Category Archives: IRAQ

Residues in Mesopotamia’s Mass-Produced Pottery Analyzed

Residues in Mesopotamia’s Mass-Produced Pottery Analyzed

Residues in Mesopotamia’s Mass-Produced Pottery Analyzed
Bevelled Rim Bowls

The world’s first urban state societies developed in Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq, some 5500 years ago. No other artefact type is more symbolic of this development than the so-called Beveled Rim Bowl (BRB), the first mass-produced ceramic bowl.

BRB function and what food(s) these bowls contained have been the subject of debate for over a century. A paper published today in The Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports shows that BRBs contained a variety of foods, but especially meat-based meals, most likely bone marrow-flavoured stews or broths.

Chemical compounds and stable isotope signatures of animal fats were discovered in BRBs from the Late Chalcolithic site of Shakhi Kora located in the Upper Diyala/Sirwan River Valley of north-eastern Iraq.

An international team led by Professor Claudia Glatz of the University of Glasgow has been carrying out excavations at Shakhi Kora since 2019 as part of the Sirwan Regional Project.

Trench at Shakhi Kora where Beveled Rim Bowls were found.

BRBs are mass-produced, thick-walled, conical vessels that appear to spread from southern, lowland sites such as Uruk-Warka across northern Mesopotamia, into the Zagros foothills, and beyond. BRBs are found in their thousands at Late Chalcolithic sites, often associated with monumental structures.

Stylised BRBs appear on the earliest written documents, early cuneiform tablets, and are conventionally interpreted as ration containers used to distribute cereals or cereal-based foods to state-dependent labourers or personnel. Inherently taxable and storable, cereal grains such as wheat, emmer, and barley, have long been considered the economic backbone and main source of wealth and power for early state institutions and their elites.

However, the paper titled “Revealing invisible stews: New results of organic residue analyses of Beveled Rim Bowls from the Late Chalcolithic site of Shakhi Kora, Kurdistan Region of Iraq” states: “Our analytical results challenge traditional interpretations that see BRBs as containers of cereal-based rations and bread moulds. The presence of meat- and potentially also dairy-based foods in the Shakhi Kora vessels lends support to multi-purpose explanations and points to local processes of appropriation of vessel meaning and function.”

Dr Elsa Perruchini, Institut National du Patrimoine, Paris, and University of Glasgow, who carried out the chemical analysis, said: “The combined approach of chemical and isotopic analysis using GC-MS and GC-C-IRMS was employed to identify the source(s) of lipids extracted from ceramic sherds, with the aim of providing new insights into the function of BRBs.”

Professor Claudia Glatz, a Professor of Archaeology at the University of Glasgow and director of the Shakhi Kora excavations, said: “Our results present a significant advance in the study of early urbanism and the emergence of state intuitions.

“They demonstrate that there is significant local variation in the ways in which BRBs were used across Mesopotamia and what foods were served in them, challenging overly state-centric models of early social complexity.

“Our results point towards a great deal of local agency in the adoption and re-interpretation of the function and social symbolism of objects, that are elsewhere unambiguously associated with state institutions and specific practices.

As a result, they open up exciting new avenues of research on the role of food and foodways in the development, negotiation, and possible rejection of the early state at the regional and local level.”

Professor Jaime Toney, Professor of Environmental and Climate Science at the University’s School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, said: “We have been collaborating closely with Claudia and her team for several years to minimise contamination during the collection of vessels from archaeological sites and it is fascinating to see this pay off with the analysis of fossil residues and the stable isotope analysis clearly indicate that they once held animal fats.”

Archaeologists unearth ancient Sumerian riverboat in Iraq

Archaeologists unearth ancient Sumerian riverboat in Iraq

All that’s left today of an ancient boat discovered in 2018 in what was formerly Uruk is the bitumen, black tar that once coated its framework of reeds, palm leaves, or wood. That fragile organic material is long gone, leaving behind only ghostly imprints in the bitumen.

But there’s enough left for archaeologists to tell that in its heyday, the boat would have been a relatively slender craft—7 meters long and about 1.5 meters wide—well-suited to navigating the rivers and canals of ancient Sumer.

Archaeologists found the boat in an area that, 4,000 years ago, would have been the bustling hinterlands of the largest city in the world: Uruk.

