Back to Sumer: Recent Results from Excavations at Tell Zurghul @ Penn Museum, Philadelphia [16 June]

Back to Sumer: Recent Results from Excavations at Tell Zurghul

17:00 - 18:00

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Penn Museum
3260 South St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
Speakers: Davide Nadali (Sapienza Università di Roma) and Andrea Polcaro (Università degli Studi di Perugia)

The excavation of Tell Zurghul, ancient Sumerian Nigin in the ancient State of Lagash, is a joint Italian archaeological expedition of Sapienza University of Rome and University of Perugia since 2014. Largely known from cuneiform sources dating to the third millennium BC, the ancient city of Nigin was part of the ancient State of Lagash during the years of the kingdoms of the First and Second Dynasty of Lagash. In particular, Gudea of Lagash paid great attention to the restoration of the city, with the reconstruction of the main temple (Sirara) of the city goddess Nanshe and the reorganization of the network of canals for both irrigation and transport. Indeed, Gudea was responsible for the construction of the “Canal Going to Nigin”, a large waterway linking the three cities of the State of Lagash: from Girsu to Nigin passing through al-Hiba (ancient Lagash), finally reaching the sea and possibly the harbour of the State at Guabba.

The three seasons of excavations are shedding light on the most ancient phases of occupation of the site, with interesting discoveries on the formation of incipient urbanization and later urbanism in Southern Mesopotamia. In particular, results in Area A and Area B are the most stimulating, with evidence of the archaeological sequence at the very beginning of the third and mid-fifth millennium, respectively. New contexts and associated materials can finally shed light on the reconstruction of material culture, on the one hand, and the possibility to achieve efficient chrono-stratigraphy based on the analysis of stratified findings together with new C14 dating, on the other.

Excavations have also brought to light some features and architectural remains dated to the third and second millennium BC, in particular in Area C, on the north-western border of the site and in Area D, in the centre of the city on the top of Mound A. At the foot of Mound A, several stamped bricks and cones with Gudea’s inscriptions (quoting the construction of Nanshe’s temple) have been recovered: these written materials clearly derive from the collapse of the temple that was originally located on the top of the mound – the “mountain” as Gudea labels it. In Area C a complete survey revealed the existence of a large working sector of the city, that seems to have the longer life of the settlement, till the Isin-Larsa Period.

Finally, on-going research on the morphology of the ancient landscape aims at the reconstruction and comprehension of how the ancient ecosystem and environment looked like, taking into account not only the system of marshes and lagoons with brackish water, but also the artificial network of canals and, eventually, the proximity of the sea. Indeed, recent reconstruction actually points to the shape of the first settlement of Tell Zurghul as a turtleback surrounded by water.

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