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Alum Appointed Minister of Culture in Iraq

Hamdani featured

Abdulamir Al-Dafar Hamdani ’15, PhD Anthropology and Archaeology, was recently approved by the Iraqi Parliament as Minister of Culture to the Iraqi Ministry of Culture.

Abdul-Amir Hamdani ’15 and Dr. Elizabeth Stone at Tell Sakheriyah, examining ceramics to determine the date of the site. Tell Sakheriyah was occupied at a time when many other sites were abandoned, likely due to shifts in the river regimes (photo by Paul Zimansky, 2011).
Abdul-Amir Hamdani ’15 and Dr. Elizabeth Stone at Tell Sakheriyah, examining ceramics to determine the date of the site. Tell Sakheriyah was occupied at a time when many other sites were abandoned, likely due to shifts in the river regimes (photo by Paul Zimansky, 2011).

Hamdani, who was known as Abdulameer Al-Dafar while at Stony Brook, was a graduate student under the mentorship and supervision of Dr. Elizabeth Stone, professor in the Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences. His dissertation, “The Shadow States — The Archaeology of Power in the Marshes of Southern Mesopotamia,” explored the ancient environment in southern Iraq, which is known for its marshes. While much archaeological work has considered the important ancient, and modern, settlement to be associated with irrigated agriculture, Hamdani, through satellite imagery and geographic data, reconstructed the ancient environment and was able to show the important role marshes played in the development and subsequent organization of Mesopotamian civilization.

Abdulamir was an amazing student,” said Dr. Stone. “He arrived at Stony Brook with somewhat limited English, considerable field experience and an Iraqi undergraduate degree in archaeology, but little background in theory or how the archaeology of Iraq fit into the big picture. He worked incredibly hard and within five years — a short time for even an English-speaking PhD — and produced a brilliant dissertation.”

The eldest child of a large family, Hamdani grew up living in a reed hut in a village in the marshes of southern Iraq. His illiterate father wanted his children, as well as those of the other village members, to have an education, so he asked the Iraqi government for a teacher. He was told that he needed a schoolhouse, so he built a reed hut to serve the purpose. The government subsequently sent members of the Communist party, the only non Ba’athist party that was allowed in Iraq, to serve as teachers. This education made it possible for Hamdani to go on to college and get a job in the Iraqi Antiquities department. He lived frugally, limiting his family to two children, saving money for his siblings to also receive an education.

Hamdani, along with Dr. Stone and other students, conducted a field project at Tell Sakheriyah, near the ancient Sumerian city-state Ur, during the winter of 2011-2012; it was the first foreign excavation in Iraq beyond Kurdistan since the Gulf War. The group partly chose Tell Sakheriyah because it was in a military zone and within commuting distance from Ur, where they lived during the excavation. According to Dr. Stone, this marsh-adapted site turned out to be very interesting, and likely dating to a time period when most sites were thought to be abandoned.

Learn more Hamdani and his research fields here.

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3 comments

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  • Dr. Al-Hamdany is a great scientist, anthropologist, and cultural writer. He wrote my introduction’s book which published in the last of 2018. We are so proud when he became as a Minster of culture in our country -Iraq- .

  • It’s such an honor to know Dr. Al Hamdani and being one of his classmates at the university of Baghdad 1983-1987, he was one of the brightest students in the class, I envy him for his strong memory and an astonishing knowledge and experience in archaeology, in the meantime, it’s such an honor to see one of my friends and classmates as a minister of cultural in Iraq, I do wish him the best of luck in his journey to build up new and modern country of Iraq, the valuable culture , and oldest civilization of Mesopotamia, so Doctor Abdul-Amir proudly I want say congratulations with all my support from the USA. Thank you Stony Brook university for such privileges!
    Noel,
    California
    March 18 2018..

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