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Sinjar. The residence of the governor of the district is in the village built amongst the ruins of the old city—the Singara of the Romans, and the “Belled Sinjar” of the Arabs. A small mud fort, raised a few years ago, stands on a hill in the midst of the remains of walls and foundations; but the principal part of the ancient city appears to have occupied the plain below. Around this fort, at the time of my visit, were congregated about two hundred families. The Yezidi inhabitants of the village, unlike those of the other districts, are mixed with Mussulmans. The latter, however, are so lax in their religious observances, and in dress so like the Yezidis, that it is difficult to distinguish them from the unbelievers. I was continually falling into mistakes, and eliciting a very indignant exclamation of “God forbid!” It would be difficult to point out, with any degree of certainty, ruins at Belled Sinjar more ancient than the Mohammedan conquest. It became a place of some importance in the early ages of Islam, and had its own semi-independent rulers. There are the remains of several fine buildings; and the lower part of a minaret, constructed, like that of the great mosque of Mosul, of colored tiles and bricks, is a conspicuous object from all parts of the plain. There are very abundant springs within the circuit of the old walls; the air is declared to be salubrious, and the soil rich and productive. All the villages of the Sinjar are built upon one plan. The houses rise on the hill-sides, and are surrounded by terraces, formed of rough stones piled one above the other as walls, to confine the scanty earth. These terraces are planted with olive and fig trees; a few vineyards are found near some villages. The houses, which are flat-roofed, are exceedingly clean and neat, and frequently contain several apartments. The walls of the interior are full of small recesses, like pigeon-holes, which are partly ornamental, and partly used to keep the domestic utensils and property of the owner. They give a very singular and original appearance to the rooms; and the oddity of the effect is considerably increased by masses of red and black paint daubed in patches on the white wall. The principal, and indeed now the only, trade carried on by the inhabitants of the Sinjar, is in dried figs, which are celebrated in this part of Turkey, and supply all the markets in the neighbouring provinces. The soil is fertile, and, as the means of irrigation are abundant, corn and various useful articles of produce might be raised in great plenty from the extensive tracts of arable land belonging to the villages. But the people have been almost ruined by misgovernment; they can now scarcely cultivate corn enough for their own immediate wants. The Pasha still lingered at Mirkan; and as I was anxious to return to Mosul, to renew the excavations, I took my leave of him, and rode through the desert to Tel Afer. I was accompanied by a small body of irregular cavalry, -a necessary escort, as the Aneyza Arabs were hanging about the camp, and plundering stragglers and caravans of supplies. As evening approached, we saw, congregated near a small stream, what appeared to be a large company of dismounted Arabs, their horses standing by them. As we were already near them, and could not have escaped the watchful eye of the Bedouin, we prepared for an encounter. I placed the baggage in the centre of my small party, and spread out the horsemen as widely as possible to exaggerate our numbers. We approached cautiously, and were surprised to see that the horses still remained without their riders: we drew still nearer, when they all galloped off towards the desert. They were wild asses. We attempted to follow them. After running a little distance they stopped to gaze at us, and I got sufficiently near to see them well; but as soon as they found that we were in pursuit, they hastened their speed, and were soon lost in the distance.*
* The reader will remember that Xenophon mentions these beautiful animals, which he must have seen during his march in these very plains. He faithfully describes the country, and the animals and birds which inhabit it, as they are to this day, except that the ostrich is not now to be found so far north. “The country,” says he, “was a plain throughout, as even as the sea, and full of wormwood; if any other kinds of shrubs or reeds grew there,
I reached Mosul in two days, taking the road by Kessi Kupri, and avoiding the desert beyond Abou-Maria, which we had crossed on our march to the Sinjar.
they had all an aromatic smell ; but no trees appeared. Of wild creatures, the most numerous were wild asses, and not a few ostriches, besides bustards and roe deer (gazelles), which our horsemen sometimes chased. The asses, when they were pursued, having gained ground of the horses, stood still (for they exceeded them much in speed); and when these came up with them, they did the same thing again ; so that our horsemen could take them by no other means but by dividing themselves into relays, and succeeding one another in the chase. The flesh of those that were taken was like that of red deer, but more tender.” (Anab. lib. i. c. 5.) In fleetness they equal the gazelle : and to overtake them is a feat which only one or two of the most celebrated mares have been known to accomplish. The Arabs sometimes catch the foals during the spring, and bring them up with milk in their tents. I endeavoured in vain to rear a pair. They are of a light fawn colour almost pink. The Arabs still eat their flesh. The “ wild asses of the desert” are mentioned in Job xxiv. 5., xxxix. 5.
