ARCH 0680
Water, Culture, & Power

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World
Brown University ~ Spring 2012


Meets Mon-Wed-Fri 11:00-11:50 am, in Rhode Island Hall 108

A course with Ömür Harmanşah
Assistant Professor of Archaeology and Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies
Ömür’s Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 4-5 pm
Office: Rhode Island Hall Room 102.

Teaching Assistant: Sarah Craft,
PhD Candidate, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World.
Sarah’s Office Hours: TBA
Office: Rhode Island Hall.

Course Description

Water is the source of life. In the midst of a global climate change, environmental crises for water resources and the political debates over water, we have come to the full realization of our complete dependence on water. This course investigates our long term attachment and engagement with water using archaeology, environmental history, visual, literary and historical sources. The cultural and political aspects of water around springs, rivers, lakes, marshes, and living by the sea are explored from the Last Ice Age to late antiquity. Human societies small or large tended to live close to water, near marshes, springs or lakes and made wise use of water resources using a variety of different technologies. We will explore water management in ancient cities of the Near East and classical antiquity in the Mediterranean.

Course Objectives

The primary objective of this course is to introduce students critical reading and writing skills and analytical thinking, through lectures, as well as reading and writing exercises. The second objective is to introduce students the politics and culture of water from a cross-disciplinary perspective. This is a largely lecture based course. Monday and Wednesday sessions are going to be fully dedicated to lectures supported by powerpoint presentations while Fridays will be reserved for discussion.

The course wiki and blog
Joukowsky Institute courses use wiki platforms as course website and a wiki has been created for our course. The wiki will be used for posting readings, and powerpoint presentations. You will need a password to download readings and contribute to the wiki (contact Omur). Please familiarize yourself with the course wiki soon and check it weekly for updates.

The course also has a blog, to which we hope you will all contribute. The blog is the place which you should check for announcements, and you will be encouraged to share materials that you see relevant to the class discussions. There will be weekly formal postings on the blog, and you will be expected to post responses to them. Every student must complete at least 3 responses by the end of the semester. The responses should not be shorter than 200 words.

Course Format and Requirements

Monday lectures will provide a broad perspective on the weekly theme and historical/cultural context, while Wednesday lectures will focus on specific case studies. On Fridays, a summary of the two lectures will be presented at the beginning of class and then the floor will be opened to discussion and questions on the weekly issues based on lectures and the readings. Students are responsible to do the weekly readings in a timely manner and participate in class discussions on Fridays. There will be a midterm and a final exam that will involve writing short essays on topics that were discussed in class.

There will be one writing assignment that involves researching and writing about a water feature (such as the Hurricane Dam, Mashapaug Pond) or a water related event (such as Waterfire) in Providence. This is a 3-5 page creative paper, supported by visuals. All relevant deadlines are listed below and in the weekly schedule.

Students are expected to keep an eye on the weekly entries on the course blog (to be regularly posted mid-week by Ömür or Sarah) and they are expected to contribute to the blog as much as possible by posting responses or comments.

Grading will be based on:
20 % General participation, attendance and blog contributions
20 % Short paper/project (max. 1000 words, on Providence and water, due date Feb 22, to be posted on the course blog)
25 % Midterm (Take-home: 2 short essays on given topics/questions, open book and notes. Date: To be distributed March 9 and due March 12, 5 pm)
35 % Final exam (Take-home, 3 essays on given topics/questions. To be distributed on May 15 by 5 pm and the essays will be due on May 18, hard copy at 5 pm)

Weekly Schedule

Week 1: Jan 25-27. Introduction. Politics and Poetics of Water!
Introduction: scope of the course, methods, overview. Towards a cultural biography and cultural poetics of water in deep history.

  • Bachelard, G.; 1999. “Clearing waters, springtime waters, and running waters: the objective conditions for narcissism,” in Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter. Dallas Institute Publications, 19-43.
  • Illich, Ivan; 1985. H20 and the waters of forgetfulness. Dallas Institute Publications, 24-38.

Week 2: Jan 30-Feb 3. Wet and fluid landscapes: The environments of water
Water is a vital component of the environment, and it manifests itself in a variety of ways in the landscapes around us, in rivers and streams, ponds and lakes, swamps, marshes, bogs, and wetlands, seas and oceans, in springs, caves, and sinkholes. This week we will explore the variety of geographies and landscapes of water in which we are immersed, and how communities relate themselves to these landscapes of water. The discussion will bring notions of landscape and place in relation to bodies of water.

