In Iraq, an “archaeological park” houses 2,700-year-old bas-reliefs

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In Iraq, an “archaeological park” houses 2,700-year-old bas-reliefs

A carved plaque lines an ancient irrigation canal that dates back to Assyrian times at the archaeological site of Faydeh (Faida), Iraqi Kurdistan.

Authorities in Autonomous Kurdistan in northern Iraq on Sunday unveiled the first phase of an “archaeological park” that houses remains dating back 2,700 years old, imposing bas-reliefs carved on the walls of an Assyrian-era irrigation canal.

These panels at the Faida site have been unearthed in several stages in recent years by a mission bringing together Italian archaeologists from the University of Udine and their counterparts from the Kurdistan region.

< p class="e-p">They date back to the reigns of the Assyrian king Sargon II (721-705 BC) and his son and successor Sennacherib.

Amidst a landscape of rocky mountains, an official inauguration ceremony was organized on Sunday in the presence of the governor of Dohuk, a province of autonomous Kurdistan, and the Italian ambassador in Iraq, Maurizio Greganti.

At this time, access to Faida Park will be limited to foreign tourists […], researchers and experts, Bekas said Brefkany, from the Directorate of Antiquities in Dohuk.

The site is home to an irrigation canal dating back to Assyrian times, ten kilometers long. Thirteen monumental bas-reliefs, carved into its walls, have been discovered so far.

Perhaps other panels will one day be discovered, Bekas Brefkany said hopefully .

An aerial photo shows an excavation site that features an ancient irrigation canal lined with rock carvings dating back to Assyrian times at the archaeological site of Faydeh (Faida), in the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq.

< p class="e-p">These panels would have been commissioned either by Sargon II or by Sennacherib, Daniele Morandi Bonacossi, Italian co-director of the archaeological mission, explained to AFP in 2021.

Each panel depicts an Assyrian king praying before the seven most important deities of the Assyrian pantheon, represented as statues.

King of Assyria in the 8th century BC, Sargon II established his capital in northern Iraq, on what is now the plain of Nineveh, near Mosul.

Faida is the first of a total of five similar parks that the authorities of Kurdistan aim to create.

Ultimately, this project will constitute a tourist attraction and a source of income, Mr. Briefkany told AFP.

An aerial photo shows an excavation site that features an ancient irrigation canal lined with rock carvings dating from Assyrian times on the archaeological site of Faydeh (Faida), in the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq.

Iraq is the cradle of the civilizations of Sumer, Akkad, Babylon and Assyria, to which humanity owes writing and the first cities.

The country has suffered for decades from the looting of its antiquities, in particular after the 2003 US invasion and the arrival of jihadists from the Islamic State armed group ten years later.

After decades of conflict, Iraq opens timidly to world tourism and welcomes, despite the infrastructure almost non-existent tourists, Western travellers.

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