Tello (ancient Girsu, Iraq)

All that remains of Tello (ancient Girsu) are mounds that cover an area of more than 100 hectares (247 acres). In antiquity the settlement was connected to al-Hiba (ancient Lagash), twenty-five kilometres to the south, by a branch of the Euphrates.

Tello was the first Sumerian site to be extensively excavated. The French vice-consul at Basra, Ernest de Sarzec, worked there from 1877-1900 and sent spectacular finds from the site to Paris. These included masterpieces of Sumerian art such as the beautifully carved statues of Gudea (now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris). Subsequent excavations were undertaken by the French: in 1903-9, 1929-31 and, the most important, directed by A. Parrot in 1931-33.

Many details of Tello's archaeology remain obscure, partly because of poor excavation standards and partly because the site has suffered badly from illicit excavations, which produced up to 40,000 cuneiform tablets. There is evidence for Ubaid (fifth millennium BC) occupation at the site but the main period of settlement was during the Early Dynastic period (2500-2300 BC). Ancient documents suggest that Girsu was then the capital city of the state of Lagash.

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