All posts by Archaeology World Team

Atlit Yam’s: A  9,000-Year-Old Underground Megalithic Settlement

Atlit Yam’s: A  9,000-Year-Old Underground Megalithic Settlement

There really is no limit to the number of archaeological wonders in Israel, virtually anywhere you look there is something wonderful to discover. But, hidden beneath the water, there is also an entire world, which has been overtaken by nature, silently existing next to the observable land sites, that wants to tell us the story of prehistoric Israel.

Invisible by rising sea levels, Israel’s shores are littered with submerged structures and sunken settlements that have been lost underwater over thousands of years. Below the waves, you’ll discover a domain where plants and animals were domesticated and the shift from a hunting and gathering economy to farming was made.

Along Haifa’s coast are the remnants of a Neolithic fishing village that drowned 9,000 years ago by the rising water level. Today, the exceptionally well preserved 40,000 m² site is located approximately 200-400 m offshore on the north bay of Atlit, at a depth of 8-11 m below modern sea level. Atlit Yam is one of the best-preserved submerged prehistoric settlements in the world. It was discovered and studied during the 1980s and 1990s, while excavations and surveys were carried out in the years 1985-2000.

Atlit Yam's: A 9,000-Year-Old Underground Megalithic Settlement
Atlit Yam is an ancient submerged Neolithic village off the coast of Atlit, Israel

A wealth of material culture has been uncovered which gives us insight into how people had to cope with a radically changing world and where new technologies were introduced. Sea- level rise forced the inhabitants of this Pre-Pottery Neolithic village to abandon the settlement and relocate multiple times to higher grounds.

It was here that the earliest known constructed fresh-water wells (with stone walls) were discovered. At the centre of the settlement, seven megaliths are arranged in a semicircle around a freshwater spring.

A diver explores a well at the site of Atlit Yam, an ancient submerged Neolithic village off the coast of Atlit, Israel.

The inhabitants lived on what we now call a traditional Mediterranean diet. Remains of about 100 different plants, which were cultivated and/or collected from the wild, were recovered as well as bones of fish, domestic and wild animals.

The village’s subsistence was based on a mixed economy of agriculture with animal husbandry supplemented by hunting, gathering and fishing. Possibly this well- balanced diet contributed to the relatively good health and longevity of the inhabitants. A substantial part of the population reached the exceptional age of 50 years old.

Sites from this period with published human remains are few, but Atlit Yam yielded a significant number of human burials, which help us in our attempt to understand this vanished society. Through the remains, we have learned that the population had to cope with diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria and some skeletons had a specific ear pathology symptomatic of diving in cold water.

The discovery of the earliest known cases of human tuberculosis (TB) in the bones of a mother and baby, showed that the disease is 3,000 years older than previously thought. This discovery sheds light on how the TB bacterium has evolved over the millennia and increases our understanding of how it may change.

Scientists might be able to develop more effective treatments in the future thanks to this discovery. The examination of this ancient DNA confirms the latest theory that bovine TB evolved later than human TB. In contrast to the original theory that human TB evolved from bovine TB after animal domestication.

The inhabitants were buried, placed in a flexed position on their sides or backs, sometimes in group graves.

Many shore communities face inundation in the coming decades caused by global warming. Sea level rise is usually cast as a doomsday scenario that will play out into the future, but Atlit Yam sends us a strong warning from the past. They were already battling chronic flooding 9,000 years ago.

It’s not that we expect sea levels to rise, they are already rising. Chronic flooding can only be avoided by adaptation measures, like seawalls, levees, dams, flood controls or as in the case of Atlit Yam, by moving away.

Millions of people would be displaced and the costs of protecting modern-day cities from rising sea levels would also likely rise. We are not doing enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future.

Climate change is inevitable, and we must establish what might happen and how much financial damage that would cause. Studies indicate that many coastal settlements around the world will be partially submerged by 2070 if nothing is done. We must take it seriously and learn the lessons from the past. The rising sea not only floods the coastal regions but also cause underground water salinization, flooded sewages, accelerated coastal destruction, and other damage.

