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We started in Tehran, quickly drove to the snowcapped mountains of Ecbatana (Hamadan), on to the chilly environs of Bisitun (Kermanshah), and from there to the sunny, over 30 degrees Celsius sites of Susa and Chogha Zanbil (Shushtar).From Shushtar we went to Shiraz, where we finally got to see Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rustam; and from there we drove (via Pasargadae) to the beautiful city of Isfahan to relish in some modern-day Persian culture. So I can assure you that by the end of the trip our bus had become our second home.Thankfully, the Reading Room staff has been equally zealous in solving the situation.
Nowadays, the docks are either drained and turned into parks or have simply become leisure wharves; while the There and back again: the routine Each day I cross the clayish waters of the Thames to the heart of London.
I spend my days around Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, but mostly around Russel Square.
And instead of ignoring my alarm clock in bed, which I normally do at this hour, I’m standing outside looking at a barely visible piece of rock. And an ugly scaffold obscures most of it from view for the passers-by down below.
Nevertheless, there I am – in the cold, camera in hand – waiting for the moment that the first rays of sunlight will illuminate it slightly.
Unfortunately, it is well known that Assyriologists have less easy access to the “being there”-aspect of their discipline than many other scholars of antiquity.
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Assyriologists can visit cuneiform inscriptions in Iran, of course; or in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon etc.
It has been somewhat tricky to access the Middle East Reading Room at the British Museum, as the shop, which serves as an antechamber to this Reading Room, is officially closed.
Often, the security personnel deniesstudents access or locks the doors while the students are still inside the room.
For all of us, it was the first time that we went to Iran; and for most of us, it was the first time that we saw cuneiform inscriptions “in the wild,” rather than in some European museum. I mean, you can read about a monument, you can look up the pictures in a dusty book or a scholarly article, but there’s nothing like actually standing in the cold and peering at a frustratingly invisible relief to make you understand an inscription and the place it occupies in the surrounding landscape.
Being there, standing there, walking around and taking everything in, gives you a level of historical understanding that reading a published text on your couch back home just cannot.