Extreme Drought Reveals Submerged City of Mitanni Empire in Iraq

The 3,400-year-old settlement with a palace and several large buildings could be the ancient city of Zakhiku, believed to have been an important center of the Mittani Empire (1550-1350 BCE).

Aerial view of the excavations at the site of Kemune in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Image credit: Universities of Freiburg and Tübingen, KAO.

Aerial view of the excavations at the site of Kemune in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Image credit: Universities of Freiburg and Tübingen, KAO.

“Iraq is one of the countries in the world most affected by climate change,” explained University of Freiburg archaeologist Professor Ivana Puljiz and colleagues.

“The south of the country in particular has been suffering from extreme drought for months.”

“To prevent crops from drying out, large amounts of water have been drawn down from the Mosul reservoir — Iraq’s most important water storage — since December 2021.”

“This led to the reappearance of a Bronze Age city that had been submerged decades ago without any prior archaeological investigations. It is located at Kemune in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.”

This extreme drought allowed the archaeologists to map parts of the important city.

In addition to a large palace discovered during a short campaign in 2018, they were able to document several other large buildings: a massive fortification with a wall and towers, a monumental, multi-storey storage building and an industrial complex.

“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,” Professor Puljiz said.

“The excavation results show that the site was an important center in the Mittani Empire,” added Dr. Hasan Ahmed Qasim, chairman of the Kurdistan Archaeology Organization.

View into one of the pottery vessels with cuneiform tablets, including one tablet which is still in its original clay envelope. Image credit: Universities of Freiburg and Tübingen, KAO.

View into one of the pottery vessels with cuneiform tablets, including one tablet which is still in its original clay envelope. Image credit: Universities of Freiburg and Tübingen, KAO.

The archaeologists were stunned by the relatively good preservation of the walls — sometimes to a height of several meters — despite the fact that the walls were made of sun-dried mud bricks.

“This good preservation is due to the fact that the city was destroyed in an earthquake around 1350 BCE, during which the collapsing upper parts of the walls buried the buildings,” they explained.

The team also unearthed five ceramic vessels with an archive of over 100 cuneiform clay tablets from the Middle Assyrian period. Some of the tablets are even still in their clay envelopes.

“This discovery will provide important information about the end of the Mittani-period city and the beginning of Assyrian rule in the region,” the researchers said.

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

Source: sci-news.com

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