People have moved throughout history, and for many reasons. Some were forced to move due to conflict, persecution, flooding or disasters such as drought influenced famine.  It is important to understand that not all climate-related hazards can be attributed to climate change and it is here that Atlit Yam can provide important data to make those distinctions.

Traces of long-forgotten human settlements claimed by the sea thousands of years ago are being uncovered by archaeologists along the coastline of Israel. The discoveries are helping to fill in some of the blanks about Israel’s prehistory and are offering insights into how we responded to climate change in the past. Uncovering these stories could offer some clues about what our own future holds too.

Reconstruction drawing of the stone structure found at Atlit Yam.

The research was funded by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Matla and Feival Coastal and Underwater Archaeological Foundation (MAFCAF), the Irene Levi Sala Care Archaeological Foundation, and the National Geographic Foundation.

Publications by Ehud Galili, University of Haifa; Avi Gopher and Israel Hershkovitz, Tel Aviv University; Vered Eshed, Israel Antiquities Authority. Dr Helen Donoghue and Dr Mark Spigelman, UCL Centre for Infectious Diseases & International Health, and scientists from Tel-Aviv University.

Archaeologists find unexpected iron age settlement in Oxfordshire

Archaeologists find unexpected iron age settlement in Oxfordshire

The findings of a team of archaeologists from DigVentures revealed the ruins of at least 15 roundhouses from the 4th-century B.c. to the early first century CE, along with the remains of a massive Roman villa built over the abandoned homes in the late 3rd to early 4th century CE.

Archaeologists find unexpected iron age settlement in Oxfordshire
Unexpected Iron Age Settlement and Roman Villa Found in Oxfordshire

In the protective shadow of Wittenham Clumps, some 50 miles west of London, the Iron Age settlement and the Roman villa are the site of an Iron Age hillfort on the banks of the River Thames.

Exactly where the people who used the hillfort actually lived had remained uncertain, but the DigVentures archaeologists believe they now have an answer.

Archaeologists find unexpected iron age settlement in Oxfordshire
Aerial view of the hillfort, with a portion of the River Thames visible on the left.

“Given how close we are to the hillfort, it’s not surprising that there’s a settlement here — it’s the sheer scale of it that’s impressive,” said Chris Casswell, head of fieldwork at DigVentures.

“We weren’t expecting to find so many houses within such a small space — the area we’ve excavated is just over a hectare and the settlement itself is clearly much larger.”

“We’ve still only uncovered one corner of it. What’s surprising is that hardly any of it showed up on the initial geophysics survey, probably due to a quirk in the local geology. It was only when we started digging that we were able to reveal the true extent of what is her.”

The Iron Age houses range in size from 8 to 15 m (26-49 feet) in diameter, but the majority are around 10 m (33 feet) in diameter and provide a living area of at least 78 m2.

Among the remains, the researchers unearthed an Iron Age ‘fridge’ or pantry — a collection of ceramic food storage vessels that would have been kept cool and safe within a pit dug into the ground.

A fragment of daub that appears to have been painted was also found, which suggests that rather than simply being mud-coloured, the walls of the roundhouses may have been decorated.

Footprint of the Roman villa outlined in recent snowfall.
Archaeologist India Jago at the excavated corn dryer which would have been used after the harvest.

The team also revealed the footprint of a Roman villa, built on the site of the abandoned roundhouses.

Measuring 30 m (98 feet) long, and with at least 7 column bases, it appears to be a ‘winged corridor villa’ and would have been home to a wealthy family with a working farmstead.

Among the Roman remains, the scientists found cooking utensils like strainers, spoons, knives, a ladle, cooking pots, and tableware, a surgical spatula probe that would have been used for applying ointments and oils to wounds, and well-preserved bone combs. There’s also a corn dryer, used for drying corn after harvest.

“It’s everything you’d expect to find at a busy settlement, but that’s what’s so exciting about it — these are the foods, homes, and artefacts that made up the everyday reality of these people’s lives,” Casswell said.

