Nippur Fifty Years Ago

By: L. Legrain

Originally Published in 1948

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The seventh of October this year a joint expedition of the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago sailed from New York bound for Iraq to resume the excavation of the old city of Nippur and its famous temple of Bel-Enlil. Half a century before-on September 24, 1898-John Henry Haynes, the veteran field man of the Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania at Nippur, sailed from New York for London, bound for South Mesopotamia, to open his fourth and last campaign. We have his complete diary, till the end of the expedition in May 1900, and a collection of excellent photographs which help to reconstruct life and work at Nippur in what seems a pioneer age. We must not forget that Iraq was then a province of Turkey, that Abdul-Hamid reigned in Constantinople, that all the antiquities discovered at Nippur had to be sent to the Imperial Ottoman Museum, before the University Museum could obtain its fair share. Besides, transportation was slow; an infinite patience, an understanding of oriental ways, and a thorough knowledge of Arab customs and language were very necessary. J. P. Haynes, attached to Roberts College even before 1886, the “backbone” of the Babylonian Expedition since 1889, sometime American Consul at Baghdad, and speaking Arabic and Turkish, was well qualified, even if not a professional Assyriologist, for field work. And he was an excellent photographer. This time Mrs. Haynes accompanied him, and stood by him in the trying summer of 1899 when the thermometer reached 119° in the shade. And to supply his shortcomings two young architects were attached to the Expedition: C. S. Fisher, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and V. Geere, an Englishman of Southampton who had had field experience with Flinders-Petrie in Egypt. But lo! the two architects fell ill in Baghdad, and did not reach Nippur before the twentieth of October 1899.

It is time to return to Haynes’ diary to tell the story of the expedition in his own words.

A group of men standing on a hill with mares and spears.
PLATE I — A group of Shammar Arabs with their mares and long spears watching their herds from the summit of the mound.

From Baghdad to Nippur

Thursday, Jan. 19, 1899. Goods cleared to-day from Custom House, taken to Blackey Hotz & Co. Khan and the broken boxes repaired, and some of them repacked. They were then made into 62 camel loads.

Saturday, Jan. 21-Contract made with camelmen to transport the goods in four days to Hillah, starting on Monday the 23rd instant.

Sunday, Jan. 22-Mr. Geere severely ill of pleura-pneumonia and a Greek physician called in the absence of Dr. Sturrock.

Monday, Jan. 23-The camelmen failing to appear in the morning were sent for and admitted that their animals were out grazing but had been sent for and would soon be ready and they would start the next day.

Tuesday, Jan. 24-Being again sent for, the camelmen refused to start to-day but gave pledges to be forfeited if they did not start to-morrow.

Thursday, Jan. 26-Sixty-two camels sent forward. It had rained during the night, and rained again in the early morning. The camels were loaded and started but the road being slippery, they returned. Insisted and finally started them off, not to return, as the sun broke through the clouds and the roads dried.

Friday, Jan. 27-Early in the morning we bade good-bye to Mr. Geere and Mr. Fisher, crossed the Tigris in a kufa and took heavy ride in carriage recently come into use hereabout and with the camp servants set off for the Khan Mahmoudieh whither we arrived about 4 o’clock, our beds and our camping outfit coming a little later by packed mules. Here too we found the caravan of camels resting for the night, their second night from Baghdad. Two zaptiehs accompanied us to this point.

Saturday, Jan. 28-Left Khan Mahmoudieh at sunrise with an escort of five zaptiehs considered necessary by reason of a robber tribe encamped along the route. . . . Consequently the government would not allow me to depart with a smaller force to protect our party. Before night we arrived without incident at Khan Mahaweil, from whose roof the mounds known as Babil are distinctly seen six or seven miles distant.

Sunday, Jan. 29-Awakened about 4 A.M. by a crowd of 17 former employees who came to greet us and escort us into Hillah about 9 miles from Mahaweil. Stopped at Babil to look over the mounds, proceeded to Hillah over the bridgeless canals, arriving at the city to find more former employees awaiting our arrival; and conducted at once to a house which Shaoul had prepared.

Horse drawn carriage in the desert escorted by two men on horseback.
Plate II — Carriage which brought party from Baghdad to Hillah. Three zaptiehs escort it.
Image Number: 148756

Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 30 and 31-Monday a visit to the governor who returned it the same day. The balance of the day was employed securing workmen to go with us and take their families. Being Ramadan it was difficult to persuade the people to start away at once. Some in needy circumstances were ready to start whenever they could earn a few piastres. Others wanted to finish their fast and enjoy the following festivities. Some had to have an advance of money to buy the things needful for the journey; and surety had to be secured. Each one I had previously known favorably was asked to bring able-bodied men he could recommend. Impossible to tell how many would join at the last moment. But I decided to start early on the following day, and announced it, hoping that 150 workmen might join us.

Wednesday, Feb. 1-We had planned to leave Hillah at sunrise, and did embark soon after that hour, but many who were to go had not arrived, and others had come for whom no calculation had been made.

