The Netherlands Institute for the Near East

Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten  -  Institut néerlandais du Proche-Orient

17 Nov 10:00

Silencing the Poor

Georg Cyrus

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden: Leemanszaal

Silencing the Poor –
Political taphonomy and perspectives on the archaeological record

NINO Postdoctoral Research Fellow 4th Annual Conference
Leiden, 17-19 November 2023

The elites of ancient societies have been given prominence in historical and archaeological writings due to a focus on monumental architecture and the lives of political leaders. Yet, the archaeological record often lacks clarity when researchers attempt to study the lower classes. The reason for this is that long before we start to interpret and excavate ancient sites, political inequalities have already affected the durability of the archaeological record. Ziggurats, palaces and monumental graves are built forever, while the living quarters of the majority of the population are constructed from less substantial materials that are more easily destroyed. This power imbalance in the transformation process has been referred to as “political taphonomy”, which will be the focal point of this workshop.

To tackle this topic, scholars based in institutions from Central Asia to Western Europe within the fields of Southwest Asian and Northeast African archaeology have been invited to talk about political taphonomy and its effects on graves, architecture, material culture as well as the detectability of sites in surveys. The overarching questions of the conference will be how the unequal access to resources shaped the archaeological record and what can we do to take this inequality into consideration, when writing our historical narrative.



It is possible to participate online via zoom or in-person. For both possibilities, you need to register. To do so, please contact Dr. Georg Cyrus – NINO Postdoctoral Fellow. Due to the room size, the maximum number of in-person participants is restricted to 70 persons.

Contact and information

The sessions on the 17th and 18th November will take place in the Leemanszaal in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden.

The conference will round off with a closed World Café Discussion on the 19th of November involving all speakers.

Further updates, instructions and other information will be posted on this event page.

For additional questions and information, please contact Dr. Georg Cyrus – NINO Postdoctoral Fellow.


Friday 17.11.2023

10:15 Introduction
10:30 Theory I: Reinhard Bernbeck The two faces of political taphonomy
11:00 Theory II: Susan Pollock Approaching the marginalized in Mesopotamian archaeology
11:30 Break
12:00 Architecture I: Alexander Tamm From Riches to Rags – The Reuse of the Early Bronze Age Palace of Chuera
12:30 Architecture II: Georg Cyrus Four steps towards creating ‘dark ages’ – The silencing of post-collapse societies
13:00 Lunch break
14:30 Burials I: Sarah Schrader & Veronica Tamorri Post-Mortem Political Taphonomy: Mortuary Contexts and Human Skeletal Remains in Bronze Age Nubia
15:00 Burials II: Mahsa Najafi & Reza Naseri Tracing the concept of political taphonomy in Deh Dumen cemetery in Iran
15:30 Break
16:00 Burials III: Sepideh Jamshidi Yeganeh Political taphonomy in the Blachak cemetery
19:00-21:00 drinks Lucy Bennison-Chapman book launch: "Bookkeeping Without Writing" (PIHANS 134)
Scheltema Leiden, Marksteeg 1

Saturday 18.11.2023

10:30 Survey I: Morteza Khanipour Archaeological survey and social ranks in Fars cultural zone
11:00 Survey II: Azer Keskin Political Taphonomy of Iron Age Mesopotamia
11:30 Break
12:00 Survey III: Andrea Squitieri Agricultural activities and everyday life in the Neo-Assyrian Empire
12:30 Lunch break
14:00 Objects I: Johnny Samuele Baldi De-silencing the poor by taking seriously their ways of doing things. Ceramic workshops and labour organisation in Bronze Age northern Mesopotamia
14:30 Objects II: Bleda Düring Identifying Sub-Alterns in the Early Assyrian Empire: A Perspective from the Periphery
15:00 Break
15:30 Objects III: Birgül Öğüt & Doğa Karakaya Taphonomy in archeaobotany and how it might help to detect the ‘silenced’
16:00 Final discussion

Sunday 19.11.2023


World Café Discussion