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PhD Students

Mesopotamia at Cambridge

PhD Students

Silvia Ferreri

My research focuses on Mesopotamian boundary stones (kudurrus), dating between 1200-600 BC. With a main interest on kudurrus iconography and symbolism, my research aims to understand their role within the Mesopotamian political, legal and social worlds and to explore the relationship between politics and religion in the period between the Kassite dynasty and the Neo-Assyrian empire.

I adopt a cognitive approach supported by a range of methods, involving visual comparisons, typology, textual and lexical analyses, 3-D reconstruction, which will lead to a better understanding of the relations of kudurrus with other monuments and the landscape in which they were placed.

After having completed my undergraduate studies, I worked in several Italian museums and schools. I also took part in archaeological excavations in Sicily and Tuscany. In 2014, I moved to Cambridge were I completed an MPhil in Assyriology.

George Heath-Whyte

My PhD research focuses on the god Marduk, who came to be the head of the Babylonian pantheon by the 1st Millennium BC. In particular I am seeking to understand the role of the alternate name of Marduk, Bēl (“Lord”), in Mesopotamian theology.

More generally, I am interested in the ways in which religious beliefs affected the lives of people living in ancient Mesopotamia. I have previously studied the naming practices of a community of Judean exiles living in Babylonia to try and work out what they can reveal about the group’s religious and cultural identity. My Master’s thesis looked at the patterns of life of the Babylonian urban elite, and how those patterns were influenced by the cultic calendar.

Kyra Kaercher

I completed my undergraduate studies in Archaeology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and my Masters at Boston University. I have worked in Bolivia, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq on research excavations, and Cultural Resource Management in Wisconsin, as well as working at the University of Pennsylvania Museum and for ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives.
My research focuses on the regionality of ceramic production during the Middle Islamic period (1100-1500 CE) in Northern Iraq. This research combines the typologies and chronologies already created for Islamic ceramics from Western and Central Asia with scientific methods to analyse the production of the ceramics. This is then used to look at local, regional, and international production of the ceramics.

I am also interested in looking at the changes in ceramic production through time in the Northern Zagros, as well as looking at local vs. global economies in terms of supply and demand during the Islamic period. Lastly, I am also interested in Cultural Heritage and the preservation and prevention of destruction of places in times of conflict.

Kevin Kay

I study ancient houses, with a particular focus on the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük, in central Turkey. I am developing methods for understanding how individual houses' interiors changed over their use-lives, and compiling high-resolution biographies of Neolithic houses. Looking more closely at the process of shaping and re-shaping domestic spaces gives insights into small-scale social dynamics and their relationship to large-scale historical change in social structure, knowledge practices and politics.

Beyond this research, I am broadly interested in social theory, and in the relationship between quotidian life and purportedly grand things like belief systems, politics, knowledge and history. Recent side projects resulted in conference presentations on the insertion of dead infants into walls; prehistoric excavation techniques; the flow of tiny cultural debris around tell settlements; and the tension between absolute chronologies and relational perspectives in archaeology.

I previously completed a BA in Archaeology and Classical Studies from the University of Evansville, and an MPhil in Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge. I have also worked in commercial archaeology and museums in the United States, and have participated in research excavations and field survey in central and southern Turkey.

Mike Lewis

I undertook my BA, MA, and MSc at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. I am currently involved with two excavations in Iraqi Kurdistan: The Shahrizor Prehistory Project where I am the site ceramicist for Gurga Chiya (2014-present) after previously working as a site assistant (2013). I am also working on the ceramics as part of the Kani Shaie Archaeological Project (2016-present). I have undertaken fieldwork in Iraqi-Kurdistan, Sudan, Qatar, Israel, Germany, Serbia and at various sites across the UK.

My PhD research is looking at how social transformations from the 4th-early 3rd millennium BCE influence and manifest themselves in the choice of raw materials, and chaîne opératoire of pottery from the Shahrizor and Bazyan Valley of Iraqi-Kurdistan in Northern Mesopotamia. Within this, I aim to identify ceramic manufacture and modes of production. I am also investigating functional comparisons of the ceramic, and finally the interpretation of local, regional and interregional trade and exchange in order to explain the Uruk Phenomenon in the region.

My main fields of research relate to the Late Chalcolithic-Early Bronze Age in Northern Mesopotamia. In particular I am interested in socio-political development and transformation at this time. I am also interested in ceramic studies, petrography, archaeometry, trade and exchange, the emergence of social hierarchies and the emergence of urbanism in Northern Mesopotamia.

Peerapat Ouysook

In my PhD research, I combine the close reading analysis with archaeological data to uncover the royal ideology of Nebuchadnezzar II as depicted in his monumental inscriptions. I’m interested in the role of factual information included in each text and, primarily, how similar pieces of information were described in varying degrees of ‘descriptiveness’ across the corpus.

Apart from the political history of Ancient Mesopotamia in the 1st Millennium BCE, I’m also interested in the way the Ancient Mesopotamians perceived and interacted with their belief system. My MPhil dissertation analysed the debate between the two main characters in the Babylonian Theodicy and discussed the epistemological aspects of the struggle that they experienced.

Kirk Roberts

I currently research the relationship between urban forms and the exercise of power in 2nd & 3rd Millennium BC Mesopotamia, with a focus on the application of computational techniques to model and interpret patterns of pedestrian behaviour in early cities.

I have worked in archaeology for over fifteen years, during which time I have been involved with a wide variety of projects and institutions, working in a diverse range of locations including Iraq, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Lebanon, Egypt, Cyprus, Turkey, Tanzania and Ghana. I have also worked in British contract archaeology at all levels from excavation to consultancy and project management.

Christoph Schmidhuber

My PhD research investigates the role children played in Mesopotamia during the early 2nd millennium BC. Developing a methodological framework that integrates both archaeological and textual data, I wish to shed light on, in all periods of history, rather neglected actors in society with a special focus on how norms and attitudes associated with children were created, maintained and reproduced.

Apart from a general interest in the social history of the Ancient Near East, my previous research ranged from Old Babylonian Sumerian grammar to material culture studies and symbolic violence. My fieldwork experience includes excavations in Turkey during the summers of 2012 and 2016 and a participation in a UNESCO survey at a World Heritage site in Uzbekistan in 2015.

Lynette Talbot

My research focuses on Mesopotamian medical texts from the 2nd and 1st millennia BC. It examines the use of language in descriptions of the suffering body across different 'genres' of medical writing in order to assess questions regarding the construction of professional medical scholarship and its relation to different healing traditions.