August 2020

CZAP Volume 2 Now Available

The second volume in the CZAP series is now available to order here and for open access download: Matthews, R., Matthews, W., Rasheed Raheem, K. & Richardson, A. (eds). 2020. The Early Neolithic of the Eastern Fertile Crescent: Excavations at Bestansur and Shimshara, Iraqi Kurdistan. CZAP Reports Vol. 2. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

The second volume in the CZAP Report series explores the major developments in the transition from hunting and gathering to more sedentary agricultural lifestyles through the Early Neolithic period, 10,000-7000 BC. This volume includes final reports by the large-scale interdisciplinary team on a wealth of new data from excavations at Bestansur and Shimshara and survey at Zarzi, through application of state-of-the-art scientific techniques, integrated ecological and social approaches and sustainability studies. The volume will be available open access online from September 2020. You can view further data and original records underpinning the excavations here.

Also now available is Matthews, R., Matthews, W., Richardson, A., Raheem, K. R., Walsh, S., Aziz, K. R., Bendrey, R., Whitlam, J., Charles, M., Bogaard, A., Iversen, I., Mudd, D. and Elliott, S. 2019. The early Neolithic of Iraqi Kurdistan: current research at Bestansur, Shahrizor Plain. Paleorient 45.2: 13-32.

August 2019

Excavations at Bestansur 2019

The MENTICA team conducted an 11-week season of excavations at the Early Neolithic site of Bestansur between March and June 2019. The season focused on Trench 10 to extend excavations from previous seasons. It is clear that there are multiple Early Neolithic mud-brick buildings in this area of the site, with major potential for investigation of activity variability across different spaces and buildings. By expanding to the north, east and west, we connected Trench 10 to Neolithic levels identified in Trenches 1 and 6 (excavated in 2012). We excavated more of the exceptional number of human remains buried within Building 5, with at least 16 individuals represented amongst the disarticulated burials. Among the remarkable finds from the excavations was a stone ear stretcher or plug found resting on the side of a skull - one of the earliest examples in the world.

To read more about our activities during the field season, you can download our short field report here.

The excavation team was co-directed by Professor Roger Matthews and Dr Wendy Matthews, with Dr Amy Richardson (field and data manager, small finds), Dr Sam Walsh (human osteoarchaeologist), Dr Ingrid Iversen, (microarchaeologist), Dr David Mudd (ground stone and chipped stone tools), Dr Charlotte Diffey (archaeobotany), Dr Rae Beaubien (conservator), Donna De Groene (zooarchaeology), Alessandro Guaggenti (excavations, micromorphology), Samira Idriss (excavations, conservation), and Firman Tawfiq, Kate Dudgeon, Paul Flintoft, Nick Pankhurst, Dan Wheeler and Mattia Cartolano (excavations, 3D photogrammetry). We are very grateful to Sulaimaniyah Directorate of Antiquities for all of their support, in particular to the Director, Kamal Rasheed Raheem, the Director of Slemani Museum, Hashim Hama Abdullah, and our government representatives, Kamal Rouf Aziz and Sami Jamil Hama Rashid, who helped us in very many ways and contributed greatly to the success of the season.

Additionally, a team from the University of British Columbia conducted four weeks of excavations in Iron Age and Sasanian levels at Bestansur, directed by Dr Lisa Cooper and assisted by Dr Lynn Welton. Throughout the season we benefited from the expertise and hard work of local workers, including residents of Bestansur village, to all of whom we are very grateful. We are delighted to have hosted visits by staff and students from Sulaimani Polytechnic University and the University of Sulaimani led by Dr Rozhen Mohammed-Amin and Dr Rafida Qaradaghy and to be building research collaborations on environment, ecology, and architecture at Bestansur.

November 2018

Join the MENTICA team

Two postdoctoral research positions and two PhD studentships are available to start on 14 January 2019 as integral components of the MENTICA project. We invite applications for four researchers to join the team in the following posts:

The deadline for applications for all posts is Friday 30th November 2018. Please follow the links for further details of the job descriptions and to apply.

For further information please see the project website

Or contact Roger Matthews:

October 2018

MENTICA: a new phase for the project

The CZAP team is excited to announce a new phase in the investigations of the Neolithic Central Zagros. Supported by an Advanced Grant awarded by the European Research Council to Prof Roger Matthews, for next five years the team will be collaborating with colleagues in Iraq and Iran to investigate The Middle East Neolithic Transition: Integrated Community Approaches (MENTICA). The aim of this project is to generate community-scale, inter-disciplinary insights into the Early Neolithic transition, through analysis of contextualised data from excavations at three archaeological sites in the eastern Fertile Crescent (EFC) of western Iran and eastern Iraq, a core area of early transition to farming-herding. The prime research question is: how did EP-EN human communities negotiate disruption in their transition from mobile hunting and foraging to sedentary farming and herding?

Over the next three months, the team will be advertising key post-doctoral and doctoral research positions in connection with the project. Links to job advertisements and updates on the project will be provided here.

June 2017

CZAP in the news

The CZAP team have conducted a busy and successful field season excavating the Early Neolithic buildings at Bestansur. You can read Kristina Killgrove's article about our ongoing investigations on the Forbes website here.

