Ancient palace emerges from Iraqi reservoir after water levels fall

An ancient palace has emerged from an Iraqi reservoir after water levels dropped precipitously because of a drought.

A lack of rain and the release of water through the Mosul Dam to relieve dry conditions has led to the Mittani Empire site being revealed.

The site was flooded when the Mosul Dam was built in the mid-1980s before archaeologists were able to examine it.

Because of the conditions, a team from Germany and Iraqi Kurdistan have been able to perform an archaeological dig – discovering several rooms, inscribed clay tablets and wall paintings.

Cuneiform writing on one of the tablets indicates the palace site, called Kemune, dates to the Middle Bronze Age, about 1800 BC.

Kurdish archaeologist Hasan Ahmed Qasim said: “The find is one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the region in recent decades.

“We discovered the site… in 2010 when the dam had low water levels… but we couldn’t excavate here until now.”

Ivana Puljiz of the Tübingen Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies added: “We have also found remains of wall paintings in bright shades of red and blue.

“In the second millennium (BC), 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 are an archaeological sensation.

“The Mittani Empire is one of the least researched empires of the Ancient Near East.

“Information on palaces of the Mittani Period is so far only available from Tell Brak in Syria and from the cities of Nuzi and Alalakh, both located on the periphery of the empire. Even the capital of the Mittani Empire has not been identified beyond doubt.”

Examination of one of the tablets suggests Kemune is probably the ancient city of Zakhiku, which is mentioned in one Ancient Near Eastern source.

It would mean the city must have existed for at least 400 years. The archaeologists say future text finds will hopefully show whether the identification is correct.

At its height, a monumental terrace wall of mud-bricks was built against the palace’s western front to stabilise the sloping terrain.

The palace stood on an elevated terrace above the valley, only 20m (66ft) from what was then the eastern bank of the Tigris River.

Experts say the palace must have been an impressive sight.

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