Tuesday, February 21, 2012
The site of Malqata is built just outside the northern end of a gigantic man-made lake (or harbor) called the Birket Habu on old maps. The lake is outlined by huge mounds, with a double row along the desert side (for more on the Birket Habu, see the blog post for February 18, 2010 below). The best way to see this monumental piece of landscape architecture is on Google Earth, where it is very recognizable because of the straight line it makes along the edge of the desert.
As you can see on the Google Earth photograph at the top of the page (and on the plan above), the double row of mounds peters out towards the upper right corner allowing the cultivated land to extend into the desert on two sides of the King’s Palace. I used to think that this breach of the mounds was caused by thousands of years of periodic rain water draining down through a wadi (a dry river bed) that you can see coming off the desert. Within the past week I have begun to think perhaps this breach was intended by the planners of the city, and that the irrigated fields we see today are perhaps the modern version of the Palace gardens and/or ponds that are seen in wall paintings of the period.
Looking across an irrigated field toward the palace
We have some colleagues who are interested in harbors and are studying the Birket to try to find out where there might have been a dock somewhere near the city. We’re hoping they might also determine whether the breach in the mounds was intended, or is just a natural destruction that has taken place over many centuries.