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Iraq: 5,000-year-old pub discovered


Already around 2700 BC people went to the tavern. This is shown by excavations in Lagash in today's Iraq. The find seems commonplace but challenges assumptions about ancient society.

Enlarge image

Excavation in Girsu, a neighboring town of Lagash, in November 2021

Photo: Arshad Mohammed / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

During excavation work in Iraq, researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Pisa came across a pub that is almost five thousand years old.

"It's a public dining room that's been dated to about 2700 BC," said Holly Pittman, a professor of art history at the University of Pennsylvania, according to a press release from her school.

"The room is partly in the open air." Another part is the kitchen area.

Pittman has been studying archaeological sites in this region on and off since the 1990s.

The most recent excavations in Lagasch began in 2019, and despite an interruption due to corona, four excavation periods have already been completed.

The most significant discovery to date, however, was the tavern, complete with benches, some sort of clay fridge, an industrial-size oven, and dozens of conical bowls, many containing fish scraps, revealing the courtyard's purpose as an al fresco dining area.

"First we spotted the very large furnace, and it's really beautiful," Reed Goodman, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, told CNN.

"Through various combustion processes and ash deposits, it has left a kind of rainbow coloration in the ground, and the interior is framed by large bricks."

Were there only elites and slaves back then?

Earlier excavations have focused on the religious architecture and life of the elite.

But in recent excavations, Pittman, who is also director of the Lagash Archaeological Project, focused on areas believed to be inhabited by ordinary people rather than members of the elite.

With the discovery of the tavern, Pittman and her team landed a bull's eye.

"The fact that there's a public meeting place where people can sit down and have a beer and eat their fish stew shows they didn't work under the tyranny of the kings," her colleague Goodman told CNN.

"It gives us a much more colorful picture of the city."

The scientists see the tavern in its layout and furnishings as proof that people came together and spent time there voluntarily.

Presumably, these were not slaves, but an ancient middle class.

This would challenge previous assumptions that society consisted only of elites and enslaved people.

An important urban center

The find offers a glimpse into the life of the people who lived in Mesopotamia around 5000 years ago.

Here the first cities arose;

Writing and chariots were invented and war .

Lagash, today's city of al-Hiba, was one of the oldest and largest cities in the region.

It is approximately 50 kilometers from the famous archeological sites of Uruk and Ur.

Lagash was inhabited from the fifth millennium to about the middle of the second millennium BC and was an important urban center for most of that time.

"Covering more than 450 hectares, Lagash was one of the largest cities in southern Iraq in the 3rd millennium," says Pittman.

“It was of great political, economic and religious importance.

We also assume that Lagash was an important population center.« People would have had access to fertile land and »devoted themselves to intensive artisanal production«.

Lagash itself was only rediscovered in 1953.

Previously, the ancient neighboring city of Girsu was thought to be identical to Lagash - both are now important archaeological sites.

The excavations in the area can help to reconstruct the life of the people during the so-called Early Dynastic period.

In the 600-year period between 2900 and 2300 BC, the world's first cities were built.

To make the excavations in Lagasch as effective as possible, the researchers used state-of-the-art methods, including drone photography and thermal imaging, magnetometry, which captures the magnetic intensity of buried objects, and microstratigraphic sampling, a surgically precise way of excavation.

In order to understand the ecological context of the city, sediment cores were also taken, reflecting the millennia of ecological development.

These methods also helped in discovering the tavern, which was not that deep underground.

Under the direction of Sara Pizzimenti from the University of Pisa, layer by layer was removed from a narrowly defined area.

"It was like a very careful operation," says Holly Pittman.

“We were able to discover all of this at a depth of only 50 centimetres.

We were amazed ourselves.«


Source: spiegel

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