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Submerged Mittani-Empire era-city reappears during drought

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Submerged Mittani-Empire era-city reappears during drought
Archaeologists and workers excavate the walls of a large building in the ancient city, which apparently was a storage building from the time of the Mittani Empire. Photo courtesy of Universities of Freiburg and Tübingen, KAO.

May 31 (UPI) -- A 3,400-year-old city believed to be central to the Mittani Empire re-emerged from the Tigris River earlier this year due to extreme drought in Iraq, scientists said Tuesday.

A team of Kurdish archaeologists from the Kurdistan Archaeology Organization and German archaeologists from the University of Freiburg and University of Tübingen excavated and documented large parts of the extensive city, a University of Freiburg press release said.

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The release noted that Iraq, especially the southern part of the country, was affected by climate change-induced extreme drought for months, which led to large amounts of water being drawn out from the Mosul reservoir since December to prevent crops from drying out.

The drop in water levels led to the resurfacing of the Bronze Age city located at Kemune in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq that had been submerged decades ago.

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Scientists analyzed the Bronze Age city in collaboration with the Directorate of Antiquities and Heritage in the Duhok (Kurdistan Region of Iraq) in January and February before it re-submerged as waters rose again, according to the release.

They uncovered along with a palace, which had been previously documented in 2018, "several other large buildings--a massive fortification with walls and towers, a monumental, multi-story storage building and an industrial complex," the release said.

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The urban center uncovered dated back to the time of the Empire of Mittani (from approximately 1550-1350 B.C.), which controlled large parts of northern Mesopotamia and Syria, it noted.

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"The huge magazine building is of particular importance because enormous quantities of goods must have been stored in it, probably brought from all over the region," German archaeologist Dr. Ivana Puljiz, a professor at the University of Frieburg, said in the release.

Kurdish archaeologist Dr. Hasan Ahmed Qasim, chairman of the KAO, added that "the excavation results show that the site was an important center in the Mittani Empire."

Scientists also noted they were surprised by the state of the well-preserved state of the walls despite the fact that they were made of sun-dried mud bricks and underwater for decades.

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They believe that the walls were preserved because collapsing upper parts of the walls buried the buildings when an earthquake destroyed the city around 1350 B.C.

Researchers also discovered ceramic vessels with an archive of 100 cuneiform tablets, which were clay tablets used for writing during the early Bronze Age, including one tablet still in its original clay envelope.

They said that they hoped the discovery would provide important information about the end of the Mittani-period city.

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The excavated buildings were covered with tight-fitting plastic sheeting and gravel fill to conserve them under a project funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation, and the site is now completely resubmerged, the statement noted.

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