Bronze Age City Emerges From River in Iraq Amid Extreme Drought

Bronze Age City Emerges From River in Iraq Amid Extreme Drought
The Mosul Dam along the Tigris river, where the ancient city was discovered. (Photo: ZAID AL-OBEIDI/AFP, Getty Images)

An ongoing drought in Iraq revealed a sunken Bronze Age city.

In an effort to stop crops in the area from wilting through months of drought and regional water shortages, locals have drained the Mosul Dam since December, and the receding water has uncovered the ancient structures along the river. According to a University of Tübingen release — which contains several fascinating photos of the site — the city includes the remains of a palace and large buildings, suggesting that this was an important centre for the Mitanni Empire. Parts of the city were first excavated back in 2018, during another drought.

German and Kurdish archaeologists from several universities have scrambled to study and document as much of this city as they could before it was resubmerged again. Earlier this year, they succeeded in mapping out the ruins and found well-preserved structures along with cuneiform tablets, slabs of writing that were widely used across the Middle East thousands of years ago.

The 3,400-year-old ruins are now underwater again. The buildings found in the area are made from unfired clay, and many are several meters tall and are still in good condition, despite being underwater for about 40 years. They include towers, homes, and a multi-story storage building, according to the release. The city is from the Mitanni Empire, a kingdom that ruled around the northern Euphrates-Tigris area from roughly 1500 BCE to 1300 BCE.

Receding water levels around the world are bringing to light other relics of history. In Spain, a reservoir’s levels are so low after a dry winter that the previously flooded village of Aceredo emerged from its watery depths. So much of the abandoned town was out of the water that people were able to walk once again through its streets.

And in the American West, bodies are cropping up in areas that used to be covered by dozens of feet of water. In early May, a body in a barrel was found near Nevada’s Lake Mead. About a week later, more human remains were found at the lake, near a recreation centre. And a 2021 drought in the Midwest uncovered a piece of an 8,000-year-old skull along the Minnesota River. As the prevalence of drought increases for many parts of the world, more watery treasures (or dark secrets) may come to the surface.


Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.