The Upper Tigris Archaeological Research Project (UTARP) was a multi-year archaeological excavation and survey project aimed at defining archaeological correlates of ancient imperialism, colonialism and culture contact in an area that was, for much of Mesopotamian history, a frontier zone between the centralized states of Mesopotamia and the much less centralized cultures of its Anatolian periphery. By combining both regional and intensive archaeological surveys with excavations at several key archaeological sites in the Upper Tigris River Valley of southeastern Anatolia, this project contributed to the on-going debate about the formation and mutation of culture in frontier zones.
UTARP was also a rescue project. Before the project began the southeastern corner of modern Turkey was, from an archaeological point of view, virtually unexplored. However, archaeological research in this area was greatly intensified with the announcement by the Turkish government of ambitious development plans for the area. As part of the Southeastern Anatolian Development Project (G.A.P.), the Turkish government is in the process of constructing a series of dams on the major waterways in southeastern Turkey. These dams are intended to produce electrical energy for industrial development and supply water for large-scale irrigation schemes. The economic benefits of such an ambitious development project are obviously very high, but at the same time the construction of these dams and the development in terms of industry and agriculture pose a considerable threat to the rich, and largely undocumented, cultural remains of the region.
UTARP began in 1998 when the director (Bradley Parker) studied ceramic collections in the Diyarbakır Museum in southeastern Turkey and visited several sites in the Upper Tigris River Valley east of Diyarbakır. During the summer of 1999 UTARP team members conducted salvage excavations at the site of Boztepe, and carried out intensive surveys in and around the sites of Boztepe and Talavaş Tepe. Between 2000 and 2007 UTARP team members undertook excavations at the large multi-period mound of Kenan Tepe. The site of Kenan Tepe is located about fifteen kilometers east of the modern town of Bismil just off the Diyarbakır to Batman highway on the north bank of the Tigris River. It stands on a limestone outcropping commanding a beautiful view of the Tigris River as it winds its way through the Upper Tigris River Valley. Kenan Tepe is a relatively large mound measuring about four hectares in size and more than thirty meters in height.
Excavations at Kenan Tepe presented us with a unique opportunity to examine archaeological correlates of imperialism, colonialism and culture contact in various periods of ancient Near Eastern history. Our research addresses such questions as: the nature of the relationship between the indigenous inhabitants of the valley and the Neo-Assyrian colonists during the Iron Age; the similarities and differences between Ubaid period occupation at Kenan Tepe and in Mesopotamia proper and the nature of Middle Bronze settlement in the valley and its relationship with contemporary cultures in Syria and Mesopotamia.