Doctoral research student Loren Vincent Cowin, M.A.

Doctoral research student

Loren Vincent Cowin (USA, 1985)

M.A. in Urban Archaeology

PhD project
The Mapping and Analysis of the Urban Topography of Medieval Islamic Merv
The analysis of urban morphology/form/topography is an important approach in gaining an understanding of the structure, development, and essentially the daily lives of the inhabitants of a city. Bodies of Methods/theories such as Space Syntax and Reception theory have proved useful for investigations into urban form and have had some success in archaeological applications. However, difficulties arise when attempting to map, analyse, and interpret urban archaeological sites. The poor surface preservation of most urban sites makes the recognition and mapping of their features from surveys problematic. This consequently makes the application of methods for analysing and interpreting urban sites awkward, partially due to the methods having been principally borrowed from other fields and therefore being poorly suited for archaeological contexts. Furthermore, the methods employed focus chiefly on a single facet of urbanism (e.g. neighbourhoods, movement, architecture, development, etc.). In doing so, a more complete appreciation of the city is missed, as these facets are interconnected in any given urban environment. One goal of this project is, therefore, to develop a comprehensive method for mapping, analysing, and interpreting urban archeological sites. As a case study this project will use the medieval Islamic city of Merv (Sultan Qala) in Turkmenistan. From the 7th to the 12th centuries Merv was the capital of the Islamic Caliphate province of Khorosan and a major center along the medieval Silk Roads. Having been sacked by the Mongols in the 13th century, Merv was never subsequently occupied. Now an archaeological park, the landscape is corrugated with the collapse of the former structures. A wealth of aerial imagery has been collected by the Ancient Merv Project with University College London and from the images features such as streets, walls, and courtyards can be discerned, which together convey a relatively clear outline of the city. Merv therefore presents a golden opportunity for it to be mapped and its urban morphology studied. Another goal of the project, then, is to gain a deeper understanding of the socio-cultural structure of Merv, and thus learn more about early Islamic urbanism in Central Asia along the Silk Roads.
Research interests Urbanism and urban morphology, architecture, culture and the use of space, spatial statistics, cartography, the Near East and Central Asia

since March 2018
Member of the Graduate School “Human Development in Landscapes” at Kiel University

MA in Urban Archaeology from University College London
Thesis covered interpretive issues with the use of aerial imagery to map urban archaeological sites, using Medieval Islamic Merv as a case study

2008 - 2010
BA in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles

Work experience

Archaeological Monitor with Sapphos Environmental, Inc. Participated in projects in Los Angeles, Ojai, and Lone Pine, California.

October 2014 and April 2016
Archaeological Monitor with McFarlane Archaeological Consultants in Ojai, California.

January 2015
Archaeological Technician with Duke Cultural Resource Management. Activities included monitoring, excavation, and sorting.

September 2014
Archaeological Technician with Statistical Research, Inc. Participated in a survey in the Mojave Desert.

Other Field Experience

July – August 2014
San Bernardino National Forest Applied Archaeological Field School Kiel

August 2010
Arpa River Valley Archaeological Project, Armenia with UCLA

October - November 2009
Fayum Archaeological Field Project, Egypt with UCLA

July 2008
Programme for Belize Archaeological Project; La Milpa, Belize, with Santa Monica College