Category Archives: IRAQ

The current concept of time was created by the Sumerians 5,000 years ago!

The current concept of time was created by the Sumerians 5,000 years ago!

Any ancient civilizations had a concept of time, although vague. Obviously, they knew that the day started when the sun rose and the night when the sun disappeared over the horizon.

But the ancient Sumerians, watching the skies, developed a much more complex system.

They realized that it was possible to divide the hours into 60 minutes and the days into 24 hours, developing the time measurement systems used today.

Ancient civilizations looked to the heavens to mark the passage of time.

The Sumer, or “land of the civilized kings”, flourished in Mesopotamia, which today is located in modern Iraq, around 4,500 BCE.

The Sumerians created an advanced civilization with its own system of elaborate language and writing, architecture and arts, astronomy and mathematics.

The Sumerian Empire did not last long. However, for more than 5,000 years, the world remained committed to its definition of time.

The celebrated Babylonian mathematical tablet Plimpton 322.

The Sumerians initially favoured the number 60, as it was very easily divisible. The number 60 can be divided by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30 into equal parts. In addition, ancient astronomers believed that there were 360 days in a year, a number that 60 fits perfectly six times.

Ancient people and the passage of time

Many of the ancient civilizations had an approximate notion of the passage of time. as the passage of days, weeks, months and years.

A month was the duration of a complete lunar cycle, while a week was the duration of a phase of the lunar cycle.

A year could be estimated based on the changes in the season and the relative position of the sun. The ancients realized that observing the skies could provide many answers to questions considered complex in their day.

Akkadian soldiers slaying enemies, circa 2300 BC, possibly from a Victory Stele of Rimush

When the Sumerian civilization came to decay, being conquered by the Akkadians in 2400 BCE and later by the Babylonians in 1800 BCE. In this way, the notion of dividing time into 60 units persisted and spread all over the world.

A round clock and a 24-hour day

Ancient Mesopotamian sundial at Archaeological Museum, Istanbul

When geometry was unveiled by the Greeks and the Islamists, the ancients realized that the number 360 was not only the time period of the Earth’s ideal orbit but also the perfect measure of a circle, forming 360 degrees.

The ancient Kingdom Discovered Beneath Mound in Iraq

The ancient Kingdom Discovered Beneath Mound in Iraq

In the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, archaeologists have discovered an ancient city called Idu, hidden beneath a mound. Cuneiform inscriptions and works of art reveal the palaces that flourished in the city throughout its history thousands of years ago. 

The ancient Kingdom Discovered Beneath Mound in Iraq
A domestic structure, with at least two rooms, that may date to relatively late in the life of the newfound ancient city, perhaps around 2,000 years ago when the Parthian Empire controlled the area in Iraq.

Located in a valley on the northern bank of the lower Zab River, the city’s remains are now part of a mound created by human occupation called a tell, which rises about 32 feet (10 meters) above the surrounding plain.

The earliest remains date back to Neolithic times when farming first appeared in the Middle East, and a modern-day village called Satu Qala now lies on top of the tell.

The city thrived between 3,300 and 2,900 years ago, said Cinzia Pappi, an archaeologist at the Universität Leipzig in Germany. At the start of this period, the city was under the control of the Assyrian Empire and was used to administer the surrounding territory. Later on, as the empire declined, the city gained its independence and became the centre of a kingdom that lasted for about 140 years, until the Assyrians reconquered it.

The researchers were able to determine the site’s ancient name when, during a survey of the area in 2008, a villager brought them an inscription with the city’s ancient name engraved on it.

Excavations were conducted in 2010 and 2011, and the team reported its findings in the most recent edition of the journal Anatolica.

“Very few archaeological excavations had been conducted in Iraqi Kurdistan before 2008,” Pappi wrote in an email to LiveScience. Conflicts in Iraq over the past three decades have made it difficult to work there. Additionally, archaeologists before that time tended to favour excavations in the south of Iraq at places like Uruk and Ur.

