IRAQ – Tulul al Baqarat (Al-Kut)

  • Project: Italian Archaeological Expedition at Tulul al Bakarat
  • Site: Tulul al Baqarat (Al-Kut)
  • Director: Carlo Lippolis

In November 2013, the Italian archaeological expedition of the Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino started its first season work at Tulul al Baqarat (province of al Kut, Iraq). The modern toponym ‘Tulul al Baqarat’ indicates a series of tells of different size and chronology scattered on an area around 5 kilometres wide. Apart from the nearby Iraqi excavations at Tell al-Wilaya (located about 7 kilometers to the south-west) the area is still little known from the archaeological point of view. Baqarat is located (but not reported) on the far northeast edge of the survey maps drawn up by Robert McC. Adams in his seminal 1981 report Heartland of Cities.

The main tell of the Baqarat area (TB1: around 350 meters in diameter and 10-11 meters high) was partially excavated by the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage in 2008-2011, in order to stop illicit excavations that seriously damaged the site. The results of these excavations, unfortunately still unpublished, were significant and revealed the presence of a religious complex on the top of the hill, dated to the Neo-Babylonian period (626-539 BC) in its latest phase but with levels that reach the Early Dynastic period (ca. 2900-2300 BC) if not earlier phases.

At present any observations are subject to further reassessment, since extensive excavation and systematic surveys have yet to begin. However, our preliminary works identified two almost flat areas, south of the main tell (TB1), with late fourth (?) and early third millennium material scattered on the surface. Immediately west of the main tell, some fragments of baked bricks have been observed inside of a recently cleaned canal. They carry the stamp of the Sumerian king Shulgi (ca. 2094-2047 BC): “The divine Shulgi, powerful male, king of Ur, king of the four parts of the world.” Similar bricks are known from Tell al Wilaya. The surrounding flat area displays, on the surface, pottery of the Ur III/Isin-Larsa period. More to the north, other tells can be dated to the Parthian-Sasanian and Islamic periods.
With the exception of the main tell, whose cultural sequence is long and continuous, it is worth mentioning that the other mounds in the area seem to be characterized by shorter occupations. Study of these surrounding sites will reveal how communities grew and shrank around a dominant main site across time. This site seems to have great potential for filling in a troubling gap in the settlement map of southern Mesopotamia and for understanding another of one of the oldest urban landscapes in the world.