Members of the Archaeology and Anthropology department at the University of Bristol were busy cleaning out space for a major renovation, when they stumbled across a surprising find. Amongst all the other boxes, papers and equipment was a large wooden box containing animal bones, seeds, apple rings and pottery.
The researchers determined that the material was from a 4,500 year old tomb from Ur (in what is now Iraq). The tomb had been excavated by archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley in the 1920s and 1930s on a joint expedition with the British Museum and University of Pennsylvania Museum. The re-discovery of these objects was particularly exciting to archaeologists because usually during excavations in that time period items like these bones and seeds (called environmental remains) would rarely have been collected by archaelogical expeditions.
How the remains got to Bristol after they arrived back in the UK remains a mystery, as University of Bristol archaeologist Tamar Hodos explained:
"The remaining mystery is how this material came to be at Bristol in the first place. The environmental remains themselves were published in 1978 in Journal of Archaeological Science. The authors of that study were based at the Institute of Archaeology, London, and at the University of Southampton, and none of them had any known connection to the University of Bristol that might explain how the material came to reside here. If anyone can shed light on this mystery, we would love to hear from them."
The researchers are asking anyone who might have more information about the find to contact either Hodos, or Alexandra Fletcher at the British Museum, where the leftover food will soon join other artifacts from Ur on display.