Skip to main content

Villages to Empire: 4000 Years of Death and Society in Elam (4500-525 BCE)


ELAMortuary is an innovative multidisciplinary project combining archaeology, philology and social theory with digital technology to map long timescale social change in the ancient Near Eastern civilisation of Elam through the lens of its mortuary record. It capitalises on a rare opportunity to track developments across pivotal moments in human history through an uninterrupted sequence of mortuary evidence from small village communities (ca. 4500 BCE) to the rise of the Persian Empire (ca. 525 BCE) at a single site, the gargantuan settlement mound of Susa on the Susiana plain, which flanked lower Mesopotamia—the so-called “Cradle of Civilisation”. Its inhabitants travelled along a similar general trajectory to their Mesopotamian neighbours, from villages, to cities, to states, to empires. The project prioritises a longue durée historical view that seeks long-term patterns in societies and it re-evaluates, through a theoretical interrogation of mortuary data, the validity of the still-dominant linear model of social evolution in ancient southwest Iran.

In ELAMortuary praxis, theory, acquisition of skills through advanced training, and a strong partnership come together in a high impact project that will generate an open access database with a new set of archaeological and textual data, and a model for analysing it. This timely new approach to archaeological research is now conceivable thanks to the availability of a rich corpus of data, the digital tools to analyse it, and a solid support network of European researchers. ELAMortuary will deliver a body of new evidence that can be exploited by other researchers of ancient Iran and neighbouring regions of the Near East, and it will present a method and case study for assessing long-scale social change through mortuary evidence to the broader archaeological community. Related disciplines and general audiences will benefit from a new contribution to the knowledge base on past human behaviour around death.

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Via Chiatamone 61/62
80121 Naples
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 171 473,28