Category Archives: IRAQ

5,000-Year-Old Tavern With Food Still Inside Discovered in Iraq

5,000-Year-Old Tavern With Food Still Inside Discovered in Iraq

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of an ancient tavern that’s nearly 5,000 years old in southern Iraq, the University of Pennsylvania announced last week.

Researchers discovered an ancient tavern at Lagash in southern Iraq.

The find offers insight into the lives of everyday people who lived in a non-elite urban neighborhood in southwest Asia around 2700 B.C.E.

Inside the public eating space—which included an open-air area and a kitchen—researchers with the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pisa found an oven, a type of clay refrigerator called a zeer, benches and storage containers that still held food.

They also found dozens of conical-shaped bowls that contained the remains of fish, reports CNN’s Issy Ronald.

The tavern was discovered at Lagash, a 1,000-acre archaeological site that was a bustling industrial hub with many inhabitants during the Early Dynastic period. Researchers say Lagash was one of the largest and oldest cities in all of southern Mesopotamia.

An aerial view of the Lagash site in southern Iraq

“The site was of major political, economic and religious importance,” says Holly Pittman, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania and the Lagash project director, in a statement from the university.

“However, we also think that Lagash was a significant population center that had ready access to fertile land and people dedicated to intensive craft production.”

Researchers have been conducting the most recent round of Lagash excavations since 2019, but work at the site dates back to the 1930s. Over the past four years, researchers have used an array of high-tech techniques to better understand the site, including capturing drone imagery and conducting magnetometry analysis.

They’ve also collected and studied sediment samples from as deep as 80 feet below the surface to understand the site’s geological and geophysical evolution over the years.

“It’s not like old-time archaeology in Iraq,” says Zaid Alrawi, project manager for the Lagash project at the Penn Museum, in the statement.

“We’re not going after big mounds expecting to find an old temple. We use our techniques and then, based on scientific priority, go after what we think will yield important information to close knowledge gaps in the field.”

To investigate the ancient tavern just 19 inches below the surface, the archaeologists used a technique that involves excavating thin horizontal sections one by one. Discovering the tavern suggests that the society at Lagash included a middle class, in addition to enslaved individuals and elites.

Archaeologists have also unearthed pits that held clay at Lagash.

“The fact that you have a public gathering place where people can sit down and have a pint and have their fish stew, they’re not laboring under the tyranny of kings,” says Reed Goodman, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, to CNN. “Right there, there is already something that is giving us a much more colorful history of the city.”

The researchers’ other discoveries at the site include an area where the city’s ancient inhabitants once made pottery, complete with six ceramic kilns, benches and a table. They also found a domestic dwelling that contained a toilet and a kitchen.

“As you excavate, you analyze and create a story that we hope gets closer and closer to the reality of the past,” says Alrawi in the statement.

Drought in Iraq Reveals 3,400-Year-Old City

Drought in Iraq Reveals 3,400-Year-Old City

Iraq is battling its worst drought in decades. Lack of rainfall and poor resource management has left communities that depend on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers devoid of the water they need to survive. So authorities drained part of the Mosul Dam reservoir in the country’s Kurdistan region this January to keep crops from drying out.

Archaeologists got brief access to the city during another drought in 2018, but this is the first time they managed a comprehensive site study.

As it turns out, the decision preserved more than crops. Out of that drained area, an ancient city emerged—and with just days to examine the area before the waters came back, archaeologists successfully mapped what they believe to have been a major city in the Mittani Empire (also spelled Mitanni Empire) built 3,400 years ago.

People in the area knew the city was there when the dam was created in the 1980s, but the buildings and artifacts that survived the city’s destruction in an earthquake around 1350 B.C.E. had never been fully investigated, Live Science’s Patrick Pester reports.

Parts of the city first arose from the depths during a major drought in 2018, as Smithsonian magazine’s Jason Daley reported at the time. During that brief time, researchers were able to explore a lost palace with massive, 22-foot-high walls, some six feet thick, and discovered “remains of wall paintings in vibrant shades of red and blue.” However, the archaeologists ultimately didn’t have enough time to sufficiently map the city before the waters returned.