Viking treasure including gold bangle buried over 1,000 years ago is found on the Isle of Man

Viking treasure including gold bangle buried over 1,000 years ago is found on the Isle of Man

An exceptionally rare Viking artefact is presently being examined on the Isle of Man by Manx Museum authorities and has been declared treasure by the island’s coroner of inquests. The find, which is considered to be internationally significant and believed to be more than 1,000 years old, consists of a gold arm ring, a large silver brooch, at least one silver armband and other associated finds.

Some of the items discovered on the Isle of Man by Kath Giles late last year.

This has prompted some people to suspect that they have been hidden somewhere between AD950 and the present day, and were found by an amateur metal detectorist on private land last year.

Under the terms of the Declaration of Treasure, Manx National Heritage, on behalf of the Isle of Man government will be custodians of the finds.

Kath Giles, left, who found the hoard, and Allison Fox, curator for archaeology at Manx National Heritage, with the Viking age items.

The findings will eventually be part of the permanent collections on display at the Manx National Heritage Museum. Kath Giles, the metal detectorist who discovered the artefacts, said she knew straight away that what she had uncovered was significant.

“I knew I had found something very special when I moved the soil away from one of the terminals of the brooch, but then I found parts of the pin, the hoop and underneath, the gorgeous gold arm ring,” she said. “I’m so thrilled to have found artefacts that are not only so important but so beautiful.”

Allison Fox, curator for archaeology at Manx National Heritage, said the museum received a phone call from Giles late last year, and with her help was able to document the site to ensure there were no further objects remaining in the ground.

“The arm ring is a rare find. Gold items were not very common during the Viking age. Silver was by far the more common metal for trading and displaying wealth. It has been estimated that gold was worth 10 times the value of silver and that this arm ring could have been the equivalent of 900 silver coins,” she said.

The gold arm ring found by the amateur metal detectorist Kath Giles.

“Kath’s hoard can be dated on stylistic and comparative grounds to about AD950, a time when the Isle of Man was right in the middle of an important trading and economic zone. The Viking and Norse influence remained strong on the island for a further 300 years, long after much of the rest of the British Isles.”

Under the Isle of Man Treasure Act 2017, when archaeological artefacts are found there is a legal obligation for the findings to be reported to Manx National Heritage.

If the artefacts fall under the categories of the act, they must also be reported to the coroner of inquests. The coroner decides whether an artefact is a treasure and if it is found to be so, a financial reward is usually paid to the finder and landowner.

The exact value of the findings, as well as the value of the rewards, are yet to be determined. Fox said the reward would be based on a market value for all the artefacts. This will be assessed independently, usually by the treasury valuation committee.

Fox added: “At the moment, we know its historic and cultural value to the history of the Isle of Man, but its financial value will be assessed in the future.”

This month, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport revealed that more than 1,300 pieces of treasure were found in the UK throughout 2019, the largest haul since records began.

That year, two metal detectorists who discovered a Viking hoard estimated to be worth as much as £12m were given lengthy jail terms after failing to report their findings.

2,000-year-old Roman millstone found with massive penis engraved on it

2,000-year-old Roman millstone found with massive penis engraved on it

Archaeologists found a Roman millstone unearthed in Cambridgeshire with an engraving of a penis. The inscription, which was a symbol for strength and virility, was thus deciphered.

Over the course of several months, as part of roadwork for an extensive 21-mile section of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon, a millstone and others were discovered.

The finds came from the remains of a Roman villa located near the town of Godmanchester, a Highways England spokesperson told MailOnline.

However, the phallographic carving — which was made to give the millstone and its flour good luck and protection — was only recently identified by experts. 

The upgraded stretch of road was opened to traffic in the May of last year — but the millstone was not the only archaeological find revealed before the works finished.

Other finds included the tusk of a woolly mammoth, the skull of a woolly rhinoceros, an abandoned medieval village, and three dismembered men from 1,500 years ago.

