Meet an Archaeologist: Dan Rahimi

Posted: April 13, 2012 - 08:02 , by Robert Mason

In celebration of Archaeology Weekend on April 14 and 15, we have interviewed a few ROM archaeologists. Dan Rahimi works in the Middle East studying the period around the beginnings of settled societies around 10 to 5 thousand years ago, he is also the ROM’s Vice President of Gallery Development.

Where do you work?
Over the past 30 years, I have dug in Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Croatia, Yemen and Armenia. I specialize in the late prehistory of the Middle East, and all my work has been connected to answering questions about the origins of agriculture and stone tool technology.

What special challenges are there in your field area?
My work is in periods that predate writing, so we do not have any historical references that describe these early societies in any way. That leaves us with trying to reconstruct societies and the lives of their people from the evidence of pottery sherds and flakes of stone.

What made you want to be an archaeologist?
I have always liked to think about the distant past and how people lived with basic technologies. As a child I would accompany my father, an amateur archaeologist, in looking for evidence of the past. When I was 12 years-old I worked with an archaeologist to restore a broken Persian vase, a family treasure, and I was hooked!

What skill or attribute do you think is most important for archaeologists?
Use your eyes! Try to see what is in front of you as you dig in the ground, and create a hypothesis or explanation about how it came to be like that. Then test your explanation, and see if you are right. I think by this I mean that you should be as objective as possible, making no assumptions about what you are seeing, until you can explain it.

What is the most exciting archaeological discovery in your career?
Easy. In 1982 I was one of the excavators at ‘Ain Ghazal, Jordan, where we found the earliest known plaster statues of humans, about 9,000 years old.

Where will your research take you next? Can you tell us a little about the project?
I am digging in the capital of Armenia this summer at a Early Bronze Age site called Shengavit. It is one of the earliest cities in the region and we are interested in how it related to cities further south in Mesopotamia. I have been working on the obsidian arrow heads that were produced 5,000 years ago, and the flint sickle blades that we find on the site. Maybe we can trace Armenian obsidian to the Mesopotamian cities?!