Southern Iraq, results from the Sapienza University archaeological mission presented
On 21 March, Sapienza University presented the important results achieved by the Italian-Iraqi Archeological Mission in Abu Tbeirah, led by Licia Romano and Franco D'Agostino in Southern Iraq, thanks to an initiative promoted by Sapienza Foundation.
The archaeologists from Sapienza University of the Abu Tbeirah team have identified and then brought to light a buried port dating back to the 3rd millennium b.C.. This finding will allow to re-write part of the history of Mesopotamia and its civilization, estabished along the Tigris and Euphrates.
The Sumerian word MAR.SA identifies the port administrative facility and related activities, since all Sumerian towns were organized around the temple/palatine area and managed contacts and trade through the port.
However, even if identified by satellite technologies, no port had been brought to light yet. Archaeologists and experts from Sapienza University have investigated the Abu Tbeirah site, near the ancient coastal line of the Arabic Gulf, within a marshy environment and close to the sea, in a location that has affected the life of the settlement, as shown by the large port facility recently identified.
“The port located in the Northwestern area of Tell in Abu Tbeirah is an artificial basin,” said Licia Romano and Franco D'Agostino, “with two entries connecting it to the town and are clearly visible in Google satellite images. This is the most ancient port brought to light so far in Iraq, since the only evidence of port facilities investigated from an archaeological point of view come from Ur, but date back to two thousand years later”.
The connection with the swamps had already been ascertained by the Mission previous findings and the excavations of the Abu Tbeirah port confirm the connection to the dams of the villages located in the current swamps, in the delta between the Tigris and Euphrates. The researchers do not exclude that the Abu Tbeirah port was also a water reservoir and a compensation tank for the river overflows, as well as the centre of the settlement activities related to the use of water resources.
“The investigations will continue during the next excavation seasons, since the port facilities are pretty large: the basin, having an oblong shape of about 130x40 m, probably had a capacity greater than 12 Olympic-size swimming pools,” said the researchers.
The discovery of the port opens new scenarios for investigations on the activities carried out in the towns in Southern Mesopotamia, and partly explains the reasons for their abandonment, probably due to the connection with the delta swamps, an environment that is extremely sensitive to climate change and rainfalls.
This could be the actual reason for the decrease and disappearance of the Abu Tbeirah settlement at the end of the 3rd millennium b.C., a period of important climate change all over the world, the so-called 4.2 ka BP event, dating back to approximately 4200 years ago.
The archaeological excavation started in 2017 by using grants by Sapienza University and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and will continue thanks to a generous donation by Bardelli Foundation.