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Aerial photo of Lagash.

In the current issue

Back to Lagash

After a three-decade hiatus, the Penn Museum reopened a seminal dig site in southern Iraq.

Author: Holly Pittman

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Cities first appeared, the Bible tells us, in southern Mesopotamia. Beyond such received knowledge, archaeologists and anthropologists have thought long and hard about why, how, and when this profound change in social organization took place in what was a verdant but precarious environment. Early explorations focused on the large sites of Nippur, Ur, Uruk, Telloh (Girsu), and Eridu watered by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Investigations focused almost exclusively on monumental structures, finding evidence for the origins of writing, monumental architecture, narrative visual arts, and organized religion. Work continued during the middle of the 20th century, by both Iraqi and international archaeologists, exploring ancient Lagash, known as Tell al Hiba, as well as sites like Fara (ancient Shurupak), and Larsa. The primary focus continued to emphasize monumental architecture, cuneiform tablets, and spectacular works of art, as well as burial grounds including the Royal Tombs of Ur, which stunned the world with unexpected treasures. Until now little attention was given to investigate why this radical transformation in social organization happened at this particular place and time. Indeed, until the 21st century, with new methods and technologies, it was not possible to do much more than speculate and hypothesize.

Current Issue

Expedition 65-1 cover.

The First Cities of Sumer

After three decades, a dig in southern Iraq reopens—and revolutionizes the story of Mesopotamia

Summer 2023

Vol. 65 No. 1

In This Issue:

  • A Trip to Troy with Homer
  • Zooming in on Asian Textiles
  • Kara Tepe: A Conversation Across Time
  • In Search of Archaeology That Uplifts
  • Greetings from Lagash
  • Cultural Heritage Crisis

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The Penn Museum has published Expedition (ISSN 0014-4738) since 1958. It includes peer-reviewed articles on current findings of archaeologists and anthropologists, the latest on upcoming exhibitions and events, and a window into the labs, classrooms, archives, and people of the Penn Museum.

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