Founded in 5000 BCE from the merger of two smaller settlements on the bank of the Euphrates River, Uruk was one of the world’s first major cities and possibly even the birthplace of the world’s first writing (the oldest known writing samples in the world are tablets from Uruk).

The Sumerian King List claims the legendary hero-king, Gilgamesh, ruled from his seat at Uruk in the 2600s BCE, which is not long before the recently excavated boat was built, sailed, and sank.

At its height around 3000 BCE, Uruk boasted 40,000 residents in the city, with a total population of about 80,000 or 90,000 people in the surrounding hinterlands.

The area outside the city boasted smaller communities, farms, ancient manufacturing workshops, and networks of canals. Uruk was beginning its long, slow decline by 2000 BCE, around the time our boat was built.

The outline of the boat’s hull is just visible from the air in this photo.

Based on its resting place in layers of silty sediment, it seems that the boat sank in a river, which swiftly buried it and preserved it for the next 4,000 years. That ancient river has long since silted up, but a few years ago, it began to yield at least one long-held secret: erosion revealed the outline of the boat, which archaeologists documented with digital photos and measurements in 2018.

At the time, archaeologists from the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and the German Archaeological Institute chose to leave the boat buried, where the ancient river’s silt could continue to protect it from decay and damage.

But over the last few years, it became clear that the boat was no longer safe in its resting place. Erosion in the area had picked up the pace, and parts of the boat’s structure were sticking out above the surface.

“Traffic passing close to the site of the discovery was an acute threat to the preservation of the boat,” explained the German Archaeological Institute in a press release.

That led to a rescue mission in which archaeologists had to balance urgency with delicacy as they carefully excavated the boat from its once-watery, now-silty grave.

They encased the boat and a block of the surrounding sediment in a shell made of clay and gypsum plaster to make it easier to safely unearth and move it.

Now, 4,000 years after setting out on its ill-fated final journey, the boat has a new homeport: the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, where archaeologists will study and conserve what’s left of the hull and eventually display it to the public.

Rare 2,700-Year-Old Stone Carvings Discovered in Iraq

Rare 2,700-Year-Old Stone Carvings Discovered in Iraq

Rare 2,700-Year-Old Stone Carvings Discovered in Iraq
An Iraqi worker excavates a rock-carving relief recently found at the Mashki Gate, one of the monumental gates to the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, on the outskirts of what is today the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Archaeologists in Iraq have unearthed 2,700-year-old stone carvings that were chiselled into a previously undiscovered section of the Mashki Gate, an iconic structure in what was once the ancient Assyrian capital city of Nineveh.

The eight intricately carved marble bas-reliefs, which depict war scenes, grapevines, palm trees and other motifs, were found in what is now Mosul, during a project to restore the gate after Islamic State group militants destroyed it.

Experts believe that the decorative gate dates back to King Sennacherib, who ruled the Assyrian empire from 705 B.C. to 681 B.C., according to a statement from the Iraqi Council of Antiquities and Heritage.

During his reign, King Sennacherib moved the Assyrian capital to Nineveh where he became well known for his vast military campaigns, according to BBC News. 

“We believe that these carvings were moved from the palace of Sennacherib and reused by the grandson of the king to renovate the gate of Mashki and to enlarge the guard room,” Fadel Mohammed Khodr, head of the Iraqi archaeological team, told Al Jazeera.

Because much of the gate was buried underground due to the way it was oriented during its original construction, the only portions that archaeologists could salvage were under the soil.

“Only the part buried underground has retained its carvings,” Khodr said.

In 2016, militants from IS (also called ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) destroyed the iconic gate with a bulldozer.

The Swiss-based International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas is working with Iraqi authorities as well as archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania and Mosul University on the restoration of the gate.

Drone photos reveal an early Mesopotamian city made of marsh islands

Drone photos reveal an early Mesopotamian city made of marsh islands

Drone photos reveal an early Mesopotamian city made of marsh islands
New remote-sensing studies at southern Iraq’s massive Tell al-Hiba site, shown here from the air, support an emerging view that an ancient city there largely consisted of four marsh islands.

A ground-penetrating eye in the sky has helped to rehydrate an ancient southern Mesopotamian city, tagging it as what amounted to a Venice of the Fertile Crescent. Identifying the watery nature of this early metropolis has important implications for how urban life flourished nearly 5,000 years ago between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where modern-day Iraq lies.

