By Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Cambridge
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Extra info for Bulletin on Sumerian Agriculture - 6 (1992): Trees and Timber in Mesopotamia
In the larger madhaif they may be only long enough to cover one side of the arch and slightly overlap the sidewalls. In more modest structures their length may be sufficient to cover the arch entirely and overlap both sidewalls. In smaller buildings a single or double length mat may reach from ground level to ground level on each side and no additional sidewalls are necessary. Another overlapping pair leaves one or two forearms of the first mats exposed and is sewed both to the ribs and the matting it overlaps.
Madhaif must have an uneven number of arches. The only response to my inquiries from many people as to why this should be so was that an even number of arches is unlucky. Reeds are now forced through the centre of each bundle on the long sides, about one forearm span from the ground level, until the bundles on each side are joined together by a reed member ca. two hand spans wide and three hand spans high (thalthala, pl. talatil). A tripod or multipod of sufficient height and suitable to bear the weight of two men is made of bundled reeds and set up in the center of the space to be enclosed by the first arch.
During the winter, when the structure is no longer in use, the reed platform is often used for fuel and the foundations fall into disrepair. The following summer repairs are made to the foundations and new reeds are cut in the marshes and laid over them. Although no structures of this kind have been discovered in the excavations at al-Hiba, perhaps the Mesopotamian terracotta models in museums represent similar beds used in antiquity. Large Storage Chests Temporary or seasonal storage containers are often made of reed mats (see below p.