A significant drop in water levels in the Mosul Reservoir in Iraq has re-exposed an ancient city called the “commune” – which sank underwater in the 1980s. It is estimated that this is a 3,400-year-old city from the Bronze Age, ruled by the Mitani Empire in 1550-1350 BC. The archeological site sank underwater after the Iraqi government built the Mosul Dam. Last January, a severe drought that hit Iraq brought the city back to the surface.
The archaeologists who worked at the site were astonished to discover fragments of buildings and ceramics, including over 100 clay pegs. “It’s close to a miracle that clay writing tablets made of clay have survived so many decades underwater,” said an archeology professor and one of the directors of the excavations. According to speculation, the finds are part of the ruins of an earthquake that took place at the site in 1350 BC and caused the collapse of walls that covered the buildings.
Fearing that the water level would rise again over the ancient city, a team of archaeologists from Kurdistan and Germany hurried to dig inside the water reservoir in the city of Mosul, along the Tigris River. “Because of the enormous time pressure, we dug in frozen temperatures,” said Ivana Polgeiz, a professor in the Department of Archeology at the University of Feiburg and one of the directors of the unique project. “The excavations took place in severe weather conditions such as snow, rain and storms – without knowing when the water level would rise again.”
“I am curious later to see what the study of the texts in cuneiform will reveal about the fate of the city and its inhabitants after the devastating earthquake.” Added Polgies. “All of the excavated artifacts, including the tablets, are in the Dohuk National Museum.” Fearing that the city would disappear again into the reservoir water, archaeologists covered the ruins with tight plastic sheets held in stone and gravel. Polgez hopes these measures will protect the ancient site from water erosion and prevent it from disappearing altogether.
This is not the first time that archeological finds from the Old City have been discovered. In 2018 the palace of the Assyrian Kingdom in the city surfaced, and other buildings were documented in a recent excavation. “The buildings are made of dried mud bricks that do not usually survive underwater,” the researchers claimed at the site.
Now, researchers estimate that the findings may provide new information about the city that was destroyed and the rise of the Assyrian regime that ruled the area at the time.