By Peter Knight
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E. Today the principal bed of the Euphrates lies farther west. The Euphrates is not alone in changing its course. Below Kut, the Tigris is also unstable and is known to have shifted at least three times. In antiquity, it flowed directly into the Gulf, having followed a much more direct course than that of today. The Diyala anciently joined the Tigris considerably south and east of their present confluence near Baghdad. And until around a millennium ago, the Karun and Karkheh in Susiana formed a joint estuary.
By the 1850s decipherers were making it possible to understand the ancient cuneiform texts. The names of kings and places familiar from the Bible began regularly to appear, whetting public appetite for further investigations. Intrepid explorers like Robert Mignan and J. Bailie-Fraser observed and described southern Mesopotamian mounds that hid the remains of other major cities, including Ur. In the late 1840s and 1850s, serious excavations began at Babylon and in the Assyrian cities around Mosul.
Potamia experienced an even more dramatic Investigations here by the Frenchman Ernest mixture of success and failure. Sponsored by de Sarzec in the 1880s gave the western world its first glimpse of the third-millennium Pennsylvania University, a team headed by Sumerian civilization. (Zev Radovan/Land of John Peters arrived in 1887 to excavate Nippur, the Bible Picture Archive) the holy city of ancient Sumer. Hopelessly out of their depth in the complexities of dealing with the local villagers and authorities, their first season ended in an all-out attack in which their camp was set on fire, half their horses perished, and they lost $1,000 in gold—although they saved their antiquities.
Ancient Mesopotamia: New Perspectives by Peter Knight