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150 new archaeological sites found in Iraqi Kurdistan

150 new archaeological sites have been found during the 2016 campaign of the Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project (LoNAP) carried out by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Assyria (IAMA) of the University of Udine.

150 new archaeological sites found in Iraqi Kurdistan
The sequence of sediments of the 20,000 year old lake bed 
[Credit: University of Udine]
The Project, directed by professor Daniele Morandi Bonacossi, began in 2012 and has led to the discovery of 982 archaeological sites - ranging from prehistoric times (dating from at least half a million years ago) to the more recent Ottoman villages (until 1900 AD) - in an area of 3,000 square kilometres in Iraqi Kurdistan over the last five years.

During the course of this year's campaign, geoarchaeological and paleoenvironmental investigations led to the discovery of a Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene lake-bed about 20,000 years old in the Dohuk region.

150 new archaeological sites found in Iraqi Kurdistan
Neolithic obsidian blades, 8,000-7,000 BC 
[Credit: University of Udine]
"The study of the sediments and of the ancient pollen they contain will provide important data on the evolution of the environment as a result of both natural and man-made causes", says Andrea Zerboni, geoarchaeologist from the University of Milan, who is collaborating with the Udine mission.

The search for prehistoric settlements along the banks of the lake has turned up numerous caves, shelters and open-air sites, as well as three new mines for the extraction of flint along with hundreds of flint and obsidian tools (5th and 4th Millennium BC), demonstrating the fundamental importance of the Dohuk region for our understanding of the prehistory of northern Mesopotamia.

150 new archaeological sites found in Iraqi Kurdistan
Cores and flints, 4,000-3,000 BC 
[Credit: University of Udine]
The research by the University of Udine archaeologists, aided by specialists from the universities of Milan and Rome 'La Sapienza' for the reconstruction of the prehistoric and natural landscape, focused on the occupation of the region from between 1.8 million and 6-5 thousand years ago, from the lower Palaeolithic to the Chalcolithic.

As Cecilia Conati Barbaro from "La Sapienza" University and Marco Iamoni from the University of Udine explained: "The exceptional discovery of this mining system for flint extraction will help us understand the economic strategies, land-use and exchange networks of the proto-historic communities of the fifth and fourth millennium BC”.

150 new archaeological sites found in Iraqi Kurdistan
Flint mines, 4,000-3,000 BC [Credit: University of Udine]
The 2016 campaign also conducted two archaeological surveys along a little-known monumental and complex canal system stretching for almost 250 kilometres, built in the late eighth-early seventh centuries BC by the Assyrian king Sennacherib to bring water to Nineveh and its hinterland.

Valuable information was collected on the building techniques employed, the extent and maintenance of the canal system.

150 new archaeological sites found in Iraqi Kurdistan
Excavation of an Assyrian canal at Khinnis 
[Credit: University of Udine]
An ancient road, probably constructed during the Persian Age (fifth-fourth century BC), after the collapse of the Assyrian Empire in 612 BC (when the canal system was also abandoned), has been identified and partially brought to light at Jerwan.

Investigations by Udine archaeologists have also confirmed that the historic battle of Gaugamela, where Alexander the Great defeated the Persian king Darius III in 331 BC, took place in the plain of Navkur, in the centre of which lies the archaeological site of Tel Gomel.

150 new archaeological sites found in Iraqi Kurdistan
Ancient road probably built in the Persian period 
[Credit: University of Udine]
Topographical exploration reveals that the plain of Navkur has the precise geographical and topographical characteristics found in ancient descriptions of the plain of Gaugamela.

Indeed, Polish historian Michał Marciak from the University of Rzeszów believes he has identified the campsites of both the Persian and Macedonian armies.

150 new archaeological sites found in Iraqi Kurdistan
Tel Gomel, perhaps the site of the battle of Gaugamela 
[Credit: University of Udine]
The victory at Gaugamela allowed Alexander the Great’s conquest of Babylon, Susa, Persepolis and Ecbatana, capital of the Achaemenid Empire Dynasty (550-331 BC).

"This battle", explains Morandi Bonacossi, "has always captured the attention of scholars because, in fact, it marks the beginning of the Hellenistic age and Alexander the Great’s global empire that united the East and West between India and the Mediterranean”.

150 new archaeological sites found in Iraqi Kurdistan
One of the two damaged Neo-Assyrian rock-reliefs 
[Credit: University of Udine]
Finally, the University of Udine team has restored two damaged rock reliefs of the neo-Assyrian period (eighth-seventh centuries BC) in the region of Dohu, 60 kilometres from Mosul.

Two new archaeological excavations will be undertaken at the Asingrian and Tell Gomel sites in 2017 according to University of Udine Project.

Another fundamental objective will be the creation of an archaeological and environmental park and the definition of the perimetres of the protected areas with archaeological restrictions.

Source: University of Udine [November 26, 2016]

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