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Department of Archaeology


The Kani Shaie Archaeological Project is a collaboration between the University of Cambridge, the University of Coimbra (Portugal), and the Sulaymaniyah Directorate of Antiquities. Since 2013, the project organises excavations at the site of Kani Shaie near the town of Bazyan in Sulaymaniyah Governorate, Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kani Shaie is a small site with a long history in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains at the eastern edge of the Mesopotamian world. With repeated occupation spanning millennia (7000–2000 BCE; 1000 BCE–100 CE; 1000–1200 CE), the site was a focus of settlement within the Bazyan Valley and a local centre connected in the exchange networks that spanned southwest Asia. The project’s main focus is the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age (4th–3rd mill.) when this small settlement maintained connections with nascent Mesopotamian urban society and Zagros mountain societies. Through detailed excavation, remote sensing, and regional survey of the Bazyan Valley, KSAP is slowly reconstructing the lifeways of a mountain community. Formulating a new understanding of different forms of social complexity (i.e., socioeconomic organisation that takes place outside the household-level and reaches beyond the local community itself), KSAP adds a previously misunderstood component to the patchwork of diverse peoples of ancient southwest Asia.

Beginning in 2022, KSAP has extended its focus to the position of the Bazyan Valley at the edge of empires (Neo-Assyria and Parthia) during the first millennium BCE. As in the region’s prehistory, the settlement at Kani Shaie might have been small, but it was strategically located and well-connected. Archaeological research of these periods has prioritised major urban centres. KSAP is expanding this view with a bottom-up perspective from a local community that navigated the ebb and flow of imperial domination that began in the Iron Age.


Coimbra Research Centre in Archaeology, Arts, and Heritage Sciences
McDonald Institute
Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology
Penn Museum
Wenner Gren

Project Lead

Project Tags

Material Culture
Rethinking Complexity
Periods of interest: 
Copper/Bronze Age
Iron Age
Geographical areas: 
Mesopotamia and the Near East
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Material Culture
Socio-Politics of the Past
Artefact Analysis & Technology
Archaeological Theory
Cultural Evolution
Field Methods
Environmental Archaeology, Geoarchaeology, and Landscape studies
Cultural Heritage
Assyriology and Mesopotamian Archaeology
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