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Ancient cities sprang from marshes

The great cities of ancient Iraq thrived in vast lowland marches fed by rivers, but not by the rivers themselves.

Last fall, Pournelle led the first American research team of archaeologists to visit Iraq in more than 25 years. And what she and her colleagues found has caused the start of a shift in thinking about how ancient urban landscapes evolved.

“Clearly, the earliest cities were not strung out along rivers like pearls on a strand. Rather, they were spread across the river delta within and along the margins of marshlands,” said Pournelle, who combines excavation records and archaeological site maps with aerial and satellite imagery, in order to reconstruct ancient environments.

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Story: University of South Carolina

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