Life-size human statues and column bases from a long-lost temple dedicated to a supreme god have been discovered in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.
The discoveries date back over 2,500 years to the Iron Age, a time period when several groups — such as the Urartians, Assyrians and Scythians — vied for supremacy over what is now northern Iraq.
"I didn’t do excavation, just archaeological soundings —the villagers uncovered these materials accidentally," said Dlshad Marf Zamua, a doctoral student at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who began the fieldwork in 2005. Read more.
An ancient temple that featured in the film The Exorcist has fallen into the hands of jihadists who have taken over northern Iraq.
The pre-Christian worship complex at Hatra, a vast network of 70-metre sun-god temples that is a UNESCO world heritage site, features in the opening sequence of the 1973 horror classic.
It now lies in the territory claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), prompting fears that its stone statues could be destroyed as idolatrous images by the terrorists.
Already, ISIS fighters in the city of Mosul, 100 kilometres north-west of Hatra, have demolished a statue of Othman Al-Mousuli, a 19th-century Iraqi musician and composer, and a statue of Abu Tammam, an Abbasid-era Arab poet. Read more.
An enigmatic box from a bygone era, filled with pottery, seeds and animal bones, has been discovered in the University of Bristol’s Department of Archaeology and Anthropology. The box was found while researchers were emptying current laboratory spaces in preparation for the installation of a new state-of-the-art radiocarbon dating facility.
Index cards nestled amongst the objects in the box provided a clue to the origins of the material. Key words such as ‘Predynastic’, ‘Sargonid’, and ‘Royal Tombs’ suggested the remains came from the famous excavations by Sir Leonard Woolley in southern Iraq at the site of Ur during the 1920s and early 1930s.
The discovery is very exciting because environmental finds were rarely collected in this early period of archaeological fieldwork, especially from this part of the world. Read more.
Lamia al-Gailani pulls a folder of crumbling letters from a battered metal cabinet – part of what she considers the secret treasures of the Iraq Museum.
The cabinets hold archives from the beginnings of the venerable institution, established after World War I by Gertrude Bell, the famed British administrator, writer, and explorer. Hundreds of thousands of documents and photographs, neglected until now, hold the untold story of an emerging nation whose borders “Miss Bell” helped to draw.
“Wonderful isn’t it?” says Ms. Gailani, an archaeologist. She pulls out photographs of the Iraq pavilion at the 1938 Paris Expo and a yellowing, typewritten letter from 1921 confirming the appointment of Bell as honorary museum director. “People probably thought these archives don’t exist. These are treasures that no one knows about.” Read more.
Ur’s palaces and temples lie in ruins, but its hulking Ziggurat still dominates the desert flatlands of what is now southern Iraq, as it has for millennia.
Climbing the Ziggurat’s baked-brick stairway to its wind-scoured summit, you gaze over the royal cemetery excavated 90 years ago by Leonard Woolley, a Briton who recovered treasures rivalling those found in Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt in 1924.
Very little work has been done here since, but British archaeologists are now back in the area despite the insecurity in Iraq that had kept them - and all but the most adventurous tourists - away from one of the world’s oldest cities. Read more.
Cornell University is preparing to forfeit to Iraq a vast collection of ancient cuneiform tablets in what is expected to be one of the largest returns of antiquities by an American university.
The 10,000 inscribed clay blocks date from the 4th millenium BC and offer scholars an unmatched record of daily life in ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.
New York antiquities collector Jonathan Rosen and his family began donating and lending the tablets to Cornell in 2000. Many scholars have objected to the arrangement, suspecting the tablets were looted in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, which unleashed a wave of plundering in the archaeologically rich expanse of southern Iraq between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Read more.
Destroyed in the 90s relief in Gunduk, Iraq, dating from the mid-third millennium BC was, it seemed, lost to science. A few weeks ago, archaeologists from Poznań found relief fragments of which now will go to the museum in Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan.
"The reliefs were apparently destroyed in 1996. Group of treasure hunters from Turkey placed an explosive charge, the detonation of which was to open the way to treasures hidden behind the relief - explained Prof. Rafał Koliński of the Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. - Of course, there was no treasure. The damage, however, is enormous".
He added that from the first panel only the front part of ibex and spear presentation survived. The second relief was completely destroyed, and only the third escaped this fate, perhaps because - the scientist believes - it was carved at a distance from the first two presentations. Read more.
In the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq archaeologists have discovered an ancient city called Idu, hidden beneath a mound.
Cuneiform inscriptions and works of art reveal the palaces that flourished in the city throughout its history thousands of years ago.
Located in a valley on the northern bank of the lower Zab River, the city’s remains are now part of a mound created by human occupation called a tell, which rises about 32 feet (10 meters) above the surrounding plain. The earliest remains date back to Neolithic times, when farming first appeared in the Middle East, and a modern-day village called Satu Qala now lies on top of the tell. Read more.