The world’s old­est bridge to be preserved by the Bri­tish Mu­seum’s Iraq Scheme

Timeless Travels Magazine - - ARCHAEOLOG­ICAL NEWS -

The world’s old­est bridge is to be saved for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions thanks to a pi­o­neer­ing project as part of the Bri­tish Mu­seum’s Iraq Emer­gency Her­itage Man­age­ment Train­ing Scheme. The bridge at Tello, in the south of Iraq, was built in the third mil­len­nium BC and will be preserved by Bri­tish Mu­seum ar­chae­ol­o­gists and Iraqi her­itage pro­fes­sion­als who are be­ing trained to pro­tect an­cient sites that have suf­fered dam­age at the hands of Daesh (or the so-called Is­lamic State). Work­ing with the Iraq State Board of An­tiq­ui­ties and Her­itage, it is hoped that restor­ing the 4,000-year-old bridge will be a po­tent sym­bol of a na­tion emerg­ing from decades of war and could one day lead to the site wel­com­ing tourists from around the globe to learn about Iraq’s rich her­itage.

Se­bastien Rey, Lead Ar­chae­ol­o­gist, Iraq Scheme says: “This is a hugely im­por­tant project to en­sure the longterm sus­tain­abil­ity of the world’s old­est bridge, which is an in­cred­i­bly clever piece of an­cient en­gi­neer­ing on a grand scale. The full con­ser­va­tion pro­gramme will not only pro­vide ac­cess to the site for the lo­cal com­mu­nity and tourists, but it is hoped that it could yield un­prece­dented finds that may lead to a new cul­tural cen­tre of in­ter­est in the re­gion – one of the poor­est prov­inces of Iraq. It is also an im­por­tant em­blem of Iraq’s her­itage, and restor­ing the bridge is a sym­bol of a brighter fu­ture for the Iraqi peo­ple.”

Built for the an­cient Sume­rian city of Girsu, the bridge was only re­dis­cov­ered in 1929. De­scribed at the time as an ‘enig­matic con­struc­tion’, it has been var­i­ously in­ter­preted as a tem­ple, dam, and wa­ter reg­u­la­tor. Re­cent stud­ies us­ing 1930s pho­to­graphs as well as re­cently de­clas­si­fied satel­lite im­agery from the 1960s, along­side new re­search at the site, have led to the con­fir­ma­tion that it was a bridge over an an­cient wa­ter­way and it is, to date, the ear­li­est-known bridge in the world.

The next group of Iraq Scheme par­tic­i­pants that will carry out this vi­tal work are eight fe­male her­itage pro­fes­sion­als from the Mo­sul re­gion. They have been trained at the Bri­tish Mu­seum in all as­pects of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal field­work and emer­gency ar­chae­ol­ogy.

Aerial view of the bridge and the city of Girsu in the back­ground Ex­ca­va­tors at the site in Kur­dis­tan

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