We had previously engaged four large sailboats. At 11.30 it was found that so many more people had joined, that two more boats were needed for the voyage. At 3 o’clock we sailed with a full breeze which died away before nightfall. The boats were simply carried by the current and frequently stuck on sand banks and had to be pushed off. By morning we had scarcely made twenty miles, We stopped for one hour and a half at Hagan, to make coffee, prepare a warm meal and get some rest. After breakfast we drifted for awhile till a light breeze sprang up and we made fair progress sailing down the Euphrates to the entrance of the Daghara canal. Through this winding stream we sailed when the wind was favorable, and punted when adverse, arriving at Daghara before sunset. Here we bought fresh bread, and hastened, sticking frequently on shallow muddy bottoms, to Mahedi Fudehe camp where we moored for the night.

Friday, Feb. 3-All were ready to set off early, and we pushed in the main stream as soon as the stores of rice were on board. But owing to the fact that the main stream was dammed for irrigation we soon turned into one of the smaller channels, the only one by which Nippur could be reached at all in this season of the year. But the stream was in turn narrow and crooked or large and shallow. The heavier draft boats would stick fast in the mud and had to be pushed off by physical force or pulled with lines attached to both sides-a toilsome and exhausting work. At 3 P.M. we arrived at a dam in sight of Nippur and moored, as we could go no further.

Nippur, Saturday, Feb. 4-On arriving, messengers were dispatched to nearest points where boats could be obtained for smaller crafts to transport our goods and people to a point where we could disembark near the castle or house at Nippur still some four miles distant. Sixteen boats were chartered, but at dawn thirty-four appeared and were ready to contend for the prizes. But there was enough to fill them all, and it required three separate trips to complete the transfer of people and goods. The expedition outfit went last and we also with it. The little boats went down the stream below the dam for a couple of miles, then turned into an arm, and plowed their way through the dried stalks to a landing three-quarters of a mile from Nippur.

A caravan of cammels carrying lugagge, escorted by men on horseback in the desert.
Plate II — Camp luggage and commissioner’s traps, servants, etc. escorted by zaptiehs en route to Hillah.
Image Number: 6960

Here stacked on the shore in great confusion were our boxes, bales and bundles under guard, and many of the El-Hamza Arabs sitting on the ground, and because of the feast of Ramadan unwilling to offer their services. We had to depend on the Hillah men to carry the boxes. They too were fasting but filled with enthusiasm, thankful to return to our service, and to establish their temporary homes at Nippur.

On landing, a messenger of Haji Tarfa handed me a note of greeting inviting us with the entire party to his own domicile for a few days rest. We wanted to be settled and to be at work, and with many thanks declined and dispatched some apricot and peach trees to the friendly sheikh.

Our people had first of all transferred their chattels to the camp, in order that their wives might arrange the evening meal and a night’s rest and shelter for themselves and household. This done, they transported our goods in the castle. At night all valuable things had been brought in the house and a guard posted over the rest. The women had fashioned temporary huts. Others had collected brushwood and built a kind of corral where they slept at night. They had a hot meal ready for husbands and sons.

The sealed door had not been disturbed. It was opened in the presence of the El-Hamza idlers. The house had suffered at two points from the winter rain of three years less eleven days since my departure in February 1896. The water from the flat roof had found entrance in two rooms. One room was easily repaired. The other was a large task. One room had to be given to the commissioner, and the other occupied by ourselves. Tired, we went to bed, thankful to have finished the long journey.

A cravan of camels with luggage on their backs in the desert.
Plate II — Part of the camel caravan laden with goods for the expedition.
Image Number: 6958

Field Work- Arab Diplomacy

Sunday, Feb. 5-Remnant of the goods brought in and stacked in the court. Water obtained from a considerable distance. Sunday is observed by us as a rest day and accepted by the Arabs.

Monday, Feb. 6-Party dig at the S. corner of mound X (west of the Shatt en-Nil, dividing Nippur).
Afternoon official visit to Haji Tada. Carry presents, watch chain, locket, ring, eyeglasses, etc. Compliments, thanks for cooperation caring for Nippur during my absence.

Tuesday, Feb. 7-Beginning of finds: 1 burnt tablet and some fragments. The house will be repaired and enlarged to accommodate Messrs. Geere and Fisher, give antiquities room and quarters for servants.

Wednesday, Feb. 8-3 tablets and fragments, S. corner of X mound. I was disappointed not to find more tablets but still hope that to-morrow will be more productive. In four days after the fast and feast of Ramadan, native Arabs will be added to the Hillah people.

Saturday, Feb. 11-The new crescent is greeted by shouting, firing of guns, drumming on tin cans and much rejoicing. The fast is over.

Sunday, Feb. 12-First day of Beiram, a Mohammedan Easter feast. New costumes. Much rejoicing and singing of hosa improvisations on their return to Nippur with work and pay. All come to salute and exchange greetings. Presents of nuts and sweetmeats.

Monday, Feb. 13-The superintendent Thoma Effendi is sent to visit Haji Tarfa and to present compliments and wishes of good health on the completion of the Beiram feast. He is well received. Haji Tarfa sends his salaam and hopes for a visit of Mrs. Haynes to his harem.

