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Iraq – Iraqi Kurdistan: Italian archaeologists discover a 20,000 year old lake

The remains of a dried-up lake dating back almost 20,000 years (late Pleistocene-early Holocene) have been discovered by the archaeologists of the University of Udine in the Dohuk region, in Iraqi Kurdistan. The finding occurred during the annual research campaign under the “Land of Nineveh Regional Archaeological Project” (PARTeN) and within the framework of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Assyria (MAIA). The PARTeN Project, directed by Daniele Morandi Bonacossi. kicked off in 2012 in partnership with local authorities. The archaeologists of the University of Udine’s Department of Human Studies and Cultural Heritage cooperate with the Directorate for Antiquities of Dohuk, directed by Hassan Ahmed Qasim. The PARTeN Project is financed by the Italian Cooperation Directorate, the Ministry of Education, University and Research, the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region, the University of Udine, the CRUP Foundation and by the Studio Giorgiutti and Associates. The project is also supported by the Italian Embassy in Baghdad and the Italian Consulate in Erbil. During the last two-and-a-half-month campaign conducted in the land of the ancient Assyrian empire, the archaeologists found 150 new sites (982 in 5 years of research, 12 of which were surveyed before the launching of the project), dating back from the first prehistoric settlements (more than half a million years ago) to the more recent Ottoman villages (up to 1900 AD). The mission also found 3 new flint mines, hundreds of implements from the protohistoric epoch (5th and 4th millennium BC) and dozens of caves, shelters and areas inhabited by the region’s prehistoric populations. Two new trial pits were excavated to study the monumental canal system of the neo-Assyrian period (8th-7th centuries BC), which was one of the main objectives of the project. The scholars from the University of Udine also collected new evidence that might be useful in locating the archaeological site of Tell Gomel on the adjacent plain, where the famous Gaugamela Battle (331 BC) was fought between Alexander the Great and the Darius III, the King of Persia. Lastly, the team of archaeologists from Udine restored two important neo-Assyrian rock reliefs (8th-7th centuries BC), which were vandalised by numerous large graffiti. In the past five years, the mission has been thoroughly surveying a vast region of approximately 3,000 square kilometres. The regional authorities of Iraqi Kurdistan and the central authorities in Baghdad conceded to the University of Udine the license to explore the area in 2012, representing one of the largest concessions ever issued to a foreign mission in Iraq.


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