Activities of the Italian Archaeological Missin in Erbil

Erbil, la Cittadella di Erbil (foto MAIKI).

The architectural structures today visible on the top of the Erbil Citadel, and mostly dated to the late Ottoman period, make this site one of the most amazing places of the Iraqi Kurdistan. From an archaeological point of view, however, the importance of these buildings, despite their artistic value, pales in comparison to the archaeological heritage buried in this hill whose history seems to conceal an impressive archaeological stratigraphy.

The study of the sources and the preliminary data collected in 2006 by a Kurdish-Czech archaeological mission, directed by K. Novácek, allow a very partial reconstruction of the site history, but there are still so many deficiencies that what has been done until today turn out to be only the beginning of a longer and complex study. The materials collected on the surface by the Kurdish-Czech mission seem to testify a human presence in the territory since the Prehistory. The ceramic fragments suggest a human occupation of the area since 4000 if not 6000 BC, while the lithic materials, although still under analysis, attest human traces already in Palaeolithic period. The cuneiform sources, as evidenced by some tablets that report the attack and destruction of the town of Urbilum by the sovereigns Šulgi and Amar-Sin of the 3rd dynasty of Ur, attest the existence of an urban site at least since the end of the 3rd millennium and the Mesopotamian documents of the later periods refer to a city of great political and, especially, religious importance. It is still uncertain if these early settlements were in the place where the Citadel stands today; however, the chronology of the materials found on the surface and the nature of the hill, which, as we will see, seems to be entirely artificial, make this hypothesis plausible. If the assumed settlement continuity will be confirmed the site will prove to be of extreme importance for a better comprehension the historical development of the whole area.

During 2012 MAIKI signed a three-year cooperation agreement with High Commission for the Erbil Citadel Revitalization (HCECR)  for the study of the archaeological remains of the Erbil Citadel. The agreement includes the study of archaeological data collected through coring and geophysical surveys.