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US News 'Extremely rare’ Assyrian carvings discovered in Iraq

05:50  18 january  2020
05:50  18 january  2020 Source:   nationalgeographic.com

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In the eighth century B.C., Assyrian King Sargon II ruled over a wealthy and powerful empire that included much of today’s Middle East and inspired fear among its neighbors. Now a team of Italian and Iraqi Kurdish archaeologists working in northern Iraq have uncovered ten stone reliefs that adorned a

Archaeologists discovered these inscriptions and more between 1987 and 1992, but because of political conflict in the region, they weren’t able to complete and The inscriptions describe the rule of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon. They describe his family history and a first-person account, saying “I

a pile of rocks: Ancient reliefs rarely found outside of palaces depict a procession of Assyrian gods, including the main deity Assur and his consort Mullissu, standing on lions, dragons, and other animals. © Photograph by Isabella Finzi Contini

Ancient reliefs rarely found outside of palaces depict a procession of Assyrian gods, including the main deity Assur and his consort Mullissu, standing on lions, dragons, and other animals.

In the eighth century B.C., Assyrian King Sargon II ruled over a wealthy and powerful empire that included much of today’s Middle East and inspired fear among its neighbors. Now a team of Italian and Iraqi Kurdish archaeologists working in northern Iraq have uncovered ten stone reliefs that adorned a sophisticated canal system dug into bedrock. The surprising find of such beautifully crafted carvings—typically found only in royal palaces—sheds light on the impressive public works supported by a leader better known for his military prowess.

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The discovery of a previously unknown temple and possible palace entrance, dating back to the Assyrian period and probably carved in the 5th or 6th century BC, is a rare piece of British Museum experts in touch with their colleagues in Iraq led by Saleh Noman – who was in the first group of Iraqi

Archaeologists discovered these inscriptions and more between 1987 and 1992, but because of political conflict in the region, they weren't able to complete and The inscriptions describe the rule of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon. They describe his family history and a first-person account, saying "I

“Assyrian rock reliefs are extremely rare monuments,” said Daniele Morandi Bonacossi, an archaeologist at Italy’s University of Udine, who co-led the recent expedition. With one exception, no such panels have been found in their original location since 1845. “And it is highly probable that more reliefs, and perhaps also monumental celebratory cuneiform inscriptions, are still buried under the soil debris that filled the canal.”

The site near the town of Faida, close to the border with Turkey, has been largely closed to researchers for a half century due to modern conflict. In 1973 a British team noted the tops of three stone panels, but tensions between Kurds and the Baathist regime in Baghdad prevented further work. An expedition led by Morandi Bonacossi returned in 2012 and found six more reliefs. The subsequent invasion by ISIS again halted research efforts; the battle line between the Islamic State and Kurdish forces lay less than 20 miles away until the Muslim fundamentalists were defeated in 2017. 

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Additionally, Marf Zamua analyzed an ancient carving of Musasir, discovered in the 19th century at Khorsabad. The carving , he found, shows hillside houses with three windows on the second floor and a doorway on the ground floor. Such a design can still be seen today in some villages, the bottom floor

Construction workers accidentally discovered a vaulted tomb dating back to the time of the Assyrian Empire in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Tombs similar to the one found in Erbil have also been discovered in the capital cities built by the Assyrians , such as Nimrud, said Dishad Marf Zamua, a

a group of people riding skis on a snowy mountain: Archaeologists uncovered the stone reliefs while excavating an ancient canal in northern Iraq. The art likely honors the canal's patron, Assyrian King Sargon II. © Photograph by Alberto Savioli

Archaeologists uncovered the stone reliefs while excavating an ancient canal in northern Iraq. The art likely honors the canal's patron, Assyrian King Sargon II.

This past autumn, Morandi Bonacossi and Hasan Ahmed Qasim from Iraq Kurdistan’s Dohuk department of antiquities catalogued a total of ten reliefs set along the banks of an ancient four-mile-long canal. The scene they portray is unique, according to the Italian archaeologist.

The panels display a king—who the archaeologists believe is Sargon II—observing a procession of Assyrian gods, including the main deity Ashur riding on a dragon and a horned lion, with his consort Mullissu on a lion-supported throne. Among the other figures is Ishtar, goddess of love and war, the sun god Shamash, and Nabu, god of wisdom. Archaeologists suspect that such images emphasized to passersby that fertility comes from divine as well as earthly power.

