An ancient city surfaced on the Tigris River. And then drowned again

(ORDO NEWS) — The 3,400-year-old archaeological site has sunk into the waters of the Mosul Reservoir for the second time in the last three years.

A group of German and Kurdish archaeologists discovered a city that they dated as 3,400 years old and believed to belong to the state of Mitanni. However, “discovered” is not a very suitable word: the fact is that in 2019 it was already found, and then lost.

The Mosul Reservoir is located on the Tigris River, upstream of the city of Mosul (northern Iraq). And this reservoir is a source of constant headache for representatives of various organizations: the UN, the US Army (already in the past) and even archaeologists.

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General view of the excavations

The dam of this largest reservoir in Iraq is built on unstable ground: the earthen bank of the Tigris in that place is located above the gypsum rock.

And if we add here the difficult military-political situation that has developed after the death of Saddam Hussein in northern Iraq, then the concern of international organizations is easy to understand.

In addition to the poor condition of the dam itself, there is the problem of improper water intake. So, at the beginning of this year, due to a severe drought in the country, the water level in the reservoir fell seriously – not only was the Tigris not as full-flowing as usual, besides, the water was actively dismantled for irrigation.

As a result, a city appeared from under the water with a palace and several large buildings. Scientists suggest that this is Zahiku, one of the centers of the Mitanni empire, which is mentioned in ancient sources, but, unfortunately, without specifying the location.

The unforeseen “surfacing” has forced archaeologists to excavate and document at least part of this large and important city as soon as possible, before it sank again.

The rescue excavation team was assembled in a few days, and the work was carried out at an extreme speed for archaeologists, since it was not clear when the water level in the reservoir would rise again.

In a short period, the researchers managed to basically map the city. In addition to the palace, which had already been documented during the previous “surfacing”, several other large buildings were found: a massive fortification with a wall and towers, a monumental multi-storey warehouse building and an industrial complex.

The vast urban complex dates back to the time of the Mittani Empire (17th-13th centuries BC), which controlled large parts of northern Mesopotamia and Syria.

In the room, which archaeologists called a warehouse, they found a wide variety of goods brought from all over the region and from Egypt. It is quite possible that the city was at the crossroads of trade routes – and with a high degree of probability there was a crossing over the Tigris.

The fact is that the presence of such a full-flowing river was a serious obstacle for travelers of all kinds – from warriors to merchants. For example, Assyria evolved from a city-state to a powerful (and the first ever) empire thanks to what scholars believe controlled the crossings of the Tigris.

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Considering what material these walls are made of, they are in excellent condition

The great surprise of archaeologists was how well the walls were preserved – sometimes up to a height of several meters. And this despite the fact that they are made of sun-dried adobe bricks and have been under water for more than 40 years.

Such good preservation is explained by the fact that the city was destroyed by an earthquake around 1350 BC, during which the collapsed upper parts of the walls buried the buildings.

Of particular interest is the discovery of five ceramic vessels containing over a hundred cuneiform tablets. Previously, they were dated to the Middle Assyrian period (XIV-XI centuries), that is, almost immediately after the earthquake that destroyed the city.

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Cuneiform tablets

This is the period of the decline of Mitanni and the rise of Assyria. It should be noted that at one time the Hurrians from Mitanni seriously pressed the Assyrians in Mesopotamia.

For example, Nineveh (40 kilometers from the reservoir, the territory of modern Mosul), the future brilliant capital of Assyria, was under the rule of Mitanni in the 15th-14th centuries BC. And only in 1365 BC the Assyrian king Ashur-uballit I won it back.

The researchers hope that the deciphering of the tablets will provide important information about the end of the Mitannian city and the beginning of Assyrian rule in the region.

To prevent further destruction of the important site due to rising water, the excavated buildings were completely covered with tight-fitting plastic sheeting and covered with gravel.

So they want to protect the walls of unbaked clay and any other finds still hidden in the ruins during the flood. Today the city is completely flooded again.


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