Category Archives: goat

Scrag end: whiplash and offal

Blood in the sherd yard

Blood in the sherd yard

So at last my time is up in Iraq and I’m just a few short hours away from a world of sleep and television and ham. The last week, as on most excavations, has had it’s little surprises, one of which was coming over to the boys house to find the cook and our driver beheading goats on the patio.

Our dig director, who appeared to be videoing the executions, had bought two goats and invited the workmen to an end of season kebabathon. This benevolent gesture was only slightly undermined in the event by the workmen having to butcher, clean and cook their goat themselves and by the director not realising that there is in fact more to parties than goats, and sometimes you also need things like bread, salad, drinks and somewhere to sit. By the time these fripperies had been prepared most of our guests had gone home, leaving us with around 30kg of goat meat and a strong smell of blood emanating from the garden drain.

Unable to fit into the fridge, a partial goat lingers morosely by the kitchen sink

Unable to fit into the fridge, a partial goat lingers morosely by the kitchen sink

The next morning found me on the floor of the sitting room trying to drag a site report from under the colossal weight of my goat-barbecue hangover, when Mohammed the cook entered bearing a vast tray of raw offal. With a sinking feeling I watched him start to cut the various parts into bite sized pieces before I was driven from the room by the distinctive aroma acting on my weakened constitution. Lunchtime came around with an air of foreboding and mutterings about not being very hungry. Once each of us had been presented with our plate of fried brown objects a tense silence descended as we all tried to work out exactly what we were dealing with. My lucky dip was almost entirely liver (my personal offal bête noire) with a smattering of heart and a large section of wind pipe. I ate the heart and the wind pipe and felt my duty done. Tongue turned out to be a surprising hit, but M. took a turn for the worse after eating half of what transpired to be an ear. If life gives you lemons make lemonade, if life gives you goat offal throw it away before anyone cooks it for you.

All the makings of a lunch of great anatomical interest

All the makings of a lunch of great anatomical interest

On our final day in Sulaimaniya we went to the funfair to drink and smoke. We found a beer garden full of rabbits at the Nawroz Tourism Park and sat down to enjoy the atmosphere of an escaped 1950s Butlins camp that’s been living rough for sixty years. After a suitable amount of chemical stimulants we bought our tickets for the Bumber Cars and asked for all the children to leave before we started. We then took our whiplash to the ghost train, the first exhibit of which was a strobe-lit mannequin of Saddam Hussein dancing on the end of a rope. On that note, I bid Iraq adieu for the moment.

The entrance to the Nowroz Tourism Park ghost train: indeed the portal to another world

The entrance to the Nawroz Tourism Park ghost train: indeed the portal to another reality

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Wild goat chasing

Relieved: we finally locate the wretched article.

Relieved: we finally locate the wretched beast.

I’ve always suspected that a vast quantity of suffering in the world can be put down to good intentions allied with dreadful forward planning. Yesterday was a fine illustration. We went to stay in Suliemaniya for the weekend, partly so we could stock up on gin and kitkats, and partially because we wanted to go to see a famous ancient rock relief in the mountains. Part one went fine (except of course, that I drank too much) then we got on a bus and drove round and round in the Zagros foothills for two hours while the driver asked a series of confused strangers where this thing the foreigners want to see is. Eventually he deposited us at the end of a dirt track and set about investigating why the bus had started to produce a high pitched wailing noise when it went round corners.

After ten minutes walking, it was discovered that no one in fact had the faintest idea where this thing was. We called the museum who advised us to follow the iron water pipe up the valley so this is what we did. Over an hour later I slumped to the ground in a small swamp crawling with ticks and mosquitoes and declared my ever-lasting disinterest in ancient rock reliefs. I watched the poor stragglers crawling the last few yards to the top of the mountain, drenched in sweat, weeping, scratched and bitten. As most of us thought we were getting out of the bus for ten minutes to look at a pretty picture, it hadn’t occurred to bring proper shoes, or water. As I began to drag my sleep-deprived, hung-over and desiccated remains back down the mountain, I faintly recalled saying that my main aim for the weekend was to be less tired after it than I was before.

The Iraqi army, marvelling at the ineptitude of foreign archaeologists

The Iraqi army, marvelling at the ineptitude of foreign archaeologists

I arrived back at the bus to find that our driver had informed the Iraqi army of our failure to return and a jeep full of soldiers were waiting to see if they’d have to start a search and rescue mission. We begged half a cup of water from their officer, who looked on us with great pity for our physical exhaustion and grave mental deficiencies. The rock relief was of course just ten minutes down the track but none of us had thought to look up.

Bearded goat (c. 3500 BC) bestriding my photographic register

Bearded goat (c. 3500 BC) bestriding my photographic register

Excavation is winding down now for the end of the season. I finished digging today by finding a nice goat figurine complete with a little beard. This is by far our most attractive find, the only other figurines being a remarkably ugly woman(?) and the rear end of a horse. My personal favourite find however is the set of nesting bevel-rimmed bowls I got out of Trench F. BRBs are noted for their regularity in size, about which many books and papers have been written in the past – were they for a standardised grain ration? Perhaps they were army issue bread moulds? – in the context of which I consider my collection to be the best joke I’ve heard in ages.

I found the porridge in the small bowl to be just right

I found the porridge in the small bowl to be just right