The early state and its chora. Towns, villages and landscape at Ebla in Syria during the 3rd millennium BC. Royal archives, visual and material culture, remote sensing and artificial neural networks.

Unibo Team Leader: Nicolò Marchetti, Dipartimento di Archeologia

The case of Ebla in northern Syria is certainly the most favourable one for enhancing our understanding of mechanisms of functioning of the early state. The discovery, in 1975, of royal archives consisting of 17.000 cuneiform tablets dating to c. 2300 BC has supplied the scientific community with an invaluable mass of documents dealing with all aspects of state organization. These tablets inform us about the political, diplomatic and military affairs of the Eblaite state, as well as on the economic and social fabric of this early state formation. Further, considerable progresses during the past decade have been made at Ebla in seriating material culture assemblages, in interpreting the rich evidence retrieved for ancient visual communication and in exposing the urban structure. The study of the administrative texts, of the royal palace different sectors devoted to official and economic activities, the excavation in the lower town of a productive complex, of two massive temples and of other buildings now give us a detailed picture of the economic organization of this capital.
We thus foresee a unique opportunity to test theories and models about the rise and structure of the early state by expanding the level of analysis to the landscape around Ebla: archaeological surface surveys, remote sensing, geomorphological studies will be evaluated together with the results of archaeological and geophysic investigations on village sites (the major focus will be on those which have been abandoned after 2200 BC). Our research group has already gained considerable experience in developing calculation programs that employ – along with traditional statistic and quantitative methods within a web GIS environment, including all the cuneiform tablets – models of modern dynamic mathematics: the massive amount of data already obtained from excavations, surveys, epigraphic studies, archeometric and archeobiological analyses will be combined and analyzed by means of mathematical, economical and computer science concepts and models (such as Adaptive Artificial Systems, Genetic Algorithms, Self-Organized Maps, Contractive Active Maps and Artificial Neural Networks), in order to build a multi-tier explanatory pattern which can be applied to, or utilized for, other early foci of urbanization in the Near East or elsewhere. We thus hope to obtain a much richer historical framework and a sophisticated predictive model of more general validity: until now no studies have ever focused on explanations of these phenomena on such an integrated scale.

Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza" (Italy)
Resp. Scientifico: Paolo Matthiae


Other participants
- Dipartimento di Archeologia
- Resp. Scientifico: Nicolò Marchetti

Start date 01/04/2010

End date 31/03/2014

Duration 48 months

Project cost 1.105.240 EURO

Project Funding 1.105.240 EURO

Subprogramme Area ERC Advanced Grant

Contract type Support for frontier research-ERC