How ancient lentils reveal the origins of social inequality

Iraq 0 Comment 1

Lentils might not sound like a spectacular archaeological find but at the prehistoric site of Gurga Chiya in Iraqi Kurdistan they hold the clues to social transformation

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I should be in the Kurdish region of Iraq right now knee-deep in Late Chalcolitic archaeology, but instead I’m watching Bake Off in Crewe. The autumn excavation season in the Kurdish region is cancelled and most of the international teams have left, including the University College London project I was working on and the British Museum’s training excavation at Qalatga Darband. The cessation of international flights into and out of Iraqi Kurdistan, imposed by Baghdad after the Kurdish independence referendum on 25 September, has put a stop to archaeology in the region just at the best time of the year for digging.

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The weakening of a strong communal ideology surrounding food production and storage increased the potential for dominant families to emerge, either through consistently greater success, or through force or unequal conditions of exchange. This in turn created the preconditions of specialisation and social inequality upon which urban life was founded in Mesopotamia.”

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