5K-Year-Old Tavern Still Holds Food

Fish stew, anyone?
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2023 12:55 PM CST
5K-Year-Old Tavern Still Holds Food
A drone photo of the trenches excavated in fall 2022 at Lagash. The closest trench shows the tavern.   (Lagash Archaeological Project)

With the exception of beer, the tavern has everything a tavern should: an open-air dining area, benches, a kitchen complete with a refrigerator and oven, even food. The catch: all of it is more than 5,000 years old. Archaeologists have announced the discovery of the buried pub in the ancient Iraqi city of Lagash (modern-day Al-Hiba), which was once among the largest cities of Mesopotamia. It was also one of the oldest, dating back to the fifth millennium BC, per CNN. The tavern dates to 2700 BC and suggests that society had developed a middle class by then. As CNN reports, it was previously believed that there were only elites and those enslaved.

"The fact that you have a public gathering place where people can sit down and have a pint and have their fish stew, they're not laboring under the tyranny of kings," nor would they be oppressed, University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Reed Goodman, part of the excavation team, tells CNN. About that fish stew: archaeologists uncovered storage containers that still contained fish remains. That was in addition to a clay refrigeration device known as a zeer and what Reed describes as a "beautiful" oven. "From various burning episodes and deposits of ash it left a sort of rainbow coloration in the soils and the interior is framed by these big bricks," he says.

Only recently have archaeologists begun using new techniques, including drone photography, to examine the 1,000-acre site. After examining places frequented by elites, they focused on a non-elite urban neighborhood to get a better understanding of the society, according to a release. With the discovery of the tavern, "there is already something that is giving us a much more colorful history of the city," says Reed. Per Smithsonian, Lagash project director and UPenn professor Holly Pittman says the city, which would've been located near the mouth of the Persian Gulf in ancient times, was likely "a significant population center that had ready access to fertile land and people dedicated to intensive craft production." (More archaeology stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.