Education, Photos

Archaeological Visit to the Ancient Mound Bakr Awa

I was chatting with my friend Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah, Director of the Sulaimaniya Museum, about archaeological excavations in Iraqi Kurdistan. By chance, he mentioned the name of the ancient site of Bakr Awa. “There is a German archaeological team there, and they have been excavating the site for a few years,” Hashim said. “How about going there and seeing them while they are working?” I replied. “ This Friday we will go,” Hashim suggested. Bingo, let’s go!

Bakr Awa is a mound southeast of the modern city of Sulaimaniya, near the city of Halabja (which was bombarded by a chemical attack by Saddam’s regime in 1988 CE), within the Sharazor plain, Iraqi Kurdistan. A German archaeological team headed by Professor Peter Miglus (of the University of Heidelberg) has been excavating the site since 2010 in cooperation with the Sulaimaniya Antiquities Directorate and the Sulaimaniya Museum. The site underwent limited excavations by Ephraim Speiser in 1927 CE. During the years 1960-1961 CE, Iraqi archaeologists (of the Directorate General of Antiquities in Baghdad, Iraq) did extensive excavations and field studies on the site. Numerous artifacts, from the Islamic period back to the late Bronze Age, have been recovered within different ancient layers/levels.

General overview of Bakr Awa. The hill (mound or Tell) is the largest one within the whole southern part of Sharazor Plain. The hill’s citadel stands for about 40 meters high in the middle of a proximately 600 x 800 meters lower city.

General overview of Bakr Awa. The hill (mound or Tell) is the largest one within the whole southern part of Sharazor Plain. The hill’s citadel stands about 40 meters high in the middle of approximately 600 x 800 meters lower city. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

A hoopoe!

A hoopoe! Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

We arrived around 11 AM. It was a very sunny and hot day. The team was divided into several small groups; each and every one was working on a different area, on the top surface of the mound and on its surrounding semi-flat areas.

This was the first time I ever saw an archaeological team working, digging, and uncovering historical artifacts! I immediately started photographing them; I couldn’t stop. Around noon the team took its lunch break, and we went with them. I ate watermelon only. They showed me a recently uncovered cuneiform tablet and some other artifacts. After about an hour, they resumed their field work. This time we went to the top surface of the mound, where a smaller group was excavating. While I was climbing the mound, I saw a hoopoe! In Iraq, we connect the hoopoe to the Jewish prophet and king Solomon; we say “Hoopoe of Solomon”. Witches used the bones of this bird to cast spells. It was on the ground searching for insects; this was the very first time I encountered a hoopoe. It is a very, very difficult bird to find. What is this place!?! Awesome!

I took more pictures of the whole site. It was approaching 3 PM… time for a real lunch! Myself, Hashim, Akam Omar (a sculptor at the Sulaimaniya Museum), and Ahmad (my post-graduate neurology trainee) went to a local restaurant where we ordered kebab! Bull’s eye, let’s go back home!

Bronze Age Foundations

The excavation has uncovered several settlement layers. Note the foundation stones, which probably date back to the early Bronze Age.

The excavation has uncovered several settlement layers. Note the foundation stones, which probably date back to the early Bronze Age. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Excavating

This team has been excavating an area on the top surface of the mound.

This team has been excavating an area on the top surface of the mound. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

One of the excavation teams is working on an area.

One of the excavation teams at work. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Another team is excavating a separate area. Note how deep they have reached!

Another team is excavating a separate area. Note how deep they have dug! Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

An archeologist tries to uncover a large pottery jar.

An archaeologist tries to uncover a large pottery jar. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Radial Vault Tomb

Professor Peter Miglus (head of the archeological team, on the right) tells Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah (Director of the Sulaimaniya Museum) how their work has been progressing. The entrance of a well-equipped radial vaulted brick tomb can be seen. On the right, an ancient pebble floor (above the grave’s level is obvious.

Professor Peter Miglus (head of the archeological team, on the right) tells Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah (Director of the Sulaimaniya Museum) how their work has been progressing. The entrance of a well-equipped radial vaulted brick tomb can be seen. On the right, an ancient pebble floor (above the grave’s level in the sand) is visible. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Pottery Jar

A pottery jar has been found.

A pottery jar has been found. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Pavement Floor

One of the excavated areas. Note the pavement floor and its bricks.

One of the excavated areas. Note the pavement floor and its bricks. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Documenting the Finds

One of the teams is documenting their progress; an archeologist is using a Nikon camera!

One of the teams is documenting their progress; an archaeologist is using a Nikon camera, similar to my own! Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Akkadian Floor

The so-called “Area 1,” which dates back to the early Bronze Age. These stone foundations and floors belongs to an Akkadian or post-Akkadian period building. A vaulted tomb had been covered with fragments of stones and earth, and behind it, we can see mud platforms.

The so-called “Area 1,” which dates back to the early Bronze Age. These stone foundations and floors belongs to an Akkadian or post-Akkadian period building. A vaulted tomb had been covered with fragments of stones and earth, and behind it, we can see mud platforms. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Deep Excavation

One of the excavated areas. Note how deep they have reached and the appearance of a foundation stone layer.

One of the excavated areas. Note how deep they have reached and the appearance of a foundation stone layer. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Cuneiform Tablet

A clay cuneiform tablet which was found recently. in Bakr Awa

A clay cuneiform tablet which was found recently in Bakr Awa. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The Team

From right to left; Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah, Professor Peter Miglus, me, and Dr. Ahmad Jawad (my neurology trainee, who has been inspired by me!). It was lunch time.

From left to right: Dr. Ahmad Jawad (my neurology trainee), Prof. Peter Miglus (Heidelberg University), myself, and Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah (Director of the Sulaimaniya Museum) at lunchtime. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Driving Home

Members of the archeological team are heading to their residence to have lunch. And, bye bye to all; I really enjoyed. It was an unforgettable visit!

Members of the archaeological team are heading to their residence. And, bye bye to all; I really enjoyed this. It was an unforgettable visit! Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Filed under: Education, Photos

by

Osama S. M. Amin

Osama graduated from Baghdad University, College of Medicine and was the valedictorian student in internal medicine. He got membership diplomas of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of Ireland (MRCPI) and Glasgow (MRCP Glasg) and then became Board-certified in neurology. Osama is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians (FACP), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (FRCP Glasg), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (FRCP Edin), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (FRCPI), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London FRCP Lond), and Fellow of the Stroke Council of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (FAHA). Currently, he is a Clinical Associate Professor at the Clinical School of the International Medical University, Malaysia. Osama published more than 50 articles in international peer-reviewed neurology journals and 5 self-assessment books for the membership diploma of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom and Ireland. He is an associate editor, guest editor, reviewer and former editor-in-chief in several international peer-reviewed internal medicine and neurology journals. Osama is very interested in Mesopotamian history and always tries to take photos of archaeological sites and artifacts in museums, both in Iraq and around the world. He is a contributor/team member of "Medical MasterClass," the online educational arm of the Royal College of Physicians of London, UK.