  • Campbell, SueEllen et. al. “Wet and fluid” in The Face of the Earth: Natural Landscapes, Science, and Culture. university of California Press, 120-181.
  • Bear C, Bull J, 2011, “Water matters: agency, flows, and frictions” Environment and Planning A 43(10) 2261–2266.
  • Strang, Veronica; 2008. “The social construction of water.” In Handbook of Landscape Archaeology. B. David and J. Thomas (eds). Walnut Creek CA: Left Coast Press, 123-30.

Week 3. Feb 6-10. Politics of Water I
Climate change, sustainability of water resources, international political conflicts over water resources and rivers, the importance of the long-term perspective on water provided by archaeology.
Case studies: Cochabamba water war in Bolivia (2000) and Mashapaug Pond in Providence.

Feb. 6th Guest speaker: Holly Ewald, Urban Pond Procession, on “Reservoir of Memories Oral History Project”

Reservoir of Memories Oral History Project (on Mashapaug Pond, Providence) website:

We will be watching and discussing: Even the Rain

  • Strang, V.; 2004. “Losing water” in The Meaning of Water. Oxford and New York: Berg, 21-45.
  • Albro, R.; “Water is ours Carajo! Deep citizenship in Bolivia’s water war,” in Social Movements: An Anthropological Reader. Oxford and Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 249-271.

Week 4. Feb 13-17. Wetlands and Bog people: Marshes, swamps, caves and the prehistoric societies.
Last Ice Age: glaciers and water. Marshy landscapes of the Neolithic in the Near East. Palaeo-environmental studies of pollen cores, climate and vegetation history. Bog people.

  • Van de Noort, Robert and Aidan O’Sullivan; 2006. “Places in watery worlds: thinking about wetland landscapes.” in Rethinking Wetland Archaeology. London: Duckworth.
  • Richards, C. 1996. “Henges and water: towards an elemental understanding of monumentality and landscape in late Neolithic Britain.” Journal of Material Culture 1(3): 313–36.
  • Bradley, R.; 2000. “Walking on water: a case study from Bronze Age Scandinavia,” in The Archaeology of Natural Places. London and New York: Routledge, 132-146.

Feb 20. Long weekend- no class.

Week 5. Feb 22-24. Underwater archaeology
Investigating the shipwrecks and sunken settlements of antiquity. On the Uluburun Shipwreck, off the coast from Turkey.
First assignment due- Providence and water essay: Feb 22 Wednesday in class.

Wednesday 22nd: Guest Lecture by Christoph Bachhuber

  • Bass, George; 2011. “The development of maritime archaeology,” in Oxford Handbook for Maritime Archaeology. A. Catsembis et al. (eds). Oxford University Press, 3-23.
  • Westerdahl, Christer; 2011. “The maritime cultural landscape,” in Oxford Handbook for Maritime Archaeology. A. Catsembis et al. (eds). Oxford University Press, 733-62.
  • Pulak, Cemal; 1998. “The Uluburun Shipwreck: an overview,” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 27: 188–224.

Week 6. Feb 27-March 2. The Flood Story
Mesopotamian Flood Story, and the various geological theories on how it may have happened.

  • Lambert, Wilfred G.; Alan Ralph Millard and Miguel Civil; 1999. Atra-hasis: the Babylonian story of the flood. Eisenbrauns.
  • Ryan, William B. F. and Walter Pitman; 2000. Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About The Event That Changed History. Simon and Schuster. Excerpts.

Week 7. March 5-9. Rivers and the archaeology of flow: The Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates: Water Landscapes and Hydraulic Societies of the Near East
The theory of hydraulic societies. The life giving rivers of the Near East and their cultural life.

Edgeworth, Matt; 2011. “Manifesto for archaeology of flow” Archaeolog.

Edgeworth, Matt; 2011. “Rivers as entanglements of nature and culture,” in Fluid Pasts: Archaeology of Flow. Duckworth Publishers, 11-32.
Harrower, Michael J.; 2009. “Is the hydraulic hypothesis dead yet? Irrigation and social change in ancient Yemen.” World Archaeology 41: 58-72.

March 9-12. Midterm takehome. Distributed on March 9th at 5 pm and essays are due on March 12th at 5 pm.

Week 8. March 12-16. Hanging Gardens of Babylon: Technologies of water in Assyria and Babylonia

  • Novák, M.; 2002. “The artificial paradise: programme and ideology of royal gardens,” in Sex and gender in the ancient Near East. S. Parpola and R.M. Whiting (eds.); Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, Part II, 443-460.
  • Bagg, Ariel M.; 2000. “Irrigation in Northern Mesopotamia: water for the Assyrian capitals (12th – 7th centuries BC),” Irrigation and drainage systems 14: 301-324.
  • Dalley, Stephanie and John Peter Oleson; 2003. “Sennacherib, Archimedes and water screw,” Technology and culture 44: 1-26.
  • Reade, Julian E.; 1978. “Studies in Assyrian geography: Part 1. Sennacherib and the waters of Nineveh,” Revue d’Assyriologie 72: 47-72 and (suite) 157-180.