March 2017


We are very pleased to confirm that the Early Neolithic site of Bestansur in Iraqi Kurdistan has been formally accepted onto the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, following nomination by the Iraqi government in recognition of the site's outstanding universal value to cultural heritage. The site entry can be viewed here.

February 2017

New article

CZAP zooarchaeologist, Dr Robin Bendrey (University of Edinburgh) has co-authored a new article modelling the Neolithic spread of zoonotic diseases in goat populations at the Central Zagros sites of Jarmo, Asiab, and Ganj Dareh. The results of the study are available here, in the open-access journal, Royal Society Open Science.

November 2016

RASHID International Podcast

Recorded at the second Protecting the Past conference, you can listen here to Prof Roger Matthews discussing the issues facing Iraq's cultural heritage and the initiatives taken by RASHID International. The conference was co-organised by the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project, with the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani and the University of Sulaimani. A selection of papers are available here, including English, Kurdish, and Arabic translations.

July 2016

New CZAP Article - available now

A summary of the project has been published in a guide to current investigations in Iraqi Kurdistan, and is now available through open access here. A full reference to this work and a list of recent project outputs is available on our Publications page.

June 2016

Prof Roger Matthews, President of RASHID International

Many congratulations to CZAP co-director Prof Roger Matthews, who has been elected to the role of President by Research Assessment and Safeguarding the Heritage of Iraq in Danger (RASHID) International, a wide-reaching network of archaeologists, historians, scientists, and heritage professionals, concerned with the ongoing cultural destruction in Mesopotamia. Read more about Roger's work in this new role here.

June 2016

Watch KhakTV's Bestansur Documentary Online

The film-crew from KhakTV joined us during our second field season at Bestansur back in 2012. It was early days in our excavations at the site, as we revealed Neolithic occupation in Trench 7, to the west of the tell. The documentary team joined us as we explored the deposits in and around a Neolithic building, with significant deposits of ground-stone, and a double-burial, as well as testing the results of our gradiometry survey. The two-part Kurdish-language documentary (with interviews of the team in English) is now available to watch below, or on the KhakTV YouTube Channel.

May 2016

New CZAP articles!

Two new CZAP articles have been published this Spring - the first by co-director, Wendy Matthews, on Humans and fire: changing relations in early agricultural and built environments in the Zagros, Iran, Iraq, and the second by Jessica Godleman, Matthew Almond and Wendy Matthews, conducting An infrared microspectroscopic study of plasters and pigments from the Neolithic site of Bestansur, Iraq. Both papers introduce exciting new insights into the technological and material choices of Neolithic people in the Central Zagros. You can find more details of recent CZAP articles on our Publications page.

May 2016

Rise of the Drones

The latest field season brought with it an opportunity for the CZAP team to work with Dr Tobin Hartnell and Mohammed Anwer, of the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS). Our colleagues at AUIS have conducted flights over the site, taking high resolution photographs and video, and trialling 3D modelling techniques. These overhead images of the site and its surroundings give us a new perspective and we look forward to seeing more! Here is a first glimpse of the full extent of Building 5, courtesy of Tobin and Mohammed.

April 2016

CZAP 6th Season at Bestansur

In Spring 2016, CZAP team members ventured out for a sixth season of excavations at the Neolithic site of Bestansur, in Sulaimaniyah Province, Iraqi Kurdistan. Conducting focussed excavations on the walls and under-floor burials of Building 5, the site continues to surprise and attract significant interest from local media organisations. Watch Rudaw interview CZAP co-director, Prof Roger Matthews in the field, or take a look at a news item (in Kurdish) below:

January 2016

Congratulations to Dr Whitlam, Dr Iversen, and Dr Elliott

CZAP would like to start the year by congratulating three of our team members on the successful defence of their theses:

  • Dr Jade Whitlam: Plant use and neolithic societies of the eastern Fertile Crescent c. 10,000 - 5500 BC.

  • Dr Ingrid Iversen: Living in an Early Neolithic community: investigation of the social structure of settlement by microartefactual analysis of spatial organisation of activities at Bestansur, Central Zagros and Boncuklu, Central Anatolia.

  • Dr Sarah Elliott: Investigating early animal management in the Zagros mountains of Iran and Iraq: integrating field and laboratory methods for the identification and analysis of ancient faecal material.

These three exciting submissions to the University of Reading have incorporated material from the CZAP sites, shedding new light on Neolithic plant and animal management, and social structure in Southwest Asia.

December 2014

CZAP Volume 1 Now Available

The first volume in the CZAP series is now available for pre-order here: Matthews, R., Matthews, W. & Mohammadifar, Y. 2013. The Earliest Neolithic of Iran: 2008 Excavations at Sheikh-E Abad and Jani. Oxbow Books. The first volume in the CZAP Report series explores the origins of sedentism and increasing resource management in Southwest Asia, and associated developments in social, cultural and ritual practices through the Early Neolithic sites of Sheikh-e Abad and Jani.

Also now available is Matthews, R. & Fazeli, H. 2013. The Neolithisation of Iran. Oxbow Books. Buy it here. This volume comprises 18 studies by an international panel of scholars, as part of the British Association for Near Eastern Archaeology.