Remote-sensing data, mostly gathered by a specially equipped drone, indicate that a vast urban settlement called Lagash largely consisted of four marsh islands connected by waterways, says anthropological archaeologist Emily Hammer of the University of Pennsylvania. These findings add crucial details to an emerging view that southern Mesopotamian cities did not, as traditionally thought, expand outward from temple and administrative districts into irrigated farmlands that were encircled by a single city wall, Hammer reports in the December Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

“There could have been multiple evolving ways for Lagash to be a city of marsh islands as human occupation and environmental change reshaped the landscape,” Hammer says.

Because Lagash had no geographical or ritual center, each city sector developed distinctive economic practices on an individual marsh island, much like the later Italian city of Venice, she suspects. For instance, waterways or canals crisscrossed one marsh island, where fishing and collection of reeds for construction may have predominated.

Two other Lagash marsh islands display evidence of having been bordered by gated walls that enclosed carefully laid out city streets and areas with large kilns, suggesting these sectors were built in stages and may have been the first to be settled. Crop growing and activities such as pottery making may have occurred there.

Drone photographs of what were probably harbors on each marsh island suggest that boat travel connected city sectors. Remains of what may have been footbridges appear in and adjacent to waterways between marsh islands, a possibility that further excavations can explore.

Lagash, which formed the core of one of the world’s earliest states, was founded between about 4,900 and 4,600 years ago. Residents abandoned the site, now known as Tell al-Hiba, around 3,600 years ago, past digs show. It was first excavated more than 40 years ago.

Hidden city

Drone photos taken across a massive site in southern Iraq revealed that buried structures, shown in yellow, from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Lagash clustered in four sectors that had probably been marsh islands. Walls, shown in red, surrounded two large sectors. Now-dry waterways, shown in dark blue, connected sectors and crisscrossed one sector, far right.

Composite map of Lagash based on remote-sensing data


Previous analyses of the timing of ancient wetlands expansions in southern Iraq conducted by anthropological archaeologist Jennifer Pournelle of the University of South Carolina in Columbia indicated that Lagash and other southern Mesopotamian cities were built on raised mounds in marshes. Based on satellite images, archaeologist Elizabeth Stone of Stony Brook University in New York has proposed that Lagash consisted of around 33 marsh islands, many of them quite small.

Drone photos provided a more detailed look at Lagash’s buried structures than possible with satellite images, Hammer says. Guided by initial remote-sensing data gathered from ground level, a drone spent six weeks in 2019 taking high-resolution photographs of much of the site’s surface. Soil moisture and salt absorption from recent heavy rains helped the drone’s technology detect remnants of buildings, walls, streets, waterways and other city features buried near ground level.

Drone data enabled Hammer to narrow down densely inhabited parts of the ancient city to three islands, she says. A possibility exists that those islands were part of delta channels extending toward the Persian Gulf. A smaller, fourth island was dominated by a large temple.

Hammer’s drone probe of Lagash “confirms the idea of settled islands interconnected by watercourses,” says University of Chicago archaeologist Augusta McMahon, one of three co–field directors of ongoing excavations at the site.

Drone evidence of contrasting neighborhoods on different marsh islands, some looking planned and others more haphazardly arranged, reflect waves of immigration into Lagash between around 4,600 and 4,350 years ago, McMahon suggests. Excavated material indicates that new arrivals included residents of nearby and distant villages, mobile herders looking to settle down and slave laborers captured from neighboring city-states.

Dense clusters of residences and other buildings across much of Lagash suggest that tens of thousands of people lived there during its heyday, Hammer says. At that time, the city covered an estimated 4 to 6 square kilometers, nearly the area of Chicago.

It’s unclear whether northern Mesopotamian cities from around 6,000 years ago, which were not located in marshes, contained separate city sectors (SN: 2/5/08). But Lagash and other southern Mesopotamian cities likely exploited water transport and trade among closely spaced settlements, enabling unprecedented growth, says archaeologist Guillermo Algaze of the University of California, San Diego.

Lagash stands out as an early southern Mesopotamian city frozen in time, Hammer says. Nearby cities continued to be inhabited for a thousand years or more after Lagash’s abandonment, when the region had become less watery and sectors of longer-lasting cities had expanded and merged. At Lagash, “we have a rare opportunity to see what other ancient cities in the region looked like earlier in time,” Hammer says.

