Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/469

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

General of the Imperial Museum in Constantinople. The explorers penetrated deeper and deeper into the secrets and riddles of the huge mound of ruins at Nippur, Hundreds of graves, clay coffins, and urns were opened, and the ruins of demolished habitations and storehouses, along with the contents of their chambers, were explored. In this way thousands of documents, inscribed bricks, vases, and votive tablets were collected. Evidences of the activity which once pulsated in the streets of the city were unfolded before the eyes of the restless explorers. The terraces of the Temple of Ekur were disclosed. Numerous bricks bearing the name of the great Sargon came forth to the light of day under pickaxe and shovel. Under the building of Sargon one of the most important finds rewarded the labor that had been expended. An arch of brick was laid bare, and by this the question long discussed by the historians of architecture as to the antiquity of the arch entered upon a new stage, and its existence in Babylonia at the beginning of the fourth millennium before Christ was proved. The excavations have not yet reached the deepest foundations of this venerable sanctuary, whose influence for over four thousand years had been felt by all classes of the Babylonian people. But in the presence of this fact we begin to have some notion why Nippur is spoken of as the oldest city of the earth in the old Sumerian legends of the creation. Nearly seventy thousand dollars have already been spent on the excavations in Nippur, and great sacrifices of time, money, and personal devotion will be needed to carry the exploration to its end. Among the most important objects secured for the university museum may be mentioned about thirty-five thousand cuneiform documents in clay. The Babylonian Museum is the most important in America, and ranks immediately after the British Museum and the Louvre.

The classification and editing of the numerous and important results of the expedition has been intrusted to Prof. Hilprecht, who has planned their publication in four series of from ten to fifteen volumes each. Two volumes have appeared already, three are in the press, while seven others are in preparation. During the summer of 1893 Prof. Hilprecht was sent to Constantinople by the Babylonian Publication Committee to examine the inscriptions of the cuneiform tablets which had been deposited there according to the laws governing the disposal of such objects in the Turkish Empire. Hamdy Bey, Director-General of the Imperial Ottoman Museum, requested Prof. Hilprecht to reorganize the Semitic section of the Imperial Museum and furnish the basis of a catalogue of that section. Dr. Hilprecht complied with the request, and since that time he has acted as curator of the section. In March, 1896, Dr. Hilprecht again sailed for Constantinople to