A large stone structure and small reed or grass huts in front of it.
View of the expedition house at Nippur.
Image Number: 6025

Tuesday, Feb. 14-A lot of basketmen from the tribes around us are put on the work. Many market people come visiting, and many men and women beg for remedies.

Wednesday, Feb. 15- Haji Tada announces his visit to-day with two of the principal sheikhs of the Hamza tribes. A tent is pitched on a clear space SE. of mound X. A fat sheep was slaughtered. A large quantity of rice has to be husked by pounding in large wooden mortars. Wheat is first ground and then made into bread after the Arab fashion. Yoghourt is secured from the Arabs. A man is detailed to make coffee. Oranges, dates and nuts are prepared. Mattresses, cushions and pillows, as well as rugs, are carried out to the tent. A dozen women or more were busy preparing rice and flour, cooking the pilaff and baking the bread under the superintendence of the chief steward, when lo! a multitude arose from the desert. About 50 horsemen and about as many footmen, both with spears and guns, approached the tent. A Daghara sheikh with a large retinue escorted by Abud el-Hamid and Hamid el-Birjid, were the self-invited guests. And while the feast was abundant, nothing was left over. A whole sheep, large and fat, about 40 lbs. of rice, so much bread, besides leben, dates, nuts and oranges constituted the feast. Haji Tarfa sent word that he could not come since he was at enmity with the Daghara sheikh, but that he (insha allah) would visit us the next day.

Thursday, Feb. 16-The program was repeated, the tent again pitched and furnished, a choice sheep sacrificed, wheat and rice distributed among the women to make pilaff and bread. The feast was prepared and still Haji Tarfa came not. The rumour had it that he was arbitrating peace between his own and a southern tribe, the cause of irritation being the control of water. As yesterday, Abud el-Hamid and Hamid el-Birjid came with many followers and partook of the feast to which full justice was done.

Saturday, Feb. 18- Word comes of Haji Tarfa’s visit to-day. Again the tent was pitched, equipped and furnished for the third time. Haji Tarfa appeared before the noonday rest and brought with him the two sheikhs Abud and Hamid, a posse of his own dignitaries, several nobles of the other sheikhs’ camps, as well as a crowd of humbler folks, guards and attendants. After the feast a virtual court of justice was convened. The two sheikhs Abud and Hamid plead their own causes before Haji against their host to recover a considerable sum for the guards during my absence of three years less eleven days from Nippur. They claimed the same payment as if I had been there and the full number of guards furnished. This would mean more than $1000 of arrears for nothing. Haji passed an unbiassed judgment by keeping silence after I had presented my side of the case. In spite of the futile attempt, the party is much stronger and much has been gained.

Sunday, Feb. 19-Blinding dust storm. Our postman Sayed Rashid’s horse was stolen from him in Diwaniyeh. Both the commissioner Showki Effendi and I wrote letters to the mutesserif of Diwaniyeh and the horse was restored to him. To-day he refused to go, striking for higher pay. Consequently Abbas el-Jessin was dispatched with the weekly post. The superintendent Thoma Effendi is quite ill with something like the cholera morbus. Blackberry cordial afforded him relief.

Monday, Feb. 20-New men added to each gang along the long wall excavated in the SE. end of mound X.

Letter of Mr. Fisher reporting that Mr. Geere is victim of typhoid fever following the pneumonia.

View of the ziggurat excavation, a line of workmen winding up a hill in the middle, foundations of structures can be seen.
Plate III — View of excavations near east corner of ziggurat as seen August 15, 1899.
Image Number: 6948

New Digs Around Temple Hill. Tablets and Graves

In the absence of the two architects, Mr. Haynes gives up the tracing of a long wall in mound X, moves east across the Shatt en-Nil, and opens trenches in several mounds around Temple Hill, to secure all the tablets and finds of antiques to be boxed and sent later to Constantinople. Incidents of Arab intrigues continue.

Friday, Feb. 24-One group on the wall of mound X, one on mound V, and one on the opposite side of the Shatt en-Nil provide tablets, Pre- Sargonid bricks, clay bowls and ball. Haji Tarfa’s sister and babies are ill and appeal to Mrs. Haynes for treatment.

Saturday, Feb. 25- From mound V, jars and statuettes of late date.

Sunday, Feb. 26-Visit by appointment to Haji Tarfa. Commissioner Showki Effendi, Superintendent Thoma Effendi, armed foremen, one zaptieh and several others accompanied us. A strong guard was instructed to remain about the castle as a measure of prudence. We left at 8 o’clock and returned after nightfall. A company of our people met us with lanterns and accompanied us in true Arab style, singing and dancing with noise and firing of arms.

Monday, Feb. 27-Continuation of the work on X and V with no marked results. It seems best to postpone further work at this point and devote the search to tablets, as there is no architect on the ground.
Thoma Effendi sent to market for silver money. Great trouble to secure coins.

Complaint made to Haji Tarfa about Hamid el-Birjid who cut off our water supply for gain and repeated the offence while we were away.

