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Archaeologists uncover 5,000-year-old Sumerian tavern in Iraq

February 16, 2023 at 10:22 am

An aerial picture shows a general view of the site of the ancient city-state of Lagash, in Iraq’s al-Shatra district of the southern Dhi Qar province on February 11, 2023 [ASAAD NIAZI/AFP via Getty Images]

American and Italian archaeologists have uncovered a Sumerian tavern dating back some 5,000 years, including the remains of a primitive refrigeration system, a large oven, benches for diners and about 150 serving bowls.

Away from the luxurious lifestyle of kings and priests of that time, the joint team from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pisa working in the ancient Lagash, north-east of the modern city of Nasiriyah, are interested in the daily life of ordinary people.

Five thousand years ago Lagash was closely associated with cities in neighbouring states such as Gersu and Nina considered to have served as important political and religious centres of the Sumerian civilization during ancient dynasties.

“So we’ve got the refrigerator, we’ve got the hundreds of vessels ready to be served, benches where people would sit … and behind the refrigerator is an oven that would have been used … for cooking food,” project director Holly Pittman told AFP.

“What we understand this thing to be is a place where people ― regular people ― could come to eat and that is not domestic,” she said.

“We call it a tavern because beer is by far the most common drink, even more than water, for the Sumerians,” she said, adding that in one of the temples excavated in the area “there was a beer recipe found on a cuneiform tablet.”

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