Eridu visit and photos - Page 3

Tell Abu Shahrain (Eridu)
Visited 11.00-13.07, 5 June, 2008
The seven mounds of Eridu lie about 24 km south-west of Ur.

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Tell Abu Shahrain (Eridu)
Visited 11.00-13.07, 5 June, 2008
The seven mounds of Eridu lie about 24 km south-west of Ur.

Excavations were conducted by a number of early explorers (J. E. Taylor 1855; R. Campbell Thompson 1918; H. R. Hall 1919) with a major investigation led by Fuad Safar between 1946 and 1949 on behalf of the Iraqi Directorate General of Antiquities.

J. E. Taylor, “Notes on Abu Shahrein and Tell el Lahm”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 15 (1855), pp. 404-15; J. Oates, “Ur and Eridu: The Prehistory”, Iraq 22 (1960), pp. 32-50; S. Lloyd, “Abu Shahrein: A Memorandum”, Iraq 36 (1974), pp. 129-38; F. Safar, M. A. Mustafa and S. Lloyd, Eridu (Baghdad 1981).

In Sumerian literature Eridu is claimed as one of the most ancient cities in Mesopotamia, said to antedate the mythical Flood and to be the first city to hold kingship. Eighteen successive levels of mud brick temple architecture, dating from the Early Ubaid to the Late Uruk periods, were exposed during the 1940s excavations on Mound 1; the painted pottery recovered provided the basis for the fourfold division of the Ubaid period. An extensive Ubaid period cemetery was also excavated. The remains of a ziggurat of the Ur III period dominate the centre of the mound. Early Dynastic palaces were excavated on mound 2.

The helicopter landed to the north-east of Mound 1. The visit began at a watchtower presumed to have been erected by the Italians in late 2003. The team climbed to the top of the mound; there is evidence of erosion across the site, especially in two deep gulleys which has revealed inscribed bricks. The inspection proceeded to the remains of the dig-house located on the eastern side of the mound. The lower walls of the dig-house, built from ancient baked bricks, could be traced although no examples of inscribed bricks, visible within the structure in 2003, could be seen. Related to these findings is the report, made by Professor Stefano Seminaria, at an event in the Italian Cultural Institute in London on 29 March 2006 announcing the inauguration of the Baghdad Virtual Museum. He related that, on 20 or 21 March 2006, Professor Giovanni Pettinato and Professor Silvia Chiodi had discovered at Eridu a tablet covered with bitumen. They had looked further and found 500 tablets “disturbed by an explosion”. The tablets were said to be literary, historical and lexical. The historical tablets dated from the time of Eannatum, and the latest tablets were from the time of Amar-Suen. This information, or variations of it, was also circulated on various Italian and international websites. Following these revelations, Dr Donny George, then Chairman of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, sent inspectors to Eridu, who reported back that there were no tablets on the surface of the site, but only fragments of stamped bricks from the site of Eridu itself and from sites surrounding Eridu such as Ur. On 19 July 2006, at the 52ène Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale in Münster, Professor Pettinato reported that he had actually only found some 70 stamped bricks at Eridu. It seems, then, that what Pettinato and Chiodi actually found were stamped bricks used to build the modern Eridu dig-house 1.

There is no evidence of looting or of recent visits to the site – car tracks were visible near a neighbouring canal and the site fence, which was not visited; from the air, it was possible to see the posts of the fence. Surface scraping close to the fence is presumably the result of field irrigation. Two site guards, who were not present during the inspection, are based at a village some distance from the mound.

1. In his memoirs (The Interval – A Life in Near eastern Archaeology, Oxford 1986, p. 113), Seton Lloyd wrote of “the almost total lack of building material” for “setting up base” at Eridu. “To solve this we [Lloyd and Safar] felt justified in looting the ruins of Woolley’s old expedition-house at Ur, ten miles away, and bringing in lorry-loads of baked bricks – many of them stamped with royal names, but beautifully intact”.

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