Woolly mammoth and rhino remains also found along the road are thought to date back to the last Ice Age

Archaeologists also found the earliest known evidence for beer brewing in Britain, which dated back to as early as 400 BC.

2,000-year-old Roman millstone found with massive penis engraved on it
A Roman millstone found near Cambridge was decorated with an engraving of a penis — an ‘image of strength and virility’ — archaeologists have revealed. Pictured, the millstone

According to Highways England’s Archaeology lead for the A14, Steve Sherlock, the penis-decorated millstone is important as it ‘adds to the evidence for such images from Roman Britain.’

‘There were known associations between images of the phallus and milling, such as those found above the bakeries of Pompeii, one inscribed with Hic Habitat Felicitas — “You Will Find Happiness Here”,’ he explained.

‘The phallus was seen as an important image of strength and virility in the Roman world, with it being common practice for legionaries to wear a phallus amulet, which would give them good luck before the battle.’

The millstone was examined by experts from the Museum of London Archaeology Headland Infrastructure and Oxford Archaeology.

Alongside the carving of the phallus on the millstone’s upper face, the team discovered two crosses that had been inscribed on its circumference.

The quern itself would have been a simple hand mill, such as typically consists of two circular stones between which corn is ground.

According to the archaeologists, the millstone appeared to have been broken during use and subsequently adapted to be used as a saddle quern — a base stone in the grinding process — which would have hidden the genital image from sight.

The millstone was examined by experts from the Museum of London Archaeology Headland Infrastructure and Oxford Archaeology. Alongside the carving of the phallus on the millstone’s upper face, the team discovered two crosses that had been inscribed on its circumference. Pictured, Oxford Archaeology expert Ruth Shaffrey, poses with the phallus-bearing millstone.

The researchers reported that more than 300 querns millstones were recovered during archaeological work on the A14 upgrade project.

Decorated querns and millstones of any date are rare — and only four Roman millstones have ever been discovered from around a total of 20,000 nationwide. While crosses on such stones are more prevalent, these tend to be found only at military sites, the team explained.

‘As one of only four known examples of Romano-British millstones decorated this way, the A14 millstone is a highly significant find,’ said Oxford Archaeology’s worked stone specialist, Ruth Shaffrey.

‘It offers insights into the importance of the mill to the local community and to the protective properties bestowed upon the millstone and its produce (the flour) by the depiction of a phallus on its upper surface.’

Two Roman-era Sarcophagi Unearthed in Central Israel

Two Roman-era Sarcophagi Unearthed in Central Israel

According to a statement released by The Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority, two 1,800-year-old sarcophagi were unearthed at Ramat Gan Safari Park during construction work at its wildlife hospital. 

The new building, designed to offer sophisticated veterinarian facilities for birds and mammals, houses a specialist operation theatre and a large bird nursery that will provide quiet,  heated housing for the frequent feeds needed during the chick-rearing seasons.

During its construction, an extraordinary discovery was made last week – two unique sarcophagi, ancient stone coffins, were found in the earthworks.

roman sarcophagi

Veteran safari workers present at the time said that the coffins had been found years ago in the area of the safari’s parking lot.

At the time, the sarcophagi were moved to a location near the veterinary clinic and the African savanna zone. Still, over the years, they were forgotten and became buried under sand and thick vegetation.

When work on the new wildlife hospital began a few days ago, the contractor working in the area started digging. Suddenly, Rami Tam, head of the African savanna zone, noticed the two coffins jutting out of the soil.

He quickly called animal health and management director Shmulik Yedvab, who came to see the find and contacted Alon Klein and Uzi Rothstein at the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Theft Prevention Unit.

Hardly believing their eyes, the inspectors were astonished to see sarcophagi of this kind at the Safari Park. After a thorough examination, they excitedly confirmed the unique find’s great age.

Based on the stones and their ornate decoration, the sarcophagi were intended for high-status people who were buried near the Safari Park.