Tuesday, Feb. 28-All hands were transferred this morning to the SE. of Camp Hill (I). Several coffins were found near the surface and a number of tablets at a lower level.

Wednesday, March -SE. side of I, eight feet below surface a sealed jar containing coins of Athens, other silver coins and rings. Ten graves opened to-day.

Thursday, March 2-Graves everywhere.

Friday, March 3-Only late coffins. Water supply again cut off.

Saturday, March 4-Wind and sand-storm high to-day. A dreadful day to work.

An excavated wall and stairwell, workmen on various levels digging.
Plate III — Stepped construction (gateway) in east wall of the city, first reported in October-November, 1899.
Image Number: 5988

Monday, March 6-An arch of bricks of Nebuchadnezzar’s time.
Haji Tarfa and Hamid el-Birjid came to settle the question of water supply. Hamid claims that it is necessary to maintain-and pay-guards along the canal. As the commissioner Showki Effendi pleads for him, I proposed that I would pay half of the sum demanded (one Persian kran a day) if he would pay the other half. He agreed in the presence of a tent full of witnesses and the arrangement was concluded. Report from Mr. Geere.

Monday, March 20-Men moved SW. of Hill I. Mrs. Haynes looking after 50 men, I following the remainder. Tablets and green glazed vase.
We hear that the German Expedition has reached Baghdad and goes on at once to Babil to begin continuous explorations for five years.

Thursday, March 30-Thirty sound tablets, 2 coarse cylinders, 3 graves opened. Haji Tarfa sent a nice basket of lettuce, beans and a peppery grass accompanied by a polite note saying that an American saddle and three thousand bricks would be very acceptable to his sheikhdom. The saddle was furnished but the bricks refused as being beyond the realm of possibility to give.

Easter Sunday, April 2-The household servants in their best dresses, and the Mohammedans about us came to offer congratulations. Towards the evening Hamid el-Birjid came for his water tax and the loan of a few linas in cash. The latter was refused. My half of the water tax was paid; the commissioner refused to pay his half, which Hamid declared must be paid.

Thursday, April 6-Letters were received by our men from Hillah trying to induce them to return to work for the German Expedition at Babil. Perhaps a few will go.

Tuesday, April 11-A fine clay relief of a musician playing some instrument, with his dog at his feet and a bird (?) behind.

Wednesday, April 12-Another clay relief of a priestess in flowing robes, holding a trident (?) and leading a man by the hand. She is crowned with a high headdress.
This morning a multitude of people on horseback or on foot passed Nippur on their pilgrimage to Kerbella.

Thursday, April 20-To-day were found 100 sound tablets and many fragments, 2 clay reliefs, 1 incomplete pentagonal prism and 4 seal cylinders between the mounds I and XI. To-morrow begins the great feast of “Kourban Beiram” to commemorate the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. It will last three days.

View of the ziggurat from the distance, hills in the foreground.
Plate IV — Distant view of the ziggurat from the northeast.
Image Number: 5961

Saturday, April 29-More tablets and fragments. Violent sand-storm. Our new room is at last ready for occupancy. Boxes are provided with shelves and the lids are put on hinges to serve for cupboards. A screen door is hung and windows placed high up and provided with screen to exclude flies and birds. The glass is spoiled negatives. My old room where the lamented Meyer sickened will now become an antiquity room.

Monday, May 1-9 sound tablets and fragments.
The fields of wheat and barley are now being harvested with the sickle.
A small gang of men began digging a well to-day to supply the household independently from the canal and the caprice of the Arabs.

Thursday, May 4-A cave-in at the well before the brickwork was finished caught one man and hurt him a good deal. Was carried and put to bed in the house.

Friday, May 5-18 sound tablets and fragments.
After a night of bailing water, the well was cleaned out, deepened, and again built up with sound bricks. The man Khalaff is brighter but still suffers from mental fright.

Sunday, May 7-In the evening the foremen and some of their assistants were invited into the castle and treated to soft music in a music box. The effect was almost magical.

Wednesday, May 17-10 sound tablets and fragments from hill X.
The search for tablets goes quietly forward with only moderate success. The place where the tablets are found is in the outskirts of the place which yielded so abundantly of tablets in 1890, and while it may mark the end of the tablets, we always hope that it may be the beginning of other large fields.
Search for tablets is most unsatisfactory from more than one point of view. It compels one to make trial trenches, shafts, wells and tunnels which of necessity is destructive of architectural results and compels one to deposit heaps of excavated earth and debris where they are likely to be in the way of future work, provided the mounds should ever be fully and completely explored.

Monday, May 22-Letter from Mr. Geere. He will not attempt to come to Nippur until autumn, being so advised by his physician Dr. Sturrock.

Saturday, June 3-A large brick tomb vaulted, 10 1⁄2 feet in length by 6 3⁄4 feet in width, containing 43 skeletons of adults and youths, 4 seal cylinders, several large stone beads, 3 pieces of gold and one gold earring. Temperature at noon over 100°.

Sunday, June 4-We suffer much from the beating sun and hot winds. At noon 109°.