The rediscovery of Noah a 6,500-year-old skeleton, who survived a great flood

The rediscovery of Noah a 6,500-year-old skeleton, who survived a great flood

The rediscovery of Noah a 6,500-year-old skeleton, who survived a great flood
A 6,500-year-old skeleton was unearthed at the Ur site in Iraq. Here, the skeleton was coated in wax in the field and lifted whole along with surrounding dirt.

Scientists at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia are quite literally cleaning the skeletons out of their closets. Museum staff recently rediscovered a 6,500-year- old human skeleton that’s been boxed up in the basement for 85 years.

Tucked away in a storeroom, the wooden box had no identifying numbers or catalogue cards. But a recent effort to digitalize some of the museum’s old records brought forth new information about the mysterious box’s history and the skeleton, nicknamed “Noah,” inside.

The human remains inside the box were originally unearthed between 1929 and 1930 at the site of Ur in modern-day Iraq by Sir Leonard Woolley and his team of archaeologists from the Penn and British Museums, according to the records.

Woolley’s excavation is best known for uncovering the famous Mesopotamian “royal cemetery,” which included hundreds of graves and 16 tombsladen with cultural artefacts. But the archaeologist and his team also discovered graves that preceded Ur’s royal burial ground by about 2,000 years.

A lightweight plaster mixture is placed over the covered skeleton, the 6,500-year-old human remains discovered at the Ur site in Iraq, in order to protect it during shipping. The silt is already being cut away under the skeleton to make room for the carrying board.

In a flood plain, nearly 50 feet (15 meters) below the surface of the site of Ur, the team found 48 graves dating back to the Ubaid period, roughly 5500 B.C. to 4000 B.C.

Though remains from this period were extremely rare even in 1929, Woolley decided to recover only one skeleton from the site. He coated the bones and surrounding soil in wax, boxed them up and shipped them to London, then Philadelphia.

A set of lists outlined where the artefacts from the 1929 to 1930 dig were headed — while half of the artefacts remained in Iraq, the others were split between London and Philadelphia. One of the lists stated that the Penn Museum was to receive a tray of mud from the excavation, as well as two skeletons.

But when William Hafford, the project manager responsible for digitalizing the museum’s records, saw the list, he was puzzled. One of the two skeletons on the list was nowhere to be found.

Further research into the museum’s database revealed the unidentified skeleton had been recorded as “not accounted for” as of 1990. To get to the bottom of this mystery, Hafford began exploring the extensive records left by Woolley himself.

After locating additional information, including images of the missing skeleton, Hafford approached Janet Monge, the Penn Museum’s curator of physical anthropology. But Monge, like Hafford, had never seen the skeleton before.

That’s when Monge remembered the mysterious box in the basement.

When Monge opened the box later that day, she said it was clear the human remains inside were the same ones listed as being packed up and shipped by Woolley.

The skeleton, she said, likely belonged to a male, 50 years or older, who would have stood somewhere between 5 feet 8 inches (173 centimetres) to 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm) tall.

Penn Museum researchers have nicknamed the re-discovered skeleton “Noah,” because he is believed to have lived after what archaeological data suggests was a massive flood at the original site of Ur.

New scientific techniques that weren’t yet available in Woolley’s time could help scientists at the Penn Museum determine much more about the time period to which these ancient remains belonged, including diet, ancestral origins, trauma, stress and diseases.

Archaeologists uncover the ancient city and hundreds of artefacts close to Baghdad

Archaeologists uncover the ancient city and hundreds of artefacts close to Baghdad

An archaeological dig in Al-Suwaira, some 60km south of Baghdad, has revealed an ancient Parthian (247BC to 224AD) city and unearthed more than 200 artefacts.

Archaeologists uncover the ancient city and hundreds of artefacts close to Baghdad
A Parthian site has been discovered south of Baghdad

According to a statement from Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) the recently completed 150-day mission took place in Abu Ghafil, near the Al-Suwaira air base, and revealed wooden residential structures as well as 233 artefacts that were sent to the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.

“It was a salvage project to dig two mounds at the site of Abu Ghafil,” the archaeologist Mohammed Sabri, the head of the expedition, explains.

“The main discovery was a manufacturing and residential settlement of the Parthian period, which I believe was a kind of a vassal settlement.”

