City-river interactions across time

Friday 24 August 2018, 10:00am-1:00pm Rm 223 Moses Hall, UC Berkeley


This seminar will explore relations between cities and their rivers across time, such as how the rivers influenced development of the cities, the role of rivers in the self-image of cities, rivers as sources of water but also flood hazard, and how societies have treated their riverfronts.  We will highlight mostly examples from the Near East, with a focus on recent research in Jerash, Jordan, and other examples from the classical Roman and pre-Roman Mediterranean, but also some parallel examples from Ming China and the modern US.  As we better understand the relations between cities and their rivers in ancient times, we find many parallels to current challenges to managing rivers and their waters in our modern cities, such as similar conflicts over land use on floodplains, where central governments attempt to maintain floodplain areas to accommodate floodwaters, but local interests contrive to develop there nonetheless (examples from classical Roman Italy, Ming China, and modern US).  The seminar features presentations by Rubina Raja, Aarhus University, Co-Director of the Jerash Northwest Quarter Project, and Alan Farahani, University of Nevada Las Vegas, with remarks by Matt Kondolf, UC Berkeley, co-convenor of the UCB Institute for International Studies seminar Water Management: Past and Future Adaptations.  The seminar is open to the Berkeley community, but please RSVP here.


Rubina Raja is professor of Classical Archaeology at Aarhus University, Denmark, and centre director of the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for Urban Network Evolutions. Since 2011 she co-directs the Danish-German Jerash Northwest Quarter Project together with professor Achim Lichtenberger. Her research interests include the regions of the Near East from the Hellenistic to the medieval periods, high-definition archaeology and the intersection between archaeology and natural sciences, iconography and portrait studies as well as history of religion in the Roman world.


Alan Farahani is an assistant professor in the department of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  He is an anthropologist archaeologist specializing in environmental archaeology, specifically the analysis of archaeological plant remains, and has conducted fieldwork in Spain, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Armenia, the Philippines, and California.


An illustration of the importance of the River Chrysorrhoas in the ancient city of Gerasa under Commodus. A bronze coin whose reverse features the river god Chrysorrhoas below the foot of standing Tyche (with a smaller figure behind her) (from Lichtenberger & Raja 2016, after Meshorer 2013)

Profile of the ancient city of Gerasa, from east-west, after Schumacher (1902), showing the physical relationship between the River Chrysorrhoas and the city.