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Ancient Tablets Lead Archeologists to the Lost City of Mardaman

Ancient Tablets Lead Archeologists to the Lost City of Mardaman

Archeologists working in modern-day Iraq uncovered several ancient cuneiform tablets that led them to discover the location of the lost city of Mardaman.

Last summer, archeologists working in the Kurdistan region of Iraq uncovered several tablets dating back thousands of years. The tablets were worn and broken, but they had been deliberately protected millennia earlier, giving archeologists a rare chance to read a set of ancient tablets. And rarer still, the tablets ended up solving a mystery that historians have been debating for centuries.

The tablets were eventually determined to be around 3200 years old and featured writing in the ancient cuneiform language. After nearly a year of painstaking reassembling, preserving, and translating the tablets, archeologists from the University of Tübingen recently announced that the tablets told the story of the lost city of Mardaman (also known as Mardama), a royal city that was referenced frequently in ancient writings but was lost to time. The tablets also told the archelogists where the lost city was located.

As it turned out, the archeologists didn’t have far to look. The present day town of Bassetki, the site of  the excavation where the tablets were uncovered, is built on top of what used to be the royal city.

Ancient Tablets Lead Archeologists to the Lost City of MardamanMardaman was a powerful and influential city in the northern Mesopotamian valley for nearly 1,000 years. From circa 2200 to 1200 BCE, it was a vital trade hub between Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Syria, and home to various aristocracies.

The earliest references place Maradman’s founding during the Third Dynasty of Ur, and in 2250 BCE it was referenced as having been destroyed by Naram-Sin, the most powerful ruler of the Akkadians, the first known empire. The city would be rebuilt and become a powerful player in the ancient world.

Ancient Baylonian texts later refer to Mardaman as the seat of a great kingdom that ruled until 1786 BCE, when it was conquered and became part of the Assyrian Empire under King Shamshi-Adad I. The city soon gained its independence once more, but was later destroyed once more, this time by the Turukkaeans.

The city faded, but the tablets now confirm that it continued on in some fashion, and around 1250 BCE it was the seat of a Middle Assyrian governor. The tablets were written around this time, so the history after that is unknown, but at some point in the years or centuries to follow the city was destroyed again, this time for good.

The tablets seem to have been carefully and deliberately put inside a ceramic vessel, then placed among the wreckage of the city, hiding it from further damage and preserving it for time. It’s impossible to know for sure, but the indications are that someone intended this information to be protected for future generations.

The discovery will lead to further excavation of the site, and the hope is that more of the city’s history will be revealed over time.



Founder and DBP boss. Ryan likes the Kansas Jayhawks, long walks on the beach, and high fiving unsuspecting people.