Updated: Saturday, 22nd February 2020 @ 5:50am

Revealing the birthplace of civilisation: Manchester uni archaeologists unearth 4000-year-old building in Iraq

Revealing the birthplace of civilisation: Manchester uni archaeologists unearth 4000-year-old building in Iraq

By Sam Richardson

Archaeologists from the University of Manchester have begun digging up an enormous building complex in the cradle of civilisation – Iraq.

Professor Stuart Campbell and Dr Jane Moon, both from Manchester, led the team that spotted the incredible structure on satellite.

Thought to be an administrative complex that served one of the world’s earliest cities, the site of Tell Khaiber is roughly the size of a football pitch.

Prof Campbell, head of the University’s Department of Archaeology, said: “This is a breathtaking find and we feel privileged to be the first to work at this important site.”

The team are the first British archaeologists to excavate in Southern Iraq since the 1980s, working near the ancient city of Ur, where Sir Leonard Woolley discovered the 'Royal Tombs' in the 1920s.

“The surrounding countryside, now arid and desolate, was the birthplace of cities and of civilization about 5,000 years ago and home to the Sumerians and the later Babylonians,” said Prof Campbell.

“It has been off-limits to international archaeologists for many decades so the opportunity of re-engaging with the study of the earliest cities is a truly exciting one.”

The site has provisionally been dated to about 2,000BC, the time of the fall of the last Sumerian royal dynasty.

The team aim to analyse plant and animal remains found at the site to help reconstruct environmental and economic conditions in the region 4,000 years ago.

Marshy conditions are thought to have prevailed, with the head of the Gulf being further north, so that maritime trading was possible to obtain vital natural resources from India and the Arabian Peninsula.

Prof Campbell added: “As well as offering unparalleled opportunities for redeveloping research in one of the most important areas of archaeology in the world, the project is also building partnerships with local practitioners and institutions.”

The project is funded by the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, the FCO, Gulfsands Petroleum, and companies and private individuals with an interest in Iraq's heritage.

Professor Campbell has returned from Iraq, while Dr Moon is still there overseeing the dig.

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