According to Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists, the sarcophagi are roughly 1,800 years old and date from the Roman period. They are ornamented with symbolic discs – to protect and accompany the soul on its journey to the afterlife – and flower garlands, often used to decorate sarcophagi in the Hellenistic period as well.

Between the garlands are oval blanks, which the archaeologists believe were originally intended to be filled with a customary grape-cluster motif, but for some unknown reason, the work remained unfinished.

The sarcophagi, made of local stone – probably from the Judean Hills or Samaria – are locally-produced imitations of the prestigious sarcophagi made of Proconnesian marble from the Turkish island of Marmara.

Found together, the two sarcophagi bear identical ornamentation, and they may have been made for a husband and wife or for members of the same family. The exact provenance of the sarcophagi is unknown.

Still, they were probably buried near the Safari Park, in the region of Messubim – the site of ancient Bnei Brak in the Roman period, known to us from the Passover Haggadah.

The wealthy owners of the sarcophagi, buried with their grave goods, had no idea that the coffins would find a place of honour alongside giraffes, elephants, and a bird nursery. On Tuesday of this week, the sarcophagi were transferred to their rightful location in the Israeli National Treasures repositories.

6,500 Medieval Coins And Gold Rings Found In A Field

6,500 Medieval Coins And Gold Rings Found In A Field

A newly uncovered medieval silver cache that contains thousands of silver coins and this trove of precious metal was found in a Polish cornfield by archaeologists working with the help of a priest and local firefighters.

It is a rare treasure that was discovered in Słuszków, a village in west-central Poland, it was a nearly 900-year-old hoard, It is said to contain one of a kind treasure; a gold ring etched with a Cyrillic inscription that translates to: “Lord, may you help your servant Maria.”

That ring may have belonged to a princess; the coin stash was certainly fit for one. “The newfound hoard consists of over 6,600 items — silver coins and silver clumbs (tiny ingots) … wrapped in three linen pouches, packed in a basket and then put in the ceramic vessel,” Adam Kędzierski, an archaeologist at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology at the Polish Academy of Sciences, told Live Science in an email.

Kędzierski said he wouldn’t have found the medieval hoard without the help of a local priest. In November 2020, Kędzierski visited Słuszków to learn more about another medieval treasure — one of the largest coin hoards ever found in Poland, which had been unearthed in 1935. 

The exact location of the 1935 hoard had never been recorded, and Kędzierski hoped to locate and photograph it for an upcoming book. However, during his stay, Kędzierski happened to talk with a priest, Rev. Jan Stachowiak, who shared a little bit of gossip about the possible location of another hoard. 

The excavation site of the medieval hoard

After using a metal detector to locate the general area where the hoard was buried, Kędzierski and his colleagues dug up a small trench in a cornfield in the village. There, he found a ceramic vessel that held the medieval riches.

“The vessel itself, buried only 30 centimetres [nearly 12 inches] under the ground, was completely preserved — only the lid/the upper part was missing,” he said.

After realizing the hoard’s incredible value, Kędzierski and his team called in local volunteer firefighters to guard the treasure until the excavation was complete, according to The First News, a Polish news outlet.

Most of the coins were silver coins known as cross denarii, minted with the image of a large cross and dating to the end of the 11th century or the beginning of the 12th century, he said. The hoard also held Czech, Danish, Hungarian and German coins, including a denarius coin of Germany’s King Henry III

A denarius (silver coin) of Henry III, king of Germany

The “rarest coins” are denarii featuring Sieciech, a high-ranking Polish statesman who served Władysław I Herman, the Duke of Poland from 1079 to 1102, Kędzierski said. The hoard’s “biggest sensation,” are four golden rings, including the ring with the Cyrillic inscription about the woman named Maria, he said.

The four gold rings found in the medieval hoard

Unlike silver trinkets, gold jewellery was extremely rare in Poland during the early Medieval period, Kędzierski said. Perhaps, the newfound gold rings belonged to the first ruling dynasty of Poland, known as the Piast dynasty. 

