Archaeologists Discover Remains of 4,500-Year-Old Lost Palace in Iraq –

Archaeologists have discovered the 4,500-year-old remains of a lost palace from the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu in southern Iraq.

Researchers from The Girsu Project used technology and drone photography to identify the subsurface remains of a previously unknown large complex at the archaeology site Tablet Hill in the modern Iraqi city of Tello. Tablet Hill had been damaged by excavations during the 19th century and conflict in the 20th century.

During a press conference at the Iraq embassy in London on Friday, Tablet Hill was described as the “cradle of civilization” and “one of the most important heritage sites in the world that very few people know about.” This is due to Girsu’s status as one of the earliest known cities in the world. Sumerians also invented writing, and established the first cities and first codes of law between 3,500 and 2,000 BCE, making them one of the first civilizations in the ancient world.

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Aerial view of the Bricknell archaeological dig in Miami, Florida, 2023.

Last fall at Tablet Hill, mudbrick walls were identified and more than 200 cuneiform tablets with ancient Sumerian writing were found in spoil heaps, piles of material discarded from previous excavations during the 19th century. The tablets, detailing the administrative records of Girsu, were rescued and taken to the Iraq Museum in Bagdad.

Archaeologists also discovered the Eninnu temple, the main sanctuary of the Sumerian god Ningirsu, the namesake of the ancient city. The Temple of the White Thunderbird was one of the most important of the historical region of Mesopotamia. Prior to its recent discovery, the temple was only known by ancient inscriptions found at the fieldwork site 140 years ago.

The discovery was made through a multi-year joint initiative between Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage and the British Museum, with funding from the J. Paul Getty Trust and Museum. According to a press statement, the project specifically “addresses the damage caused by early excavations and modern looting” through site management and the field training of archaeology students and conservators in Iraq.

During the press conference on Friday, Girsu project director Dr. Sebastien Rey told the PA news agency how the discovery finally made him feel validated.

“I remember when I started in 2016 no-one believed me,” he said. “I went to international conferences and everyone basically told me, ‘Oh no you’re making it up you’re wasting your time you’re wasting British museum UK government funding’ – that’s what they were telling me.

I had other supporters and people who believed in this project and so we just persevered.

“Of course, there was the research element and also the training, even if we had not discovered the temple it still would have been an amazing experience but the cherry on the cake was the temple.”

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