Excavation and conservation work is being carried out by a team from the British Museum, working in a concrete block house surrounded by stray dogs and windbreak walls, all monitored by armed police and archaeological units who ensure the site and its security. . Craft. In Iraq, theft of antiquities is punishable by death.
The local tribal chief also promised his protection and the smooth management of the local workforce, and at 4:30 every morning British Museum experts chanted Tel Terror in Arabic from a palm tree in the village. You will have to move to a barren cliff. Gills website.
Following the call to prayer, a convoy of shovel-laden trucks heads toward the jagged white ridge that rises above the floodplain, glowing in the dawn darkness with the blazing smoke bombs of a distant refinery. It looked like that.
As Dr. Ray and his team hop from a four-wheel-drive truck onto Gils’ vast lunar surface, their steps cut through the baked clay crust and sink into inches of spongy powder spread in every direction. Masu.
It is not sand, but the remains of thousands of years old adobe buildings, once inhabited by the sophisticated ancient inhabitants of Gils, which have since melted into a thick layer of yellow earth.
groove embedded in clay
“When you walk through the Gils, you’re walking over the ruins of a civilization. It’s right on the surface,” Dr. Ray explained. “It’s shattered.”
It wasn’t always like this. In the relative cool of the morning, keffiyeh workers use wheelbarrows to shuttle into deep trenches embedded in the clay, removing adobe foundations that have provided new insight into an ancient civilization.
The site was inhabited from about 5000 BC, when humans took tentative steps toward urban life, and by the end of the 3rd millennium BC, before the woolly mammoth became completely extinct, it had developed a literate bureaucracy. It became a rapidly growing city with a canal system. “It’s like Venice or Bruges,” Dr. Ray said.
By 2150 BC, the country was enjoying a “golden age” under the priestly ruler Gudea. According to ancient Sumerian texts, Gudea was inspired in his dreams to build a vast temple dedicated to Ningirsu, the warrior god and protector of the Girsu. A British Museum team excavated this temple. It was discovered in 2022, despite the consensus among archaeologists that it did not exist.
The researchers also discovered that the palace’s thick, day-brick walls, a bureaucracy, were so meticulous that they recorded individual sheep deaths within their territory. The excavation was also based on the findings revealed by hundreds of clay tablets that were carefully removed.
Experts also solved the mystery of a Hellenistic temple that once stood on the site, theorizing that it may have been founded by Alexander the Great himself.
In a labyrinth of wadis that cut through the clay, researchers discovered the remains of the only known Sumerian sacrificial cow. Its gleaming white ribs were still attached to the adobe remains of its ceremonial burial.
These breakthroughs were achieved despite previous French expeditions to Girsu, one of which revealed the Sumerian presence to the world in the 19th century and “massacreed” the site.
Dr. Ray, a Frenchman, has worked on the more invasive archeological restoration of his countrymen.
“They said the ruins had been ‘used up’ and there was nothing left to find,” the archaeologist and curator said of the aptly named “Sumerian” site being sold in Iraq. I explain between puffs of thin cigarettes.
“You could say we’ve returned to the ‘crime scene’, but thanks to new technology we’ve made new discoveries.”
Artifacts from the site were taken back to the blockhouse and put through an “archaeological production line” by a team of British, Turkish, Italian and Lebanese experts, who first washed the pottery in a courtyard filled with bougainvillea and pomegranates. be inspected.
The British Museum team lit the ‘Sumer’ and stopped intermittently to feed a kitten adopted as a mascot, registering, cleaning, drawing and photographing the finds continually pulled from the Gils clay. and have your best crafts ready to ship within 6 hours. They drove to Baghdad, all under the supervision of Dr. Fatima Hussain, the Iraqi deputy director of the excavation site.
Baghdad is increasingly interested in the ruins. Following the path that Sumerian priests would have led their crowds to worship, Ali Obaid Shorghum traverses the dust of Girsu to inspect the site. Under the morning sun, which is already approaching 30 degrees, his entourage follows at a certain distance.
The head of Iraq’s National Antiquities Commission was greeted with a chorus of “salaam” from the trench workers, and as he inhaled his breakfast laid out on a carpet in the shade, Dr. Ray gave him an update on the site in Arabic. I heard you tell me. Authorities want to turn it into a tourist destination.
Deep love for Gills site
Mr Shorgham told the Daily Telegraph:
“Girsu was a very important city and had a very big impact on civilization as a whole. I have a deep love for the Girsu site and it is even more important to me now.
“Gills has many surprises for the future. We wish Dr. Sebastian and Dr. Fatima continued success in this surgery and great success in the future.”
Shorghum said the project is a pilgrimage site similar to the Sumerian “Jerusalem or Jerusalem” in anticipation of an unspecified date when the ancient city, which once hosted devotees of the god Ningirsu, will begin accepting tourists. Considered the first information board designed for the location. Rome”.
The most important consideration in this plan, as with all things Sumerian, is water. Rain flowing through the wadis and valleys that intersect with the site threatens to sink the Sumerian brick ruins of Girsu into mud.
Dr. Ebru Torun, a conservator on the British Museum team, instructed local craftsmen to use river clay, once used by the Sumerians themselves to secure brickwork, succumbing to drought. A stone dam was built to prevent the city from being washed away. Great flood.
She said the ancient bricks would “turn back to mud” after heavy rains and the salt rising with the moisture would “expand and crack the bricks”.
Experts say preservation of the site is one of the British Museum’s priorities, which has become more urgent as Iraq’s rains become increasingly sporadic and the risk of flash flooding from heavy rain increases. It says that there are.
As the sun reaches its peak, the rain is unthinkable, the sound of the muezzin echoes across the plains again, signaling the teams and workers to unload their tools and return to the village to rest, and once again the call to prayer rings out. . They were called to protect the once sacred city of Gils.