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Whilst at Mosul, Mormous, an Arab of the tribe of Haddedeen, informed me that figures had been accidentally uncovered in a mound near the village of Tel Kef. As he offered to take me to the place, we rode out together; but he only pointed out the site of an old quarry, with a few rudely hewn stones. Such disappointments were daily occurring; and I wearied myself in scouring the country to see remains which had been most minutely described to me as sculptures, or slabs covered with writing, and which generally proved to be the ruin of some modern building, or an early tombstone inscribed with Arabic characters.
The mounds, which I directed to be opened, were those of Baasheikha (of considerable size), Baazani, Karamles, Karakush, Yara, and Jerraiyah. Connected with the latter ruin many strange tales were current in the country. It was said that on its lofty conical mound formerly stood a temple of black stone, held in great reverence by the Yezidis, or worshippers of the devil; its walls covered with all manner of sculptured figures, and with inscriptions in an unknown language. When the Bey of Rowandiz fell upon the Yezidis, and massacred those who were unable to escape, he destroyed this house of idols; but the ruins of the building, it was declared, had only been covered by a small accumulation of rubbish. The lower part of an As. syrian figure, in relief on basalt, dug up, it was said, in the mound, was actually brought to me; but I had afterwards reason to suspect that it was discovered at Khorsabad. Excavations were carried on for some time at Jerraiyah, but no remains of the Yezidi temple were brought to light.
Having finished my arrangements in Mosul, I returned to Nimroud on the 19th. During my absence, my Cawass had carried the excavations along the back of a wall, in the S.W. corner of the mound *, and had discovered an entrance or doorway, t Being anxious to make as much progress as possible, I increased my workmen to thirty, and distributed them in three parties. By opening long trenches at right angles in various directions, we came upon the top of a wall”, built of slabs with inscriptions similar to those already described. One, however, was reversed, and was covered with characters, exceeding in size any I had yet seen. On examining the inscription carefully, I found that it corresponded with those of the chamber in the N.W. corner; but as the edges of this, as well as of all the other slabs hitherto discovered in the S. W. ruins, had been cut away to make the stones fit into the wall, several letters had been destroyed. From these facts it was evident that materials taken from another building had been used in the construction of the one we were now exploring; but as yet it could not be ascertained whether the face or the back of the slabs had been uncovered; for the general plan of the edifice could not be determined until the heap of rubbish and earth under which it was buried had been removed. The excavations were now carried on but slowly. The soil, mixed with sun-dried and baked bricks, pottery, and fragments of alabaster, offered considerable resistance to the tools of the workmen; and when loosened, could only be removed in baskets to be thrown over the edge of the mound. The Chaldaeans from the mountains, strong and hardy men, could alone wield the pick; the Arabs were employed in carrying away the earth. Spades could not be used, and there were no other means, than those I had adopted, to clear away the rubbish from the ruins. A person standing on the mound could see no remains of building until he approached the edge of the trenches, into which the workmen descended by steps, where parts of the walls were exposed to view. The Abou-Salman and Tai Arabs continuing their depredations in the plains of Nimroud and surrounding country, I deemed it prudent to remove from Naifa, where I had hitherto resided, to Selamiyah. This village is built on a rising ground near the Tigris, and was formerly a place of some importance,
* Wall e, plan 1. f Entrance d, same plan.
