Iraq: Secret city found after drought uncovers 3,400-year-old ruins

Comp of Ruins in Iraqi Kurdistan

The ancient palace city emerged from the water after extreme droughts in Iraq (Images: KAO)

A 3,400-year-old palace city in Iraqi Kurdistan has resurfaced after months of extreme drought.

As one of the countries worst hit by climate change, Iraq has experienced temperatures as high as 45°C, leaving residents with no choice but to draw water from the Mosul Reservoir for irrigation.

Photos show incredible ruins – believed to be from the lost city of “Zakhiku,” a bustling center of the Mittani empire – that were subsequently unearthed from the waters of the Tigris River.

A team of German and Kurdish archaeologists rushed to excavate and document the ruins before they are submerged back in the reservoir.

Their quick reaction led them to discover more than 100 ancient clay tablets that may be letters, some of which are even still in their clay envelopes.

One researcher called the discovery and the fact that they had survived underwater for so long as “a miracle”.

Ruins in Iraqi Kurdistan

A team of German and Kurdish archaeologists uncovered a 3,400-year-old city from the Mittani Empire that once lay on the Tigris River (Image: KAO)

Ruins in Iraqi Kurdistan

Excavations took place in January and February this year in cooperation with the Directorate of Antiquities and Heritage in Duhok (Kurdistan Region of Iraq) (Photo: KAO)

Ruins in Iraqi Kurdistan

The archaeological site of Kemune in the dry area of ​​the Mosul reservoir (Photo: KAO)

Within a short time, experts were mapping the extensive city complex, which dates back to 1550-1350 BC. BC.

In addition to a palace, several other large buildings were uncovered – a massive fortification with wall and towers, a multi-storey warehouse building and an industrial complex.

They were all very well preserved, despite being submerged for more than 40 years after the palace was flooded during the construction of the Mosul High Dam in the mid-1980s.

The operation was overseen by the head of the Archaeological Organization of Kurdistan, Dr. Hasan Ahmed Qasim, Dr. Ivana Puljiz from the University of Friborg and Dr. Peter Pfälzner from the University of Tübingen.

dr Puljiz said, “The huge warehouse building is of particular importance, as it must have stored enormous amounts of goods, probably brought in from around the region.”

Ruins in Iraqi Kurdistan

This drought suddenly put archaeologists under pressure to excavate and document at least parts of this large, important city as soon as possible (Image: KAO)

Ruins in Iraqi Kurdistan

To prevent further damage from the rising water, the excavated buildings were completely covered with tight-fitting plastic sheeting (Image: KAO)

and dr Qasim added: “The excavation results indicate that the site was an important center in the Mittani Empire.”

First discovered in 2010 after a drought caused water levels in the region to drop again, experts have hailed it as an archaeological marvel. But it wasn’t until 2019 that they were able to start digging.

Researchers hope the new findings will provide important information about the end of the Mittani-era city and the beginning of Assyrian rule in the region.

“It is a miracle that cuneiform tablets made of unfired clay have survived under water for so many decades,” said Dr. Palatinate.

To prevent damage to the important city from the rising water, the excavated buildings were covered with tight-fitting plastic sheeting and gravel fill.

The city is now completely under water again, as the water level in the reservoir has risen again.

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Justin Scacco

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