5,000-year-old ‘tavern’ found in Iraq that still stores food

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(ORDO NEWS) — Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of an ancient “tavern” nearly 5,000 years old in southern Iraq, the University of Pennsylvania said last week.

The find allows us to understand the life of ordinary people who lived in a non-elitist urban area in southwest Asia around 2700 BC.

Inside the public eating area, which included an outdoor area and a kitchen, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pisa found an oven, an earthenware “refrigerator” called a “zeer”, benches and food storage containers. They also found dozens of conical bowls containing pieces of fish.

The tavern was discovered in Lagash, a 1,000-acre archaeological site that was a busy industrial center with a large population during the early dynastic period. Researchers say that Lagash was one of the largest and oldest cities in all of southern Mesopotamia.

“The site was of great political, economic and religious significance,” Holly Pittman, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania and head of the Lagash project, said in a university statement.

“However, we also believe that Lagash was an important settlement with free access to fertile land and people engaged in intensive handicraft production.”

5 000 year old tavern found in Iraq that still stores food 2

Researchers have been conducting the last phase of excavations at Lagash since 2019, but work at the site began as early as the 1930s.

Over the past four years, researchers have used a range of high-tech methods to better understand the site, including drone footage and magnetometric analysis.

They also collected and studied sediment samples from 24 meters below the earth’s surface to understand the site’s geological and geophysical evolution over the years.

“This is unlike previous archaeological practice in Iraq,” Zayed Alrawi, head of the Lagash project at the Penn Museum, said in a statement. “We’re not looking for big mounds expecting to find an old temple.

We use our methods and then, based on scientific priorities, we go after what we think will provide important information to fill knowledge gaps.”

To explore the ancient tavern, located just 50cm below the surface, archaeologists have used a technique that involves excavating thin horizontal sections one by one.

The discovery of the tavern suggests that in the society of Lagash, in addition to the enslaved people and the elite, there was a middle class.

“The fact that you have a social gathering place where people can sit and have a pint of beer and eat fish stew suggests they didn’t work under the tyranny of kings,” said Reed Goodman, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

“There’s already something here that gives us a much more complete picture of the city’s history.”

Among other finds of the researchers is a site where the ancient inhabitants of the city once made pottery, with six kilns for firing ceramics, benches and a table. They also found a household dwelling, which included a toilet and a kitchen.

“As you excavate, you analyze and create a story that hopefully gets closer and closer to the reality of the past,” Alraoui said in a statement.


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