Archaeologists have discovered a 3,300-year-old city beneath a mound in northern Iraq. The city, called Idu, is located along the northern bank of the lower Zab River in the country’s Kurdistan region.
Researchers first found the site in 2008, but excavations didn't start until 2010, mostly because of political instability in the region. The findings were reported in the latest edition of Anatolica, LiveScience reports.
Idu thrived in the period from 3,300 to 2,900 years ago, archaeologists say. Its remains are part of a mound that sits atop a newly uncovered kingdom called Tell Qarqur, located 32 feet above ground, the Press Trust of India reports.
The city first fell under the control of the Assyrian Empire when it administered the surrounding territory. During the empire’s decline, Idu gained independence for 140 years until it was reconquered by the Assyrians.
Cuneiform inscriptions unearthed at the site shed light on the time when Idu was independent. A bearded sphinx drawn on a glazed brick bears the inscription: "Palace of Ba'auri, king of the land of Idu, son of Edima, also king of the land of Idu."
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There are also traces of palaces built during the Assyrian Empire. A glazed plaque with a palmette, pomegranates and zigzag patterns has a partial inscription that reads, "Palace of Assurnasirpal, (king of the land of Assur)."
Other artifacts have cultural underpinnings. A 2,600-year-old cylinder displayed a mythical scene with an archer crouching before a griffon along with symbols of a lunar crescent, a solar disc for the sun god and a rhomb.
"The image of the crouching hero with the bow is typical for warrior gods," Cinzia Pappi, an archaeologist at the Universität Leipzig in Germany, told LiveScience. "The most common of these was the god Ninurta, who also played an important role in the [Assyrian] state religion, and it is possible that the figure on the seal is meant to represent him."
While the artifacts date back to ancient times, signs of modern warfare are also apparent, Pappi said. In 1987 Saddam Hussein led a campaign against the Kurds and burnt the modern-day village. “Traces of this attack are still visible," Pappi said.
More digs are necessary to uncover more of the ancient city, but for now that doesn’t look promising. Researchers will need approval from both the local government and village residents before they can start another excavation.
"For wide-scale excavations to continue, at least some of these houses will have to be removed," Pappi said. "Unfortunately, until a settlement is reached between the villagers and the Kurdistan regional government, further work is currently not possible."