The artefacts that were found during excavation, he says, are mainly household items and include “a typical, simple Parthian jar with a tipped base that was common in that era”.

The Parthian empire was located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han Dynasty of China, and it encompassed Persian, Hellenistic and regional cultures.

Around 233 artefacts have been sent to the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, including this well-preserved vase

Sabri says that the site, near the air base that defended Baghdad against Iranian missiles in the 1980s, was officially discovered in 2017 but that it may have been referenced in a mid-20th century survey conducted by the US archaeologist and scholar McGuire Gibson.

“In accordance with the latest surveys conducted by Iraqi staff of the SBAH, we have about 15,000 archaeological sites, registered and non-registered [in Iraq]” he explains.

“Some were registered from the beginning of the last century and even before that. To dig this number of sites we will need millions of years since it is a precise, scientific work that requires patience, trillions of dinars, and tens of thousands of archaeologists to supervise the work.”

The SBAH has long-term plans, he says, “to dig a specific number of sites for scientific and other practical reasons, besides the restoration, rehabilitation and survey projects in our ancient and heritage sites”.

Chaos and instability unleashed after the 2003 invasion, Isis’s reign of terror, as well as the recent pandemic, have slowed some of SBAH’s work. But the archaeologist Tobin Hartnell of the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani—who will accompany a tour of ancient sites this fall organised by the Detroit-based tourism company Spiekermann Travel—notes that, even before 2003, “Under Saddam, the Parthian era sites were often overlooked as their restoration could appear to be glorifying the Persian empire at the time of the Iran/Iraq war”.

The exception, Hartnell says, was Hatra (recently restored post-Isis) which was celebrated and maintained by Saddam because of its association with “Arab kings”.

He says: “Lots of major projects were focused more on the ancient Tigris/Euphrates area rather than Wasit that was further east and closer to Iran. Just another reason why this is an underappreciated part of Iraq’s heritage.”

Hartnell says the new discovery is significant. “Wasit was a major industrial region of ancient and medieval Iraq whose history will be illuminated by this project.”

An ancient fortress found by archaeologists may be a lost royal city

An ancient fortress found by archaeologists may be a lost royal city

A 2,000-year-old fortress built on a mountainside in what’s now Iraqi Kurdistan could be part of a lost royal city called Natounia. With the help of drone photography, archaeologists excavated and catalogued the site during a series of digs between 2009 and 2022.

An ancient fortress found by archaeologists may be a lost royal city
Researchers excavate the perimeter wall at the entrance to Rabana Valley in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Situated in the Zagros Mountains, the stone fortress of Rabana-Merquly comprises fortifications nearly 2.5 miles (4 kilometres) long, two smaller settlements, carved rock reliefs and a religious complex.

The fortress was on the border of Adiabene, a minor kingdom governed by the kings of a local dynasty. These rulers would have paid tribute to the neighbouring Parthian Empire, which extended over parts of Iran and Mesopotamia approximately 2,000 years ago, according to research led by Michael Brown, a researcher at the Institute of Prehistory, Protohistory and Near-Eastern Archaeology of Heidelberg University in Germany, with the help of Iraqi colleagues.

Carvings at the entrance to the fortress depict a king of Adiabene, based on the dress of the figure, in particular his hat, Brown said.

The carving resembles other likenesses of Adiabene kings, particularly one found 143 miles (230 kilometres) away at the site of an ancient city called Hatra.

Upper fortifications at the 2,000-year-old site are shown.

While it’s a matter of speculation, Brown believes the fort was the royal city known as Natounia, or alternatively Natounissarokerta, that was part of the kingdom of Adiabene.

“Natounia is only really known from its rare coins, there are (not) any detailed historical references,” Brown said via email.

Details deduced from seven coins describe a city named after a king called Natounissar and a location on the Lower Zab River, known in ancient times as the Kapros River.

“The location near to (but admittedly not on) the Lower Zab/ancient Kapros river, short occupation, and royal imagery all link the archaeological site to the description we can deduce from coinage.

There are also some unusual high-status tombs nearby,” Brown said.
“It’s a circumstantial argument. … Rabana-Merquly is not the only possibility for Natounia, but arguably the best candidate by far (for) the ‘lost’ city, which has to be in the region somewhere.”

The king in the carving could be the founder of Natounia, either Natounissar or a direct descendant.

