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Guillermo Algaze

A specialist in Near Eastern and Mesopotamian archaeology, Guillermo Algaze is interested in issues related to the emergence of early cities and states across the world. Most of his fieldwork has taken place in southeastern Turkey, where he conducted extensive surveys along the upper reaches of the Tigries and Euphrates rivers and their tributaries. Additionally, Algaze directed archaeological work at the third millennium BC site of Titris Hoyuk, a small urban center that was one of the earliest cities to emerge in the Euphrates basin of Turkey. In terms of theory, Algaze is interested in all aspects of the formation of early civilizations, but given inherent limitations of the sorts of archaeological data he works with much of his research focuses on the elucidation of the nature of economic processes at work when early civilizations first emerged in the Ancient Near East.


BA in History, University of Puerto Rico (1976)

MA in Mesopotamian Archaeology, University of Chicago (1979)

Ph.D. in Mesopotamian Archaeology, University of Chicago (1986)

Mellon Post Doc., Dept. of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania (1990-1991)

Surveys of the Upper Tigris and Euphrates Basin

The Turkish government has embarked in an ambitious program of dam building at various locations along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and their principal tributaries within Southeastern Turkey. Resulting Reservoirs have already submerged hundreds of archaeological sites and more sites are threatened in the immediate future. Seeking to document the endangered sites, Algaze and his team surveyed affected portions of the Upper Tigris and Upper Euphrates basin in the areas of the Cizre, Ilisu, Birecik and Carchemish Dams.

Excavations in Titris Hoyuk

Situated alongside a small tributary of the Euphrates river and in the midst of a valley connecting to a historical fording area of that river, Titris Hoyuk was one of many urban sites that emerged across the high plains of southeastern Turkey, Northern Syria, and Northern Iraq in the second half of the third millennium BC. At its height, ca. , the site achieved an extent of ca. 43 hectares and was surrounded by a small number of extramural suburbs. By the end of the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2200 - 2100 BC), the small city contracted in size as its inhabitants protected themselves from external enemies by erecting a massive wall. This was to no avail, as the city was abandoned soon thereafter. The city's misfortune means that remains of houses of the period are easily accessible below the surface. Nine seasons of excavations between 1991 and 1999 uncovered the remains of multiple houses across the site giving us information about urban planning in the ancient city, and about the demographic and economic forces that helped shape it.

The Emergence of Early Mesopotamian Civilization

For some time, I have been conducting research into the nature of the economic processes that allowed early Mesopotamian cities to emerge, flourish, and endure. This work has taken place over a number of publications, principally in the journal Current Anthropology and in two books, The Uruk World System, and Early Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization, which looks at the formation of Mesopotamian civilization from opposite etic and emic perspectives, respectively. In my latest effort in this project, soon to appear in Current Anthropology, I explore the notion that early MEsopotatmian cities were inherently entropic. What I meany by this is that the because of high mortality, Mesopotamian cities could only endure if a steady stream of immigrants was secured. The question then becomes that of the mix of incentives and coercive measures that accounted for the stream of immigrants at any one time. While many scholars have earlier explored the ideological and political dimensions of processes that concentrate populations in early Mesopotamian cities, I have chosen to focus instead on exploring the expansion of employment opportunities in cities as a result of import replacement processes.


"Entropic Cities: the Paradox of Early Urbanism in Ancient Mesopotamia." Current Anthropology, In Press.

"Travels in Edin: Resiliency and Early Urbanism in Greater Mesopotamia." In Preludes to Urbanism: Studies in the Late Chalcolithic of Mesopotamia in Honor of Joan Oates. Edited by H. Crawford, A. Mcmahon, and N. Postgate. B.A.R. International Series. Oxford: Archaeopress (joint author with Jennifer Pournelle). Pp. 5-34. 2014

"The End of Prehistory and the Uruk Period." In the Sumerian World. Edited by Harriet Crawford. London: Routledge. Pp. 68-94. 2012

"The Tigris-Euphrates Archaeological Reconnaissance Project: Final Report of the Cizre Damn and Cizre-Solopi Plain Areas." Anatolica 28. (Joint author with Emily Hammer and Bradley Parker). 2012

"Understanding Early Bronze Age Social Structure Through Mortuary Remains: A Pilot a DNA Study From Titris Hoyuk, Southeastern Turkey." International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 22: 338-351 (Joint author with T. Matney, M.C. Dulik, O.D. Erdal, Y.S. Erdal, O. Gokcumen, J. Lorenz, and H. Mergen). 2012

"Titris Hoyuk: the Nature and Context of Third Millennium Urbanism in the Upper Euphrates Basin." In Oxford Handbook of Anatolian Studies (8000-323 BCE). Edited by Sharon R. STeadman and Gregory McMahon. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pp. 993-1011 (Joint author with timothy Matney). 2011

"The Survey of Pir Huseyin, 2004." Anatolica 36: 165-195 (Joint author with Brian Peasnall). 2010

Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization: the Evolution of an Urban Landscape. University of Chicago Press. 2008

"The Sumerian Takeoff." In Settlement and Society: Essays Dedicated to Robert McCormick Adams. Edited by E. Stone. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology: pp. 343-368. 2006

The Uruk World System, 2nd (Revised) edition. University of Chicago Oress. 1993 and 2005