“The archaeology is exciting, but this goes way beyond archaeology,” she said. “Iraq’s strategic importance is not going away, and this state has already made a huge investment there. Southern Iraq’s current problems are a lot like our own – water resources management, coastal and port development management, pollution control and environmental management, given extremely limited budgets. The difference is we’ve been juggling these concerns for a few hundred years; they’ve been juggling them for a few thousand. We have a lot to learn from each other.
Pournelle is planning a multi-year project in Iraq to do further research, including taking a closer look at densely packed building foundations, fields and canals previously submerged beneath Lake Hammar.
“In form, scope, scale and state of preservation, this archaeological landscape is unique,” she said. “It is worthy of inscription on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage register.
“Iraq is a place we can study, from its deep past through its foreseeable future, in order to understand the impacts and consequences of natural and human interactions with environments,” she said. “I want to investigate the role of wetlands in the long-term sustainability of cities everywhere. In southern Iraq, we have an 8,000-year-long archaeological record and a 5,000-year-long historical record of how that worked. There’s nowhere else like that in the world.”