3400-year-old city emerges from Tigris River; ancient clay tablets reveal

Amy Christie

German and Kurdish archaeologists teamed up to explore the remains of a 3400-year-old city that has emerged from the depths of the Tigris River, located near Mosul in northern Iraq.

Among the ruins of the city from the Bronze Age, which was once a part of the Mitanni Empire that lasted from 1550 to 1350 B.C., researchers discovered new, extensive structures plus a large industrial complex.

What are the details?

The city has been tentatively identified as Zakhiku, which was once a major center along the Tigris River at Kemune, where the Mosul reservoir is located today.

The drought affecting southern Iraq caused large volumes of water to be drawn from the reservoir and sent south to be able to irrigate crops. The falling water levels thus offered a unique opportunity for researchers to explore the city, according to The Epoch Times.

The team was led by German archaeologists Dr. Ivana Puljiz from the University of Freiburg, Dr. Peter Pfalzner from the University of Tubingen, and Dr. Hasan Ahmed Qasim, chairman of the Kurdistan Archaeology Organization, who set out to uncover the ancient city.

The Fritz Thyssen Foundation provided them with funding through the University of Freiburg, but time was of the essence in their exploration quest since they didn't know how long it would be until water levels rose again.

Within a short time, the researchers mapped a large area of the city, as the University of Tubingen reported.

They went through the palace that had been discovered in 2018 and uncovered new structures, including fortifications, towers, a storage facility with several floors, and an industrial complex.

"The storage building is of particular importance since enormous quantities of goods must've been stored inside it, most likely brought from all over the region," Puljiz said.
"The excavation results have shown that the site was an important center in the Mitanni Empire," Qasim added.

Despite laying underwater for so many years, the wall made of sun-dried brick is well-preserved.

The team believes that the good condition of the buildings also has to do with the earthquake that brought the end of the Mitanni Empire in 1350 B.C. and took out the upper part of the wall.

The city was covered in rubble, thus staying protected from any disturbance.

The researchers were particularly intrigued by the five ceramic vessels they found containing over 100 cuneiform tablets made of unfired clay.

The tablets date from the Middle Assyrian period and could offer essential information about the circumstances in which the Mitanni Empire ended.

There were also some tablets in clay envelopes, and those are believed to be letters.

"It's close to a miracle that cuneiform tablets made of unfired clay survived so many decades underwater," Pfalzner shared.

The researchers worked together to protect the city from any further damage before the water started plunging back into the city.

They covered the site with gravel and tight-fitting plastic, paying particular attention to the unbaked clay wall and several important finds that stay hidden for now.

The ancient city is now resubmerged under the Mosul reservoir. The research project on the 3,400-year-old ruins is part of an exploration supported by the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

The team is on pause for now until the waters recede again, allowing explorers to find more lost treasures in the city.









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Amy Christie is a passionate writer and journalist, always striving to bring out the positive and create meaningful connections.

Dallas, TX

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