Dating the Remains of an Agricultural System in Southern Iraq


  • Dr Peter Brown
  • Dr Louise Rayne, Newcastle University (UK)
  • Dr Jaafar Jotheri, University of Al-Qadisiyah (Iraq)

Time frame

November 2021 - November 2023

Project description

Remains of a massive irrigation system covering over 50,000 hectares surround the former site of the city of Basra, Southern Iraq. The remains of the agricultural system today consist of a regular pattern of ridges of soil in straight lines, separated by old canal beds. The ridges are about a kilometre long and up to four or five meters high. Although there has been much speculation and theorising about the water management system, the exact origin and date of these features are not scientifically known.

Dr Peter Brown will work together with Iraqi colleague Dr Jaafar Jotheri (University of Al-Qadisiyah, Iraq), and Dr Louise Rayne (Newcastle University, UK) to try and date the ridges. The project consist of two parts. In the first part, Dr Jotheri will co-ordinate small excavations into the ridges and the canals in between to take samples that can be scientifically dated with radiocarbon dating (C14) and optically stimulated luminescence dating.

With Dr Rayne and Dr Jotheri, Brown will also gather commercial satellite imagery of the irrigation system to create a detailed 3D model of the ridges and canals.


Iraq, Basra, irrigation system, water management, 3D-modelling, radiocarbon dating, optically stimulated luminescence dating

Related projects

Source of Life: Water Management in the Premodern Middle East


Gerda Henkel Foundation


  • Newcastle University, UK
  • University of Al-Qadisiyah, Iraq


Dr Peter Brown,