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Persia and its Neighbours: the Archaeology of Late Antique Imperial Power in Iran

Objective

The Sasanian Empire (3rd-7th c. AD) stretched from Mesopotamia to the west of the Indian Subcontinent. A pilot study has shown that major frontier walls and geometrical fortifications, whose scale and sophistication surpasses those in contemporary Europe, date to the Sasanian era, as do grand urban foundations and canal systems. Yet, excavations and surveys of Sasanian monuments have been far and few between and have mostly employed conventional approaches. Publications amount to a fraction of those on Roman studies.
Our interdisciplinary project will provide unique insights into one of the great powers of the age, but the one that is most poorly understood. It will achieve this by bringing together a broad range of complementary methods. Satellite images will be analysed to examine the Empire’s frontier zones. Key sites will be selected for geophysical survey, targeted excavation, scientific dating and systematic analysis of artefacts, faunal and botanical remains. Combining large-scale survey with small-scale case studies promises to provide unrivalled insights into military infrastructure, urbanisation and rural settlement – intertwined phenomena, as agricultural surplus production enabled large-scale construction projects. Our in-depth study of Sasanian frontier territories promises to fill a major gap in our understanding of Late Antiquity and shed light on the reasons behind the longevity, economic and military dominance and dynamism of one of the largest empires of the ancient world, far beyond what has been achieved so far.
The Empire’s capabilities challenge our traditional Eurocentric approach. While it is acknowledged that the later Caliphate’s military power and urban culture were unrivalled in Western Europe at the time, our project promises to show that some of these advances have their roots in the pre-Islamic era. Our project will open up new fields of research, and will have a major impact on archaeological studies and ancient and medieval history.

Call for proposal

ERC-2011-ADG_20110406
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-AG - ERC Advanced Grant

Host institution

THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
Address
Old College, South Bridge
EH8 9YL Edinburgh
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 1 378 844,11
Principal investigator
Eberhard Wolfram Sauer (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Alan Kennedy (Mr.)

Beneficiaries (6)

THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 1 378 844,11
Address
Old College, South Bridge
EH8 9YL Edinburgh
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Eberhard Wolfram Sauer (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Alan Kennedy (Mr.)
THE UNIVERSITY COURT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 25 323,60
Address
North Street 66 College Gate
KY16 9AJ St Andrews
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Trish Starrs (Ms.)
CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS
France
EU contribution
€ 44 367,22
Address
Rue Michel Ange 3
75794 Paris
Activity type
Other
Administrative Contact
Brice Kerber (Mr.)
UNIVERSITY OF DURHAM
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 858 456,07
Address
Stockton Road The Palatine Centre
DH1 3LE Durham
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Wendy Harle (Ms.)
UNIVERSITY OF BRADFORD
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 58 812
Address
Richmond Road
BD7 1DP Bradford
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Sheila Fry (Ms.)
UNIVERSITE D'AIX MARSEILLE
France
EU contribution
€ 122 200
Address
Boulevard Charles Livon 58
13284 Marseille
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Magali Niox (Ms.)