Monday, June 5-2 sound tablets and fragments from VI.
The heat toward midday is very hard to endure in the trenches-106°, and we shall have to seek the shelter of Temple Hill soon for the heated months.

Thursday, June 8-Hill I. Several excellent fragmentary tablets; two inscribed Hebrew bowls, 1 inscribed human skull, 1 seal cylinder. The skull was placed between two bowls joined mouth to mouth.

Excavated foundations of rooms of a library.
Plate IV — Rooms in the Temple Library, Hill V, as seen from the south- west, March 20, 1900.
Image Number: 5968

Sunday, June 11-Our garden has already began to produce: egg plant, . . ., cucumbers and melons.

Monday, June 12-Stamped half-bricks of one patesi, coloured red, are found on the bank of the Shatt en-Nil, but not in position. Swarms of mosquitoes come in clouds from the marshes. Life miserable. 106° midday.

Sunday, June 18-Unripe green grapes, hard green apricots brought from the market, and green quinces, almonds, peaches, etc.

Monday, June 19-A considerable part of the force was put onto the Temple Hill, removing a heap of earth deposited within the Temple Area near its E. corner by Dr. Peters in the early part of 1890. Another part of the force was employed on hill VI toward the W. corner of the ziggurat itself in a search for tablets.

Saturday, June 24-A large force still clearing the E. corner of the Temple Area, and a smaller force on VI.

Monday, June 26-All hands, over 200, still clearing the E. section of the Temple Area. The hot weather compels us at noon time-111°-to seek shelter for long rest and a nap. We begin work at 4 o’clock in the morning, rest two and a half hours at noon, then resume work, quitting one hour before sunset. I have therefore of necessity built a shelter and photographic room in one structure on the summit of the ziggurat. There we are to make our headquarters during the day to develop negatives or perform other work claiming attention.

Sheikh Abud el-Hamid holding his daughter.
Plate V — Sheikh Abud el-Hamid and his little daughter in holiday dress.

Thursday, June 29-At day-break we rise and go at once to the hill and after a round of the trenches have a cup of hot malted milk and a biscuit (the water is heated on an oil stove by us), then look after the work outside. At about 10 o’clock the cook brings a hot breakfast to us. At midday the men are called off. They have been munching bread while working. They now eat their lunch of hot bread sent out by their women folks and lie down for a nap. One hour before sunset we quit and return in a body to the house. At sunset we dine upon the roof as the light fades, insects making the use of lamps impracticable, and retire early.

Monday, July 3-All the men at work in Area of the Temple near the E. corner; in rooms properly indicated on the map made by Coleman in 1890.
Bedry Bey arrived to day from Babil and seemed pleased with the manner and result of our work. He warns us against Showki Effendi, a bad man at heart, which we have already discovered and have taken steps to be rid of him.

Wednesday, July 5-Bedry Bey departed under escort of five of our people. He graciously accepted a purse containing ten liras and expressed magnified pleasure over having been so well entertained.

Thursday, July 6-Extremely hot-112°-even difficult for the Arabs to endure. The finest negatives of the season were developed to-day in the newly-built room on the ziggurat.

Friday and Saturday, July 7 and 8-More than 200 men at work on the E. section of the Temple Area, removing earth heaps and walls of rooms excavated by Dr. Peters in 1890. The complete removal will require considerable time.

Two people weaving on a massive scale.
Plate V — Weaving scene at door of expedition house.
Image Number: 9851

Monday, July 10-All the forces still clearing the rooms in the E. corner of the Temple Area.

Thursday, July 13- All hands still at work in the same Temple Area.
The volume of earth deposited was very great.
Enlargement of the castle proceeds slowly. The dining and sitting room was covered with a roof to-day, and in front of it a verandah over-looking the court is also covered.

Saturday, July 15-On the NE. side of the Temple Area, a double line of heavy crude brick walls with a considerable batter were partly uncovered.
Within a few weeks new rooms will be added on the ground for the reception of Messrs. Geere and Fisher.

Wednesday, July 19-Continuation of the work on the great enclosing wall. Photographed several (terra cotta) stelae and card of mounted objects.

Saturday, July 22-One fragment of inscribed stone vase similar to fragment found in previous campaign, one tablet, one seal cylinder, all found. in the E. corner of the Temple Area near the spot where the torso was found in 1896.
An Indian, Akhar Ali, arrived to-day from Baghdad to serve as door-keeper of the castle by day. At night the door is locked and the key is kept by myself.

Sunday, July 30-Morning devoted to a round of the entire camp. On the outskirts are several scanty black tents belonging to the liquorice root diggers, who are at present employed by us. About them are their calves, lambs and chickens and the naked children of which there is an abundance.

Two woven poudning rice with a large mallet.
Plate V — Women pounding rice lo remove the husk.
Image Number: 6912

Tuesday, Aug. 1-A small head of statuette of the Tello type with a turban on the head showing the general type of kefieh as the Arabs wear to-day. It was found near the E. corner and the position of the torso.

Friday, Aug. 4-A day of burning heat which seems to parch the skin until it feels as if it would burst open and scroll up like birch bark.

