vrijdag 3 mei 2013

Ancient Mesopotamian cities crumbled to dust

Many times I have been asked this question: How do archaeologists find the ancient cities? The should rather be: How can one who is not absolutely blind have any trouble whatsoever in choosing the right spot? Cities are all around.Every mound of dirt is a city. I have yet to find a place in the land of Iraq, except in the newly formed delta, on which one can stand and not see two or three cities outlined on the horizon. - Edward Chiera (They wrote on clay,1938)  

As Chiera explains: the land that is now called Iraq is all washed down from the mountains in the north by the Tigris and the Euphrates. This means that a) the land is flat and b) there are no rocks. Out of necessity clay was the prime material used by the ancient cultures (Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian) here living. Fired clay lasts very well as clay tablets show but it takes a lot of resources to bake them so for most practical uses, like building houses, clay was dried in the sun, which makes it usable but not durable. After thousands of years all those houses built on top of crumbled houses created large mounds that in our own time could easily pass for ordinary hills. 


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