Ancient Mesopotamia Archaeology

INTRODUCTION; Mesopotamian archaeology emerged from Biblical and Classical research in the mid-nineteenth century. The rediscovery of Assyria and Babylonia’s great capital towns by British and French adventurers, most notably Layard and Botta, is legendary.
Archaeologists uncovered a royal Assyrian treasure hidden in a palace well at Nimrud about the 8th century B.C. in 1990. Gold and ivory artifacts were discovered on 400 skeletons who had been bound in irons around their wrists and ankles


Thanks to the innovative work of 19th century            French archeological teams, the Louvre’s collections of Mesopotamian art and antiquities are among the best in the Western world. 
The great Mesopotamian civilizations of Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon as well as the state of Elam to the east in modern day Iran were all originally discovered by them through excavation. In the middle of the 19th century, archaeologists who were
 exploring deserted settlements in modern day Iraq made new discovery about   Mesopotamia .  Many of the Mesopotamian ruins are cemeteries, mud brick foundations, and mounds made of demolished mud brick structures, as opposite to the standing stone monuments of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome Many of these relics were either buried from the outset, have collapsed through time or have been buried by sand and soil after hundreds of centuries of floods and sand and dust storms.

Iraq is home to the majority of what historians and archaeologists consider to be ancient Mesopotamia. Less than 1% of the 25,000 sites in Iraq have been actively worked on. Since the first Persian Gulf War in 1990–1991 and comparatively little throughout the Iran–Iraq war era in the 1980s, hardly any fieldwork has been conducted in Iraq. Looting and war have left their traces. These days, artifacts bought from smugglers and looters are used to make a lot of new discoveries. The construction of new hydroelectric dams in Turkey and Syria also interferes with archaeological work. Archaeologists have only lately begun returning to Iraq, although working there is still highly risky.

The search for historical evidence was a major driving force for much of the early archaeological work in Iraq to support statements in the Bible. J.E. Taylor, the British consul in Basra, excavated into a tumulus at Tell al-Muqayyar in 1853 and found Sumer. Cuneiform characters on a clay cylinder seal, including one for Ur, proving the presence of the city named in the Old Testament as the birthplace of Abraham. In the Victorian era, the discovery in 1872 of tablets from Assyria, Babylonia, and Sumeria that presented a flood account akin to Noah’s was a big news story. In 1995, the Biblical city of Ukresh was discovered in northeastern Syria, close to the Turkish border.

Paulo Matthiae, an archaeologist from the University of Rome, made the remarkable discovery of Ebla in 1964 while doing excavations at Tell Mardikh in Syria. Archaeologist Dr. Ignace J. Gelb of the University of Chicago said National Geographic when information on Ebla was made public, “These finds provide light on an entirely new culture, language, and history. Ebla was a strong monarchy that was treated equally with the most dominant nations of the day.”

Mesopotamian Studies :
There are just about 250 Sumerologists and Assyrianologists in the entire world. No such thing as a Babylonologist exists. The University of Pennsylvania University Museum’s Professor Ake Sjöberg is the team leader for the group creating a Sumerian lexicon. The dictionary’s initial letter “B” was completed in 1984. In 1989, the second latter “A” was completed. Around 2025 is when the entire 18-letter vocabulary is anticipated to be finished.

The British Museum, the Louvre, Pennsylvania University, Yale, and museums in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey all house extensive collections of cuneiform tablets. Additional collections can be found at Columbia University, Cornell, UCLA, the University of New York, and German universities. Long-running research on Mesopotamia at Yale was strengthened in 1988 by a report by associate professor of Near Eastern archeology Harvey Weiss on the university’s unreported finding of 1,100 cuneiform clay tablets and seal impressions dating from 1740 to 1725 B.C.


The wars and sanctions have significantly affected archeological work in Iraq. Between the Persian Gulf Wars in the 1990s, during the sanction era, there was little to no funding for archaeological excavation or site protection. Most of the time, foreign archeologists were not allowed to enter the nation. Many Iraqi archaeologists were compelled to look for alternative employment. A lone old man with a hunting rifle guarded well-known spots like Jatra.