EXCAVATIONS UNDERTAKEN BY THE BRITISH MUSEUM. CHOICE OF WORK.
MEN. —DWELLING HOUSES BUILT AT NIMROUD. - DISCOVERY OF BASRELIEFS. _OF ARMOUR AND HELMETS.- OF VASES.—OF NEW CHAMBERS. -OF THE OBELISK, -DISCOVERIES IN THE SOUTH-WEST CORNER OF THE MOUND, WINGED LIONS. — CROUCHING SPHINXES. - DISCOVERY OF TOMBS IN THE SOUTH-EAST CORNER OF THE MOUND. — ARAB WORKMEN. -MODE OF IRRIGATION. — CUSTOMS OF THE ARABS. — FACILITY OF DIVORCE. — ARAB WOMEN. — THE TIYARI OR CHALDÆANS. - A RAFT PLUNDERED. —-SEIZURE OF AN ARAB SHEIKH. - DEPARTURE OF SCULPTURES FOR BUSRAH.
On my return to Mosul, I received letters from England, informing me that Sir Stratford Canning had made over his share in the discoveries in Assyria to the British nation; and that the British Museum had received a grant of funds for the continuation of the researches commenced at Nimroud, and elsewhere. The grant was small, and scarcely adequate to the objects in view. There were many difficulties to contend with, and I was doubtful whether, with the means placed at my disposal, I should be able to fulfil the expectations which appeared to have been formed as to the results of the undertaking. The sum given to M. Botta for the excavations at Khorsabad alone, greatly exceeded the whole grant to the Museum, which was to include private expenses, those of carriage, and many extraordinary outlays inevitable in the East, when works of this nature are to be carried on. I determined, however, to accept the charge of superintending the excavations, to make every exertion, and to economise as far as it was in my power—that the nation might possess as extensive and complete a collection of, Assyrian antiquities as, considering the smallness of the means, it was possible to collect.
It was, in the first place, necessary to organise a band of workmen best fit to carry on the work. A general scarcity of corn had
driven the Arab tribes to the neighbourhood of the town, where they sought to gain a livelihood by engaging in labors not very palatable to a Bedouin. I had no difficulty in finding workmen amongst them. There was, at the same time, this advantage in employing these wandering Arabs—they brought their tents and families with them, and, encamping round the ruins and the village, formed a very efficient guard against their brethren of the Desert, who looked to plunder, rather than to work, to supply their wants. To increase my numbers I chose only one man from each family; and, as his male relations accompanied him, I had the use of their services, as far as regarded the protection of my sculptures. Being well acquainted with the Sheikhs of the Jebours, I selected my workmen chiefly from that tribe. The chiefs promised every protection; and I knew enough of the Arab character not to despair of bringing the men under proper control. The Arabs were selected to remove the earth—they were unable to dig ; this part of the labor required stronger and more active men; and I chose for it about fifty Nestorian Chaldaeans, who had sought work for the winter in Mosul, and many of whom, having already been employed, had acquired some experience in excavating. They went to Nimroud with their wives and families. I engaged at the same time one Bainan, a Jacobite or Syrian Christian, who was a skilful marble-cutter, and a very intelligent man. I also made a valuable addition to my establishment in a standardbearer of the irregular troops, of whose courage I had seen such convincing proofs during the expedition to the Sinjar, that I induced his commander to place him in my service. His name was Mahommed Agha ; but he was generally called, from the office he held in his troop, the “Bairakdar, or Standard-bearer.” He was a native of Scio, and had been carried off at the time of the massacre, when a child, by an irregular, who had brought him up as a Mussulman. In his religious opinions and observances, however, he was as lax, as men of his profession usually are. He served me faithfully and honestly, and was of great use during the excavations. Awad still continued in