Fragile Images: Clay Media in Early Iran - the materiality and imagery of administrative practices in the Late Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age

Project FRIMCLAY aims to investigate the formation and functioning of early institutionalized political and economic systems in mid 4th to early 3rd millennium BCE Iran through a holistic study of the administrative media employed to control the flow of goods, raw materials and labor, namely sealings and script impressed onto clay and the seals used for this practice. It contributes to the SPP 2176 focus question how increasing social complexity formed and was maintained in the Iranian highlands over half a millennium by investigating the specific organization of political and economic control and its role in the exploitation of resources.

The targeted period covers the period from c. 3700 to 2800 BCE (mid-late Uruk, c. 3700-3350 BCE, and proto-Elamite period, c. 3350-2800 BCE). This time span begins with the moment when early lowland polities of the Uruk model in Iraq and Khuzestan reached out to their highland neighbors in a quest for raw material and labor force and extends over the subsequent adaptation of systems of economic control through the formation of a network of centralized proto-urban polities. Neither the nature of the early contacts between the Uruk centers and their highland neighbors nor the following social transformation marking the proto-Elamite period are well understood, but a necessity to ensure access to resources seems to be at its core. FRIMCLAY proposes to adopt a chaîne opératoire approach to focus on practices employed in the use of media of notation and thus, control over resources. A diachronic and supra-regional perspective is expected to open a differentiated view onto local practices and developments and thus to allow the recognition of hidden but meaningful diversity.

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