Ancient Assyrian Clay Tablets Reveal Location Of 4,800-Year-Old Lost City

The remains of the royal city of Mardama. Image Credit: Matthias Lang/ Benjamin Glissmann, University of Tübingen eScience-Center

After researchers recovered around 90 cuneiform tablets from the ancient Assyrian empire, philologists translated them and identified the location of a lost ancient city that existed some 4,800 years ago.

The 92 clay tablets belonging to the ancient Assyrian empire were discovered at the archeological site of a large Bronze Age settlement which was explored in 2017 by experts from the University of Tübingen.

The translation of the ancient writings has allowed archaeologists to identify the ruins of the lost Royal City of Mardama.

The name of the lost city was only revealed when 92 cuneiform tablets found at the site were translated. Image Credit: Matthias Lang/ Benjamin Glissmann, University of Tübingen eScience-Center

The cache of clay tablets date back to around 1250BC, to the Middle Assyrian empire and have been translated by University of Heidelberg philologist Betina Faist.

“To our surprise, Dr. Faist was able to identify the site as the ancient city of Mardama,” the archaeologists said.

“This important northern Mesopotamian city is cited in ancient sources, but we didn’t know where it lay.”

“It existed between 2200 and 1200 BC, was at times a kingdom or a provincial capital, and was conquered and destroyed several times.”

One of the clay tablets on the floor of the palace of the Assyrian governor, and a broken ceramic vessel. Image Credit: Matthias Lang/ Benjamin Glissmann, University of Tübingen eScience-Center

The ancient city of Mardama was mentioned in a number of ancient sources, but no one has been able to determine its exact location until now.

The ancient city is believed to have existed between  2,200 BC and 2,100 BC and reached its peak between 1900 BC and 1700 BC.

The ancient city is believed to have been conquered by the Akkadian empire but eventually regained its independence under a Hurrian monarch called Tish-Ulme.

The city then followed a period of prosperity, until it was destroyed by the Turukku from the Zagros mountains, who are sometimes identified as the Sea People.

However, this was not the end of the city. Mardama continued to exist until the era in which the Assyrians ruled over it, during which the recently discovered clay tablets were written.

Ancient writings from the Third Dynasty of Ur, between the years 2100 and 2000 BC portray Mardama as an important city on the northern periphery of the Mesopotamian empire.

“Mardama certainly rose to be an influential city and a regional kingdom, based on its position on the trade routes between Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Syria,” said professor Peter Pfälzner, a professor of ancient near-Eastern archaeology at the University of Tübingen in the statement.

“At times, it was an adversary of the great Mesopotamian powers.”

The ancient tablets mentioned the city being part of the powerful Assyria empire, and that it was the home of an Assyrian ruler believed to have been called Assur-Nasir.

Professor Pfälzner and this team were amazed by the discovery, “all of a sudden it became clear that our excavations had found an Assyrian governor’s palace.”

In addition, the ancient clay tablets offer unprecedented insight into the history and lives of the people of the ancient city of Mardama, as well as never-before-seen details about its administration, economy, and commerce.

However, most importantly, the recently-uncovered clay tablets not only show the location of the city which remained lost for thousands of years, but it offers important historical accounts of that time in history.

Now, thanks to the tablets, experts can understand so much more about the cultures and civilizations that ruled the region.

In the near future, experts will continue studying ancient clay tablets hoping to discover more ancient cities that may have existed in ancient Mesopotamia.

Featured Image Credit: Matthias Lang/ Benjamin Glissmann, University of Tübingen eScience-Center

Source: Cuneiform tablets from Bassetki reveal the location of the ancient royal city of Mardaman

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