Incredible 3,400-Year-Old Palace in Iraq Emerges After Reservoir Waters Recede From Drought

July 5, 2019 Updated: July 10, 2019

In the ancient country of Iraq, a recent drought caused water levels in the Mosul Dam reservoir to plummet last year, exposing some incredible remains from its remote past.

A palace some 3,400 years old was exposed to the world again, and researchers are thrilled at what the discovery could mean for historical research.

Along the Tigris River, the Mittani Empire was at the height of greatness from the 15th century to the 14th century BCE. They remain one of the least researched civilizations, though, so it was a brilliant stroke of luck that the Iraqi droughts revealed a massive, ancient palace from the last centuries of the empire’s reign.

The site, which is named Kemune, was discovered by researchers Dr. Hasan Ahmed Qasim and Dr. Ivana Puljiz. The structure once boasted walls 7 meters high and dozens of rooms containing cuneiform tablets and other artifacts that were remarkably well preserved under the waters.

The palace is believed to date back to the Bronze Age, and likely looked out over a city below during the last era of Mittani power prior to its ultimate dissolution around 1350 BCE.

When the Mosul Dam was built in the 1980s, the area flooded—leaving archaeologists no way to excavate the site and further their research into Mittani culture. The palace was revealed due to drought in 2010, but was only visible for a brief period before water levels rose once again.

This time around, the researchers are taking no chances.

A group of Kurdish and German archaeologists from the University of Tübingen’s Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies performed an emergency excavation on the site, hoping to reveal and document as much as possible before water levels reclaim the palace.

It’s believed to be as old as 3,400 years, with decades of usage that the archaeologists believe span two distinct periods.

Mittani culture is still shrouded in mystery, but what is known reveals a civilization that interacted as peers with the ancient Egyptians.

“We found remains of wall paints in bright shades of red and blue,” Puljiz said. “In the second millennium BCE, murals were probably a typical feature of palaces in the Ancient Near East, but we rarely find them preserved. Discovering wall paintings in Kemune is an archaeological sensation.”

Researchers have already begun to study the cuneiform tablets that were collected from the site, hoping that the texts will reveal even more secrets about a time in Iraqi history that very few know much about. For the historians who work tirelessly to piece together the history of the world, the discovery of the massive palace is practically a miracle.

“The Mittani Empire is one of the least researched empires of the Ancient Near East,” explained Puljiz in a press release. “Information on palaces of the Mittani 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 Mittani Empire has not been identified beyond doubt.”

With the information they find now, all of that could change.

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