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DFG research grants for Amelia Bonea and Michael Brown

Nov 20, 2019

Dr. Amelia Bonea and Dr. Michael Brown, researcher fellows at the HCTS, were each recently awarded a research grant by the German Research Foundation. The grants will fund their respective research projects in the fields of Global History of Science and Near Eastern archaeology.

The German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft | DFG) is promoting the research at the HCTS by allocating further funds to support ongoing research projects in the field of Transculturality.

Dr. Amelia Bonea, postdoctoral researcher at the HCTS, was awarded a grant for her project on “Archives of the Earth: Fossils, Science and Historical Imaginaries in Twentieth-Century India,” which explores plant and animal fossils as objects of scientific investigation and historical imagination in twentieth-century India.

It documents the local and global contexts that framed efforts to collect, exchange, study and preserve fossils, the wide range of individual and institutional actors, material objects and ideas involved therein, and the ways in which these ‘archives’ of the Earth were used to generate knowledge about the deep past of the natural world and its relation with the human past. The aim is to write a history of the global entanglements of ‘fossil science’ in colonial and post-colonial India that also furthers our knowledge of the history of natural resources exploitation, climate change research and women in science.

A second three-year grant was awarded to Dr. Michael Brown, who is also a postdoctoral researcher at the HCTS, for his study on the Parthian Empire titled “Parthian Imperial Control and Local Agency in the Central Zagros Highlands”. The Parthian Empire was the dominant political and military power in Persia and neighboring regions of eastern Mesopotamia for nearly half a millennium (c. 250 BC - AD 226). Despite its evident significance as the longest lasting dominion in the Ancient Near East, knowledge of Parthian archaeology and history remains markedly incomplete. These shortcomings are exacerbated in the Zagros Mountains, where investigation of Parthian-era settlement has hitherto been limited, despite its strategic location.

The DFG award will fund archaeological fieldwork at sites on either side of the modern Iran-Iraq border, to be undertaken by Dr. Brown and a team from Heidelberg University in collaboration with local colleagues. This research will build upon preliminary investigations at the mountain fortress of Rabana-Merquly in Iraqi-Kurdistan undertaken by Dr. Brown as part of the Transcultural Forays program. The overall aim of this project is to explore the relationship between highland populations and the wider Parthian empire in the central Zagros during the late second millennium BC to early first millennium AD.


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  • The Parthian-era fortress of Rabana-Merquly on Mt. Piramagrun in Iraqi-Kurdistan.

  • Above: Palaeobotanist Birbal Sahni at the Botany School, University of Cambridge, c.1910s; Below: Geologist Mulk Raj Sahni on his first assignment after joining GSI, Shan States, early 1930s. © Prof. Ashok Sahni