Archaeologists have discovered an ancient lost city beneath modern-day Iraqi Kurdistan. Newly discovered stone foundations, tablets and other artifacts revealed a city that thrived on the edge of the Zagros Mountains some 4,000 years ago.

Archaeologists with a French mission probed the site on expeditions from 2012 to 2018, the country’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) reported. The area has opened up to scientists in recent years, following the fall of the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and subsequent regional tensions, the center said in a statement.

Excavations at Kunara suggested a thriving city of mountain poeple once stood at the western Mesopotamian border. Researchers found evidence of major livestock farming, irrigation for agriculture and tablets recording the trade of items such as flour.

Stone tablets discovered at Kunara bore symbols resembling those of the ancient region, which stretched from the southeastern edge of modern-day Turkey to the Persian Gulf. The newly located city would have bordered the very first empire of Mesopotamia: the Akkadian Empire.


Tablets revealed the city’s scribes “had a firm grasp of Akkadian and Sumerian writing, as well as that of their Mesopotamian neighbors,” Phillipe Clancier, a specialist in cuneiform writing with CNRS, said in the statement. “You could call [the city’s discovery] a small revolution,” he added.

These small linguistic clues could shed light on the political dynamics between the city and its behemoth neighbor, CNRS reported. Certain shared words may reflect submission, the use of similar administrative models or simply borrowed words.

Amid these phrases, eagle-eyed researchers spotted a never-before-seen unit of measurement on the ancient tablets. Rather than the Mesopotamian “gur,” the city’s scribes used their own unit to describe volumes in trading logs. “The use of an original unit could resonate like an act of independence,” Tenu said.