Il progetto Gaugamela

(Attualmente disponibile solo in lingua inglese)

The Gaugamela Project is active at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków (Poland) with Dr. M. Marciak as the Principal Investigator and is a partner of the Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project conducted by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Assyria under the directorship of Prof. Daniele Morandi Bonacossi from the University of Udine (Italy). The current activities of the Gaugamela Project are financed by a grant from the National Science Centre in Poland (grant no. 2017/26/M/HS3/00750).

The scientific aim of the project istoestablish the exact location of the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE) using a unique approach combining the methods of ancient history and landscape archaeology (use of ancient textual evidence, scholarly literature, past and recent cartographic data, satellite remote sensing imagery, GIS [Geographic Information System] capabilities, and fieldwork).

The Battle of Gaugamela, fought between the Macedonian-Greek forces led by Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, and the Persian army under the Achaemenid King Darius III in 331 BCE, has rightly been labeled asone of the most important battles in the history of the ancient world. Indeed, its final result led to both the effective collapse of the Persian Empire – an empire that spanned two centuries – and the emergence of a new age, now commonly labeled as the Hellenistic period. It was the Hellenistic periodthat brought about the unprecedented export of Greek culture and language all over the ancient Near East (as far as modern Pakistan), and as such laid the foundations for the cultural heritage of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern worlds that continue to this day.

Despite the great importance of this battle, its exact location is not certain. This situation certainly results from the state of the extant historical sources. First, the extant ancient sources do not provide us with very precise geographical and topographical information (at least not to the extent that would satisfy modern geographers and cartographers). Second, some important pieces of information that can be gleaned from various ancient accounts actually contradict each other (see Arrian, 3.15.5, 6.11.4-6 contra Quintus Curtius Rufus 4.9.9-10). As a result, it comes to no surprise that modern scholarshave not agreed on one location for the Gaugamela battlefieldand have suggested several locations of ancient Gaugamela: Karamleis, Qaraqosh, Tell Aswad, (south of) Wardak, and Tell Gomel.

In this context, it is hoped that the current project with its truly multidisciplinary and comprehensive approachwill make a real difference compared to previous studies (based mainly on the study of ancient sources and cartographic studies or selective naked-eye observations in the field).The working hypothesisof this project is that the Tell Gomel areahas all of the geographic and topographic features envisaged by ancient sources as the site of the Gaugamela battlefield. What is more, it also surpasses other locations with regard to two important aspects of historical reconstruction: connection to communication routes and continuity of local toponymy (Tell Gomel and Gaugamela).

Locatingsuch an important historical eventas the Gaugamela battle, which led to the rise of a new and far-reaching epoch,is a very important task, butthe significance of the projectgoes beyond solving a strictly topographic question. Namely, our inability to locate the battlefield of Gaugamela hinders us from fully understanding the scale ofAlexander’s military achievementin this battle. Furthermore, it is also hoped that a comprehensive and multidisciplinary study of the identification of the Gaugamela battlefield will also yieldnew insights into several other issues related to the identification of Gaugamela (e.g., Macedonian military warfare, communication routes in the Tigris region, source criticism of the Alexander histories, and new case studies of satellite remote sensing and GIS in ancient history and archaeology).

 

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