The water shortage that has hit Iraq in the last year had never been as rough for a century. In 2018, the government had to ban the crops too intensive irrigation. The cattle died of thirst were counted in thousands. Only good news in the midst of this distress: an archaeological discovery of the first importance, made possible by the drought. German archaeologists of the university of Tübingen and the Organization of archaeology of the Kurdistan region have unearthed the ruins of a palace from the bronze age, located Kemune, on the eastern shores of the Tigris. Until last year, the building had remained submerged. According to experts, it dates from the kingdom of Mittani, between the Fifteenth and the Fourteenth century before J.-C.

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The building is located only twenty meters from the coast east of the Tigris. It is supported by brick walls over two metres thick and measuring up to seven metres high. University of Tübingen

“In the region, this discovery is one of the most important of recent decades, says the archaeologist Hasan Ahmed Qasim in a press release published on 27 June. We identified for the first time the site of Kemune in 2010 when the reservoir of the dam of Mosul was almost to sec.” In the fall of 2018, because of the harsh drought, the places have become accessible and the excavations could be undertaken. Since the mid-1980s, the area was submerged because of the construction of the dam.

The building is located only twenty metres from the eastern bank of the Tigris. It is supported by brick walls over two metres thick and measuring up to seven metres high. Especially, “we also found traces of mural paintings in light colors red and blue, probably very widespread in the second millennium before our era,” explains Ivana Puljiz, from the university of Tübingen. “It is rare to find so well preserved”, says she. Close to the palace, remnants of a city have also been identified.

Decrypt tablets to understand a kingdom

inside of the eight rooms excavated, the archaeological team has put the hand on another treasure: ten clay tablets covered with cuneiform writing, the oldest after the egyptian hieroglyphs. The specialist German Betina Faist is currently working on their translation. These tablets could provide an invaluable lighting on the economics, politics, and the functioning of society: the civilization of the Mittani, civilization very little is known by historians. It reigned in the north of Mesopotamia and part of Syria in the Sixteenth and Fourteenth century before J.-C. “The empire of Mittani, one of the oldest in the middle East, is also one of those that we know least,” says Ivana Puljiz. Something to give reason to the archaeologist Alain Schnapp, who told the Figaro that”in archaeology, everything is still in front of us”.

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