Ancient roads cross-culturally reflect motivations and needs behind social, economic, political and religious relations of past societies; they imposed spatial order on production, enabled transportation of bulk-goods, mediated power, and facilitated urban fabric. Actions of past individuals must have had contributed to the formation of roads. Conversely, roads must have had sustained individual (and societal) connectivity. Therefore, considered not only as the container of action, but also the action itself, the road has much more to say on the ancient movement praxis.

GeoMOP investigates Early Bronze Age (Third Millennium BCE) road systems (also called hollow ways) in Khabur Basin, Upper Mesopotamia. At this space-time, the movement praxis embedded within agricultural and pastoral economies as well as the socio-political life significantly contributed to the formation of hollow ways. In pursuit of this phenomenon, GeoMOP constructs a detailed typology of hollow ways based on estimates of the volume of ancient traffic. Thus, the study surpasses the current archaeological knowledge on locations and dimensions of hollow ways –the container– and builds an analytical model for the movement –the action–. In return, movement praxis provides details of Early Bronze Age (EBA) political economy, including land ownership, urban-rural relationships, and nodes of economic complexity.


Earlier Studies on Hollow Ways and Project Credits

The novel methodology of GeoMOP makes use of the open access dataset by Jason A. Ur:

A map of digitized hollow ways in Northern Mesopotamia can be also viewed here:

An exclusive bibliography on hollow ways includes:

  • Casana, J. (2013) “Radial Route Systems and Agro-Pastoral Strategies in the Fertile Crescent: New Discoveries from Western Syria and Southwestern Iran.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 32, no. 2 : 257–273.

  • Sallaberger, W., and J.A. Ur. (2004) “Tell Beydar/Nabada in Its Regional Setting.” In Third Millennium Cuneiform Texts from Tell Beydar (Seasons 1996-2002), edited by L. Milano, W. Sallaberger, P. Talon, and K. Van Lerberghe, 51–71. Subartu 12. Turnhout: Brepols.

  • Ur, J.A. (2003) “CORONA Satellite Photography and Ancient Road Networks: A Northern Mesopotamian Case Study.” Antiquity 77, no. 295 : 102–15.

  • __________ (2009) “Emergent Landscapes of Movement in Early Bronze Age Northern Mesopotamia.” In Landscapes of Movement: Paths, Trails, and Roads in Anthropological Perspective, edited by J.E. Snead, C.L. Erickson, and W.A. Darling, 180–203. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum Press.

  • Wilkinson, T.J. (1993) “Linear Hollows in the Jazira, Upper Mesopotamia.” Antiquity 67, no. 256: 548–62.

  • __________ (1994) “The Structure and Dynamics of Dry-Farming States in Upper Mesopotamia.” Current Anthropology 35, no. 5: 483–520.

  • __________ (2002) “Archaeological Survey of the Tell Beydar Region, Syria, 1997: A Preliminary Report.” In Tell Beydar Environmental and Technical Studies, edited by K. Van Lerberghe and G. Voet, 1–37. Subartu 6. Turnhout: Brepols.

  • __________ (2005) “Approaches to Modelling Archaeological Site Territories in the Near East.” In Non-Linear Models for Archaeology and Anthropology, edited by C.S. Beekman and W.W. Baden, 123–38. Aldershot: Ashgate Press.

  • Wilkinson, T.J., C. French, J.A. Ur, and M. Semple. (2010) “The Geoarchaeology of Route Systems in Northern Syria.” Geoarchaeology: An International Journal, 25, no. 6: 745–771.


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