written by Maria Rabbani

INVESTIGATING HUMAN-ENVIRONMENTAL INTERACTIONS IN THE ZAGROS REGION (SOUTHWEST ASIA) DURING THE LATE GLACIAL, AND EARLY TO MID- HOLOCENE PERIOD

The travel grant offered by the British Institute of Persian Studies was used in July 2019 to attend the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) conference in Dublin, Ireland. I am currently in my third year of PhD, working on reconstructing the environmental history of Hashilan wetland (Iran) and Lake Ganau (Iraq) during the Late Glacial, and Early to Mid-Holocene period (13,000-5000 cal BP).

This three-year research project is being carried out in collaboration with the ‘Central Zagros Archaeological Project’ (CZAP) [a joint UK-Iran-Iraq research project], and an international project funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) involving teams from the Universities of Sulaymaniyah (Iraq), Heidelberg (Germany) and Munich (Germany) and the directorate of Antiquities in Sulaymaniyah. The aim of this research is to reconstruct the environmental history of the Zagros region during the Late Glacial and Early to Mid- Holocene (13,000-5000 cal BP). In each study region, sediment core sequences from lakes and mires have been sampled for high-resolution multi-proxy palaeoenvironmental analysis, including pollen, microscopic charcoal, non-pollen palynomorphs, and organic matter, magnetic susceptibility and geochemical analyses (ITRAX). The objectives are: (1) to evaluate the impact of human activities on the landscape and environment, especially periods of cultivation and/or animal husbandry through integration of palaeoenvironmental and archaeological records. This will enable us to improve understanding of the role farming communities had in driving patterns of vegetation and broader environmental change; (2) to assess the impact of climate change on vegetation succession and the agricultural system, and the resilience of human communities and ecosystems to climate change e.g. Oak (Quercus) woodland expansion in the region.

Attending the INQUA conference, through BIPS travel grant, allowed me to present my preliminary palaeoenvironmental results and interpretation for both of my study sites. As this was the first time I presented my research in the form of a talk at a conference it helped me improve my presentation skills, receive constructive feedback and comments on my research. Furthermore, by attending this conference I was able to network with other academics who work in the same region as I am, discuss my research data, and get my research across to a wider audience.

The opportunity to present my data at the ‘International Union for Quaternary Research’ conference helped me to validate my research methodology and objectives in that there was agreement in the direction of travel and gaps being addressed. This in turn gave me the confidence to continue to pursue my PhD research project with vigour and have subsequently made considerable progress due to the feedback provided and networks formed.  Therefore, I am grateful to the British Institute of Persian Studies for providing me the travel grant.

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