5,000-year-old Sumerian 'tavern' found in Iraq

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A “5,000-year-old Sumerian tavern discovered in Iraq

The eating area discovered at the Lagash archaeological site in southern Iraq.

A cooling system that doubles as a refrigerator, bowls with leftover food, benches: in southern Iraq, land of the “early cities”, American and Italian archaeologists unearthed a Sumerian “tavern” nearly 5,000 years old. /p>

More than the refined way of life of kings and religious elites, it is the everyday life of ordinary people that interests archaeologists at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States and their counterparts at the University of Pisa in Italy, on the Lagash site.

The place was full of benches. There was also a clay refrigerator, an oven and many vessels.

5,000 years ago, daily life in Lagash was intimately linked to the neighboring city-states of Girsu and Nigin , two religious and political centers of Sumerian civilization that flourished during the period of Archaic Dynasties, from 2900 BC. AD to 2334 BC. AD

The discovered tavern dates back to 2700 BC. J.-C., confirms to AFP Holly Pittman, project director of the University of Pennsylvania for the archaeological mission at Lagash.

She evokes a device cooling unit consisting of a jar surrounded by large superimposed broken ceramic containers… A kind of clay refrigerator.

There are also cooking utensils, approximately 150 bowls visibly full of food, as they contained fish bones and animal bones, adds Ms. Pittman.

The site had major political, economic and religious importance.

But also cups that would have been used for beer, she said, recalling that it was by far the most common drink for the Sumerians, perhaps even more so than water.

This restaurant from ancient times, divided into a covered area and an open space, had benches to sit on and an oven to cook food, she adds.

Iraq is the cradle of the civilizations of Sumer, Akkad, Babylon and Assyria, to which mankind owes writing and first cities.

Ravaged by decades of conflict, the country suffered from the looting of its antiquities, after the American invasion of 2003, then with the arrival of jihadists from the Islamic State group.

But by returning to a semblance of normality in recent years and despite crumbling infrastructure, the country has timidly opened up to world tourism and archaeological missions from the United States or Europe have resumed of the service, with new discoveries regularly announced.

In Lagash, archaeologists are still trying to determine the interweaving of the city with its surroundings, in particular the relationship with Girsu, where a temple honored Ningirsu, Sumerian deity of spring, stormy rains, but also of the plow and the plowing .

Lagash was an important city in southern Iraq, says Iraqi archaeologist Baker Azab Wali, who collaborated with his Western colleagues on the Lagash site.

Its inhabitants depended on agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing, but also on the exchange of goods, he adds.

Holly Pittman mentions several ceramic workshops with kilns that suggest that Lagash was an important center for mass craft production.

The first cities appeared in southern Mesopotamia, recalls- she. There is so much we don't know about this period of the emergence of cities.

Discovered in the fall of 2022, the tavern will bring new knowledge, she says.

We hope to be able to determine the characteristics of the neighborhoods, the type of occupation and the identifying markers of the people who lived in this large city and who were not part of the elite, she adds.

Most of the work on the other sites focuses on kings and priests, and it is very important, she stresses. But ordinary people are also important.

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