So when drought struck again this year, a research team was assembled in a matter of days to hurry out to the site, according to a statement from the University of Tübingen. Researchers obtained short-notice funding through the University of Freiburg to examine as much as the city as possible before it was re-submerged.

The walls of the city were amazingly well-preserved.

Now, archaeologists have a clearer picture of what this ancient city might have been like, thanks to the team’s mapping of numerous large buildings and uncovering of hundreds of artifacts. Among the buildings found were an industrial complex, a fortification with a wall and towers, and a multi-story storage building.

“The huge magazine building is of particular importance because enormous quantities of goods must have been stored in it, probably brought from all over the region,” Ivana Puljiz, an assistant professor of archaeology from the University of Freiburg, says in the statement.

Hasan Ahmed Qasim, chairman of the Kurdistan Archaeology Organization and the expedition’s leader, adds that “The excavation results show that the site was an important center in the Mittani Empire.”

The team was impressed by how well many of the walls—sometimes reaching almost ten feet high—were preserved, despite being made of sun-dried mud and submerged for more than 40 years.

That’s likely due the earthquake that destroyed the city. It turned the upper parts of the walls into rubble, which buried and protected the lower parts of the city for centuries.

Also astonishingly well-preserved: five ceramic vessels containing over 100 cuneiform tablets, some still in their clay envelopes. In the statement, Peter Pfälzner, a professor of archaeology at the University of Tübingen, describes the underwater survival of unfired clay tablets as being “close to a miracle.” The team hopes the tablets, some of which could be letters, will shed more light on what the city and its daily life were like.

It’s possible the site could be the ancient city of Zakhiku, a major hub in the Mittani Empire, which lasted from roughly 1500 to 1350 B.C.E. One of a number of kingdoms and states founded by the Indo-Iranians in Mesopotamia and Syria, at its peak the empire spanned just over 600 miles, extending from the Zagros Mountains to the Mediterranean Sea.

In the empire’s early years, the Mittanis tussled with Egypt over control of Syria until a truce was reached with Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose IV around 1420 B.C.E. The Mittanis fell to the Hittite Empire around 1360 B.C.E., and the Assyrians soon took over the area.

Though the emergence of this underwater city is incredible, it’s not the only abandoned town to have been revealed from the depths by drought this year.

In February, the Spanish village of Aceredo—which was flooded to create the Alto Lindoso reservoir in 1992—was fully exposed during a drought, Gizmodo’s Molly Taft reports.

Though the tops of houses are sometimes visible when the reservoir’s water levels drop, full buildings had never been exposed before this winter, which was unnaturally dry due to climate change.

Before the waters came back, researchers covered the area with tarps and gravel for safekeeping.

Drought can also reveal other archaeological wonders. The 4,000- to 7,000-year-old megalithic monument known as the Dolmen of Guadalperal emerged in 2019 when drought hit a Spanish reservoir that had covered the stones for about 60 years, Smithsonian’s Meilan Solly reported at the time.

Iraq has been hit especially hard by global warming—temperatures there are rising twice as fast as the global average, according to PBS’ Simona Foltyn. Average annual rainfall is down by 10 percent, and as a result, historic wetlands have dried up, livestock are dying, and people are struggling to get fresh water.

For now, there’s still enough water that the Mosul reservoir refilled in February, ending the researchers’ investigation. To protect the city, the team covered the area in tarps overlaid with gravel fill before the waters fully re-flooded the area.

Drought is expected to continue to plague the region. That will be a disaster for locals—and could present other opportunities for archaeologists.

There’s likely plenty left to discover: As Qasim told the Art Newspaper’s Hadani Ditmars, “There are more than 100 underwater sites in the Eastern Tigris area” alone.


5,000-year-old Iraqi city discovered under a 10 meter-deep mound

In the Kurdistan province of northern Iraq, an ancient town called ‘Idu’ was discovered. Hidden under a mound of 32 feet (10 meters), it is believed that the city was an entertainment center between 3,300 and 2,900 years ago.

King inscriptions made for walls, tablets, and plinths of the stone show that once it was full of lavish palaces. 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.

