Baghdad — British archaeologists have discovered a previously unknown palace or temple near the ancient city of Ur in the first foreign excavation at the site in southern Iraq since the 1930s.
A small team of archaeologists working from satellite images hinting at a buried structure have uncovered the corner of a monumental complex with rows of rooms around a large courtyard, believed to be about 4,000 years old.
“The size is breathtaking,” says Jane Moon, a University of Manchester archaeologist who heads the expedition. Ms. Moon says the walls of the structure are almost nine feet thick, indicating that the building was of great importance or indicated great wealth.
The discovery is even more significant because of its location more than 10 miles from Ur, on what would then have been the banks of the Euphrates River — the first major archaeological find that far from the city. Read more.
The Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities on Monday (February 18th) announced it has authorized six foreign teams to start archaeological excavations at a number of ancient sites.
“As part of its work programme for the current year, the ministry has reached agreements with six archaeological teams from Italy, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic,” Hakim al-Shammary, director of the tourism minister’s media office, told Mawtani.
The teams will begin excavations at a number of sites, particularly in the south, he said.
“Among the sites to be excavated are ancient hills such as Tal Abu Tuwaira in the city of al-Nasiriya, Tal al-Baqarat in al-Kut and Tal Abu Shathar in Maysan province, as well as other sites in al-Dalmaj marshes,” he said. Read more.
KUT, Iraq - Iraqi archaeologists have found 66 gold coins that are at least 1,400 years old, officials said on Monday, adding that they hope to put them on display in Baghdad’s National Museum.
The artefacts, which date back to the Sassanid era that extended from 225 BC to 640 AD, will be sent for laboratory tests in order to confirm their authenticity.
They were discovered in the town of Aziziyah, which lies 70 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of Baghdad in Wasit province, according to Hassanian Mohammed Ali, director of the provincial antiquities department.
The coins bore drawings of a king or god and depicted flames, he said. Read more.
Indiana Jones practiced archaeology with a bull whip and fedora. Joseph Greene and Adam Aja are using another unlikely tool — a 3-D printer.
Greene and Aja work at Harvard University’s Semitic Museum, using 3-D printers and 3-D scanning software to recreate a ceramic lion that was smashed 3,000 years ago when Assyrians attacked the ancient Mesopotamian city of Nuzi, located in modern day Iraq.
Using a process called photomodeling, the Harvard team photographed sculpture fragments in the museum’s collection from hundreds of angles to create 3-D renderings of each piece, then meshed them together to form a semi-complete 3-D model of the original artifact. They compared the digital model to scans of full statues found in the same location, noting the gaps and creating the missing pieces and support structures out of 3-D printed parts and CNC carved foam. Read more.
After nearly a century away, Harvard archaeology has returned to Iraq.
Jason Ur, the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, earlier this year launched a five-year archaeological project—the first such Harvard-led endeavor in the war-torn nation since the early 1930s—to scour a 3,200-square-kilometer area around Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, for signs of ancient cities and towns, canals, and roads.
Already, Ur said, the effort is paying massive dividends—with some 1,200 potential sites identified in just a few months, and potentially thousands more in the coming years.
“What we’re finding is that this is, hands down, the richest archaeological landscape in the Middle East,” Ur said. Read more.
Iraqi police have confiscated scores of artifacts and arrested two smugglers in the southern Province of Dhiqar, al-Zaman news reported on Monday.
The stolen items include rare statues and coins from different periods in Iraq’s ancient history.
The two smugglers in question have long been dealing in stolen relics.
One police source was quoted as saying on condition of anonymity: “Interior Ministry forces in coordination with the Iraqi army seized 64 archaeological pieces as well as 114 bronze coins in a district of al-Fajir.”
The province of Dhiqar holds some of the most archaeologically precious excavation mounds in Iraq. Its historical treasures have turned it into a hub for smugglers and illegal diggers. Read more.
BABYLON, Iraq (AP) — Nowadays it seems that Babylon just can’t catch a break.
Once the center of the ancient world, it has been despoiled in modern times by Saddam Hussein’s fantasies of grandeur, invading armies and village sprawl.
Now come two more setbacks for the city famous for its Hanging Gardens and Tower of Babel: Parts of its grounds have been torn up for an oil pipeline, and a diplomatic spat is hampering its bid for coveted UNESCO heritage status.
The pipeline was laid in March by Iraq’s Oil Ministry, overriding outraged Iraqi archaeologists and drawing a rebuke from UNESCO, the global guardian of cultural heritage.
Then Iraq’s tourism minister blocked official visits to the site by the World Monuments Fund, a New York-based group that is helping Babylon secure a World Heritage site designation after three rejections. Read more.
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Iraq said it is cutting archaeological cooperation with the United States because the U.S. has not returned Iraq’s Jewish archives.
Iraqi Tourism and Archaeology Minister Liwaa Smaisim is pushing for the return of the archives that were removed from Iraq following the 2003 U.S. Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the French news agency AFP.
Iraq was home to a large Jewish community prior to 1948 before most Iraqi Jews immigrated to Israel.
The archives, which were discovered in the flooded basement of Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, include Torah scrolls, and Jewish law and children’s books. Seventy percent of the collection consists of Hebrew-language documents and 25 percent is in Arabic. The rest of the documents are written in other languages. Read more.