Sunday, Aug. 6-Taking the weekly rounds of the camp, a carpet factory was discovered in full operation. The rudest kind of loom was stretched upon the ground. It consisted of two terminal warp beams and a simple rude harness. Two women from opposite sides passed the unwound skeins of wool forward and backward.

Thursday, Aug. 17-A fine fragment of inscribed stone vase, from about the level of Ur-Ninib found in the E. corner of the Temple Area.

Tuesday, Aug. 22-Large stone vase of Naram-Sin, inscribed with 11 lines is found near the pavement standing on the Ur-Ninib level.

Wednesday, Aug. 23-The vase of Naram-Sin is removed to the house by the strongest of the men. It required relays of sixteen men each.

Saturday, Sept. 2-More beads, copper nails, perforated discs, ashes, and a small inscription on diorite stone.
First fresh dates from the date groves of Afaj.

Monday, Sept. 11-An inscribed stone disc with archaic inscription from Naram-Sin level. One inscribed brick about Assur-bani-pal level.

View of an excavatedd causeway.
Plate VI — View of the ziggurat show- ing the causeway in the left centre.

Saturday, Sept. 16-From below Naram-Sin level, copper knife and spear; a piece of lapis-lazuli carved with a human head in relief. The government is about to collect taxes. Haji Tarfa is in Diwaniyeh.
Rumours of war and resistance. His factotum sends a basket of dates.

Monday, Sept. 18-Letter from Mr. Geere reporting that Fisher and himself will come on to Nippur together in good time. Every effort is made to finish the house before their arrival.

Thursday, Sept. 21-Small vase filled with jewelry from Ur-Gur level. Consists of silver hairpin, rings and coiled toe-rings.

Saturday, Sept. 23- A door-socket of Sargali-sharri found on the SE. side of a section in line with the treasury vaults.

Hill V or Tablet Hill

Monday, Sept. 25-A few of our force was put to prospecting for tablets in the mound known as Tablet Hill and marked V. The greater part was kept at work in the Temple Area.

Wednesday, Sept. 27-A good number of tablets were to-day taken from the level of Naram-Sin in the Temple Area. Because of the moisture they were taken out in a mass and allowed to dry. A battalion of soldiers have to-day encamped near Suk el-Afaj. They have come to enforce tax collection.

Thursday, Sept. 28-Found a large vase with rope pattern below the level of Naram-Sin and a Closet (W.C.) of primitive piano-convex bricks in herring-bone style.

Saturday, Sept. 30-A large force of 200 men was this morning added to the men prospecting on mound V, Tablet Hill.

Monday, Oct. 2-The larger part of our forces is employed on V, a smaller part within the Temple Area, and another is sounding for an indication of a city gateway. As soon as any clue is obtained either of the existence of a collection of tablets or of a gateway, the clue will be followed. The night is still delightful upon the roof and stuffy in the room. In all the camps are tax-collecting soldiers.

Sunday, Oct. 8-Our people returned from the market saying that government criers proclaimed Haji Tarfa a duly appointed officer of his majesty’s. In Diwaniyeh and in the soldiers’ camp, parades were the order of the day. Haji Tarfa was clothed in purple, mounted upon a caparisoned steed and attended by a band of musicians. A sort of crowning of a petty king.

Thursday, Oct. 12-Archaic seal impressions on clay are found 12 feet below Naram-Sin level in Temple Area. Two nights of showers have nearly killed the sand flies. The General commanding the troops has summoned Abud el-Hamid and Hamid el-Birjid to go to him but they go not.

Monday, Oct. 16-Letter from consul Hurmer says Messrs. Geere and Fisher have left Baghdad on the 11th instant for Nippur.

Excavated room foundations.
Plate VI — Rooms of Temple Library, Hill V .
Image Number: 5969

Arrival of Messrs. Geere and Fisher

Friday, Oct. 20-To-day Messrs. Geere and Fisher arrived by boat from Hillah and look in good health. We were glad to see and welcome them to Nippur.

Tuesday, Oct. 24-Forces divided between Temple Area and city gate. Messrs. Geere and Fisher begin active work.

Friday, Oct. 27-An archaic image of limestone, perhaps an idol, is found in Hill VIII, on side toward the NE. Drawing by Mr. Fisher is forwarded with to-morrow’s mail. All remains in the mound are older than Ur-Gur.

Saturday, Nov. 4-Our commissioner received a letter from the governor (mutesserif) of Diwaniyeh saying that he had been informed that a jar of gold coins had been unearthed at Nippur, and ordered it forwarded at once. This is the result of Showki Effendi’s evil report.

Tuesday, Nov. 7- Investigating commission ordered by central government at Constantinople arrived at Nippur to-day. Two members: one a representative of Diwaniyeh municipal government; the other the Brig. Gen. commanding troops 6 miles form Nippur. Charged that a foreigner (in name) excavating under Irade at Nippur had found an ancient treasury of diamonds, which he had removed and concealed in a building built over the entrance of the treasury or mine. The new commissioner replied that if anything of the kind was found it was in Showki Effendi’s time, and he should be held responsible for it. I furnished a sheep, 3 chickens and a lot of rice to the commissioners who dined sumptuously, slept in our dining room and next departed reporting the sin back on Showki Effendi.

