The unique headstones of Kela Mazin cemetery
The Kurdistan Region's Kela Mazin cemetery dates back to the pre-Islamic period and features unique headstones.
Located in Zurkan village in the Sangasar district north of Sulaimani, Kale Mazin has the biggest and heaviest headstones ever discovered in the Kurdistan Region. The tallest headstones are two meters and 80 centimeters. And that height only includes the above-ground part of the headstone.
"The headstones must have gone deep underground," Farhad Nasir, a local archaeologist in Ranya, told Kurdistan 24. "It is expected that the headstones go down at least a meter and half, making the total height almost five meters, the tallest headstones in this region."
The headstones are also the heaviest in the Kurdistan Region, weighing six tons. According to Nasir, these headstones are unique to this part of the world.
There are 15 types of tombs and headstones in the cemetery, all dating back to ancient and prehistoric times.
"To the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of the existence of these types of tombs anywhere else in the world," said Fakhir Rashid, an archaeologist in Erbil.
Locals think the cemetery had about 50 tombs 30 years ago. However, many of them have since collapsed or suffered irreparable damage.
"Severe weather and natural factors such as erosion" have caused significant damage to the headstones, as have people touching them and mishandling them over the years, said a Zurkan villager.
"Sad to say, people don't recognize the value of these headstones, and they touch them," the villager added. "In this case, they destroyed many tombs in the last 30 years."
How old are these headstones? There are no precise accounts confirming an exact date. Which culture do they belong to? That pivotal question has yet to be investigated.
"As archaeologists, we have so many unanswered questions about Kela Mazin," said Rashid. "We need full-time researchers and archaeologists to explore, excavate, and conduct on-site research. But these things need funding and a budget. And unfortunately, the government has no plans to work on this important site so far."
According to both experts, the headstones are approximately 3,000-years-old. However, this is disputed since others believe they are tombs of the Prophet Mohammed's followers. If that is the case, these headstones might only be a few hundred years old.
Nasir stated that replicas of these headstones have been located in another part of the Kurdistan Region.
"In Sangaw, Garmiyan area, there is another cemetery that has these kinds of headstones, making them specific to the Kurdistan Region," he said.