The carving depicts a figure with an unusual hat and is thought to depict a king of Adiabene, said lead researcher Michael Brown of the University of Heidelberg.

The place name Natounissarokerta is composed of the royal name Natounissar, the founder of the Adiabene royal dynasty, and the Parthian word for moat or fortification, the study also said.

“This description could apply to Rabana-Merquly,” Brown said. As a major settlement positioned at the intersection between highland and lowland zones, it’s likely that Rabana-Merquly may have been used, among other things, to trade with pastoral tribes, maintain diplomatic ties, or exert military pressure.

“The considerable effort that must have gone into planning, building and maintaining a fortress of this size points to governmental activities,” Brown said.

The study said the discovery adds to our knowledge of Parthian archaeology and history, which remains markedly incomplete, despite its evident significance as a significant power in the ancient Near East.

The journal Antiquity published the research on Tuesday.

3,400-year-old ‘lost’ city re-emerges from Tigris River in Iraq

3,400-year-old ‘lost’ city re-emerges from Tigris River in Iraq

The tightening grip of climate change on our planet is revealing secrets buried for millennia. As waters and ice recede under warming conditions, the traces of people and civilizations long gone from the mortal realm emerge.

3,400-year-old ‘lost’ city re-emerges from Tigris River in Iraq
The archaeological site of Kemune in the Mosul Dam.

In recent months, Iraq has been hit particularly hard, battered by extreme drought, with the Mosul reservoir shrinking as water is extracted to keep crops from drying.

Amid this crisis, the ruins of an ancient city, submerged for decades, are once again on dry land. Since the dam was created in the 1980s before the settlement was archaeologically studied and catalogued, its re-emergence represents a rare opportunity for scientists to explore it. The archaeological site has been named Kemune.

The ruins consist of a palace and several other large structures, dating back to the Bronze Age in the region, around 3,400 years ago. Scientists think the ruins might be from the ancient city of Zakhiku, a bustling centre for the Mittani Empire, which thrived on the banks of the Tigris River between 1550 and 1350 BCE.

This isn’t the first time that the city has risen from the waters like a lost Atlantis. In 2018, the dam waters receded enough to give archaeologists a brief window in which to discover and document the ruins, before the water level rose and covered them again.

So, in December of 2021, when the city began to emerge once more, archaeologists were ready to leap in and take advantage of the second brief window.

In January and February of this year, archaeologist Hasan Ahmed Qasim from the Kurdistan Archaeology Organization in Iraq, along with fellow researchers Ivana Puljiz of the University of Freiburg and Peter Pfälzner from the University of Tübingen in Germany, set about mapping the mysterious city.

The walls of a storage building. (Universities of Freiburg and Tübingen, KAO)

In addition to the palace that was uncovered in 2018, the researchers found some other interesting structures. These included a large fortification with a wall and towers, an industrial complex, and a huge, multi-story storage building, all dating back to the Mittani Empire.

“The huge magazine (storage) building is of particular importance because enormous quantities of goods must have been stored in it, probably brought from all over the region,” Puljiz says.

The preservation of the mud-brick walls was rather remarkable, considering they had been underwater for over 40 years, but that was a result of the city’s rather abrupt fall in 1350 BCE.

During this, an earthquake devastated the region, toppling buildings, which resulted in a protective coating of rubble falling over the remaining intact walls, covering their painted murals and the buildings’ contents.

One of the ceramic vessels contains cuneiform tablets. (Universities of Freiburg and Tübingen, KAO)

Fascinatingly, the city also yielded some ceramic jars containing over 100 unfired clay tablets inscribed in cuneiform, dating to the Middle Assyrian, shortly after the earthquake.

The team hopes that these records might contain some information about who lived in the city, and maybe even about the earthquake itself that led to its demise.

“It is close to a miracle that cuneiform tablets made of unfired clay survived so many decades underwater,” Pfälzner said.

The dam has since been refilled, submerging the city once more, but steps have been taken to make sure that it will be preserved for future excavations when the water recedes once more. The ruins have been sealed under plastic coverings that will prevent future erosion and degradation in the years ahead.

In the meantime, the frenzied work has given the archaeologists material to study that may shed light on the lives of the ancient Mittani who lived in the once-great city.

“The excavation results show that the site was an important centre in the Mittani Empire,” Qasim said.