Dr. Michael Fisher (he/him)

Research Group Leader
Department of Archaeology
MAPSS Research Group

Main Focus

Mike works with digital methodologies for archaeology and cultural heritage preservation, using semantic modelling and Linked Open Data methods to integrate remote sensing datasets with traditional detection and excavation methods for the archaeological landscapes of countries such as Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and, currently, Mongolia. His research applies quantitative approaches to the investigation of sociopolitical change in protourban and early urban societies of Western and Central Asia. It presently focusses on shifting distribution patterns and morphology of craft-production debris in Mesopotamian Chalcolithic households and institutions as they relate to human-environment interactions, considering the impact of changes to production and land use on material systems. Other research interests include studying the impact of contemporary urbanization on cultural landscapes, applying cognitive neuroscience models of craft innovation and tool adoption to archaeological datasets, and exploring the role and identification of beer brewing and alcohol consumption in antiquity.

Curriculum Vitae

Mike Fisher is a Group Leader of Digital Archaeology at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology. He leads the Mongolian Archaeology Project: Surveying the Steppes (MAPSS) research group, which uses remote sensing and 3D technologies integrated with a geospatial recording system to digitally document  immovable archaeological heritage and cultural landscapes across Mongolia.

He received his BA from the University of Notre Dame in History and Middle Eastern Studies and his MA and PhD from the University of Chicago in Near Eastern Art & Archaeology. Focussing on the emergence of complex sociopolitical systems in Late Chalcolithic Syria, he began developing digital techniques for capturing, storing, and interrogating archaeological data. While still a graduate student, Mike pursued a parallel interest in digital cultural heritage preservation and became the Field Director of the University of Chicago partnership with the National Museum of Afghanistan, overseeing the inventory, conservation, and rehousing of the archaeological and ethnographic collections stored in Kabul and provincial museums. While finishing his PhD, he began working for the University of Chicago's Afghan Heritage Mapping Project, using remote sensing methods to detect at-risk and damaged archaeological sites across Afghanistan. He co-edited the volume Preserving the Cultural Heritage of Afghanistan, which documents the rich cultural patrimony of the country and the means available for protecting it, against the backdrop of four decades of armed conflict and political turbulence.

As a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, Mike oversaw the development and population of the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East & North Africa (EAMENA) project's geospatial graph databases, while researching the impact and ethics of remote sensing and data management systems for archaeological landscapes.

He is also currently the Co-Director of the University of Chicago field excavations at Surezha, Kurdistan (Iraq), which expands on his doctoral research by exploring sociopolitical transformations in late-prehistoric Mesopotamia and their adaptations and contributions to environmental stresses.

Journal Articles

2023. Stein, G., M. Fisher, & N. Babakr. Surezha Excavations 2022: Erbil Plain, Kurdistan Region, Iraq. Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures Annual Report 2022-23: 71-85.

2022. Fisher, M., D. Jurkenas, A. Jambajantsan, B. Jamsranjav, et al. Multidisciplinary Digital Methodologies for Documentation and Preservation of Immovable Archaeological Heritage in the Khovd River Valley, Western Mongolia [version 1; peer review: awaiting peer review]. New Digital Archaeologies Collection, F1000Research 11:1250. 

2022. Fisher, M. Intrasite Variability and Changing Social Practices during the Ubaid-Late Chalcolithic Transition at Tell Zeidan, Syria. Paléorient 48 (1), 101-125.

2021. Fisher, M., M. Fradley, P. Flohr, B. Rouhani, and F. Simi. Ethical Considerations for Remote Sensing and Open Data in Relation to the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa Project. Archaeological Prospection 28 (3), 279-292.

2021. Price, M., M. Fisher, and G. Stein. Animal Production and Secondary Products in the Fifth Millennium BC in Northern Mesopotamia: New Data from Tell Surezha (Iraqi Kurdistan). Paléorient 47 (2).

2021. ten Harkel, L. and M. Fisher. The EAMENA Database and its Potential Impact on Research and Heritage Management: A Case Study of Crusader Heritage in Lebanon. Levant, 1-20.

2020. Stein, G. and M. Fisher. Surezha Excavations 2019: Erbil Plain, Kurdistan Region, Iraq. Oriental Institute Annual Report 2020, 127-145.

2019. Stein, G. and M. Fisher. Surezha Excavations 2018, Erbil Plain, Kurdistan Region, Iraq. Oriental Institute Annual Report 2019, 125-138.

2018. Stein, G., A. Gallego-Lopez, and M. Fisher. Tracking Down Missing Treasures from the National Museum of Afghanistan. Oriental Institute News & Notes, 14-16.

2017. T. Paulette and M. Fisher. Potent Potables of the Past: Beer and Brewing in Mesopotamia. The Ancient Near East Today 5 (4).

2015M. Fisher and M. Stolper. Achaemenid Elamite Administrative Tablets, 3: Fragments from Old Kandahar, Afghanistan. Achaemenid Research on Texts and Archaeology, 1-26.

Book Chapters

2023. Fisher, M. Stability of Cultural Information in Unstable Environments: Data Management for Digital Preservation of Immovable Cultural Heritage against Natural Hazards. Rouhani, B. & X. Romão, eds. Managing Disaster Risks to Cultural Heritage: From Risk Preparedness to Recovery. London: Routledge, 53-73.

2017. Fisher, M. Partnership for Preservation: The Digital Inventory of the National Museum of Afghanistan. Stein, G., M. Fisher, A.H. Latify, N. Popal, and N.H. Dupree, eds. Preserving the Cultural Heritage of Afghanistan: Proceedings of the International Conference Held at Kabul University, November 2014. Chicago: Oriental Institute Press, The University of Chicago, 43-48.

2016Fisher, M. and G. Stein. Aks of War: A Digital Inventory for a War-torn Afghanistan. A. Jameison, ed. Collections at Risk. Proceedings, 9th ICAANE 1, 449-463. Basel: Weisbaden.

Edited Volumes

2017. Stein, G., M. Fisher, A.H. Latify, N. Popal, and N.H. Dupree, eds. Preserving the Cultural Heritage of Afghanistan: Proceedings of the International Conference Held at Kabul University, November 2014. Chicago: Oriental Institute Press, The University of Chicago.

Book Reviews

2018Fisher, M. The New Chronology of the Bronze Age Settlement of Tepe Hissar, Iran. By A. Gürsan-Salzmann. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 77 (2), 316-318.

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