Archaeologists in southern Iraq have uncovered the remains of a pub dating back nearly 5,000 years and hope they will reveal the lives of ordinary people in the world’s first cities.
The US-Italian team made the discovery in the ruins of ancient Lagash, northeast of the modern city of Nasiriyah, which was already known to be one of the first urban centers of the Sumerian civilization of ancient Iraq.
The joint team from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pisa found remains of a primitive refrigeration system, a large oven, benches for diners and about 150 serving bowls.
Fish and animal bones were found in the bowls, along with evidence of beer drinking, which was widespread among the Sumerians.
“So we have the fridge, we have hundreds of dishes ready to be served, benches for people to sit on… and behind the fridge is an oven that would be used… to cook food,” said project director Holly Pittman with AFP.
“What we understand is that this thing is a place where people — regular people — could come to eat and that’s not a domestic place,” she said.
“We call it a tavern because beer was the most common drink by far, even more than water, for the Sumerians”, she said, noting that there was a recipe for beer in one of the temples excavated in the area ” found on cuneiform tablets”.
– ‘Regular people’ –
The first cities in the world developed in what is now southern Iraq, after an agricultural surplus from the first crops led to the emergence of new social classes that were not directly engaged in food production.
The area of Lagash, near the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, was called the “garden of the gods” because of its fertility and gave rise to a series of Sumerian cities dating back to the early dynamic period.
“Lagash was one of the important cities of southern Iraq,” Iraqi archaeologist Baker Azab Wali told AFP, after working with the US-Italian team on the site.
“Its inhabitants depended on agriculture, livestock, fishing, but also on the exchange of goods,” he said.
Pittman said the team was keen to learn more about the careers of the people who used the pub in its early days around 2700 BC to shed new light on the social structure of the first cities.
The samples taken during the excavations completed by the team in November would have to be analyzed in detail.
“There is so much we don’t know about this early period of the emergence of cities and that is what we are investigating,” she said.
“We hope to be able to characterize the neighborhoods and the types of occupations … of the people who lived in this great city who were not a minority,” she said.
“Most of the work done at the other sites focuses on kings and priests. And that’s all very important but ordinary people are also important.”