Archaeologists launched a spontaneous rescue excavation after a reservoir dried up to reveal a 3,500-year-old palace.
Mosul Dam was built in the mid 1980s, before archaeologists could examine the ancient site, but a drought caused the water to recede and made the remains of the city accessible.
Archaeologists were able to launch a rescue excavation of the palace, which stands on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
The excavation was headed by Dr. Hasan Ahmed Qasim and Dr. Ivana Puljiz as a joint project between the University of Tübingen and the Kurdistan Archaeology Organization in cooperation with the Duhok Directorate of Antiquities.
A press release from the University of Tübingen explains the site, named Kemune, can be dated to the time of the Mittani Empire, which dominated large parts of northern Mesopotamia and Syria from the 15th to the 14th century BCE. It is one of the least researched kingdoms of the Ancient Near East.
During the excavation archaeologists discovered several rooms, inscribed clay tablets and wall paintings.
Speaking of the project, Dr. Qasim said:
The find is one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the region in recent decades and illustrates the success of the Kurdish-German cooperation.
We discovered the site of Kemune already in 2010 when the dam had low water levels; even at that time we found a Mittani cuneiform tablet and saw remains of wall paintings in red and blue. But we couldn’t excavate here until now.
Researchers are hoping the newly discovered tablets will offer more information about the politics, economy and history of the empire.
Ivana Puljiz, of the Tübingen Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies, reports the site shows a carefully designed building with massive interior mud-brick walls up to two meters thick.
The palace ruins are preserved to a height of around seven meters and Puljiz explained two phases of usage are visible, indicating the building was in use for a very long time.
Piljiz spoke about the findings, explaining:
We have also found remains of wall paintings in bright shades of red and blue.
In the second millennium BCE, murals were probably a typical feature of palaces in the Ancient Near East, but we rarely find them preserved. So discovering wall paintings in Kemune is an archaeological sensation.
Dr. Qasim added how information on palaces of the Mittani Period is limited, making the find one of great importance.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.