Many of the towns along Iran and Iraq’s border were damaged or destroyed during the Iran-Iraq conflict. Saddam Hussein positioned two Iraqi jets adjacent to the Ur ziggurat during the first Persian Gulf War. Looting started very soon after the conflict and peaked in the mid 1990’s. Iraq’s department of antiquities employed 2,600 workers prior to the first Persian Gulf War. There was a lot of archeological work being done in Iraq in 1990, the year when Iraq invaded Kuwait. There were numerous teams working on projects, both foreign and domestic. The invasion of Kuwait put an end to everything. The antiquities department only employed a few hundred individuals because of financing issues. Public access was prohibited at all 33 archeological museums. People started stealing in order to feed their family because there weren’t enough resources to police the sites. Excavation work was not resumed until 1997 because to the first Persian Gulf War. Only 32 sites were being worked on at the time, and armed guards were on duty to protect the archaeologists. Only four sites had foreign archaeologists working there.

Ur’s archaeology

According to Andrew Lawler in National Geographic, among the 35,000 artifacts from Ur that British archaeologist Leonard Woolley discovered in the 1920s and 1930s were a magnificent collection of gold helmets, crowns, and jewelry dating to around 2600 B.C. as well as the spectacular remains of a royal cemetery with over 2,000 burials. The discovery was similar to what had been made at King Tut’s tomb in Egypt at the time. In 1854, James E. Taylor, the British consul in Basra, performed an excavation at Tell al-Muqayyar, also known as the “Mound of Pitch,” which was so dubbed by the locals due to the bitumen mortar that could be seen in it. The biblical “Ur of the Chaldees,” the birthplace of Abraham in Genesis, was exposed along with the ziggurat’s collapsing foundations and cuneiform tablets. But due to the past 50 years of conflict (including war, invasion, and civil unrest), Ur and the majority of southern Iraq have been off limits to most archaeologists. Last October, a joint American-Iraqi crew restarted the excavations there and worked there for ten weeks. The National Geographic Society helped fund the project in part. The interest of modern archaeologists is lower than that of preceding generations. Today’s archaeologists, in contrast to prior generations, are more interested in hints like the piece of ebony that will help them comprehend this crucial period in human history.

What was Mesopotamian art and architecture like?
The art of Mesopotamia includes the earliest usage of ceramics decorated with abstract designs, the production of sculpted effigies for religious purposes, and the architectural styles utilized to create their elaborate temples and royal gates. Mesopotamian art has been preserved in a variety of forms, including cylinder seals, tiny figures in the round, and reliefs of various sizes, as well as inexpensive plaques made of moulded ceramic for the home, some of which appear to be religious and others not. For the walls they utilized mud plaster, and for the roof they used mud and poplar. Homes of the Ubaid era had fire clay pushed into the walls. Paintings would be done on the walls as well. Another option for roofing is to use palm tree wood planks that are wrapped in reeds.

What distinguishing features can you find in Mesopotamian architecture?
Pilasters, columns, frescoes, and enameled tiles were all characteristics of Babylonian architecture. While using both stone and brick in their palaces, which were lined with sculptured and colored slabs of stone instead of being painted, Assyrian architects were heavily influenced by the Babylonian style. When creating structures, the Mesopotamians contributed architectural elements including arches, columns, domes, and vaults. Their temple towers are magnificent examples of Mesopotamian architecture, as is Babylon’s Hanging Garden.

Which aspect of Mesopotamian temple architecture was distinctive?
Ziggurats were tall, stepped constructions that were constructed in the western Iranian plateau and ancient Mesopotamian valley. They had a terraced step pyramid with progressively lower floors or levels. They appeared to have been temples for the earliest Mesopotamian deities and were constructed of mud-brick . Ziggurats are stepping temple towers created in Mesopotamia as sacred constructions in the ancient world. There are approximately 25 ziggurats known. Ziggurats are well-known structures. Ziggurats can be found in the major towns of Mesopotamia and modern Iran. They were constructed between 2200 and 500 B.C. The Tower of Babel is related with the ziggurat of Babylon’s Great Temple of Marduk. The temple will be brought closer to the heavens as a result, and steps will lead down to it. These pyramid temples were seen by the Mesopotamians as a bridge between heaven and earth. The ziggurat at Babylon was actually called Etemenanki, which is Sumerian for “House of the foundation of heaven and earth”.A ziggurat is not a pyramid.
Pyramids exist in ziggurats, but they are not nearly as symmetrical, exact, or aesthetically beautiful as Egyptian pyramids. Ziggurats were constructed using considerably smaller, sun-baked mud bricks as opposed to the massive stonework used to construct the Egyptian pyramids.