Monday, Nov. 20-Forces divided between Temple Hill and Tablet Hill. Mr. de Morgan and a party from Susa, Mr. Rouet consul of Baghdad and Bedry Bey arrived at Nippur to visit our excavations.

View of reed huts and a group of workmen from above.
View from the house-top of expedition Arabs at their hosa.
Image Number: 7114

Tuesday, Nov. 21-The party visited the excavations and were deeply interested. Having a large caravan with a retinue of servants they preferred to sleep in their tents, coming to us for meals and spending their short evening with us.

Wednesday, Nov. 22- The de Morgan party resumed their journey this morning. Slipper coffins discovered in rooms within the walls of the Temple enclosure, SE. side, probably buried there after the rooms had been abandoned.

Thursday, Nov. 23-A division of Shammar Arabs pitched their tents near Nippur. Probably 1000 camels are grazing around Temple Hill, herded by mounted guards.

Thursday, Nov. 30-A vaulted tomb of the Roman Period found in the basement of a tier of upper rooms in the great enclosing wall of the Temple Area near the S. corner. The vault was entered by steps, from the room above; it was brick-paved, and the walls were plastered. Two wooden coffins had decayed, only massive silver handles remained. On the head were two large pieces of thin beaten gold and a band. On the feet shoe buckles with a flat key. Gold discs were buttons or ornaments. The whole dated by a gold coin of Tiberius.

Saturday, Dec. 2-Gateway of Pre-Sargonic time excavated in the city wall NE. of the ziggurat. There are steps on each side of a lower central roadway all built of archaic piano-convex bricks.

Monday, Dec. 4-Fragment of inscribed clay statuette from beneath Bastion 65. Large stone foundations of the gateway laid in bitumen, may have lined a moat outside.

Saturday, Dec. 9-Bastion 65 entirely removed now reveals pylons at the entrance of Temple Area.

Wednesday, Dec. 13-Second door-socket of Ur-Gur discovered in the original position after removal of Bastion 65. The first was discovered by me in 1893. The bricks built around it were Ur-Gur’s. The hinge side of the door projected beyond the door-post into a recess provided for free swing.

View of the interior of Haji Tarfa’s guest house.
Image Number: 206839

Saturday, Dec. 16-Cholera is reported to be approaching from Busreh.

Sunday, Dec. 17-Haji Tarfa returned from his long absence to Kerbella, Nejef and Diwaniyeh. It was a virtual necessity to honour him with a visit in his double capacity as sheikh and official representative of the Turkish government. After breakfast Mrs. Haynes, Messrs. Geere and Fisher with guards, and the commissioner set off after sunrise and returned a half hour before sunset, having been cordially received and entertained. A strong guard was left at the house to prevent possible attack in our absence.

Saturday, Dec. 30-From mound V twelve sound tablets and quantity of fragments; also a small gold mask from a grave.

Saturday, Jan. 13-All this week, tablets, fragments of tablets and of prism recovered in Hill V, a really fine looking lot. A great bulk of these tablets came from a low level. There is reason to believe that we have come upon a library. Our trench is about 9 feet deeper than an older trench begun by Dr. Peter.

Monday, Jan. 15-31 sound tablets and 1 rectangular prism from the same low level. A force begins clearing the Court of Columns of the earth dumped over it.

Saturday, Jan. 20-A week of fruitful work. 214 sound tablets which will fill 12 to 15 boxes.

Tuesday, Jan. 23-13 sound tablets from the “Library” as we now say. Nearly all the tablets are unburnt, and break easily.

Thursday, Jan. 25-A fine lot of 17 sound tablets, 2 fragments of rectangular prisms, 1 seal cylinder, 1 fragment of boundary stone inscribed, 1 fragment of stone statuette inscribed, and 1 large duck weight.

Saturday, Jan. 27-From Tablet Hill 23 sound tablets, 1 fragment of rectangular, 2 of pentagonal prisms. Shafts have been sunk and tunnels driven around the tablet-producing spot to find its limits and hasten the task of securing them.

View of three sailing boats on a river.
Plate VII — Native boats moored at Daghara, May 15, 1900.
Image Number: 9947

Sunday, Jan. 28-Packed 27 boxes of tablets.

Wednesday, Jan. 31-Two new rooms of the “Library” have been entered and produce tablets in abundance.

Saturday, Feb. 3-Festivities for the end of Ramadan. Early in the morning the commissioner and I and an escort of 20 armed men set off to visit the sheikhs. I carried a bag of coffee as I have usually done on such occasions to Abud and to Hamid. We visited first Haji Tarfa, then Abud and Hamid, and still later the acting sheikh of the Rowaba Arabs. At the castle an open coffee-house was maintained during the two days.

Thursday, Feb. 8-Usual find of tablets in Hill V. Tracing the city wall NE. of Temple Area, we uncover 1 thin blue bottle, 1 cylinder seal, and clay balls used by slingers.

