The area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in southern Iraq and Iran saw one of the world’s most important social developments: the first cities. Yet this region is poor in many important resources, including stone. Flint and other lithic raw materials and finished objects had to be imported for use as tools, ornaments, and building materials. Given the scarcity of stone, the region’s residents developed ingenious uses of readily available clay to fashion their tools. Museum curator Henry Wright recovered the clay sickles shown here at Tepe Sharafabad in southwestern Iran. Sickles such as these are common at many urban and pre-urban late 5th and 4th millennium BCE sites. Some scholars have interpreted them as agricultural tools that served as substitutes for hafted flint sickles in the harvesting of cereal grains. However, others suggest they may have had more general roles in gathering and processing a variety of wild and domestic plant materials.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.