The effects of recent history are evident on the mound. In 1987, Saddam Hussein’s forces attacked and partly burnt the modern-day village as part of a larger campaign against the Kurds, and “traces of this attack are still visible,” Pappi said.

Ancient palaces

The art and cuneiform inscriptions the team uncovered provide glimpses of the ancient city’s extravagant palaces.

When Idu was an independent city, one of its rulers, Ba’ilanu, went so far as to boast that his palace was better than any of his predecessors’. “The palace which he built he made greater than that of his fathers,” he claimed in the translated inscription. (His father, Abbi-zeri, made no such boast.)

Two works of art hint at the decorations adorning the palaces at the time Idu was independent. One piece of artwork, a bearded sphinx with the head of a human male and the body of a winged lion, was drawn onto a glazed brick that the researchers found in four fragments. Above and below the sphinx, a surviving inscription reads, “Palace of Ba’auri, king of the land of Idu, son of Edima, also king of the land of Idu.”

This work shows a bearded sphinx with a human male head and the body of a winged lion. Found in four fragments it was also created for King Ba’auri and has almost the exact same inscription as the depiction of the horse.

Another work that was created for the same ruler, and bearing the same inscription as that on the sphinx, shows a “striding horse crowned with a semicircular headstall and led by a halter by a bearded man wearing a fringed short robe,” Pappi and colleague Arne Wossink wrote in the journal article.

Even during the Assyrian rule, when Idu was used to administer the surrounding territory, finely decorated palaces were still built. For instance, the team discovered part of a glazed plaque whose coloured decorations include a palmette, pomegranates and zigzag patterns. Only part of the inscription survives, but it reads, “Palace of Assurnasirpal, (king of the land of Assur).” Assurnasirpal refers to Assurnasirpal II (883-859 B.C.), the researchers said, adding that he, or one of his governors, must have built or rebuilt a palace at Idu after the Assyrians reconquered the city. 

A hero facing a griffon

Another intriguing artefact, which may be from a palace, is a cylinder seal dating back about 2,600 years. When it was rolled on a piece of clay, it would have revealed a vivid mythical scene.

The scene would have shown a bow-wielding man crouching down before a griffon, as well as a morning star (a symbol of the goddess Ishtar), a lunar crescent (a symbol of the moon god) and a solar disc symbolizing the sun god. A symbol called a rhomb, which represented fertility, was also shown.

“The image of the crouching hero with the bow is typical for warrior gods,” Pappi wrote in the email. “The most common of these was the god Ninurta, who also played an important role in the [Assyrian] state religion, and it is possible that the figure on the seal is meant to represent him.”

Future work

Before conducting more digs, the researchers will need approval from both the local government and the people of the village. “For wide-scale excavations to continue, at least some of these houses will have to be removed,” Pappi said. “Unfortunately, until a settlement is reached between the villagers and the Kurdistan regional government, further work is currently not possible.”

Although digging is not currently possible, the artefacts already excavated were recently analyzed further and more publications of the team’s work will be appearing in the future. The archaeologists also plan to survey the surrounding area to get a sense of the size of the kingdom of Idu.

Iraq’s Long-Lost Mythical Temple Has Been Found

Iraq’s Long-Lost Mythical Temple Has Been Found

Life-size human statues and column bases from a long-lost temple dedicated to a supreme god have been discovered in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

Life-size human statues and the remains of an ancient temple dating back some 2,500 years have been discovered in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. The region’s hilly environment is shown here.

The discoveries date back over 2,500 years to the Iron Age, a time period when several groups — such as the Urartians, Assyrians and Scythians — vied for supremacy over what is now northern Iraq.

“I didn’t do excavation, just archaeological soundings —the villagers uncovered these materials accidentally,” said Dlshad Marf Zamua, a doctoral student at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who began the fieldwork in 2005.

