Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Ancient food offerings discovered

The box in which pottery, seeds and animals bones left in a royal tomb in the ancient city of Ur at least 4,500 years ago were discovered (University of Bristol/PA)
The box in which pottery, seeds and animals bones left in a royal tomb in the ancient city of Ur at least 4,500 years ago were discovered (University of Bristol/PA)
Pottery, seeds and animals bones - left in a royal tomb in the ancient city of Ur at least 4,500 years ago - have been found on top of a university cupboard (University of Bristol/PA)

Food offerings left in a royal tomb in the ancient city of Ur at least 4,500 years ago have been discovered on top of a university cupboard.

Researchers at the University of Bristol found the large wooden box during a clear out in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology.

The box was filled with pottery, seeds and animals bones and contained words such as 'predynastic', 'sargonid' and 'Royal Tombs' written on index cards.

Further investigation revealed that these were the remains of food offerings from a royal tomb at least 4,500 years old.

It is believed the remains were collected during famous excavations by Sir Leonard Wolley in the site of Ur in southern Iraq during the 1920s and 1930s.

Experts say the discovery of the box is particularly exciting, as environmental finds were rarely collected in this early period of archaeological fieldwork.

Dr Tamar Hodos, senior lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Bristol said it was unclear how the box had been left on top of the cupboard.

"The remaining mystery is how this material came to be at Bristol in the first place," Dr Hodos said.

"The environmental remains themselves were published in 1978 in Journal of Archaeological Science. The authors of that study were based at the Institute of Archaeology, London, and at the University of Southampton, and none of them had any known connection to the University of Bristol that might explain how the material came to reside here.

"If anyone can shed light on this mystery, we would love to hear from them."

The original excavation was jointly sponsored by the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum, with finds divided between London, Philadelphia and Baghdad.

After the box was discovered, Dr Hodos contacted experts from the British Museum's Near Eastern Archaeology department about where the material should be housed.

The remains will now join the rest of the British Museum's collection from Ur, which is part of a digitisation programme sponsored by the Leon Levy Foundation and undertaken with the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Dr Hodos added that the box was found while researchers were emptying current laboratory spaces in preparation for the installation of a new radiocarbon dating facility, which will open next year.

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