An international team of archaeologists from Germany and Kurdistan came upon a surprising discovery as the ruins of a 3,400-year-old palace emerge from the waters of the Tigris River at the site of Kemune in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
“The find is one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the region in recent decades,” said Dr. Hasan Ahmed Qasim, an archaeologist with the Kurdistan Archaeology Organization.
“The Mitanni Empire is one of the least researched empires of the Ancient Near East,” said Dr. Ivana Puljiz, an archaeologist at the Tübingen Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Germany.
“Information on palaces of the Mitanni 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 Mitanni Empire has not been identified beyond doubt.”
“The site shows a carefully designed building with massive interior mud-brick walls up to 6.5 feet (2 m) thick. Some walls are more than 6.5 feet high and some of the rooms have plastered walls,” she added.
“We have also found remains of wall paintings in bright shades of red and blue.”
“In the 2nd millennium BCE, 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 is an archaeological sensation.”
In ancient times, the Kemune palace stood on an elevated terrace above the valley, only 65 feet (20 m) from what was then the eastern bank of the Tigris River.
In the Mitanni period, a monumental terrace wall of mud-bricks was built against the palace’s western front to stabilize the sloping terrain.
According to the team, the ruins of the palace are preserved to a height of about 23 feet (7 m).
“Two phases of usage are clearly visible, indicating that the building was in use for a very long time,” Dr. Puljiz said.
Inside the palace, the archaeologists identified several rooms and partially excavated eight of them. In some areas, they found large fired bricks which were used as floor slabs.
They also found 10 clay tablets with inscriptions in Mitanni cuneiform.
“One of the tablets indicates that Kemune was most probably the ancient city of Zakhiku, which is mentioned in one Ancient Near Eastern source as early as the Middle Bronze Age (1800 BCE),” they said.
“This indicates the city must have existed for at least 400 years. Future text finds will hopefully show whether this identification is correct.”
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