The column bases were found in a single village while the other finds, including a bronze statuette of a wild goat, were found in a broad area south of where the borders of Iraq, Iran and Turkey intersect. 

For part of the Iron Age, this area was under the control of the city of Musasir, also called Ardini, Marf Zamua said. Ancient inscriptions have referred to Musasir as a “holy city founded in bedrock” and “the city of the raven.”

A lost ancient temple

“One of the best results of my fieldwork is the uncovered column bases of the long-lost temple of the city of Musasir, which was dedicated to the god Haldi,” Marf Zamuatold Live Science in an email.

Haldi was the supreme god of the kingdom of Urartu. His temple was so important that after the Assyrians looted it in 714 B.C., the Urartu king Rusa I was said to have ripped his crown off his head before killing himself.

A 19th-century drawing of an ancient relief that depicts the sacking of the temple of Haldi by the Assyrians.

He “threw himself on the ground, tore his clothes, and his arms hung limp. He ripped off his headband, pulled out his hair, pounded his chest with both hands, and threw himself flat on his face …” reads one ancient account (translation by Marc Van De Mieroop).

The location of the temple has long been a mystery, but with the discovery of the column bases, Marf Zamua thinks it can be narrowed down. 

Additionally, Marf Zamua analyzed an ancient carving of Musasir, discovered in the 19th century at Khorsabad. The carving, he found, shows hillside houses with three windows on the second floor and a doorway on the ground floor. Such a design can still be seen today in some villages, the bottom floor being used as a stable and storage area, he noted.

Life-size statues

This long-lost temple is just the tip of the archaeological iceberg. During his work in Kurdistan, Marf Zamua also found several life-size human statues that are up to 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) tall. Made of limestone, basalt or sandstone, some of these statues are now partly broken.

They all show bearded males, some of whom “are holding a cup in their right hands, and they put their left hands on their bellies,” said Marf Zamua. “One of them holds a hand axe. Another one put on a dagger.”

Originally erected above burials, the statues have a “sad moment” posture, Marf Zamua said. Similar statues can be found from central Asia to eastern Europe. “It is art and ritual of nomads/pastorals, especially when they [buried] their chieftains,” Marf Zamua said.

Mostof the newfound statues date to the seventh or sixth century B.C., after Musasir fell to the Assyrians, and during a time when the Scythians and Cimmerians were advancing through the Middle East.

Modern-day dangers and ancient treasures

Over the past few weeks, conflict in Iraq has been increasing as a group called the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant” (ISIS) has taken several cities and threatened to march on Baghdad. The Kurdistan area, including this archaeological site, is autonomous, and its militia has been able to prevent ISIS from entering it.

Several life-sized human statues of bearded males, dating back to the seventh or sixth centuries B.C., have also been discovered in Kurdistan.

Marf Zamuasaid there are risks associated with living and working in the border area. Due to the conflicts of the past few decades, there are numerous unexploded land mines, one of which killed a young shepherd a month back, he said. Additionally, the National Iraqi News Agency reports that Iranian artillery recently fired onto the Iraqi side of the border, and there have been past instances where planes from Turkey have launched attacks into Iraqi Kurdistan.

Despite these risks, there are also terrific archaeological finds to be made. In addition to the statues and column bases, Marf Zamuafound is a bronze statuette of a wild goat about 3.3 inches (8.4 centimetres) long and 3.2 inches (8.3 cm) tall. Researchers are now trying to decipher a cuneiform inscription on the statuette.

Marf Zamua presented the discoveries recently in a presentation given at the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, held at the University of Basel in Switzerland. In addition to his doctoral studies, Marf Zamua teaches at Salahaddin University in Erbil, which is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Lebanese museum returns millennia-old antiquities to Iraq

Lebanese museum returns millennia-old antiquities to Iraq

A trove of archaeological objects, including more than 300 cuneiform tablets, were returned to Iraq from Lebanon over the weekend. Allegedly looted from several Iraqi archaeological sites, the artefacts had been exhibited in the Nabu Museum, a private institution in northern Lebanon founded by the businessman Jawad Adra.