ROADS  : Roads were created in Mesopotamia around 4000 B.C.E., according to historical records. These roads were constructed for access to various sites within their cities as well as for use as commercial routes. Major cities had stone roadways that were everywhere. Mesopotamia and Egypt were connected by a stone-paved route. The Sumerians formed similar mud bricks for construction with careful brick-making techniques. They would transport them to the location of a temple after drying, where bitumen would be used to secure them. The naturally sticky, dark component in asphalt is called bitumen. Before asphalt was employed in Europe and America, centuries elapsed.

What are the names of Mesopotamian homes?

The palace where the lugal or ensi resided and worked is referred to as a “Big House” (Cuneiform: E2. GAL Sumerian: e2-gal Akkdian: ekallu). The early Mesopotamian aristocracy lived in expansive buildings that were frequently ornately adorned.

What kind of dwellings existed in Mesopotamia?

Depending on their location, ancient Mesopotamian homes were either made of mud bricks or reeds. Near rivers and marsh areas, people lived in reed huts. Sun-dried mud bricks were used to construct dwellings in drier places. Homes made of mud brick have one or two rooms and flat roofs .Homes made of mud brick were the norm. They had two to three storeys and a rectangular shape. People frequently slept on the flat roofs during the sweltering summers. The homes were kept somewhat cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter because to the mud brick’s effectiveness as an insulator.

The Mesopotamian wheel is what?

The Sumerian inhabitants of Lower Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) devised the wheel in the fourth millennium BC by inserting revolving axles into solid discs of wood. The first hollowing out of the discs to create lighter wheels didn’t happen until 2000 BC. This invention produced significant improvements in two key areas.


SOURCES : Mesopotamia, as it is commonly called, developed writing. There are literally hundreds of thousands of clay tablets and other documentary evidence that shed light on that civilization’s condition and social evolution, and a number of books and articles have appeared over the years that purport to explain the laws, myths, forms of commerce, technology, and other aspects of Mesopotamian culture from early Uruk to Alexander the Great. During the Ottoman Empire’s decline and the rise of European political interest in the Middle East, explorers, adventurers, and diplomats sought to rediscover ancient Mesopotamia. Claudius James Rich, who studied the mounds of Babylon, Nineveh, and Persepolis while Resident of the British East India Company in Baghdad, was one of the first to pick public interest in Near Eastern antiquities.

Ancient mesopotamia houses

The mud brick towns and temples of Mesopotamia were buried over the years by rain, floods, and shifting sands, leaving only the shapeless mounds that still stand throughout Iraq today. These mounds, known as “tells” in Arabic, were largely intact until European archaeologists began exploring them in the 1840s. People often refer to north and south Mesopotamia, most notably during the Sumer (south) and Akkad (north) periods between around 3000-2000 BC. However, the histories of the north and south dating back to the sixth millennium BC divide, and subsequent Assyrian monarchs attempted to reconcile the two portions.

Ancient mesopotamia archeology

CONCLUSION : The Hammar marshlands, located south of the Euphrates River in Iraq and Iran, were drained between 1950 and the 1990s, in part to promote oil exploration and development. This location piqued the researchers’ significant interest. But following the first Gulf War, former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein redirected the Euphrates River away from the region, virtually erasing the marshlands while also making the area more accessible to archaeologists.

Foreign archaeologists were forced to divert their attention away from Iran after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which barred them from entering. They instead focused on surveys in Syria and southeast Turkey as well as the excavation of sites in Iraq even while the Iran-Iraq War raged.