Annual Mallowan Lecture

Wednesday, February 26, 2020 - 18:15 to Thursday, February 27, 2020 - 19:59
The British Academy, 10 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AH

In 1963 and 1965 Vaughn Crawford and Donald Hansen excavated what at present may claim to be the world’s earliest library in an unimpressive mound 15km north of Nippur.  It was called Abu Salabikh “Father of clinker” because of the prevalence of kiln wasters across the surface.  From 1975 till our work was abruptly arrested in 1990 by the Kuwait invasion the British School of Archaeology worked there, recovering fewer but still significant, cuneiform tablets, many robbed but some unrobbed graves, and by clearance of the surface a considerable slice of the city plan, all combining to give a clear, if still incomplete, image of life in a south Iraqi city in the 3rd millennium BC.

            This talk will be retrospective, reviewing our approaches and results, reporting on what has happened to the site and its antiquities since 1990, and what might happen in future. and consider how in the 3rd millennium AD the site can serve as a model for the world’s earliest urban society.



Nicholas Postgate was Assistant Director of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq under Diana Kirkbride-Helbaek and then Director from 1975-1980 before taking up a teaching post in Cambridge, where he is still based.  The exploration of Abu Salabikh began in 1973 and lasted through the 1980s until 1990, after which he worked in Cilicia for two decades.  He has participated in editing the cuneiform texts excavated by Sir Max Mallowan and David Oates at Nimrud, and written on the social and economic history of Mesopotamia, his most recent volumes being Bronze Age Bureaucracy: writing and the practice of government in Assyria (2013) and Cuneiform Texts from Nimrud Vol. 6 (2019).  

You can view the slides here.