Archaeologists from Udine led by Professor Daniele Morandi Bonacossi on the trail of the Assyrian Empire

Versione in Italiano: QUI.

Good day everyone, thank you for being on Alessandro III di Macedonia – your resource on Alexander the Great!

Here’s another press release about the conference held yesterday in Rome on the important discovery of Daniele Morandi Bonacossi’s team and the regional archaeological project “Terre di Ninive” (“Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project” – ParTeN)!

The English translation is by me: any error you’ll find is therefore to be considered my fault.

University: Fvg mission discovers exceptional Assyrian reliefs in Kurdistan

Rosolen, Region works for cultural and scientific diplomacy

Rome, December 9 – Ten imposing rock reliefs depicting the sovereign and the principal gods of Assyria have been found along a large irrigation canal carved into the rock at the Faida archaeological site, about 20 km south of the city of Duhok, in Kurdistan northern Iraqi.

An exceptional discovery, born within the regional archaeological project “Terre di Ninive” (“Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project” – ParTeN) of the University of Udine and of the Directorate of Antiquities of Duhok led by Professor Daniele Morandi Bonacossi and Dr. Hasan Ahmed Qasim, in turn linked to an international cooperation initiative of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region launched in 2012.

Faida, assyrian canal8th-7th century B.C. (photo Alberto Savioli for LoNAP)

“The Region supports the University of Udine in the process of discovering the roots of our civilization that are concentrated in Mesopotamia,” Alessia Rosolen, Regional Councilor for Research and University, recalled.
“It’s an important fact – the councilor highlighted – because I believe that archaeology in a diplomatic situation like this and in a moment of new knowledge is fundamental, on the one hand for the transversality of the knowledge that it manages to connect, from the ‘other for that international cooperation that allows us to really start talking about cultural and scientific diplomacy “.
For Rosolen “the collaboration that the University of Udine had with the universities of the Iraqi Kurdistan offers us the possibility of going to trace a new identity of the Iraqi people and imagine a development of their tourist economy”.

View from Faida towards the Eski Mosul dam (photo Alberto Savioli for LoNAP)

Historical scenario of the archaeological mission is northern Mesopotamia, today Iraqi Kurdistan, a post-war zone still threatened by vandalism, clandestine excavations and an expansion of productive activities that followed the end of the very recent domination of the Islamic State (2014 – 2017) when Faida surveys were found only 25 km from the front line.

Faida, Reliefs 5-10, 8th-7th century B.C. (photo Alberto Savioli for LoNAP)

As Professor Morandi Bonacossi recalled, this region has a strategic centrality in the history of Mesopotamian civilization and of the research conducted in this field by archaeologists. The sites are now established in an administratively autonomous region that has made Iraqi Kurdistan a pre-eminent part of modern archaeology, with 1100 recognized sites.

Bird’s eye view of the Eski Mosul dam (photo Alberto Savioli for LoNAP)

The ten bas-reliefs now brought to light in Faida portray the Assyrian ruler represented twice, at the ends of each panel, in front of the statues of seven divinities on pedestals placed on the back of animals. The divine figures represent the god Assur, the main divinity of the Assyrian pantheon, on a dragon and a lion with horns, his wife Mullissu, sitting on an elaborate throne supported by a lion, the god of the moon, Sin, also on a lion with horns, the god of wisdom, Nabu, on a dragon, the god of the sun, Shamash, on a horse, the god of the storm, Adad, on a lion with horns and a bull, and Ishtar, the goddess of love and of war on a lion.

Jerwan, stone aqueduct, 8th-7th century B.C. (photo Alberto Savioli for LoNAP)

The excavations took place between September and October 2019, when archaeologists identified ten imposing rock reliefs from the Assyrian period (8th-7th century BC) carved into the rock along an ancient irrigation canal of almost 7 km in length. The Faida canal, fed by a system of karstic resurgences, is probably a work commissioned by the Assyrian ruler Sargon (720-705 BC) to irrigate a large portion of agricultural hinterland near the capital of the empire, Nineveh.

Almost two hundred years have passed since the last discovery of Assyrian rock reliefs, extremely rare monuments, occurred in 1845 in this area, by the French consul in Mosul, Simon Rouet, who discovered the reliefs of Khinis and Maltai.
More recently, in 1972, Julian Reade, an English archaeologist from the British Museum, had identified the location of three bas-reliefs buried along the canal, without being able to bring them to light due to the political and military instability that characterized the region in those years of bitter confrontation between the Kurdish Peshmerga and the army of the Baathist regime.

Faida, Reliefs 6-7, 8th-7th century B.C. (photo Alberto Savioli for LoNAP)

To outline the salient aspects of the project the protagonists of this cooperation were called upon starting from Rezan Kader, high representative of the regional government of Kurdistan, who highlighted how “the root of humanity of all of us has been saved”. Marina Brollo, delegate of the Rector of the University of Udine for the transfer of knowledge, spoke of “transversal research”; Giuseppe Morandini, president of the Friuli Foundation
Continuity, he emphasized the determination, continuity and methodology used for the project. Francesco Zorgno, president of ArcheoCrowd, is instead the private partner who shared the purpose of defending the archaeological heritage as a cultural investment. Paolo Andrea Bartorelli, head of office VI of the Directorate General for the promotion of the Country system, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, highlighted “Italy’s role in defending the heritage from attacks by both Islamic fundamentalism and the lack of attention to the sites in danger, raising awareness in the international community”.

A cultural and diplomatic framework in which the objective of including the Kurdish site in the heritage of humanity recognized by UNESCO is inserted, with the creation of a sustainable archaeological and tourist park.

I’d like to thank Dr. Zanon for sending me the material to share this important discovery!

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