A team of archaeologists has discovered a Mittani Empire-era city (about 3400 years old), located on the Tigris River. The settlement emerged from the waters of the Mosul reservoir earlier this year after water levels dropped due to extreme drought in Iraq The sprawling city, with a palace and several buildings, may be ancient Zakhiku, believed to have been an important center of the Mittani Empire (1550-1350 BC).
Currently, Iraq is one of the countries most affected by climate change in the world. The south of the country, in particular, has suffered from extreme drought for months. To prevent crops from drying out, Iraq’s most important reservoir, Mosul, has been pumped out of water since December.
This led to the reappearance of a Bronze Age city that had been submerged decades ago without any prior archaeological investigation. It is located in Kemune, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
A 3400-year-old city, that emerged from the waters of Mosul reservoir, has been discovered in Iraq.
The city is believed to be ancient Zakhiku.@eriknjoka brings you this report
— WION (@WIONews) June 13, 2022
The unforeseen event put pressure on archaeologists to excavate and document at least parts of the important city before it was again submerged by the backwater. Archaeologists Hasan Ahmed Qasim, President of the Archeology Organization of Kurdistan, Ivana Puljiz (University of Freiburg) and Peter Pfälzner (University of Tübingen) decided to carry out joint rescue excavations in Kemune, which took place between January and February 2022, in collaboration with the Directorate of Antiquities and Heritage of Duhok, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
In a short time, the researchers were able to extensively map the city. In addition to a palace, which had already been documented in 2018, several other large buildings were discovered, among them a massive fortification with wall and towers, a monumental multi-story storage building and an industrial complex.
“The huge building is of particular importance because it must have stored huge amounts of goods, probably brought from all over the region,” said Ivana Puljiz. “The excavation results show that the site was an important center of the Mittani Empire,” added Qasim.
After drought on the Tigris River, city of the Mittani Empire was found by archaeologists
The research team was surprised by the state of preservation of the walls, many with considerable height, despite the walls being made of mud bricks dried in the sun and having been submerged for more than 40 years. The state of preservation is due to the fact that the city was destroyed in an earthquake around 1350 BC, in which the collapse of the upper parts of the walls buried the buildings.
Other important finds were five ceramic vessels that contained an archive of over 100 cuneiform tablets. They date back to the Middle Assyrian period, just after the earthquake disaster struck the city. The researchers hope that this discovery will provide important information about the end of the city of the Mittani period and the beginning of Assyrian rule in the region.
“It’s almost a miracle that cuneiform tablets made of raw clay have survived so many decades underwater,” says Peter Pfälzner.
To prevent further damage to the site from returning water, the excavated buildings were completely covered with tight plastic sheeting and covered with gravel as part of an extensive conservation project. The site is now once again completely submerged.