Flat was the land between the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers, but here and there mysterious mounds rose out of the plain. Dust storms swirled around these protuberances, piling the black earth into steep dunes, which grew steadily for a hundred years, only to be dispersed in the course of another five hundred ...Here evolved one of archeology’s greatest triumphs, if only for the reason that the land of mounds showed no visible traces of past greatness...Today it is called Iraq, and Baghdad is its capital ... In 1840 [Paul Emile Botta] was appointed [French] consular agent in Mosul, on the upper Tigris. Evenings, at twilight, when Botta fled the suffocating heat of the bazaars to refresh himself on horseback excursions out into the countryside, he would see the strange mounds that dotted the landscape everywhere ...By sending off this little expedition Botta was eventually to immortalize his name in the history of archeology. The identity of the Arab informant is forgotten, lost in the drift of years.But Botta is still remembered as the first to disclose the remains of a culture that had flowered for almost two thousand years, and for more than two millennia and a half had slumbered under the black earth between the two rivers, forgotten by men...The moment had come when, no longer able to keep this conviction to himself, he sent the news to Paris, and so out into the world. “I believe,” he wrote with pride, and the newspapers made headlines of it, “that I am the first to discover sculptures that can be truly identified with the period when Ninevah was at its height.” ...France was fired by Botta’s revelations. Aid was mobilized on the most generous scale to enable Botta to continue his work. He dug for three years, from 1843 to 1846...The palace was laid bare, rising up from mighty terraces... At one swoop the mysterious Assyrian people were lifted out of the abyss of the past.
Monday, July 14, 2014
Thoughts of a man riding a horse through a desert resulted in one of the most important archeological finds of all times:
Gods, Graves, & Scholars, by C.W. Ceram, Alfred A. Knopf 1956