National Geographic : 1953 Dec
867 .Iohn Scofeld. National Geographic Staff Battered Pots and Dishes Are Calendars of Near Eastern Archeology Scientists judge the age of long-forgotten towns and cemeteries from the style and workmanship of pottery. Expedition member Dorothy Marshall, of Scotland, here numbers homewares taken from a Jericho tomb. day be reconstructed in the 'Amman museum exactly as we found it. One of these Middle Bronze Age tombs stands out in our memories. The blocking of the door into the chamber was removed just as the day's work ended. Immediately inside we found the principal burial lying on a wooden bier. It was draped with a finely woven rush mat which overlapped a 5-foot wooden table, the largest we have yet found. On the table was a wooden platter holding joints of mutton to which flesh still adhered. Baskets held combs and toilet requisites. Wood and textiles were in excellent condi tion when the tomb was opened. As soon as the outer air reached them, they began to ooze. Obviously they would be ruined soon unless we took steps to preserve them. We started at once. For the wood objects paraffin wax is best. Outside in the shaft a Primus stove roared away, heating small jars of wax. These were passed through the narrow entrance to one of us who, squatting uncomfortably in the chamber, cleaned the wood with a camel's-hair brush. The hot liquid was then poured on the objects, into which it sank with a sizzling sound. Baskets, textiles, and bones we treated with plastic preparations. Great care was neces sary so that the weight of the liquid itself did not cause the powdery material to collapse. By 2 in the morning, working in the light provided by a little gasoline generator, we had protected everything against the ravages of 20th-century atmosphere. Skull Artists Were Town Dwellers More important than the tomb discoveries, and overshadowing even the problem of Joshua's conquest, is the light Jericho has cast on man's striving toward community effort. Here is where our skulls fit into the picture. The men who decorated them were not only artists; they were town dwellers. We were able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Jericho is the oldest town known to science.* Only when men discovered that wild grains could be cultivated and made to produce more richly, and that certain animals could be kept * The reputation of Damascus as the oldest city in the world was achieved mainly on the basis of refer ences to it in the Bible in the period of the patriarchs. But to date there have been no archeological excava tions at Damascus which have demonstrated its pri ority in age to Jericho.