“The treasure (dated back to 1105) might have belonged to Zbigniew, Duke of Poland and the wedding band wearing the Cyrillic inscription could have been a gift of his grandmother — Dobroniega Maria, a daughter of Vladimir the Great, Prince of Kiev, and a wife of a Polish price, Casimir the Restorer,” Kędzierski said in the email.

Now that the hoard has been excavated, researchers will analyze and date the gold and silver pieces as well as the linen pouches and the basket that held these treasures. “Particularly interesting will be establishing the provenance of the gold decoration items,” such as the rings, Kędzierski said.

The discovery of this second hoard at Słuszków suggests that the village may have played a more important role in history than previously realized. Perhaps a high ranking official tied to the duke lived in Słuszków, or maybe it was even a temporary residence for Duke Zbigniew, Kędzierski said. 

Słuszków is known for other early medieval artefacts; over the years, local farmers have told archaeologists about early medieval vessels and dishes found in their fields, “which may be a sign of [the] remains of stone buildings in the area of Słuszków,” Kędzierski said.

Ancient Roman Library Discovered Beneath German City

Ancient Roman Library Discovered Beneath German City

The first thing the archaeologists realised when they discovered the foundations of a Roman-era building situated in the heart of Cologne, Germany, they initially thought they had found the ruins of a public assembly hall.

Ancient Roman Library Discovered Beneath German City
Archaeologists identified the library based on a series of wall niches that once housed ancient scrolls

The discovery of tiny wall niches, however—at roughly 31 by 20 inches, the spaces were too small to hold statues—soon led them to conclude otherwise: Here, in the former Roman city of Colonia, stood the country’s oldest known library.

According to the Guardian’s Alison Flood, the wall niches mirror those seen in the Library of Celsus, a 2nd-century Roman building located in modern-day Ephesus, Turkey. (Although that structure’s interior was destroyed by an earthquake in the 3rd century, with the facade following in the 10th or 11th century, Celsus was re-erected by archaeologists during the 1970s.)

Based on this connection, researchers were able to identify the niches as all that remained of cupboards built to house an ancient library’s roughly 20,000 scrolls.

The Cologne structure was built in the southwest corner of the city’s forum, or marketplace, sometime between 150 and 200 C.E., according to Martin Oehlen of German news outlet Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. 

The Romans had founded Cologne, then known as Colonia, on the banks of the Rhine River about a century earlier in 50 C.E.

The city, which served as the capital of the Germania Inferior province and housed some of Rome’s influential imperial governors, soon emerged as a vibrant trade and manufacturing centre.

Given the library’s central location, Schmitz believes it was open to the entire city rather than a single private citizen or municipal leader. He suggests that locals were free to peruse the building’s expansive collection, perhaps using ladders to reach higher shelves or checking parchment labels to find relevant writings.

Dagmar Breitenbach of German broadcast station Deutsche Welle writes that Marcus Trier, director of the Cologne Bodensekmalpflege (Cologne’s office of historic preservation), estimates the library measured around 66 by 30 feet and stood at two stories tall.

Quite huge’ … detail of the library’s walls.

An annex housing a statue of Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom and warfare, was likely added after initial construction, The Art Newspaper’s Catherine Hickley reports.

“[The structure] is at a minimum the earliest library in Germany, and perhaps in the north-west Roman provinces,” Dirk Schmitz, an archaeologist at the Roman-Germanic Museum of Cologne, tells Flood. But he speculates that there could be more Roman libraries discovered in the future.

“Perhaps there are a lot of Roman towns that have libraries, but they haven’t been excavated,” he adds. “If we had just found the foundations, we wouldn’t have known it was a library. It was because it had walls, with the niches, that we could tell.”

Archaeologists discovered the site while conducting construction work on a Protestant church in Cologne’s city centre, Oehlen notes.

The library will be integrated into the new building’s underground garage, with two would-be parking spaces instead displaying the ancient structure’s walls and three parchment niches.

The western German city on the Rhine River is over 2,000 years old – so stumbling upon ancient ruins is not unusual.

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

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.