Request a high resolution copy

Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

Reference code
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 entry, paper
Andrae, Walter
Iraq ยป Assur

33.223191, 43.679291

Sat Ap 24. [24 April 1909] Mr Andrae took me out and we went to the S
part and saw the great trenches with the ruins in them. The dead were
always buried in the houses just below the floor and some houses are
regular graveyards with clay sepulchral pots and sarcophagi
everywhere. Some of them contain several people. In one house we
counted 15 burials. Even some of the smaller houses, and all the
larger have square bathrooms, the bricks of which were asphalted.
The better tombs are vaulted, sometimes by corbels, sometimes by
true vaults. But the palaces and temples were probably not vaulted -
the inscrips specially record the bringing of wooden beams to roof
them. So we went down to the double line of walls and saw a gate in
the outer wall - without a name. The door in the middle quite quite
clear. On either side small doors led up to the top of the wall. There
was never water in the ditch, the levels wd not allow it; nor was there
here any direct way across the ditch but the road went down steps to
the left and then crossed and went up steps to the right. This wall was
built by Shalmaneser II. There was an older wall with towers, if they
can be called towers, that stood immensely forward leaving a broad
space under the wall where probably the last fight against the enemy
was carried on. Then the system of defence altered, no space was
left under the wall and the combat must have been carried on on the
other side of the ditch. So to the Gurgurri gate and to a very fine
house with bathrooms, 2 courts and a ..... inner little court and the
harem? the servants lived round the outer court which was very
roughly paved except just that part where the Herrschaften had to
pass and that was paved with small pebbles. The inner court with
tiles. Niches in the rooms on either side of the door with big slabs laid
over them. So to the Kleine Pompeii, a complex of little houses, a
small court[?] with the corn mill in it, the water channel passing through
it and tiny rooms behind. So we passed over a part of the wide
plateau which was levelled down to the native rock by Tikultininib for
his palace. And so to the temple of {Marduk} Nebo, late Assyrian.
What lies below it has yet to be dug. Abd ul Kadir Effendi, the Turkish
commissioner (he is a Baghdadi) lunched with us and the
conversation was carried on in Arabic. At 3.30 Mr Andrae and I went
down to the Festhaus. We passed through the double walls and saw
on one face of the outer walls the loop holes for throwing out stones
etc (machicoulis) extraordinary well preserved. The Festhaus stands
in its garden. Holes were dug in the soft sandstone for trees (they
must have been small) to be planted in. In the Festhaus itself a
colonnade of great square rusticated stone bases supported
(probably) piers of unburnt brick. At the back is a raised platform for
the throne - the present remains are Parthian. Behind, lie about on the
ground some huge {square} rectangular blocks with curious oblong
cuttings in them, like dentils depressed instead of raised. Andrae
does not know the use of them - perhaps they formed a niche behind
the throne. The whole plan is quite unAssyrian, with the colonnade,
probably covered with a flat roof on either side. It is very late. So we
came home and looked at photographs of pottery: Parthian with ......
..... ..... and Sassanian with small circles marked round with dots or
lines and containing an animal - mostly a stag. These come from a
tell on the other side a little lower down. Then we looked at the Hatra
[Hadr, Al] photographs including two extraordinary gateways, the
under part of the lintels carved in relief with griffins drinking out of jars
with one foot raised, like the Lateran reliefs, and the jambs with
rinceaux, some like the Ara Pacis and some more Sassanian. So to
dinner at which we had an interesting talk about the origin of the vault,
dome and niche. Andrae does not think the [sketch illustrating type of
wall recess] walls can have anything to do with [ditto] or [ditto] and he
is probably right; he admits that the zigurrat [sic] niches are
prototypes of [ditto] and thinks the engaged column was added in
imitation of classical work though it does not actually exist there. He
does not believe in Place's discovery of the vaulted chambers in the
palace at Khorsabad, though of course the vaulted doorway is
irrefutable. I propounded that the dome was probably very late - the
Pantheon remains the oldest existing example of a dome over a
round base said Andrae. Saroistan and Firnazabad probably not
older than 6th c. But of course these must have been a prototype to
the Pantheon. It is remarkable that there are no domes at Hatra
where they might so well have been used. See too the very tentative
and small domes of Khethar [Ukhaydir]. I think the clue to dome,
parallel barrel vault and columned niche lies in the Seleucid period of
which we have no trace: A development under classical influence of
Mesopotamian themes.

IIIF Manifest