Adra and his wife, former Lebanese defence minister Zeina Akar, have repeatedly denied any involvement in the international trafficking of cultural property, according to the Lebanese French-language newspaper L’Orient Le Jour.

The handover took place at a ceremony at the National Museum of Beirut, attended by the Lebanese Minister of Culture Abbas Mortada, the Iraqi Ambassador to Lebanon Haydar Chayyah Barrak, and Adra.

Lebanese museum returns millennia-old antiquities to Iraq
Iraqi antiquities were displayed during a ceremony held at the National Museum of Beirut.

A total of 337 artefacts were returned. Speaking at the ceremony, Mortada stressed the “common destiny of Lebanon and Iraq,” saying that “Beirut is in the hearts of the Iraqis, just as Baghdad is in the hearts of the Lebanese.” Barrak thanked the Lebanese people and government “for the continued cooperation that made this happy ending possible.”

The Nabu Museum opened in Heri, on the Lebanese coast, in 2018.

Named after the Mesopotamian god of literacy and wisdom, it houses a selection of the couple’s collection of 2,000 artefacts dating from prehistory to the Byzantine era.

According to Adra, the aim of the museum is to “preserve and protect the regional ancient history, which would otherwise be scattered across the world.”

The museum has been under scrutiny for several months by international authorities for housing antiquities that were believed to have been illegally smuggled out of Iraq.

Earlier this year, Iraq asked Interpol to issue a red notice against the museum and demand the restitution of hundreds of Sumerian tablets.

The couple cooperated voluntarily with the investigation, with Akar travelling to Baghdad to negotiate the repartition of the artefacts.

Local news outlets report that the artefacts likely originated from the ancient Sumerian city, Irisagrig, which was a frequent target of smugglers after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In 2017, the U.S. craft store chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million and forced to surrender thousands of objects that had been smuggled from the area.

In recent years Iraq has increased efforts to recover cultural property looted during periods of political turmoil. Last year, the United States returned more than 17,000 smuggled artefacts to Iraq, including statues and Mesopotamian carvings dating back to 4,000 years.

The handover included the Gilgamesh tablet, a 3,500-year-old cuneiform object thought to be one of the world’s oldest religious texts. It is believed to have been stolen from an Iraqi museum in 1990 and to have entered the U.S. in 2007. (It had been sold several times before being acquired by Hobby Lobby for $1.67 million at a 2014 auction.)

At the time of that return, the Iraqi foreign minister Faud Hussein said that his government would “spare no effort to recover the rest of our cultural heritage throughout the world.”

Ancient Mesopotamian Discovery Transforms Knowledge of Early Farming

Ancient Mesopotamian Discovery Transforms Knowledge of Early Farming

Rutgers researchers have unearthed the earliest definitive evidence of broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) in ancient Iraq, challenging our understanding of humanity’s earliest agricultural practices.

Their findings appear in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Overall, the presence of millet in ancient Iraq during this earlier time period challenges the accepted narrative of agricultural development in the region as well as our models for how ancient societies provisioned themselves,” said Elise Laugier, an environmental archaeologist and National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Broomcorn millet is an “amazingly robust, quick-growing and versatile summer crop” that was first domesticated in East Asia, Laugier added.

The researchers analyzed microscopic plant remains (phytoliths) from Khani Masi, a mid-late second millennium BCE (c. 1500-1100 BCE) site in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Ancient Mesopotamian Discovery Transforms Knowledge of Early Farming
Drone footage of the Khani Masi plain in the Garmian Province, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, taken in 2018.

“The presence of this East Asian crop in ancient Iraq highlights the interconnected nature of Eurasia during this time, contributing to our knowledge of early food globalization,” Laugier said.