Monday, Feb. 12-A letter from Dr. Hilprecht in quarantine at Busreh. He expects to be at Nippur about the 25th.

Thursday, Feb. 15-More tablets and 3 rectangular Prisms. Bruno Meissner, Ph.D. of the German Expedition to Babil came to visit us, and showed deep interest in the work of excavating the tablets.

Friday, Feb. 16-Large cluster of tablets in all kinds of positions. They apparently fell from a rack, or a second story.

Saturday, Feb. l7-Dr. Meissner left us en route to Diwaniyeh and Nejef.

Saturday, Feb. 24-From the “Court of the Columns” a green enamelled jar containing Cufic coins and an inkhorn of wood lined with metal. From the so-called “Library” we have already obtained over 17,000 tablets and fragments.

Wednesday, Feb. 28-From the “Court of Columns” 1 door socket of Dungi and 1 brick stamp from Bur-Sin, ten feet below surface.

Thursday, March 1-7 burned tablets found in a jar along the Shatten- Nil. They are put aside for Dr. Hilprecht to examine. A telegram from Blockey Hotz & Co. dated Feb. 26th announcing Dr. Hilprecht’s departure for Nippur is received, and two hours later Dr. Hilprecht himself with servant Shaoul Selman and 3 zaptiehs appeared at the castle in good health and spirits after a long voyage.

A castle and smaller low lying huts on a river.
Plate VII — A castle and muthif (guest chamber) of a sheikh of the Bahahitha Arabs on the Shatt el-Daghara, some ten miles from Nippur in a westerly direction, May 14, 1900.
Image Number: 9944

Dr. Hilprecht

Friday, March 2-Walked with Dr. Hilprecht over the Temple Area and other parts of the mound for a general view of the whole field and a more special study of the Temple of Bel. Workmen in three divisions; one on line of city wall, one along Shatten-Nil, one in Court of Columns.

April 14-Party of three, Hilprecht, Haynes and Geere, set off at nightfall for Abu Hatab and Fara. Returning on 16th.

May6-Visit to sheikh Haji Tarfa. Dr. Hilprecht, Haynes and Mrs. Haynes.

Leaving Nippur

May 10, 1900-During the day and night 6 boats arrive at Nippur.

May 11-Antiquities partly transported to boats. Dr. Hilprecht, Geere and Fisher left Nippur.

May 12- Finish loading antiquities into boats and leave Nippur, tacking against adverse wind as far as Mahedi Fudehe’s.

May 14-Arrived in Hillah before nightfall.

May 21-Leave Hillah by boat, call upon Germans at Babil, and take carriage for Baghdad before sunset; ride all night and reach hotel in Baghdad one hour after sunrise, Tuesday 23rd.
Haynes left Baghdad by caravan for Aleppo May 31st, 1900. He reached Aleppo June 26th; Alexandretta June 31st; Beirut July 2nd on S.S. Niger; and Constantinople July 10th.

The present diary closes the first chapter of the Nippur Excavations undertaken in the last century by the Babylonian Expeditions of the University of Pennsylvania. It covers the last of the four expeditions sent in the field since 1888, the two first directed by the Rev. John P. Peters, the third and fourth by John Henry Haynes alone. His pioneer work and empirical method are obvious, but also his great courage and devotion. His obstinate search for tablets has enriched the University Museum collections to a point where they rival the leading European collections. Their publication fills already more than forty-five volumes.

Haynes was aware of his short-comings and of the defects of his method. In fact two architects had been attached to his staff. But illness in Baghdad prevented them from joining him in Nippur for nine months. It is also clear that the hasty dumping of excavated earth over the sur- rounding parts of the Temple was to cost the scientific exploration a good deal more in the future. Mound V, Tablet Hill, was already called Temple School or Nippur Archives in 1890, and Haynes’ deeper trenches justified the name. Best of all was the deep understanding of Arab life, customs and manners by Haynes, who could speak the language, and brought in his daily rapport with his people, and the tribes of the Afaj marsh land, real courtesy, and gentle missionary spirit. He was an artist, too, alive to the eternal charm of the Orient, and some of his sunset descriptions could be fixed with water colours.

To-day a new Expedition will resume the great work at Nippur. It is a joint Expedition. This is the proper time to remember what the great promoter of the Nippur Expedition, Dr. W. Pepper, wrote on Dec. 19th, 1890, to his silent and devoted partner E.W. Clark, the chairman of the Babylonian Exploration Fund, in a time of crisis: “For heaven’s sake do not let us give up this great work. You and I must keep our hands upon it, and we will bring it to a successful end, I am sure. . . . I find that I cannot rest easily with the feeling of taking my hand from the plough- share.” (Nippur Archives, No. 1143).


Several round rafts or boats along a river bank.
View looking northwest along roof of hotel on left bank of Tigris showing the professional water-carrier filling, loading and trans- porting his water skins.
Image Number: 9954

Cite This Article

Legrain, L.. "Nippur Fifty Years Ago." Museum Bulletin XIII, no. 4 (December, 1948): 2-33. Accessed July 15, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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