Takeout Windows In Ancient Iran Might Have Been Used For Food Or Bullets

“Ease and speed in doing a thing do not give the work lasting solidity or exactness of beauty.” —Plutarch, “Life of Pericles”

In A Nutshell

Most of us think of fast food takeout windows as a modern convenience. However, at Godin Tepe, a prehistoric site in western Iran, archaeologists may have found the first “takeout windows” for food and bullets used about 5,200 years ago. It’s unclear if these windows were accessed by soldiers or regular citizens.

The Whole Bushel

At Godin Tepe, a prehistoric site in the mountains near Kangavar in western Iran, archaeologists have discovered what appear to be the first “takeout windows” for food and bullets used about 5,200 years ago. This Sumerian trading post in ancient Mesopotamia is also the location of the first chemical evidence of beer and wine, aged to as long ago as 3500 BC. Although the settlement began as an agricultural village around 4200 BC, it was transformed about 1,000 years later into a fortress and key trading post along the Silk Road that linked China with the Mediterranean. That’s consistent with the theory that the Sumerians were some of the first people to establish a network of thriving city-states that relied on extensive trade as well as irrigation to help grow crops.

According to artifacts and artwork, Sumerians loved their beer. Archaeologists have found that the symbol for beer is a common pictograph found in Sumerian settlements. Their artwork sometimes portrays people drinking from a large container with straws. Although no one’s sure, scientists believe the beverage is beer, especially considering the large amounts of barley found in the settlement’s storerooms. Barley is a key ingredient in the making of beer. At Godin Tepe, evidence of beer and wine in the same storeroom suggests that the Sumerians had some serious drinkers.

But were they so serious that they needed takeout windows to get their beer on the go? “People have suggested that maybe they were delivering rations of beer [at takeout windows, but] that seems a little far-fetched,” Hilary Gopnik of Emory University told LiveScience.

Instead, the two windows in the settlement’s main mud-brick building may have been used to serve food and bullets. But it’s unclear if these windows, which opened into a central courtyard, were accessed by soldiers or regular citizens. Archaeologists believe they’re takeout windows for a few reasons. First, it was unusual to see windows in a building of that time period. Second, the height and position of the windows near the courtyard is consistent with that purpose. Finally, the scientists discovered the remains of food, bevel-rimmed bowls, a fireplace, and almost 1,800 bullets inside the building.

The bevel-rimmed bowls may have been used to deliver grain, although one of the researchers showed that beveling allows a person to drink from the bowl quite easily. So it may have been used for water or porridge. However, some of the bowls were also lined with a waterproofing substance called bitumen. Those bowls may have been used to hold bullets.

That’s why there are two competing theories about the takeout windows. One says that ordinary people got food there. The other says that the military gave provisions to its soldiers through these windows, with one window for food and water and the other for weapons and bullets. Whatever the purpose of these windows, the settlement was deserted around 3000 BC. Although Godin Tepe was partially burned, it’s still a mystery as to whether the inhabitants left peacefully or by force.

Show Me The Proof

Featured photo credit: Coffeetalkh
History: Ancient ‘Fast Food’ Window Discovered
LiveScience: Beer & Bullets to Go: Ancient ‘Takeout’ Window Discovered
NY Times: Jar in Iranian Ruins Betrays Beer Drinkers of 3500 B.C.