“Our discovery of millet and thus the evidence of summer cultivation practices also forces us to reconsider the capacity and resilience of the agricultural systems that sustained and provisioned Mesopotamia’s early cities, states and empires.”

The discovery of broomcorn millet in ancient Mesopotamia was surprising for environmental and historical reasons. Until now, researchers thought that millet wasn’t grown in Iraq until the construction of later 1st millennium BCE imperial irrigation systems.

Millet generally requires summer precipitation to grow, but Southwest Asia has a wet-winter and dry-summer climate, and agricultural production is based almost entirely on crops grown during the winter, such as wheat and barley.

Agricultural production is thought to be the basis for supporting and provisioning Mesopotamian cities, states and empires.

The researchers’ new evidence that crops and food were, in fact, grown in summer months means that previous studies likely vastly under-appreciated the capacities and resilience of ancient agricultural food-system societies in semi-arid ecosystems.

The new study is also part of growing archaeological research showing that in the past, agricultural innovation was a local initiative, adopted as part of local diversification strategies long before they were used in imperial agricultural intensification regimes — new information that could have an impact on how agricultural innovations move forward today.

“Although millet isn’t a common or preferred food in semi-arid Southwest Asia or the United States today, it is still common in other parts of Asia and Africa,” Laugier said.

“Millet is a hearty, fast-growing, low-water requiring and nutritious gluten-free grain that could hold a lot of potential for increasing the resilience capacities of our semi-arid food systems. Today’s agricultural innovators should consider investing in more diverse and resilient food systems, just as people did in ancient Mesopotamia.”

Laugier, a visiting scientist at Rutgers who received her PhD and began her research on this topic at Dartmouth College, said the research team hopes to make phytolith analysis more common in the study of ancient Iraq because it could challenge assumptions about the history and practice of agriculture in the region.

Ancient Kingdom Discovered Beneath Mound in Iraq

The ancient Kingdom Discovered Beneath Mound in Iraq

An ancient city called ‘Idu’ has been discovered in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. Hidden beneath a 32 foot (10 metres) mound, the city is thought to have been a hub of activity between 3,300 and 2,900 years ago. 

Inscriptions made for kings in walls, tablets and stone plinths, reveal that it was once filled with luxurious palaces.

The discovery was made five years ago after a local villager found a clay tablet with the name ‘Idu’ carved in.

The ancient city of Idu is now part of a Tell that rises about 32 feet (10 metres) above the surrounding plain. The modern-day name of the site is Satu Qala and a village lies on top of the Tell

It is thought the inscription was made by the local kings celebrating the construction of the royal palace. Archaeologists at the University of Leipzig in Germany spent the next few years excavating the area.

They believe the city of Idu spent much of its time under the control of the Assyrian Empire about 3,300 years ago. But archaeologists also found evidence that it was a fiercely independent city.

Ancient Kingdom Discovered Beneath Mound in Iraq
A domestic structure, with at least two rooms, that may date to relatively late in the life of the newfound ancient city, perhaps around 2,000 years ago when the Parthian Empire controlled the area in Iraq.

Its people fought for and won, 140 years of independence before they were reconquered by the Assyrians. Among the treasures found were artwork showing a bearded sphinx with a human head and the body of a winged lion.

Above it was the words: ‘Palace of Ba’auri, king of the land of Idu, son of Edima, also king of the land of Idu.’

They also found a cylinder seal dating back roughly 2,600 years depicting a man crouching before a griffon.

‘We were lucky to be one of the first teams to begin excavations in Iraq after the 2003 war,’ archaeologists Cinzia Pappi told MailOnline.

‘The discovery of ancient Idu at Satu Qala revealed a multicultural capital and a crossroad between northern and southern Iraq and between Iraq and Western Iran in the second and first millennia BC.

‘Particularly the discovery of a local dynasty of kings fills a gap in what scholars had previously thought of as a dark age in the history of ancient Iraq.

