Ancient palace discovered Iraqi reservoir made possible by drought

"The find is one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the region in recent decades," Kurdish archeologist Hasan Ahmed Qasim said in a press release.

July 7, 2019 05:01
2 minute read.

The ancient citadel of Amedy in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq was once home to a large Jewish community. Even today residents speak of ancient Jewish holy graves. (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)

What is believed to be a 3,400 year-old ancient palace, known as Kemume, has been discovered in a depleted reservoir in the Kurdistan region of Iraq on the banks of the Tigris River, according to a CNN Travel report.

The discovery was made possible due to a drought the region has been facing throughout the dry season in the country, which has brought the reservoir down to exhausted water levels.

Levels that were low enough for the team of Kurdish-German researchers responsible for the discovery to spot the ancient palace from above, sparking further excavations around the depleted reservoir, in order to gain a deeper understanding of the empire and civilizations that occupied this palace and Iraq during times of antiquity.

The palace is believed to have belonged to members of the Mittani Empire, according to the CNN report. The Mittani Empire, according to the researchers, is one of the least known empires in ancient Iraq - in this case, the find holds certain significance in understanding the empire and the region's deep cultural history.

"The find is one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the region in recent decades," Kurdish archaeologist Hasan Ahmed Qasim said in a press release.

Kemume was located a mere 65 feet from the Tigris located on an "elevated terrace" overlooking the river. The structure, according to Ivana Puljiz, a researcher from the University of Tübingen's Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies, is made out of mud and brick, with walls nearly two meters thick and high, some found with paintings on them still preserved.

"Discovering wall paintings in Kemune is an archaeological sensation," Puljiz said in a press release.

"Kemune is only the second site in the region where wall paintings of the Mittani period have been discovered," she told CNN in an email.

The researchers discovered ten clay cuneiform tablets, an ancient system of writing invented by the Sumerians, believed to be one of the earliest writing systems. These tablets are now being sent back to Germany to be studied by translation experts familiar with ancient texts.

"From the texts we hope to gain information on the inner structure of the Mittani empire, its economic organization, and the relationship of the Mittani capital with the administrative centers in the neighboring regions," Puljiz told CNN.

According to the CNN report, the archaeologists first discovered the site in 2010 when the reservoir experienced low levels of water during the dry season of that year. However, excavations were only made possible this year when the drought brought the water levels even lower than nine years before. But once excavated, the site unfortunately resubmerged and Pujilz told CNN she is "unclear when it will emerge again" for future excavations.

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