So today we're going to be talking a lot about family life and my first question - very basic. Karen, please tell me how do ordinary people live in ancient Assyria? >> Denise, it's [LAUGH] again one of your trick questions. >> [LAUGH] >> Well I can tell you in quite a lot of detail how people live in cities, but really we don't know as much about how people would live in the countryside. We've discussed already at some point, the fact that very, very many people would been farmers. But we have so far, not managed to excavate a village, a farmstead. So that makes it quite difficult to reimagine how a farmer's family would have looked like, would have lived like. What we do have in great numbers are documents and archeological excavations that illustrate how people lived in the cities, in the medium to large cities. Especially in the heartland in Northern Iraq, but also in provincial centres. And we can talk about that. [LAUGH] >> [LAUGH] >> But we must be clear on the fact that lifestyles of people in the countryside would be quite different for sure. >> So when we talk about the people in the cities what percentage of the population are we actually describing then? >> Again really, really difficult to say. >> Yeah. >> It's clear that part of the Assyrian Empire strategy was to, on the whole settle as many people as they could in large settlements, in large cities. And not necessarily completely destroy a village lifestyle, but on the whole “enable” or force people to live in cities. These communities are just much easier to organise from a state perspective when you think about taxation, conscription, so that's public work and so and so forth. So on the whole, this is in motion, it's hard enough to give a percentage number for a given time, not to say it's largely impossible, but on the whole, we have to say that this is a strategy that over the 300 years that we know quite well would have come into force more and more. And that in the 9th century a larger percentage of people would have been living in rural contexts than at the end of the 7th century. >> Right. >> Especially in the heartland, so urbanism comes more and more into force. So in especially in the heartland in Northern Iraq, which we understand quite well, we have more and more big cities where people live in very, very, very good living conditions. And they of course, profit very much from empire, so to say. And about these people, I can tell you a great deal. >> Okay, well in that case, recognising that we're talking much more about an urban experience than an agricultural experience. Can you paint me a picture of what an Assyrian house looks like? >> [LAUGH] >> [LAUGH] >> I can, I can. >> Of course, you can. [LAUGH] >> I've worked on excavations in several sites where we were excavating houses. One of them was in the city of Assur and the other one was in the city of Dur-Katlimmu what is known today as Syria. And the houses that we've unearthed there were very, very different in size, but the basic components are the same. And so I'll discuss this with you, and then we’ll talk about size and scale, okay? >> Okay. >> So the basic Assyrian house is organised around the courtyard. So the courtyard is very, very important, a lot of activities were taking place in the courtyard including cooking, baking, making textiles, washing; all these would happen in the courtyard. And the courtyard would be inside the house. So that's quite different from a set up where you've got a house and sort of a yard or a back garden. >> A yard, which is public. >> Yeah, or at least people can see- >> Yes. >> into that yard. So the life in the courtyard is very private. So depending on how big the house is, an Assyrian house might have several courtyards. But certain activities would definitely always take place in these courtyards as we already said. That has to do with the fact that Assyrian houses didn't have windows, because there's no glass, or at least there's no sheet glass, so you don't have windows at all. And everything that needs a light needs to happen outdoors basically. And Assyrian houses can have an upper floor, but typically would be one floor only. And if there is an upper floor, it would be only in parts of the house. Okay, so the house would have one entrance that leads then quickly into this courtyard and various rooms organised in suites would be accessible from that courtyard. And some of them would be more public than others. What would be completely private really would be the rooms where the people would sleep. These rooms would typically have bathrooms attached to them. >> [LAUGH] wonderful. >> because Assyrians are very, very clean people. Assyrian houses are very, very well provided with running water, with indoor plumbing, if you will. They would typically have a well, they would have a sewage system. And you would take baths; you would wash yourself in you own house. That's not a given, at all, in antiquity. A lot of ancient civilisations had public baths. Roman civilisation- >> Yes. >> For example. A lot happened in these public baths. The Assyrians didn't have public baths, they washed at home, okay? So the bedroom typically has this bathroom attached, and that's of course private. You wouldn't bring a visiting neighbour, or whatever, into your bedroom. You would admit them in the courtyard or in a living room. And that room would be quite close to the entrance to the house, of course. We've already said that windows do not exist at that time, not just in Assyria but nowhere. What you would have would be openings at the top of the wall just below the ceiling and light would come in there. But on the wall indoors you'd have sort of quite dark shaded atmosphere, which is good in regions where typically it's quite hot. And as we said in the Assyrian heartland, we have these tough winters. And then again you'll be grateful for your well-insulated architecture. Houses would, of course, be built from mud brick. So clay with straw - you put that in moulds and you make bricks, which for private architecture, you wouldn't fire because it's just a waste of energy, waste of firing material. You'd use the unbaked mud bricks, and that means that the lifespan of such a building wouldn't be awfully long. We would talk about 50 years, 60 years, something like that. So every two generations, or so you would have to rebuild the house. Or either way, rebuilding the house, renovating the house is just something that happens all the time. Which is very good for archeology, because then we can sort of get the sequence and so on. Quite a lot of rubbish gets trapped between the old floor and the new floor that one just puts on top of the old floor. So everything is basically made out of clay, except for the roof, for which you would need timber. You need roof beams: the roofs are flat and you put timber on top of your walls and then cover that with branches, reeds, and so on. It has to be replaced also periodically. And the doors would also be made from wood. So those would be the most expensive parts of the house, and when you sold the house or when you bought a house. You would get of course a sale document, a deed, and that would then specify that you've bought the house including it's door and it's roof beams. >> [LAUGH] >> If it didn't say that then the people when they moved out would take those with them. Okay, so one thing I have yet to mention and it's one of the things that strike us perhaps as bizarre. People would bury their dead, if they could, inside their houses, in one of the most private rooms, a living room that was used only by the family. That room would be called the “strong room”, and that room would then have an underground tomb, accessible through a trap door. And whenever someone died, they would open that tomb, and place the dead person there. >> So would they treat the dead person before? Or would they live with the smell of rotting corpse? >> [LAUGH] >> Or would they desiccate it- >> [LAUGH] >> In the desert that I keep imagining that the entire- [LAUGH] >> Forget your desert. >> Yes. [LAUGH] >> That is another tricky question - difficult to answer. The best data we have are from the city of Assur, but from excavations that took place 100 years ago >> Okay. >> and the bones weren't kept. So there is more recent evidence, especially from a not-private funeral at all, but from royal burials. And from one body in particular, it's clear that it was treated in some way. >> Right. >> That the body was exposed to higher temperatures, possibly boiled. Because of course you're right - that would be quite a problem. But we don't know much about how the Assyrians treated their dead before they put them in sarcophagi under ground. >> Yeah. >> We don't know, this is not Egypt where we have so much information about funerary culture. So I can't really answer apart from saying that people were typically buried with the body intact. The body would have been put into a sarcophagus that could be, depending on social standing, that could be made out of stone that would be of course very expensive, metal. And then these sarcophagi look like bathtubs, that's why they're called bathtub sarcophagi. >> [LAUGH]. >> Indeed, a big discussion whether those are recycled bathtubs. >> Interesting, yeah. >> And but you could also bury people individually and not put them in a tomb all together. But you would still prefer to bury them underneath the floor of your house, in the courtyard. The graves then wouldn't be very deep, so the idea is to put the body into a vessel of some sort and keep it close. >> Yes, this is so interesting.