On Thursday, October 1, I decided to pay Mr. Kamal Rashid, director of the General Directorate of Antiquities in Sulaymaniyah (GDAS), a short visit. He was thrilled and very happy to see me, “Osama have a seat…one of our French teams has just unearthed a clay tablet.” Rashid said. We were at the site of Tell (mound) Kunara (Arabic: تل كنارة; Kurdish: گردي كوناره).
Tell Kunara (35°31’9.06″N; 45°21’35.07″E) was first documented in the 1940s. A survey was conducted by the General Directorate of Antiquities in Baghdad. According to the Archives Department of GDAS, Mr. Sabri Shukri visited, surveyed the location and wrote an official memorandum describing the site on November 10, 1943.
The report states that
“Tell Kunara is located at Jayshana village, Sarchinar district, Sulaymaniyah Governorate. The Tell lies south and a little bit west of the the City of Sulaymaniyah, about 10 km away. The villages of Hazar Merd and Jayshana are near the site. The site is composed of 2 oval-shaped mounds separated by a road which leads from Sulaymaniayh to the villages of Hazar Merd and Jayshana. The mounds are about 10 m in height, 600 m in length, and 400 m in width. Cars can pass on part of the road from Sulaymaniyah, and from a certain point and afterwards, horses should be used. The whole round trip takes about 2 hours. There is no evidence of vandalism or illegal excavations. Examination of the Tell’s surface revealed some scattered and fragmented artefacts dating back to the Larsa period and 2nd millennium BCE.”
Since then the Tell was completely forgotten.
In 2011, GDAS along with a French archaeological team started an archaeological survey on the upper part of Tanjro Valley and River. This survey was led by Professor and her assistant . A total of 31 sites were surveyed; one of them was Tell Kunara. Its geophysical features revealed the foundations of a monumental building.
One year later, the team of the French National Center for Scientific Research (University of Paris), directed by the aforementioned scientists, started to excavate the site. The preliminary conclusion from the first season is that the site dates back to the early/middle Bronze period, 3000 to 2000 BCE. A small cylinder seal was found along with many fragments of pottery on the surface of the Tell and underneath it.
Aline said, “Kunara is located on the right bank of one of the two main arms that form the Tanjaro River. This river forms the Diyala after joining Sirwan River, which comes from Western Iran. The site covers an area of 7 to 10 hectares and has a high western city that reached nearly 20 meters high. The lower town is on an alluvial terrace. Between the two mounds, a modern road runs and divides them and forms a natural depression. The results are still preliminary, but the architectural remains and artifacts discovered at Kunara can be dated to three main phases between 2300 and 1900 BCE; these represent Akkadian, Neo-Sumerian (Ur III), and Isin-Larsa periods. It seems that Kunara was inhabited by Lullubian people; ancient Mesopotamian texts and sources clearly documented the independence of this region from Mesopotamia. Given the importance of these buildings that have been uncovered, the care taken in their construction, and diversity of techniques used, we hypothesize that Tell Kunara has been one of the most important cities in the region at that time.” For further information see this , written in French, by Aline about Kunara.
Season 2 of dig in 2013 passed smoothly. However, the ISIS expansion in 2014 prohibited the French team from visiting Iraqi Kurdistan. In September 2015, the team came back again and this time I was lucky! I got in! Two days later Mr. Rashid and I visited the location around 11 AM. The French team was excavating the Tell helped by local Kurdish and Arab workers.
Aline told me a few days ago that the team found a completely intact, small clay tablet. The tablet is still covered with wet mud and needs time to dry so it can be cleaned.
I told Aline about Ancient History Encyclopedia and that I intended to draft an article about their work. I asked her permission to take photos of the tablet, to which she replied positively! Afterwards, all of us headed to a traditional local restaurant. Just in time as I was very hungry and thirsty!
I am very grateful to Mr. Kamal Rashid (director of General Directorate of Antiquities in Sulaymaniyah), Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah (director of the Sulaymaniyah museum) for their unlimited help and cooperation.
Also I extend special thanks to Mrs. Aline Tenu for the information she provided, allowing me to take photos of the site, and her kind permission to shoot and publish the tablet.
Sulaymaniyah (or Slemani) Governorate lies within the northern area of Iraq and is part of Iraqi Kurdistan (or Kurdistan Region or Southern Kurdistan). All of these terms are used to describe the region. Neither the author nor Ancient History Encyclopedia endorses any specific term of the aforementioned ones.