However, it was only a few days after the team's arrival that another event took place which demonstrated that the undergrowth in the temple could be the cause of yet another form of destruction.  The naturally dry grass provided ready fuel for the many fires that are set along the roadway to clear agricultural refuse.  When one fire occurred within the temple itself, it was quickly extinguished, but the damage was already apparent.  The heat and smoke of the flames had already caused irreparable damage to the temple walls.

(left)  Fire damage to southwestern corner of temple.
(right)  Closeup of fire damage to inside of north wall of temple.

The more the team examined the temple, the clearer it became that the most important question concerned the reason for all the growth inside the temple to begin with.  A quick look around at other parts of the tell and even the temenos area showed nothing but sand and earth.  Again the fully cleared temple (and time) revealed the basic cause of the problem.  As the weeks passed, the Berkeley archaeologists noticed a shocking development.  The groundwater level within the temple was steadily rising.  At first the soil began to appear damp at the bottom of the core holes excavated to determine the depth of the silt above the temple floor.  Then the holes began to fill.  Eventually, water actually appeared on the surface of the soil covering the temple.

Column drums in western end of temple partially flooded.

Clearly the vegetative growth in the temple was being fuelled by this ready supply of water.  But what was it's source?  The answer came soon enough.  For almost as suddenly as the water appeared at the surface it disappeared.  This rise and fall of groundwater level which cycled throughout the course of the season appeared to follow the pattern of irrigation in the fields to the south and southeast of the tell.

Photos taken at two different times of season showing fluctuations in water level.


previous page  next page