‘Together these results have helped to redraw the political and historical map of the development of the Assyrian Empire.’

This work shows a bearded sphinx with a human male head and the body of a winged lion. Found in four fragments it was also created for King Ba’auri and has almost the exact same inscription as the depiction of the horse.

The city was hidden beneath a mound, called a tell, which is currently home to a village called Satu Qala.

‘For wide-scale excavations to continue, at least some of these houses will have to be removed,’ said archaeologists Cinzia Pappi

‘Unfortunately, until a settlement is reached between the villagers and the Kurdistan regional government, further work is currently not possible.’

Archaeologists plan to continue excavating the site once they reach an agreement.

In the meantime, a study on the materials from the site, now stored in the Erbil Museum of Antiquities, has just been completed in co-operation with the University of Pennsylvania.

Together, the researchers will explore the surrounding area to determine the extent of the kingdom of Idu in its regional context

The findings have been reported in the journal Anatolica.

Archaeologists are currently busy analysing artefacts already excavated. They also plan to survey the surrounding area to get a better sense of how large the kingdom of Idu was

Archaeologists stunned by ancient Babylonian device: ‘More advanced than we thought’

Archaeologists stunned by ancient Babylonian device: ‘More advanced than we thought’

Babylon was the city where some of the most influential empires of the ancient world ruled. For a long time, it was the capital of the Babylonian Empire, and was considered to be the global centre of commerce, art and learning, and is even estimated to have been the largest early city in the world — perhaps the first to reach a population of more than 200,000 people.

Today, it resembles more of an archaeological excavation site in progress and has only several thousand residents and a few villages within its boundaries. It holds some of the greatest secrets of the ancient world, including the Tower of Babel, which is first mentioned in Genesis in the Bible.

In 1894, Edgar Banks, an American archaeologist, discovered a stone device and sold it to antique collector George Plimpton. He eventually passed it on to Columbia University in the 1930s, and the tablet is today known as Plimpton 322.

Archaeologists stunned by ancient Babylonian device: 'More advanced than we thought'
Archaeology: Researches have been stunned by the Babylonian tablet
Babylon: The ancient city is located in modern-day Iraq

At the time, researchers did not realise how important the tablet was, and it was not until 1945 that experts realised it contained Pythagorean triples.

But then the tablet was forgotten, and it was not until this year that Dr Daniel Mansfield, from the University of New South Wales, Australia, was given access to it, revealing the full extent of the device’s wonder.

Speaking to the BBC’s reel exploring the tablet, titled, ‘Evidence ancient Babylonians were far more advanced than we thought, he described it as the, “most interesting, most sophisticated mathematical document from the ancient world”.

It tells us that past civilisations understood mathematics a lot better than we thought.

In particular, it shows how the Mesopotamians understood Pythagorean triples at a level of sophistication “that we never expected”, according to Dr Mansfield.

Ancient tablet: The clay tablet shows how the Babylonians used Pythagorean triples

Traditionally, the history of geometry starts in Ancient Greece, where astronomers used the technique to understand the movement of celestial bodies through the night sky. The most famous relation in geometry is the relation between the sides and the hypotenuse of a right triangle, in modern times known as Pythagoras’ Theorem.

But, as Dr Mansfield noted: “In reality, elements of this understanding are apparent throughout history.”

The tablet proves that about a thousand years before the Greek astronomers were looking at the night sky, Babylonian surveyors had their own unique understanding of right triangles and rectangles.

But, rather than using the technique to look at the night sky, they applied it on the ground in day-to-day life.

They did not have what we today call the theorem.

Pythagoras: Some of the calculations found on the tablets
Dr Daniel Mansfield: The Australian researcher further deciphered the tablet’s engravings

Instead, they knew all the particular cases where the theorem held true, myriad examples of rectangles that had pleasant, easy to manage measurements. New research from Dr Mansfield and his team has since shed light on a long-standing mystery: how the ancient Babylonians may have actually used these tablets.

