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Dernière modification : 5 avril 2017

Anatolian Rivers between East and West : Axes and Frontiers

A series of three Workshops

 Geographical, economical and cultural aspects of the human-environment interactions between the Kızılırmak and Tigris rivers in ancient times


Organizing committee

  • icone email Anca DAN, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique – École normale supérieure, labex TransferS, Paris
  • icone email Dominique KASSAB TEZGÖR, Bilkent University, Ankara
  • icone email Nino INAISHVILI, Niko Berdzenishvili Institute, Shota Rustaveli State University, Batumi
  • icone email Stéphane LEBRETON, Université d’Artois, Arras


Supported by

  • Labex TransferS de l’École normale supérieure (Paris)
  • Institut Français d’Études Anatoliennes (Istanbul)
  • Université d’Artois (Arras)
  • Bilkent University (Ankara)
  • Shota Rustaveli University (Batumi)


Scientific committee

  • Tønnes BEKKER-NIELSEN (University of Southern Denmark)
  • Helmut BRÜCKNER (University of Cologne)
  • Martin GODON (French Institute of Anatolian Studies, Istanbul)
  • Merab KHALVASHI (Shota Rustaveli State University, Batumi)
  • Hatice PAMIR (Mustafa Kemal University, Antakya)
  • Maurice SARTRE (University of Tours, French Institute of Near-Eastern Studies)
  • John SCHEID (Collège de France, Paris)
  • Pierre SCHNEIDER (Arras University)
  • Stéphane VERGER (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris)


From the smallest stream to the major rivers flowing into seas, waterways have always determined the fate of Anatolia. Today, they are at the heart of debates on energy, agricultural and industrial policies, urban development and environmental protection in Turkey, and, more generally, in the neighbouring countries of Europe and Middle East. In the past, they represented habitation axes, routes for migration, trade and transit, as well as major borders of the Anatolian plateau. Their economic advantages – water and food resources, connectivity – have attracted people since the Neolithic period. However, their natural hazards –flooding, siltation, changing courses and flow rates – were objects of fear several millennia ago as they are today.

The studies of the river landscapes, their evolution, their impact on human societies and representations show the importance of the river on the lives of the local residents. Conducted on the long term and with the contributions from different disciplines, such investigations do not only reveal the complex interaction between humans and rivers, but also the similarities and particularities of different societies when dealing with their environment.

The preference for Anatolia in general and for the Eastern Anatolia in particular for this research is not incidental : ancient Asia Minor and modern Anatolia have always been a bridge between East and West. Throughout history, Anatolia has been the middle ground Asia and Europe : from the corridor between the Tigris and the Euphrates, the Neolithic “revolution” spread towards the Kızılırmak and to the Aegean, but also towards inner Asia. Assyrians and Persians, Macedonians and Romans, Arabs and Turks used its crossings in order to have access to the “other” half of the known world.

However, in spite of the importance of that topic, there is no general image in the scientific literature available today, nor about one particular river of Eastern Anatolia, nor about one single aspect related to the use and abuse of river resources or images from this region, in ancient or modern times. This shows the necessity to undertake new research in order to reach a synoptic approach.

The aim of the project The Anatolian Rivers between East and West : axes and frontiers is to bring together specialists of different fields – archaeologists, geographers, historians, engineers – and various periods – from the Neolithic to Byzantium and beyond, who have an interest and ongoing projects on the rivers used as a frontier or an axe of communication : the Tigris and the Euphrates on the East, the Kızılırmak and its tributaries on the West, the Aras, the Rioni and the Çoruh (Tchorokhi) on the North. Most of these rivers have been considered as frontiers between Asia and Europe. As modern theoretical and historical studies have shown, “frontier” does not only mean barrier, but also contact zone, transfers of goods, technologies and knowledge.

Beyond its major historical goal, this project develops three axes in order to answer three key questions :

  1. What was the function of these rivers in the contacts between Europe and Asia, the Caucasus and the Black sea, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and how did this evolve in different historical contexts ?
  2. How did people from different societies use these rivers, what were the resources they could exploit, how and under which conditions ?
  3. How have these rivers been looked upon, described, imagined, and worshipped in different cultures ?


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