Drought Exposes 3,500-Year-Old Palace Belonging To The Mysterious Mittani Empire

A team of Kurdish and German archeologists has excavated a Bronze Age palace in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, one they say can be dated to the Mittani Empire 3,500 years ago.

"The find is one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the region in recent decades and illustrates the success of the Kurdish-German cooperation," Hasan Ahmed Qasim, an archaeologist involved in the dig, said in a press release.

The grand reveal took place after a drought caused water in a reservoir checked by the Mosul Dam to retreat, exposing the remains of an ancient building. This required an intensive effort to survey the site before the water returned and buried the remains (once again).

Within a short time-frame, the team was able to partially excavate eight of the 10 rooms - finding floor slabs made of fired bricks and murals painted with red and blue pigments.
The excavations on the shore of Mosul Dam; a room in Kemune Palace in which murals were found. University of Tübingen, eScience Center, and Kurdistan Archaeology Organization

"In the second millennium BCE, murals were probably a typical feature of palaces in the Ancient Near East, but we rarely find them preserved," Ivana Puljiz of the Tübingen Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES) explained.

These tablets are now being translated but the archaeologists have already said one suggests the site (Kemune) may, in fact, be the ancient city of Zakhiku. Zakhiku has been name-dropped in an Ancient Near Eastern source dating to 1,800 BCE. And so this new find, the archeologists say, suggests the city must have existed for 400 years or more. This, they hope, will be confirmed (or disproven) when more of the text is translated.

They say the palace would have once stood on an elevated terrace overlooking the valley and just 20 meters away from what was then the eastern bank of the Tigris River. The palace ruins are preserved to a height of some 7 meters. Two phases of usage are clearly visible, Puljiz says, indicating that the building was in use for a very long time.