Drought also uncovers Mesopotamian archaeological treasures
By Rania Zanoun and Amer Hamid
Damascus, Baghdad, Sep 6 (EFE).- The descent of the waters of rivers and reservoirs has uncovered archaeological treasures in the basins of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers as they pass through Iraq and Syria, the cradle of several of the world’s oldest civilizations and scenes of persistent drought in recent years.
In other parts of the world, the drop in the level of rivers and reservoirs has exposed Iberian villages in Spain, Buddhist statues in China or dinosaur footprints in the United States. In the area of Mesopotamia, one of the most affected by climate change and drought, unexpected archaeological treasures are also reappearing.
The decline in the flow of the Euphrates has uncovered several archaeological sites in northern Syria, including some cemeteries, belonging to historical periods dating back 11 millennia and that were submerged under the waters of the Al Asad reservoir, built at the beginning of the 1970s.
Among these sites, the one on the hill of Tel Qamluq stands out, where several sites from the third and fourth millennium BC arose, Mohamed Nazeer Awad, Syrian Antiquities and Museums general director, told EFE.
Awad said his department had no direct access to these findings, since they are in an area controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance made up mainly of Kurdish Syrians who, as a result of the armed conflict that began in 2011, has proclaimed an autonomous administration in the northern and northeastern part of the country.
But he said they have received reports and images from technicians and archaeologists in the region.
The deposits had already been explored before the reservoir was filled in the framework of an international campaign to save the heritage that was going to be covered by the waters after the construction of the dam.
With the retreat of the flooded area, the site of Tel Meribet has also emerged, with remains from the ninth millennium BC and where what is historically considered the first Syrian wall in the area was built, some 11,000 years old.
More surprising is the city that has emerged in Iraqi Kurdistan, on the banks, enlarged by the scarcity of water, of the reservoir of the Mosul dam.
This is the city of Zajiko, an important cultural center of the ancient Mitanni kingdom, which developed between 1550 BC and 1350 BC.
In Iraq, the drought has lasted three years, amid accusations from Baghdad to the countries in the basin of its two main rivers, mainly Turkey – where both the Euphrates and the Tigris are born – and Iran – where the Karun, an important tributary of the Tigris, comes from – of not complying with the agreements regarding water quotas.
Bex al Brefkani, director of Antiquities and Heritage of the Kurdish-Iraqi province of Dohuk, told EFE that Zajiko, mentioned in ancient Babylonian texts but whose exact location was unknown, resurfaced from the waters for the first time in 2018. The receding waters allowed the discovery last year of many parts of the city.
Among them are two-story residential and administrative buildings, a place for metal foundry, large walls up to six meters wide and towers.
In addition, multiple brick walls, seals, ceramics, cuneiform texts and a section of walls of a building with remains of their original color have been found in this archaeological site returned by the reservoir about three kilometers from the town of Komuna.
The level of the reservoir is allowing excavations to be carried out at the site supervised by the Directorate of Iraqi Kurdish Antiquities and Heritage in Dohuk and the German universities of Tübingen and Freiburg. EFE