Ancient Bronze Age city of significant size discovered in northern Iraq


While conflict rages on along the borders of autonomous Kurdistan, history takes its own course in the region laden with ancient Mesopotamian and Syrian legacy. To that end, researchers from the Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES) at the University of Tübingen have uncovered a significantly large Bronze Age city in proximity to the present-day town of Dohuk in northern Iraq. Comprising what is now the small Kurdish village of Bassetki, the settlement was probably founded some time in 3000 BC, and thrived for over 1,200 years. Incredibly enough, few of the layers of this ancient city date from the Akkadian Empire period (2340-2200 BC), thus alluding to its governance within the framework of the world’s ‘oldest known empire’.

In collaboration with the Directorate of Antiquities in Dohuk, excavation works conducted between August and October of this year revealed the substantial scope of the Bronze Age city. In that regard, the archaeologists were able to identify a system of defensive walls (erected circa 2700 BC) that protected the upper area of the settlement from invaders. The rise of urban culture is further mirrored by the construction of large stone structures from 1800 BC. But arguably most importantly, the researchers were also successful in uncovering fragments of Assyrian cuneiform tablets (dating from 1300 BC), thus hinting at the existence of a temple complex dedicated to Mesopotamian weather god Adad.


As for the infrastructural scale of this settlement, geomagnetic resistance measurements have revealed that a dedicated road network connected the town, which alludes to the importance of the city in a region linking Mesopotamia and Anatolia. Analysis of the internal ruins have also confirmed that the city was divided into residential districts and posh localities, while being complemented on the architectural level by a palatial complex from the Bronze Age. Moreover, archaeologists had also discovered a cemetery compound located just outside the city walls.

Now as we fleetingly mentioned in our first paragraph, the Bassetki excavation site in itself (previously known for its bronze figure of the Akkadian god-king Naram-Sin) is close enough to the ‘shadow’ of the current Iraqi conflict, with its location being just around 45 miles from ISIL-controlled territory. However the researchers are quite confident of their own safety. Professor Peter Pfälzner, Director of the Department of Near Eastern Archaeology at the IANES, made it clear –

The protection of our employees is always our top priority. Despite the geographical proximity to IS [Islamic State], there’s a great deal of security and stability in the Kurdish autonomous areas in Iraq.


And the good news for archaeology enthusiasts is that in yet another project, Pfälzner’s team has been able to painstakingly identify at least 300 previously unknown sites in the area surrounding Bassetki (and even extending till Turkish and Syrian borders). The related on-site excavations and research works are expected to commence from 2017. As Pfälzner said –

The area around Bassetki is proving to be an unexpectedly rich cultural region, which was located at the crossroads of communication ways between the Mesopotamian, Syrian and Anatolian cultures during the Bronze Age. We’re therefore planning to establish a long-term archaeological research project in the region in conjunction with our Kurdish colleagues.


Source: University of Tübingen (Press Release) / All Images Credit: P. Pfälzner

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