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5,000-year-old food tavern discovered in Iraq

Researchers discovered an old tavern in Lagash in southern Iraq.
Lagash Archaeological Project

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a nearly 5,000-year-old tavern in southern Iraq, the University of Pennsylvania announced last week. The find offers glimpses into the lives of ordinary people living around 2700 BC. lived in a non-elitist neighborhood in Southwest Asia

Inside the common dining area — which included an outdoor area and a kitchen — researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pisa found an oven, a type of clay refrigerator called a look, benches and storage bins that still held food. They also found dozens of conical-shaped bowls containing fish scraps, reports CNN’s Issy Ronald.

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

Overview of the Lagash site in southern Iraq

An aerial view of the Lagash site in southern Iraq

Lagash Archaeological Project

“The site was of great political, economic and religious importance,” says Holly Pittman, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania and leader of the Lagash Project, in the university’s statement. “However, we also believe that Lagash was a significant population center that had direct access to fertile land and people dedicated to intensive artisanal production.”

Researchers have been conducting the latest round of excavations at Lagash since 2019, but work at the site dates back to the 1930s. Over the past four years, researchers have used a number of high-tech techniques to better understand the site, including taking drone imagery and conducting magnetometry analysis. They have also collected and examined sediment samples from depths of up to 80 feet below the surface to understand the geological and geophysical evolution of the site over the years.

“It’s not like the ancient archeology in Iraq,” says Zaid Alrawi, project manager for the Lagash project at the Penn Museum, in the statement. “We don’t walk behind great hills expecting to find an ancient temple. We use our techniques and then, based on scientific priority, follow what we believe will provide important information to fill knowledge gaps in the field.”

To study the ancient tavern just 19 inches below the surface, the archaeologists used a technique in which thin horizontal sections are excavated one at a time. The discovery of the tavern suggests that Lagash society included a middle class alongside enslaved individuals and elites.

Overview of the ditches at Lagash

Archaeologists have also excavated pits containing clay at Lagash.

Lagash Archaeological Project

“By the fact that there’s a public meeting place where people can sit down and have a pint and eat their fish stew, they’re not working under the tyranny of kings,” Reed Goodman, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tells CNN . “There is something that gives us a much more colorful history of the city.”

Other discoveries made by researchers at the site include an area where the town’s ancient residents once made pottery, complete with six ceramic kilns, benches and a table. They also found an apartment building that contained a toilet and kitchen.

“As you excavate, you analyze and create a story that we hope will grow ever closer to the reality of the past,” Alrawi says in the statement.

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