3400-year-old palace from a mysterious kingdom surface in Iraq during drought

3400-year-old palace from a mysterious kingdom surface in Iraq during drought

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3400-year-old palace from a mysterious kingdom surface in Iraq during drought

After the waters in the Mosul Dam reservoir have receded, researchers said they’ve uncovered “one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the region.” According to researchers, the Mittani Kingdom is one of the least understood ancient civilizations.

3400-year-old palace from a mysterious kingdom surface in Iraq during drought
Aerial view of the Kemune Palace from the west. The imposing palace would have once stood just 20 meters from the Tigris River.

A team of German and Kurdish archaeologists found a 3,400-year-old palace belonging to the enigmatic Mittani Empire, which they had found while excavating at the Neolithic settlement of Umm el-Qaab in southern Iraq, the University of Tübingen published on Thursday.

The discovery was only made possible by a drought that significantly reduced water levels in the Mosul Dam reservoir.

“The find is one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the region in recent decades and illustrates the success of the Kurdish-German cooperation,” said Hasan Ahmed Qasim, a Kurdish archaeologist of the Duhok Directorate of Antiquities who worked on the site.

Shrouded in mystery

Last year, the team of archaeologists launched an emergency rescue evacuation of the ruins when receding waters revealed them on the ancient banks of the Tigris. The ruins are part of only a handful discovered from the Mittani Empire.

“The Mittani Empire is one of the least researched empires of the Ancient Near East,” said archaeologist Ivana Puljiz of the University of Tübingen. “Even the capital of the Mittani Empire has not been identified.”

Terrace wall on the western side of Kemune Palace.
Mural fragment discovered in Kemune Palace. 

‘Archaeological sensation’

The team had little time to spare as water levels continued to rise, eventually submerging the ruins again. At least 10 cuneiforms clay tablets were discovered inside the palace.

“We also found remains of wall paints in bright shades of red and blue,” Puljiz said. “In the second millennium BCE, murals were probably a typical feature of palaces in the Ancient Near East, but we rarely find them preserved. Discovering wall paintings in Kemune is an archaeological sensation.”

A team of researchers in Germany will now try to interpret the cuneiform tablets.

They hope that the clay tablets will reveal more about the Mittani Empire, which once dominated life in parts of Syria and northern Mesopotamia.


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