Skip to main content

Computational Research on the Ancient Near East (CRANE) 


More than 150 years of research on the ancient near east has created a vast array of complex and interrelated data ranging from settlement patterns to ceramics. However, it has been difficult to make full use of this research data to improve our understanding of how human communities in the region developed and interacted with the natural environment, because we lack an analytical framework that can integrate the full range of data produced by this uniquely rich cultural legacy.

CRANE’s goal is to provide a platform for data integration and analysis. Beginning with several archaeological sites in the Orontes Watershed of southeast Turkey and northwest Syria, CRANE is building an international collaboration of researchers who will use these data to model and visualize connections between social, economic and environmental factors at various spatial and temporal scales. The information is being integrated through the OCHRE software platform (University of Chicago). Researchers from around the world will be able to access comprehensive and rich datasets about the region in one location and share their work and ideas with each other.

CRANE is funded primarily by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. 

CRANE at Durham  

In Phase 1 of the project (2012-17) the Durham team focused upon ceramic research and the analysis of legacy data from the 1976-92 excavations at the key site of Tell Nebi Mend in upper Orontes in western Syria. This included the work on the stratigraphy of the 4th and 3rd millennium occupation, study of archaeobotanical data, analysis of the ceramics and obtaining a new sequence of radiocarbon dates spanning the Late Chalcolithic through to the Iron Age. The team also held a workshop in Durham that brought together ceramics specialists working on material from sites across western Syria and Lebanon. 

Phase 2 began in 2018, and the Durham team has three main foci.  

  1. Continuing the analysis and publication of ceramic data – including work to better characterize the origins of the Combed Ware jars that were shipped from the Levant to Egypt during the 3rd millennium BC; these represent the very beginning of the tradition of Mediterranean transport jars.
  2. Working with local partners to collect paleoenvironmental data from areas in which the environmental changes associated with key shifts in social and economic organisation are poorly understood. These include Lebanon (with American University of Beirut) and in southern Iraq (with Qadissya University and the State board for Antiquities and Heritage).
  3. Fuelling the State – this project aims to provide some of the base-line data that is required if we wish to assess the local environmental and economic impact of the scaling-up of industries such as ceramic production, that occurs alongside the  emergence of early state societies. These include:  

- Establishing, through experiments, the firing characteristics of the most common fuel types available in the region

- Investigation of the working and firing properties of key ceramic fabric types most commonly found in the region 

- Experiments to understand the impact of temperature and duration of firing on those combinations of clay and temper that are most common in the region, and how the former might affect the results obtained via the analytical techniques traditionally used for ceramic provenance research

Image below: This EB III vat from Tell Koubba in Lebanon was used in the production of liquid products such as olive oil; it shares the distinctive combed exterior surface with transport  jarsPottery Vat in the ground, under excavation

In addition, as part of the CRANE project's broader research goals related to the modelling of past climate and of possible social responses to climate change, CRANE is collaborating with Durham’s CLaSS project as part of the Middle Eastern regional group of the LandCover6k project.

LandCover6k is an initiative that aims to reconstruct past land cover and human land use at a global scale for discrete time slices, in order to examine the impact of anthropogenic land use on past climate systems and improve palaeoclimate modelling scenarios.


PI: Professor Graham Philip 
Co -I: Dr Dan Lawrence 
Ceramics Project: Dr Kamal Badreshany 


  • Philip, G. and  Badreshany, K. (eds) (2020) Ceramics, Society, and Economy in the Northern Levant: an integrated archaeometric perspective.  Levant 51.2-3. The volume Includes the following papers from Durham staff: 
  1. Badreshany, K. & Philip, G. (2020). Introduction: Ceramic Studies and Petrographic Analysis in Levantine Archaeology, the Limitations of Current Approaches
  2. Badreshany, K, Philip, G & Kennedy, M (2019). The Development of Integrated Regional Economies in the Early Bronze Age Levant: new evidence from "Combed-Ware" jars.
  3. Kennedy, M. L., Badreshany, K. & Philip, G. (2019). Drinking on the Periphery: The Tell Nebi Mend Goblets in their Regional and Archaeometric Context
  4. Philip, G. and Badreshany, K. Ceramics, society and economy in the northern Levant: discussion and conclusions


  • Genz, H., Badreshany, K. & Jean, M.  A View from the North: Black Wheelmade Ware in Lebanon. In Long, J.C. & Dever, W.G.(eds) Transitions, Urbanism, and Collapse in the Early Bronze Age: Essays in Honor of Suzanne Richard. Sheffield: Equinox Publishing
  • Badreshany, K., Sowada, K. and Ownby, M. The Characterisation of Levantine Ceramic Production and Egyptian Trade in the Pyramid Age. PLOS ONE
  • Badreshany K, and Philip G. Potting on the Edge of the Painted Traditions: Ceramic Regionalism and the Role of Craft Production during the Neolithic of the Central Levant. Third International Workshop on Ceramics from the Late Neolithic Near East