Keep on running

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We took another visit to the Iraqi marshes, they looked a lot like this

I was running across the ancient ruins of Ur the other day, not in the joyful manner of someone who finds pleasure in such things but as one driven by the fear of prematurely losing physical competences through disuse. I was listening to Kids with Guns by the Gorillas and had started to think the bass beat was sounding a bit out, when I was hit by an unexpected wind from above and behind. On investigation, there were two large helicopter gunships hovering right over me, covered in those pointy bits that drop off and explode. I didn’t quite know what the best thing to do was in this social situation, so I gave the nearer one a friendly wave. There was a brief pause and then they thundered off towards the Ur airbase in the knowledge of a job well done. It’s this sort of thing that reminds me I work in a ridiculous place, but it did give me an excellent excuse to stop running for a few blissful minutes while I found something calming to listen to on my ipod.

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The bad pottery. It has been released back into the wild

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Steve’s gravy train is about to derail

The weeks have flown, we’ve taken a lot of earth out of the trenches and then put most of it back in again, we’ve dug up a lot of pottery, numbered it, loved it and then dumped most of it back on site in a big heap. We’ve found a lot of things, most of them horrible things, and we’ve given them all numbers. We have waved farewell to Steve, queen among slightly stand-offish Iraqi site dogs, to whom we gave a whole can of sardines and received little in return. I spent far longer on the pictures for my report than on the words because the pictures are always the best bit. Our final task was to burn the accumulated rubbish including all the empties. We piled them in the centre so they’d receive maximum fire and created a raging inferno fed by strong winds. One of them exploded with an ear-splitting bang, but when the flames had died down the nature of the bottles was still painfully clear. So it came about that F and I spent twenty minutes throwing lumps of ancient baked bricks at a fire in order to smash burning empty bottles of Famous Grouse. It was only five minutes after we finished that a policeman showed up to investigate the explosion and the sounds of breaking glass. We said we’d just been burning some rubbish, officer.

Our eight weeks at Ur are up but this is not the end, oh no. One site is just not enough when you’re as red-hot keen on archaeology as we are. We’re in the middle of moving operations to Basra to start a whole new site between the oil fields out by the Iranian border. We went for a first look today and found it charming – flat and bleak and covered in debris from the Iran-Iraq war – it’s all I ever dreamed of. Near the western end of the fortification walls we found the eroded remains of an anti-personnel mine.

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The rotting husk of a land mine at our lovely new site

By the way, thanks for all the concern about my mental health after the last post, though that’s not really how I meant it to read.

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2 thoughts on “Keep on running

  1. Jon Pattengill

    I bet the gentlemen in the helicopters were admiring a pleasant sight, and were satisfied when they got a clear acknowledgement. The reed houses in the marshes may not look like much, but you are indeed fortunate to have seen such a tremendously historic building type still in use. The type of houses we grew up in have not been being built for some 6,000 years, after all. Or more. I checked my Uruk info, and William Kennet Loftus said it was the whole area outside the sacred precinct that was full of bones, a much bigger space. I do hope that your diligent work will turn up something first-rate, which will get you in the news, and photos of your find in the history books. As to what to do with your hands in that interview, if you are standing, you can hook them together behind you casually, with your feet set a little apart, and you will look and feel pleasantly composed. Add a slight frown of concentration, and you will have everyone convinced you know everything.

    Reply
  2. FoundOnWeb

    Fifty-five years ago, I think in “Looking for Dilmun”,Geoffrey Bibby talked about backfilling his trenches with their Danish beer empties, and suggested that future archaeologists might discover a new ”Carlsberg Culture” there.

    Reply

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