Home Sciences A 3,400-year-old city emerges from the depths of the Tigris River

A 3,400-year-old city emerges from the depths of the Tigris River


The extreme drought in Iraq has revealed the remains of an ancient city from the 14th century BC, which emerged unexpectedly when the flow of the Tigris River was reduced: archaeologists believe that it could be Zakhiku, a city that played a central role in the region now known as the Middle East.

A team of German and Kurdish archaeologists has discovered a city from the era of Mittani Empire, 3,400 years old, which was once located in an area now occupied by the Tigris River, in the Middle East. The settlement arose from the waters of the Mosul reservoir earlier this year, when levels fell rapidly due to intense drought in Iraq.

An entire city under water

According to a press release, the sprawling city with a palace and several monumental buildings could be the ancient lost city of Zakhiku, which would have been a nerve center of the Mittani Empire, between 1550 and 1350 BC, during the so-called Bronze Age. Specialists from the Kurdistan Archeology Organization, the University of Freiburg and the University of Tübingen, both from Germany, participated in the investigation.

The researchers quickly managed to map almost the entire city: in addition to a palace, which had already been documented during a short campaign in 2018, other buildings of a lavish character were discovered. Among them, stands out a massive fortification with walls and towers, a monumental storage building multi-storey building and an industrial complex.

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According to historical sources, the sprawling urban complex dates back to the time of the Mittani Empire, which controlled much of northern Mesopotamia and Syria between the 15th and 13th centuries BC. Mittani It was a state run by a military aristocracy, which arrived in the area around 1800 or 1700 BC, and which acquired great importance around the 17th century BC, due to its privileged location on the banks of the Orontes River and its strategic positioning between the Assyrian, Egyptian and Hittite empires.

A large warehouse and jars with crucial information

Scientists believe that the huge “warehouse” discovered is of particular importance, because huge amounts of merchandise must have been stored in this construction, probably brought from all over the region. The results of the excavation show that the site was an important center in the Mittani Empire, therefore it is very likely that the so-called archeological site of Kemune corresponds to the lost city of Zakhiku, which precisely fulfilled that function.

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A point in favor for future research is the good state of preservation of the walls, which are sometimes several meters high, despite the fact that they are made of sun-dried mud bricks and were under water for more than 40 years. . Proper conservation is due to the fact that the city was destroyed by an earthquake around 1350 BC: During the earthquake, the upper parts of the walls collapsed and buried the buildings.

In the same vein, the discovery of five ceramic vessels containing an archive of over 100 cuneiform tablets is another momentous finding. They date from the Middle Assyrian period, shortly after the earthquake destroyed the city. Some clay tablets, which may be letters, are still preserved in their original envelopes. The researchers hope that this discovery will provide vital information about the final stage of the city during the Mittani period and the beginning of Assyrian rule in the region.

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