Since 2006, Augusta McMahon has been Field Director of the Tell Brak Excavation.
Tell Brak is one of the largest ancient sites in northern Mesopotamia, with occupation from at least the 6th millennium BC (if not earlier) through the later 2nd millennium BC (with subsequent less massive settlements of Hellenistic, Roman, and Islamic date). Tell Brak was first explored by Sir Max Mallowan (husband of Agatha Christie) in the 1930s; excavations were re-started by Prof. David Oates and Dr Joan Oates in 1976.
The current phase of research at Tell Brak aims to explore two transitional episodes in Mesopotamian political and social history: developing early social complexity and urbanism in the 5th -4th millennium BC and the shift from territorial state to early empire in the 2nd millennium BC (the growth and collapse of Samsi-Addu's kingdom and the rise of the Mitanni empire). In the most recent excavation seasons, we have begun to uncover two neighbourhoods occupied during the 2nd millennium BC, which allow insight into the use of space and access routes within the settlement, and into the relationship of private houses to the previously-excavated Mitanni Palace and temple. This part of the project links to Augusta McMahon's previous work co-directing excavations in early 2nd millennium BC levels at Brak's neighbour Chagar Bazar (1999–2002). We have also reached levels of the late 5th millennium BC at Brak and exposed an industrial area adjacent to a monumental administrative building, near one of the site's gateways. This area is providing rich data for study of early urban economy, especially the production of ceramics and obsidian and flint tools.
At the same time, we have begun to explore a unique mass burial—probably the aftermath of warfare—from the early–mid-4th millennium BC on the outskirts of the site, roughly contemporary with the site's expansion to urban proportions. These separate excavations all tie into our exploration of larger issues of the creation and maturation of past urban landscapes, for which Tell Brak provides a great depth of data.
Financial support for recent excavation seasons of the Brak Project has been generously provided by the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration, Newnham College, University of Cambridge Travel Fund and the Society of Antiquaries of London. Cambridge students and scholars are the best represented on the team, but it is an international research group, currently involving British, American, Danish, Italian, Palestinian, Polish and Syrian students and colleagues.