National Geographic : 1951 Jan
This Northern Acropolis Was Buried Under 12 Settlements W HILE MOST of the south of Mesopotamia was still a steaming marsh, the north had been climbing steadily up the ladder of prehistoric progress-a fact about which even the specialists were vague as recently as 30 years ago. Since then, however, excavations in the area of ancient Nineveh-modern Mosul-have helped to fill huge gaps in our knowledge of the past. Perhaps the single site which has told us more about these lost ages than any other mound has been Tepe Gawra, 15 miles northeast of Mosul, discovered and first excavated by the author in 1927. Subsequent excavations, largely under the author's personal supervision, have not only con firmed but exceeded his original estimates of the promise of the mound. By 1936 Tepe Gawra had become a landmark in Meso potamian archeology, duly marked on the National Geo graphic Society's Map of Bible Lands. This plate and the next are based on the work at Tepe Gawra. Of the 26 levels uncovered at Tepe Gawra the first 20 deal with prehistory, that stage in the progress of man which extends from the end of the Stone Age to the beginning of the Copper Age proper. This period, in which copper was used sparingly together with stone, lasted perhaps 2,000 years, down to about 3000 B. C. It saw great improvements in pottery techniques and decoration, steady growth of architecture, the invention of the wheel, and the introduction of the stamp, or button, seal as a magic link between the individual and the powers of Nature. All of this stage was experienced inthe north ofMeso potamia, whereas the southwas inaposition toenjoy the fruits of this progress onlytoward theendofthe period. The dominant theme of theStone-Copper Agewas religion. The principal buildings in most ofthe levels ofTepe Gawra were the temples. Because venerated religious centers found eager builders after each destruction, whatever thecause, themound wit nessed many successive occupations, layer upon layer. With each new stratum the areaat thetopbecame more and more restricted, until at last itwould nolonger support any kind of structure worthyofthe site's tradition. By 1500 B. c. the place had tobeabandoned, andwithin a century or two it was worndown toatall, cone-shaped hill. The three temples illustrated on thisplate were built by the people of Gawra XIII,after thesitehadalready gone through 13 earlier occupations. The shrine to the left retained thenatural coloring ofits light-brown, sun-baked bricks. The central shrine wasdeco rated with white plaster, and the building on the right bore traces of vermilion decoration. Each shrine used bricks of a special and exclusive size,but all three employed piers and pilasters which yielded niches andgave thewhole asophisti cated appeal. At the time of its discovery (1937) the Gawra acropolis was the oldest example ofmonumental architecture inthe world. It still remains aneloquent witness tothegreat strides which prehistoric man had made since his emergence from the obscurity of the Stone Age.