RECORD / MZ SITEWIDE / Video and Film Clips / VC22
Laerke Recht & Rick Hauser, 2014-
Updated July 2014

Film clip 22
A song for the dead

Date ?
Editor Rick Hauser
Format .MP4
File size 10.6 MB
Duration 1.44 minutes


This impressionistic sequence is interdisciplinary. It marries song - an ancient Hurrian melody reconstructed from a cuneiform text that dates to centuries after Mozan ceased to be - with a classic Sumerian/Akkadian story that tells of the descent of the goddess Ishtar into the netherworld - heard here in English translation overlaid with a rendering of the actual Akkadian text. These elements are seen against the excavation of a tomb of the Khabur period - subsequent to the disappearance of Tupkish's palace.

The sequence begins with a kiln being readied for firing by M'saq, a potter from Qamishli, a few miles away from Mozan. He feeds the kiln fire with wood chips and shavings.

As Marilyn Buccellati, excavation co-director, says, the pottery recovered on the mound at Tell Mozan is a precious record of past times, allowing the artifacts and certain of the structures to be dated with precision.

Giorgio Buccellati, expedition co-director, adds that the items recovered from burials are equally valuable as dating tools. In this case, excavators find feathery, flaking fragments of what may be the leavings of a fabric - clothing? The find gives added eloquence to the song and the poem of the goddess's trip away and apart from the living.

Impressionistic as the sequence is, the images still yield information about the method of tomb construction - the square tiles that are being lifted out from the roof of the burial enclosure are the very same size as many of the bricks used in the wall construction of the Palace and Royal Residence. Burials give up their information gradually - almost reluctantly - as each excavated piece takes its place in the world of the living. Archaeological theorists would say that meaning is being constructed in the present - a unique light cast on the practices of the past, lifeways of an ancient people.

Featuring               Giorgio Buccellati (voiceover)
              Barbara Berlowitz (voiceover)
              Rick Hauser (voiceover)