Week 9. March 19-23. Baths and bathing culture in classical antiquity. Water management in ancient cities: spas, baths, fountains, public toilets, aqueducts.

Wednesday 21st. Guest Lecture: Keffie Weiss, Graduate Student PhD Candidate, JIAAW, “Fluid thinking: water management in cities of Asia Minor”

  • Kamash, Zena; 2008. “What lies beneath? Perceptions of the ontological paradox of water.” World Archaeology 40: 224-237.
  • Yegül, Fikret K.; 2011. “Bathing culture of Anatolia: a thousand points of light, a thousand fingers of warmth,” in Bathing Culture of Anatolian Civilizations: Architecture, History, and Imagination. Nina Ergin (ed.), Peeters: Leuven, 9-48.
  • Jackson, Ralph; 1990. “Waters and spas in classical antiquity” Medical History 10: 1-13.
  • Hartnett, J. 2008. “Fountains at Herculaneum: sacred history, topography, and civic identity.” Revista di studi Pompeiani 19: 77-89.

March 24-April 1. Spring recess- no class

Week 10. April 2-6. Springs, caves, water nymphs, and the cult of healing water: rituals and water from Anatolia and Mesoamerica.
Cult of springs, caves, dams and sacred pool monuments in Hittite Anatolia and Classical Maya. The sites of Eflatunpinar and Yalburt.

  • Brady, James E., & Wendy Ashmore; 1999. “Mountains, Caves, Water: Ideational Landscapes of the Ancient Maya,” in Archaeologies of Landscape: Contemporary Perspectives. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 124-145.
  • Harmanşah, Ömür; 2007. “Source of the Tigris: event, place and performance in the Assyrian landscapes of the Early Iron Age,” Archaeological Dialogues 14.2: 179-204.
  • Lucero, Lisa; 2006. “Water and ritual” in Water and Ritual: The Rise and Fall of Classic Maya Rulers. Austin: University of Texas Press, 5-32.
  • Lucero, Lisa; 2006. “The Political and Sacred Power of Water in Ancient Maya Society,” in Precolumbian Water Management: Ideology, Ritual, and Politics. L. J. Lucero and B. Fash (eds). University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 116-128.

Week 11. April 9-13. Water, miracles, bodies, and healing: holy springs and sacred lakes
Sacred springs in Byzantine Constantinople and late antique world of the Near East and the Eastern Mediterranean world.

  • Smyth, Fiona. 2005. “Medical geography: therapeutic places, spaces and networks.” Progress in Human Geography 29,4: 488-495.
  • Strang, V.; 2004. “Holy water” in The Meaning of Water. Oxford and New York: Berg, 83-100.
  • Tablot, Alice-Mary; 2002. “Pilgrimage to Healing Shrines: The Evidence of Miracle Accounts.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 56: 153-173.
  • Foley, Ronan; 2011. “Performing health in place: The holy well as a therapeutic assemblage,” Health & Place 17: 470–479.
  • Gesler, Wil; 1996. “Lourdes: healing in a place of pilgrimage” Health & Place 2: 95–105

Week 12 April 16-20. Politics of Water II: Climate change and the sustainability of water in the long term.
Lessons from the ancient past and modern cultural landscapes.

  • Strang, V.; 2004. “Governing water” in The Meaning of Water. Oxford and New York: Berg, 147-163.
  • Kornfeld, Itzchak E.; 2009. “Mesopotamia: A History of Water and Law.” In The Evolution of the law and the politics of water. Joseph W. Dellapenna and Joyeeta Gupta (eds). Vol I, 21-36.
  • Pearce, Fred; 2006. When the rivers run dry. Water- the defining crisis of the Twenty-first century. Boston: Beacon Press. Excerpts.

Week 13. April 23-27 Politics of Water III: Building dams in the Middle East and the questions of water conflict, cultural heritage, and salvage archaeology.

  • Shoup, D. 2006. “Can archaeology build a dam? Sites and politics in Turkey’s southwest Anatolia project.” Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 19.2: 231-258
  • Atakuman, Çiğdem; 2010. “Value of Heritage in Turkey: History and Politics of Turkey’s World Heritage Nominations” Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 23:

Reading period (April 27-May 8)
Final Exam (distributed May 15- due on May 18, 2 pm.)

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