being mentioned at a very early period as a market town by the Arab geographers, who generally connect it with the ruins of Athur or Nimroud. It occupies an ancient site, and in long lines of mounds, enclosing the village, can be traced the walls of an Assyrian town, or more probably of one of the suburbs of the capital. Even five years ago Selamiyah was a flourishing place, and could furnish 150 well-armed horsemen. The Pasha had, however, plundered it; and the inhabitants had fled to the mountains or into the neighbouring province of Baghdad. Ten miserable huts now stood in the midst of ruins of bazaars and streets surrounding a kasr or palace, belonging to the old hereditary Pashas of Mosul, well built of alabaster, but rapidly falling into decay. I had intended to take possession of this building, which was occupied by a few Hytas or irregular troops; but the rooms were in such a dilapidated condition that the low mud hut of the Kiayah, or chief of the village, appeared to be both safer and warmer. I accordingly spread my carpet in one of its corners, and giving the owner a few piastres to finish other dwelling-places which he had commenced, established myself for the winter. The premises, which were speedily completed, consisted of four hovels, surrounded by a mud wall, and roofed with reeds and boughs of trees. I occupied half of the largest habitation, the other half being appropriated for beasts of the plough, and various domestic animals. We were separated by a wall; in which, however, numerous apertures served as a means of communication. These I studiously endeavored for some time to block up. A second hut was devoted to the wives, children, and poultry of my host; a third served as kitchen and servants’ hall : the fourth was converted into a stall for my horses. In the enclosure formed by the buildings and outer wall, the few sheep and goats which had escaped the rapacity of the Pasha, congregated during the night, and kept up a continual bleating and coughing until they were milked and turned out to pasture at day-break. The roofs not being constructed to exclude the winter rains now setting in, it required some exercise of ingenuity to escape the torrent which descended into my apartment. I usually passed the night on these occasions crouched up in a corner, or under a rude table which I had constructed. The latter, having been surrounded by trenches, to carry off the accumulating waters, generally afforded the best shelter. My Cawass, who was a Constantinopolitan, complained bitterly of the hardships he was compelled to endure, and I had some difficulty in prevailing upon my servants to remain with me. The present inhabitants of Selamiyah, and of most of the villages in this part of the Pashalic of Mosul, are Turcomans, descendants of tribes brought by the early Turkish Sultans from the north of Asia Minor, to people a country which had been laid waste by repeated massacres and foreign invasions. In this portion of the Ottoman Empire, there is scarcely, except in Mosul and the Mountains, a vestige of the ancient population. The great tribes which inhabit the Desert were brought from the Jebel Shammar, in Nedjd, within the memory of man. The inhabitants of the plains to the east of the Tigris are mostly Turcomans and Kurds, mixed with Arabs, or with Yezidis, who are strangers in the land, and whose origin cannot easily be determined. A few Chaldaean and Jacobite Christians, scattered in Mosul and the neighboring villages, or dwelling in the most inaccessible part of the mountains, their places of refuge from the devastating bands of Tamerlane, are probably the only descendants of that great people which once swayed, from these plains, the half of Asia. The Yuz-bashi, or captain of the irregular troops, one Daoud Agha, a native of the north of Asia Minor, called upon me as soon as I was established in my new quarters. Like most men of his class, acknowledged freebooters”, he was frank and intelligent. He tendered me his services, entertained me with his adventures, and planned hunting expeditions. A few presents secured his adherence, and he proved himself afterwards a very useful and faithful ally. I had now to ride three miles every morning to the mound; and my workmen, who were afraid, on account of the Arabs, to live at Naifa, returned, after the day's labor, to Selamiyah. The excavations were however carried on as actively as the means at my disposal would permit. An entrance, or doorway, had now been completely cleared, and the backs of several inscribed slabs had been uncovered.* A corner-stone, which had evidently been brought from another building, was richly ornamented with flowers and scroll-work in relief; but there were no sculptures; nor could any idea be yet formed of the relative position of the walls. I therefore ordered a trench to be opened from the doorway into the interior of the mound, presuming that we should ultimately come to the opposite side of the chamber, to which, it appeared probable, we had found the entrance. After removing a large accumulation of earth mixed with charcoal, charred wood, and broken bricks, we reached the top of a new wall on the afternoon of the 28th November. In order to ascertain whether we were in the inside of a chamber, the workmen were directed to clear away the earth from both sides of the slabs. The south face was unsculptured,
* The irregular cavalry, (Hytas as they are called in this part of Turkey, and Bashi-bozuks in Roumelia and Anatolia,) are collected from all classes and provinces. A man known for his courage and daring is named Hytabashi, or chief of the Hytas, and is furnished with teskérés, or orders for pay and provisions for so many horsemen, from four or five hundred to a thousand or more. He collects all the vagrants and freebooters he can find to make up his number. They must provide their own arms and horses, although sometimes they are furnished with them by the Hyta-bashi, who deducts a part of their pay until he reimburses himself. The best Hytas are Albanians and Lazes, and they form a very effective body of irregular cavalry. Their pay at Mosul is small, amounting to about eight shillings a month; in other provinces it is considerably more. They are quartered on the villages, and are the terror of the inhabitants, whom they plunder and ill-treat as they think fit. When a Hyta-bashi has established a reputation for himself, his followers are numerous and devoted. He wanders about the provinces, and like a condottiere of the middle ages, sells his services, and those of his troops, to the Pasha who offers most pay, and the best prospects of plunder. Since the introduction of the tanzimat, or reformed system of Government, the number of irregular troops has been greatly reduced, and the Hytas are no longer able to ill-treat the inhabitants of villages as formerly. * Wall and entrance d, plan 1.