He explained: “This tablet shows us that the application is actually surveying, these people are making boundaries and making really accurate boundaries using their understanding of geometry.

“Pure mathematics is the study of mathematics for its own sake.

Ancient history: One of the tablets that were used during the research project

“But it’s often motivated by the problems of the day.

“Plimpton 322 arguably fits into this category because we see a mathematician generating all these rectangles and then analysing them to see which ones have regular sides, which is a relevant problem in contemporary surveying.”

The tablet shows us that Babylonian surveying became a lot more accurate during this time.

Mesopotamia: The region is believed to have been at the centre of global commerce, art and culture

Archaeologists in Iraq find ancient wine press, carvings

Archaeologists in Iraq find ancient wine press, carvings

According to an AFP report, researchers working at the site of Khinis in northern Iraq uncovered stone-cut pits dated to the eighth century B.C. and the reign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib.

Archaeologists in Iraq find ancient wine press, carvings
The carvings, from 2,700 years ago, show gods, kings and sacred animals.

The stone bas-reliefs, showing kings praying to the gods, were cut into the walls of a nearly nine-kilometre-long (5.5-mile) irrigation canal at Faida in northern Iraq, the joint team of archaeologists from the Department of Antiquities in Dohuk and colleagues from Italy said.

The carvings, 12 panels measuring five metres (16 feet) wide and two metres tall, show gods, kings and sacred animals. They date from the reigns of Sargon II (721-705 BC) and his son Sennacherib.

“There are other places with rock reliefs in Iraq, especially in Kurdistan, but none are so huge and monumental as this one,” said Italian archaeologist Daniele Morandi Bonacossi.

“The scenes represent the Assyrian king praying in front of the Assyrian gods,” he said, noting that the seven key gods are all seen, including Ishtar, the goddess of love and war, who is depicted on top of a lion.

Ancient ‘propaganda scene’

The irrigation canal was cut into limestone to carry water from the hills to the fields of farmers, and the carvings were made to remind people of the king who ordered its construction.

The carvings were made to remind people of the king who ordered the construction of an irrigation canal.

“It was not only a religious scene of prayer, but it was also political, a sort of propaganda scene,” Morandi Bonacossi added.

“The king, in this way, wanted to show to the people living in the area that he was the one who has created these massive irrigation systems, so… the people should remember this and remain loyal.”

At Khinis, also near Dohuk, the team unearthed giant stone basins cut into the white rock that was used in commercial wine-making during the reign of Sennacherib, in the late 8th or early 7th century BC.

“It was a sort of industrial wine factory,” said Morandi Bonacossi, professor of Near Eastern archaeology at the Italy’s University of Udine, adding this was the first such discovery in Iraq.

“We have found 14 installations, that were used to press the grapes and extract the juice, which was then processed into wine.”

Some of the most famous carvings that have survived from the Assyrian period are the mythical winged bulls, with examples of the monumental reliefs seen in the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, as well as the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London.

Iraq was the birthplace of some of the world’s earliest cities. As well as Assyrians it was once home to Sumerians and Babylonians, and to among humankind’s first examples of writing.

Archaeologists in Iraq also discovered stone-cut pits used to press the grapes and extract the juice, which was then processed into wine.

But it is also now a location for smugglers of ancient artefacts. Looters decimated the country’s ancient past, including after the 2003 US-led invasion.

Then, from 2014 and 2017, the Islamic State group demolished dozens of pre-Islamic treasures with bulldozers, pickaxes and explosives. They also used smuggling to finance their operations.


However, some countries are slowly returning stolen items.

Earlier this year, the United States returned about 17,000 artefacts to Iraq, pieces that mostly dated from the Sumerian period around 4,000 years ago.

Last month, a 3,500-year-old tablet recounting the epic of Gilgamesh was returned to Iraq after being stolen three decades ago and illegally imported to the US.