A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Architecture

By Gwendolyn Leick | Go to book overview

U

Ugarit see RAS SHAMRA

upper storey

With the exception of some Egyptian stone monuments which are exceptionally well preserved, most Ancient Near Eastern buildings were discovered through archaeological investigations. Stone structures survived better than those built with mudbrick. The tracing of mudbrick walls, often subjected to successive rebuilding, is a difficult and meticulous task. Many of the older publications dealt with architectural remains rather summarily, concentrating on the ground plans. As the archaeological techniques become more advanced, much more detailed information about the structures of excavated buildings is made available. A statistical and chemical analysis of débris inside a ruined building, for instance, contributes valuable information regarding the displaced superstructure.

The existence of upper storeys in Ancient Near Eastern architecture has always been surmised as possible but not very common and the flat-roof skyline was generally postulated. Comparisons with contemporary vernacular building traditions and the functional analysis of excavated ancient buildings have shown that these flat roof terraces lend themselves readily for vertical extensions, especially if lightweight materials are used. Architectural representations or model houses also depict buildings with several storeys. The construction methods are identical to those for the ground floor and access by ladders or stairs is easily provided. In very closely built-up domestic conglomerations, the lighting and ventilation are better on the upper floor, which makes it likely that the bedrooms and family apartments were installed there. In palaces especially, upper storeys would make optimal use of the existing space; in fact many structures do not make any sense unless one postulates that the ground-floor accommodation was primarily utilitarian. Supporting circumstantial evidence, such as furnishings and plaster fallen from above, the emplacements of stairs and the thickness of walls is not always clearly recorded in the excavation reports. Although the exact nature and extent of upper storeys in an individual building is naturally impossible to establish, one has to admit the general principle of vertical extensions throughout Ancient Near Eastern architecture.

Ur (modern Muqqayir)

Mesopotamia, see map p. xviii. Important Mesopotamian site, seat of the moon-god Nannar and dynastic city with a variety of interesting architectural remains, some of which have been partially restored and reconstructed.

Ur was first inhabited during the Obeid period (beginning of the 4th millennium BC) and the earliest settlements of mud and reeds provided a firm substratum for later and more solid constructions. The buildings of the Early Dynastic period

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