The Uruk Expansion: Mesopotamian Colonies and Local Communities from 3700-3100 BC
Urban centered state societies developed in southern Mesopotamia during the Uruk period in the fourth millennium BC. Almost immediately, these Uruk states extended their economic influence to found a far-ranging network of settlements connecting the cities of southern Mesopotamia with the resource-rich neighboring highlands areas of the Zagros mountains, North Syria, and Southeast Anatolia. This formed what is apparently the world's earliest known colonial network - often called the "Uruk Expansion". The Uruk expansion seems to have begun in the Middle Uruk period, probably ca 3700 BC and reached its fullest extent in the Late Uruk period.
The colonies are very distinctive as intrusive sites, surrounded by settlements of the local Iranian, Syrian, and southeast Anatolian cultures. Archaeologists have identified Uruk colonies or outposts at Godin in western Iran and on the Syrian Euphrates at sites such as Habuba Kabira, Sheikh Hassan, and Jebel Aruda. On the Turkish Euphrates, Uruk colonies have been discovered at Hassek Hoyuk, and possibly at Samsat and Tepecik.
Most archaeologists think that the Uruk enclaves were trading colonies or way stations whose purpose was to insure South Mesopotamian access to highland resources such as copper and perhaps lumber.
One of the best places to study the organization and impact of the Uruk colonial system is the Eastern Taurus piedmont zone of direct contact between the Mesopotamian and local cultures. Both Uruk colonies and Local Late Chalcolithic settlements are present in this area. The mound of Hacinebi is located in the heart of this region, and has evidence for direct interaction between the two groups.
The Hacinebi archaeological project investigates the organization and impact of the Uruk colonies on the Local Late Chalcolithic society of southeast Anatolia in the fourth millennium BC.
Hacinebi is an ideal site for understanding the Uruk expansion because this small local Anatolian settlement on the Euphrates trade route came into close commercial and cultural contact with Mesopotamia during the mid-fourth millennium BC.
The Hacinebi archaeological excavations focus on investigating :
a) the politics and economics of Mesopotamian-Local relations at the site;
b) the organization of the local host communities before the period of intensive contact;
c) the impact of this trade system on the development of indigenous polities in southeast Anatolia.
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Gil J. Stein
Anthropology Department, Northwestern University
Last modified - August 6, 2001