Excavation work resumes at 3,400-year-old Mitanni palace discovered in 2010 along the Tigris River in Iraq

MOSUL, Iraq — Excavations of a 3,400-year-old Mitanni palace in Kemune along the Tigris River in Iraq have resumed following initial work done at the site in 2019. The site was first discovered in 2010.

There are an estimated 12,000 unexcavated sites across Iraq. However, work to study them has been slow due to instability and war.

The Mitanni palace — called an “archaeological sensation” for its bright red and blue wall paintings by the joint German–Kurdish research team working the site — is one of the most important finds in the area in recent decades.

(Image: University of Tubingen)

Dr. Ivana Puljiz of the University of Tubingen said to The Independent in 2019 that, “In the second millennium BCE, murals were probably a typical feature of palaces in the ancient Near East, but we rarely find them preserved.”

“So discovering wall paintings in Kemune is an archaeological sensation,” she added.

Clay tablets covered with ancient cuneiform writing were also found inside.

Archaeologists say the colossal edifice, which stands up to 7 meters tall and has walls up to 2 meters thick in places, would have been imposing feature overlooking the Tigris valley. It is supposed that the Mitannis built a massive mud-brick wall to reinforce their western front on the sloping terrain.

“The Mitanni Empire is one of the least researched empires of the ancient Near East,” she said.

“Information on palaces of the Mitanni period is so far only available from Tell Brak in Syria and from the cities of Nuzi and Alalakh, both located on the periphery of the empire.”

“Even the capital of the Mitanni empire has not been identified beyond doubt,” said Dr. Puljiz.

The Mitanni state spanned sections of what are now Syria, Iraq, and Turkey from the eastern Mediterranean at its peak.

The site, submerged in the 1980s by the newly constructed Mosul Dam, was first discovered in 2010, according to Dr. Hasan Ahmed Qasim of the Duhok Directorate of Antiquities.