Institute of Archaeology

Dr Mark Altaweel

Dr Mark Altaweel

Reader in Near East Archaeology

Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square

Institute of Archaeology

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2011

Research summary

Some of Dr. Altaweel's previous research focused on understanding the relationship between social interactions with the environment using a complex system perspective. He has studied how human perceptions are shaped by and influence environmental change. Other research focused on developing remote sensing methods and spatial approaches to understanding landscape change in the present and past. Some of his funded research includes:

(i)  Investigating how people walk in ancient cities and decisions they make in choosing routes within an urban context, including factors that shape movement choices such as metabolism and walking abilities.

(ii) Studying how past landscape change affected human decision-making and how social decisions influenced land use in different ecological zones.

(iii) Understanding how modern Arctic societies are coping with environmental change as caused by climate and land use change.

(iv) Applying text mining approaches to understand how social perceptions are shaped by environmental change.

(v) Conducting archaeological investigations to determine the role of land use and climate change on past societies.

(vi) Publishing and salvaging archaeological materials and information from sites threatened or destroyed by looting in Iraq.

(vii) My recent research has also focused on urbanisation in the ancient Near East and how quantitative models can be applied to understand why cities and settlements arose or declined in certain regions.

(viii) A recent book project has focused on imperialism and how states embark on empire building through different decision dynamics based on political and historical factors. This work has looked at how empires transformed key social institutions, where population movement was also a critical element to such change.

Teaching summary

Dr. Altaweel takes an interdisciplinary perspective in his teaching philosophy and integrates a variety of methods and fields in his courses. He has taught courses on Near Eastern history and archaeology, GIS, remote sensing methods, computational modelling, data science, social-ecological theory, introduction to archaeology, and on land use and environmental change. Dr. Altaweel helped establish the UK's first data science focus in archaeology and is currently teaching the core course for this degree. His courses in the Near East focus on material culture and its change over time and space. 


Mark Altaweel is a Reader in Near Eastern Archaeology at the Institute, having held previous appointments and joint appointments at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. He has held invited positions at the University of Alaska and was a Fellow in the Centre for Advanced Studies at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Mark has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Masters and degrees from the University of Chicago’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

Mark's research focuses on the interplay and interaction between social and environmental systems. This has included conducting and integrating geoarchaeological and computational techniques in his research. He helped to develop a variety of tools and computational methods that address the fields he has worked with, including developing free and open source tools used widely by researchers and the public. Awards he has achieved for his work include a “Pacesetter” research award and best paper awards at conferences. As an archaeologist, he has worked in five different countries in the Near East with his current work focused on Iraqi Kurdistan and southern Iraq. This work looks at how the environment, including water and hydrologic systems, shaped the rise of early complex societies and influenced later states and empires. He currently serves on the editorial board of Social Science Computer Review and Iraq.