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remains of sculpture or inscription were discovered, I abandoned it and renewed the experiment elsewhere. I could thus ascertain, whether any very extensive edifice was still standing. There were too many tangible objects in view to warrant an outlay in excavations promising no immediate results ; and a great part of the mound of Nimroud was left to be explored, when the ruins of Assyria should be further examined.
EXCAVATIONS AT KALAH SHERGHAT. - DEPARTURE FOR THE RUINS. —
THE BITUMEN PITS. - ABD'RUBBOU.—MY RECEPTION. — DISCOVERY OF A SITTING FIGURE – ARAB ENCAMPMENT. — ARAB LIFE. — EXCAVATIONS IN THE MOUND. DISCOVERY OF TOMBS. — RETURN TO NIMROUD.
I HAD long wished to excavate in the mounds of Kalah Sherghat, which rivalled in extent those of Nimroud and Kouyunjik. An Arab, from the Shammar Bedouins, would occasionally spend a night amongst my workmen, and entertain them with accounts of idols and sculptured figures of giants, which had long been the cause of wonder and awe to the wandering tribes, who pitch their tents near the place. On my first visit, I had searched in vain for such remains ; but the Arabs, who are accustomed to seek for pasture during the spring in the neighbourhood, persisted in their assertions, and offered to show me where these strange statues, carved, it was said, in black stone, were to be found. Scarcely a ruin in Mesopotamia is without its wondrous tale of apparitions and Frank idols, and I concluded that these sculptures only existed in the fertile imagination of the Arabs. As the vicinity of Kalah Sherghat is notoriously dangerous, being a place of rendezvous for plundering parties of the Shammar, Aneyza, and Obeid Bedouins, I had deferred a visit to the spot, until I could remain there for a short time under the protection of some powerful tribe. This safeguard was also absolutely necessary in the event of my sending workmen to excavate.
There being no pasture in the neighborhood of Mosul this year on account of the want of rain, the three great divisions of the Jebour Arabs sought the jungles on the banks of the Tigris. Abd'rubbou with his tribe descended the river, and first pitching his tents at Senidij, near the confluence of the Tigris
and the Zab, subsequently moved towards Kalah Sherghat. I thought this a favorable time for excavating in the great mound; and the Sheikh having promised to supply me with Arabs for the work, and with guards for their defence, I sent Mansour, one of my superintendents, to the spot. I followed some days afterwards, accompanied by Mr. Hormuzd Rassam, the Bairakdar, and several well-armed men, chosen from amongst the Jebours who were employed at Nimroud. We crossed the Tigris on a small raft, — our horses having to swim the river. Striking into the desert by the Wadi Jehainah, we rode through a tract of land, at this time of year usually covered with vegetation; but then, from the drought, a barren waste. During some hours' ride we scarcely saw any human being, except a solitary shepherd in the distance, driving before him his half-famished flocks. We reached at sunset a small encampment of Jebours. The tents were pitched in the midst of a cluster of high reeds on the banks of the Tigris, and nearly opposite to the tomb of Sultan Abd-Allah. They were so well concealed, that it required the experienced eye of a Bedouin to detect them.* by the thin smoke rising above the thicket. The cattle and sheep found scanty pasturage in a marsh formed by the river. The Arabs were as poor and miserable as their beasts; they received us, however, with hospitality, and killed a very lean lamb for our entertainment. Near the encampment was a quadrangle, resembling on a small scale the great enclosures of Nimroud and Kouyunjik, formed by low mounds, and evidently marking the site of an Assyrian town or fort. I searched for some time, but without success, for fragments of pottery or brick inscribed with cuneiform characters. On the following day we passed the bitumen pits, or the “Kiyara,” as they are called by the Arabs. They cover a con
* In the desert, the vicinity of an encampment is generally marked by some sign well known to the members of the tribe. It would otherwise be very difficult to discover the tents, pitched, as they usually are, in some hollow or ravine to conceal them from hostile plundering parties.
ten miles to early in the aftermiles. We reached bscuring the
siderable extent of ground; the bitumen bubbling up in springs from crevices in the earth and forming small ponds. The Jebours, and other trihes encamping near the place, carry the bitumen for sale to Mosul, and other parts of the Pashalic. It is extensively used for building purposes, for coating the boats on the river, and particularly for smearing camels, when suffering from certain diseases of the skin to which they are liable. Before leaving the pits, the Arabs, as is their habit, set fire to the bitumen, which sent forth a dense smoke, obscuring the sky, and visible for many miles. We reached the tents of Abd’rubhou early in the afternoon. They were pitched about ten miles to the north of Kalah Sherghat, at the upper end of a long tongue of rich alluvial soil, lying between the river and a range of low hills. The great mound was visible from this spot, rising high above the Zor, or jungle, which clothes the banks of the Tigris.
No Sheikh could have made a more creditable show of friendship than did Abd’rubbou. He rode out to meet me, and, without delay, ordered sheep enough to be slain to feast half his tribe. I declined, however, to spend the night with him, as he pressed me to do, on the plea that I was anxious to see the result of the excavations at Kalah Sherghat. He volunteered to accompany me to the ruins after we had breakfasted, and declared that if a blade of grass were to be found near the mound, he would move all his tents there immediately for my protection. In the meanwhile, to do me proper honor, he introduced me to his wives, and to his sister, whose beauty I had often heard extolled by the Jebours, and who was not altogether undeserving of her reputation. She was still unmarried. Abd'rubbou himself was one of the handsomest Arabs in Mesopotamia.
We started for the ruins in the afternoon, and rode along the edge of the jungle. Hares, wolves, foxes, jackals, and wild boars continually crossed our path, and game of all kinds seemed to abound. The Arabs gave chase ; but the animals were able to enter the thick brushwood, and conceal themselves
before my greyhounds could reach them. Lions are sometimes found near Kalah Sherghat, rarely higher up on the Tigris.* As I floated down to Baghdad a year before, I had heard the roar of a lion not far from this spot : they are, however, seldom seen, and we beat the bushes in vain for such noble game.
As for grass, except in scanty tufts at the foot of the trees in the jungle, there appeared to be none at all. The drought had been felt all over the desert: in the place of the green meadows of last year, corered with flowers, and abounding in natural reservoirs of water, there was a naked yellow waste, in which even the abstemious flocks of the Bedouin could scarcely escape starvation. As we rode along, Abd'rubbou examined every corner and ravine in the hope of finding an encamping place, and a little pasture for his cattle, but his search was not attended with much success.
The workmen on the mound, seeing horsemen approach, made ready for an encounter, under the impression that we were a foraging party from a hostile tribe. As soon, however, as they recognised us, they threw off the few superfluous garments they possessed. Dropping their shirts from their shoulders, and tying them round their waists by the arms, they set up the war-cry, and rushed in and out of the trenches like madmen.
The principal excavations had been made on the western side of the mound. After I had succeeded in obtaining silence, and calming the sudden fit of enthusiasm which had sprung up on my arrival, I descended into the trenches. A sitting figure in black basalt, of the size of life, had been uncovered. It was, however, much mutilated. The head and hands had been destroyed, and other parts of the statue had been injured. The
. * The lion is frequently met with on the banks of the Tigris below Baghdad, rarely above. On the Euphrates it has been seen, I believe, almost as high as Bir, where the steamers of the first Euphrates expedition, under Colonel Chesney, were launched. In the Sinjar, and on the banks of the Kabour, they are frequently caught by the Arabs. They abound in Khuzistan, the ancient Susiana : I have frequently seen three or four together, and have hunted them with the chiefs of the tribes inhabiting that province.