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
This cylinder seal dates back around 2,600 years, to a time after the Assyrians had re-conquered Idu. The seal would show a mythical scene if it was rolled on a piece of clay. It depicts a crouched bowman, who may be the god Ninurta, facing a griffon
The city is thought to have been a hub of activity between 3,300 and 2,900 years ago. The above image shows a living structure, with at least two rooms, that may date to around 2,000 years ago when the Parthian Empire controlled the area in Iraq

But archaeologists also found evidence that it was a fiercely independent city. 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.’ The city was hidden beneath a mound, called a tell, which is currently home to a village called Satu Qala.

The left image shows a clay model of a bed something which has been found at other sites in the Middle East. On the right is a work of art showing a bearded sphinx with a human male head and the body of a winged lion
On the left is a plaque that reads ‘Palace of Assurnasirpal’. Researchers claim that it was created for Assurnasirpal II and that he must have had a palace built or rebuilt after the Assyrians had re-conquered Idu. On the right is a work of art showing a horse wearing a headstall being led by a man in a short robe

‘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.

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

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

Archaeologists are hailing, as very important, the dramatic discovery of a Bronze Age Palace . It was revealed as the waters of a reservoir fell because of a severe drought in Iraq.

The ruin is believed to have been built by the little known Mittani Empire and researchers hope that it will provide more insights into this very important state and society.

The ruined palace was found at a site known as Kemune, on the east bank of the Tigris River, in Iraqi-Kurdistan and it has been named after this location.

It was revealed because the water level of the Mosul Dam, drastically fell because of a serious lack of rainfall. The dam was built in the 1980s and the building was first identified in 2010 but rising water levels meant that it was submerged again, at that time.

Palace Rises From the Waters

The drought, last year, led to the ruins re-emerging and this prompted archaeologists to commence a project to save and record the ruins. There are fears that the palace could deteriorate or become damaged.

The project team consists of German and local Kurdish experts. It is led by “Dr. Hasan Ahmed Qasim and Dr. Ivana Puljiz as a joint project between the University of Tübingen and the Kurdistan Archaeology Organization,” according to Kurdistan 24 .

The two team leaders have also helped to unearth a Bronze Age city in northern Iraq during the height of the war against the Islamic State.

Terrace wall on the western side of Kemune Palace.

The palace is believed to be up to 3,400 years old and archaeologists have been amazed at what it has been revealed.

Based on a preliminary investigation of the site it is estimated that it originally stood 65 feet (22 meters) high. It was constructed out of mud brick, which was widely used in buildings of all kinds during the Bronze Age in the Ancient East.

Some of the walls are over 6 feet (2 meters) thick and the entire building was very well designed. According to Archaeologist , “A terrace wall of mud bricks was later added to stabilize the building, adding to the imposing architecture.”

The Treasures Inside the Palace

The palace had a series of large spacious rooms that were plastered. Most remarkable of all, the team has found a series of wall paintings or murals that have been painted in red and blue and this indicates a high level of sophistication.

These were probably a feature of royal buildings from the Bronze Age , but they have usually been destroyed. Archaeologist quoting Dr. Ivana Puljiz, “Discovering wall paintings in Kemune is an archaeological sensation.”

Large rooms in Kemune Palace were unearthed during excavations.

Archaeologists also found ten clay tablets which contain a form of writing known as cuneiform. This was the most common form of writing in ancient Mesopotamia . These tablets have now been transferred to Germany where they are going to be translated and transcribed by experts.

Mural fragment discovered in Kemune Palace.

The Kemune Palace

The Kemune Palace is believed to be from “the time of the Mittani Empire, which dominated large parts of northern Mesopotamia and Syria from the 15th to the 14th century BC,” according to Kurdistan 24 .

The Mittani were a Hurrian speaking people who became a regional power, mainly because of their expertise in chariot-warfare.

The palace is the subject of an ongoing study by the team. The focus of the research going forward is on the ten clay tablets .

If they can be deciphered they can throw more light on the Mittani Empire. It may reveal more about the religion, administration, politics, and history of this enigmatic ancient Eastern society.