4,000-year-old ancient city found near Sulaimani

Exacavation work in Kunara, an ancient 4,000-year-old city near the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaimani (Photo: Osama S. M. Amin)
Exacavation work in Kunara, an ancient 4,000-year-old city near the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaimani (Photo: Osama S. M. Amin)

In the heart of a mysterious ancient kingdom, archaeologists have discovered an ancient city dating back to the third millennium BC. Kunara, only 5 kilometers southwest of the Kurdistan Region's Sulaimani, is 4,000 years old.

A French archaeological team supported by local experts started the first excavation phase back in 2012 and finished the last phase (sixth) in 2018. The excavators successfully unearthed the traces of Kunara city, located on the outskirts of the Zagros Mountains near the Tanjaro River.

“Kunara is a miracle city, an unexpected, rare find,” said Khalid Rasul, a local archaeologist from Sulaimani. “Now we know that 4,000 years ago, monumental structures were erected, and that is amazing and incredible.”

Kunara city makes the Kurdistan Region a universal cradle of writing given the discovery of small clay rectangles inscribed with cuneiform, which confirms the writing pattern of the fourth millennium in the Middle East.

“Kunara’s discovery can shake all the foundations and knowledge we’ve had so far on the ancient inhabitants and history,” Rasul noted. “In terms of importance, Kunara is on the level of Babylon, Nineveh, Ur, and Nimrud archaeological and historical sites.”

According to local experts, Kunara tells us about an unknown people, pushing experts to reconsider research about people living in the mountainous area.

“Kunara is on the western border of the first Mesopotamian empire, which was called Akkad. Things are known about this empire, but there is nothing about Kunara,” said Barzan Rahim, a local historian in Erbil. “Kunara’s people could have their own entity and state, and who knows, they might have been struggling with the neighboring empires.”

Based on the materials discovered on the site, Kunara people could have been royals since the bones of bears and lions attest to reverent gifts or royal hunts. Excavators found remains of goats, sheep, cows, and pigs, suggesting livestock and farming experience.

“The materials show that Kunara people were busy with animal hunting, farming, and livestock,” noted Rahim. “Like any other Mesopotamian kingdom, Kunara people had their own way of life.”

Based on the tablets and forms of writing, the Kunara people could have had their own language and forms of writing, although similar to that of Akkadian and Sumerian writing. However, there are still unanswered questions about Kunara and its people, which require more research and excavation.