In Iraq, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a nearly 4,500-year-old Sumerian palace and a temple dedicated to the god Ninurta.
The discovery was made by a team of British and Iraqi archaeologists in the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu, about 300 km southeast of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Girsu, one of the oldest Sumerian cities, was first excavated in 1877 under the leadership of the French archaeologist Ernest de Sarzec. However, with a few exceptions, no archaeological excavations were carried out on the site for a long time. Meanwhile, Girsu was damaged by illegal excavations and looting.
Archaeological finds, which were moved to different museums around the world without detailed documentation, are another factor that makes it difficult to examine the history of Girsu as a whole.
The Girsu Project was created by the British Museum in order to prevent such problems, to re-examine the old archaeological finds and to continue the excavations with modern methods. The project, led by Sébastien Rey, Curator of Ancient Mesopotamia of the British Museum, is funded by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
During the modern excavations carried out in Girsu within the scope of the project, the remains of a 4500-year-old palace and many cuneiform tablets were unearthed. This is interpreted as an important discovery to illuminate Sumerian history and to learn more about the Sumerians.
Some of the mudbrick walls of the palace are preserved in a museum in Baghdad today.
Not long ago, a 5000-year-old Sumerian pub was unearthed in another ancient city near Girsu:
Along with the palace and cuneiform tablets, archaeologists also found the remains of a temple dedicated to the god Ninurta during excavations.
He is a Sumerian god, also known as Ninĝirsu, and is considered to be the son of the chief god Enlil. He has been associated with agriculture, farming, healing, hunting, and later warfare. Ninurta’s warlike nature also influenced the Assyrians. Therefore, he is also included in the Assyrian pantheon.1
Archaeologists say the cuneiform tablets found at Girsu may change some of the things we know about the Sumerians.
Girsu: An Ancient Sumerian City
It is not clear when Girsu, one of the first Sumerian cities, was permanently occupied by humans, but it is known that there were some settlements in the city in the 6th millennium BC. However, it is thought that the main activity in the city began during the Early Dynastic period in the 3rd millennium BC. The presence of a large number of archaeological artifacts from this period supports this estimate.
Although it lost its political characteristics after the reign of King Gudea, Girsu maintained its importance as a religious center for many years.2
- The Girsu Project, The British Museum
- Lost Royal Sumerian Palace and Temple discovered in Iraq’s ancient city of Girsu (The British Museum – Press Release)
- “The God Ninurta: In the Mythology and Royal Ideology of Ancient Mesopotamia”, Amar ANUNS, Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2002, ISBN: 9789514590573
- “Gudea and his dynasty”, Dietz Otto EDZARD, University of Toronto Press, 1997, ISBN: 9781442675551