A collection of 3,200 year old tablets discovered concealed inside jugs have revealed the location of an ancient lost royal Mesopotamian city in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Archaeologists from the University of Tübingen in Germany uncovered the tablets in 2017, after finding them hidden inside a collection of ceramic jugs in Bassetki in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
The tablets date back to 1250BC, when the area was part of the Middle Assyrian Empire. They revealed the ancient city of Mardaman once stood where Bassetki lies today.
“Mardaman certainly rose to be an influential city and a regional kingdom, based on its position on the trade routes between Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Syria,” lead archaeologist Professor Peter Pfälzner said of the find.
Pfalzner describes the ancient city as being a former “adversary of the great Mesopotamian powers,” and hopes future excavations of the site will yield more important discoveries.
The first task for archaeologists was to restore the tablets, which were largely broken and crumbling. Next, the tablets were translated from Cuneiform script.
Dr Betina Faist, a specialist for the Assyrian language at the University of Heidelberg, worked to decipher the messages carved on the tablets, which revealed the town of Bassetki was once a site of the ancient royal city of Mardaman.
The tablets also contained details about an Assyrian governor in the area, revealing a previously unknown province of the empire. The governor’s name, Assur-nassir, and his tasks were included in the tablet’s text.
“The city existed continuously and achieved a final significance as a Middle Assyrian governor’s seat between 1,250 and 1,200 BC,” Pfallzner explained. Researchers have been aware of the city’s existence due to it being referenced in Old Babylonian sources, but until now, its location was never known.