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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. 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

Assyrian rock reliefs are extremely rare monuments. With the sole exception of the Mila Mergi stela, the last reliefs discovered in Iraq were made know to international scholarship almost two centuries ago – in 1845 – by the French Consul in Mosul Simon Rouet, who identified the reliefs in Khinis and

“The reliefs suggest that politically charged scenes of royal power and its divine legitimacy might have been commonplace,” said Harvard University archaeologist Jason Ur, who is researching ancient water systems in the region. The discovery shows that these works of art were “not just in the imperial palaces but everywhere, even where farmers were extracting water from canals for their fields.” 

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The canal skirts a nearby range of hills and was fed by limestone springs. Branches off the waterway provided extensive irrigation for barley, wheat, and other crops. The fields would have helped feed the 100,000 or more residents of Nineveh, then one of the largest cities in the world. The ruins of this vast metropolis lay some 60 miles to the south, across the Tigris River from today’s city of Mosul.

Sargon II ruled over what historians call the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which dominated the region from 911 B.C. until its destruction in 609 B.C. at the hands of Persians and Babylonians. As the first army to use iron weapons, the Assyrians developed advanced military techniques to overwhelm their enemies.

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The Assyrian exodus from Iraq refers to the mass flight and expulsion of ethnic Assyrians from Iraq , a process which was initiated from the beginning of Iraq War in 2003 and continues to this day. Leaders of Iraq 's Assyrian community estimate that over two-thirds of the Iraqi Assyrian population may

Construction workers accidentally discovered a vaulted tomb dating back to the time of the Assyrian Empire in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Eight other skeletons were found on the ground around the tomb, said Goran M. Amin, director of the survey department at the Directorate of Antiquities.

When Sargon seized the throne in 721 B.C., he immediately conquered the rebellious northern kingdom of Israel and forcibly relocated thousands of captives. The Bible mentions that he overwhelmed the coastal city of Ashdod, and archaeologists recently found a hastily built wall around the settlement that failed to ward off the threat. The southern kingdom of Judah avoided Israel’s fate by becoming a vassal state.

a man riding on top of a dirt hill: Some 2,700 years ago the canal provided water to local farms that helped supply food to the teeming city of Nineveh, ancient capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. © Photograph by Alberto Savioli

Some 2,700 years ago the canal provided water to local farms that helped supply food to the teeming city of Nineveh, ancient capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

Sargon’s military victories continued across Anatolia and the western Iranian plateau. At home, he constructed a new capital outside Nineveh at Dur Sharrukin, which means “Sargon’s fortress,” but little else is known of his non-military exploits. The Faida panels, the archaeologists say, point to extensive royal support for improving lands near the Assyrian heartlands.

Sargon’s son Sennacherib expanded this network and built what may be the world’s oldest aqueduct, a structure crossing a river near Nineveh that employed stone arches and waterproof cement. “Over steep-sided valleys I spanned an aqueduct of white limestone blocks; I made those waters flow over it,” he boasted in an inscription.

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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 Additionally, Marf Zamua analyzed an ancient carving of Musasir, discovered in the 19th century at Khorsabad.

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Oxford University archaeologist Stephanie Dalley has argued that the fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon actually were built in Nineveh to take advantage of the plentiful water pumped into the city. Though that thesis is controversial, Ur and other researchers say that scholars have underestimated Assyrian technological expertise off the battlefield.

Illustration of a series of vector drawings for the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Hanging Gardens of Babylon © ArtMari/REX/Shutterstock Illustration of a series of vector drawings for the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The expedition itself used advanced technologies, including laser scanning and digital photogrammetry, to record every detail of the stone panels and their context. A drone provided high-resolution aerial photos that will allow researchers to map the entire canal network.

But the precious remains of Sargon’s patronage are “strongly threatened by vandalism, illegal excavations, and the expansion of the nearby village,” warned Morandi Bonacossi. One of the reliefs, he added, was damaged by a would-be looter last May. Another panel was battered when a farmer expanded a stable. And in 2018 a modern aqueduct was cut through the ancient canal.

The ultimate goal, he said, is to create an archaeological park that includes other rock reliefs, and to win UNESCO World Heritage Site protection for the entire hydraulic system constructed by several Assyrian rulers a full five centuries before the Romans arrived.

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