Free Research Paper On Aqar Quf
Type of paper: Research Paper
Topic: Archaeology, Iraq, History, Ziggurat, Middle East, Kassite, Heritage, World
Deemed one of Iraq's most valuable archeological sites, Aqar Quf (ancient Dur-Kurigalzu) has a long history in politics, archeology and culture. Aqar Quf is a world-recognized heritage site and is protected by a broad range of national and international archeological and heritage organizations, agencies and ministries including, but are not limited to, UNESCO, Global Heritage Fund, Iraqi Ministry of Culture, not to mention independent agencies such as Iraq Heritage Program. Congruent to site's national and international significance, Aqar Quf represents a unique part of Iraq's history. Since early excavations in 1940s, Aqar Quf has continued to fuel archeological research not only about such a significant site but also about different Iraqi sites. In order, hence, to better contextualize Aqar Quf in not only Iraqi history but also, in particular, in Iraq's archeological history, deeper insights need to be developed for Aqar Quf's archeological significance in Iraqi history. Accordingly, Aqar Quf's archeological as well as political history needs to be exposed in more depth. This report is aimed, hence, to offer a detailed account of Aqar Quf's archeological history for a better understanding of site's significance in Iraqi history and archeological history in particular.
Aqar Quf, or Dur-Kurigalzu (meaning, most probably, "fortress of Kassites"), is located in Baghdad Governorate, Iraq, was founded by Kurigalzu I, a Kassite king of Babylon around 14 BC and remained seat of governance until final downfall of Kassite dynasty (World Heritage Encyclopedia n.d.:para. 1). Aqar Quf is situated along a limestone ridge between Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Interestingly Aqar Quf was a de facto capital of Babylonia during Kurigalzu I's rule, or served at least as a major city. The city was abandoned, however, around 12 BC. The temple area (discussed in further detail later) remained an actively occupied area in 7th century BC and during Neo-Babylonian period.
During Kassite period, a wall surrounded an area around 556 acres. Typographically, Aqar Quf has an elongated shape and embraces several mounds. Central to Aqar Quf's defining features is a hill which contains a ziggurat ("temple" in ancient Mesopotamia), devoted to Babylonia's main god. The ziggurat was, however, burned by Elamites (United States Department of Defense n.d.:para. 3). The architectural uniformity noted in Aqar Quf's ziggurat and surrounding area suggests all being created by King Kurigalzu I. Only ziggurat's southwest side was excavated and hence future excavations suggest possible discoveries of pottery work and artifacts dating back to Kassite period. Further, Aqar Quf's ziggurat's structure is made up of sun-dried square bricks (World Heritage Encyclopedia n.d.:para. 4). The outer layers are, however, made of fired bricks. Notably, as was common in ancient world, Aqar Quf's ziggurat was a remarkable sign for Baghdad.
As noted, Aqar Quf has a long political and archeological history. A seat of Kassite dynasty for 400 years (United States Department of Defense n.d.:para. 1), Aqar Quf has witnessed differential periods of interest and negligence. First described by Claudius James Rich in 1811 (World Heritage Encyclopedia n.d.:para. 5), Aqar Quf was defined as Dur-Kurigalzu by Henry Creswicke Rawlinson in the mid 19th century. However, actual excavation works were carried out between 1942 and 1945. Of particular note is Taha Baqir, one of Iraq's most prominent archeologists (World Public Library Association n.d.:para. 2), who is considered actual identifier of Aqar Quf as he deciphered cuneiforms onsite. In a joint excavation mission by Iraqi Directorate-General of Antiquities and British School of Archeology in Iraq, Aqar Quf was excavated for most parts but future excavations could offer further insights into Kassite period. Probably one most notable outcome of early excavation work is Aqar Quf's main ziggurat. However, valuable artifacts – including, for example, more than 100 cuneiform tablets dating back to Kassite period – were either recovered, restored or reconstructed. Three main areas were, mainly, excavated. These include Aqar Quf's mound, a public building and Tell al-Abyad, an area in which a large palace was partially uncovered. If anything, Aqar Quf's main ziggurat has offered invaluable insights into Kassite architectural unique features as eroded details in ziggurat's structure exposed details characteristic of ziggurat's architecture. More specifically, layers of reed mats and reed bundles which hold ziggurat's structure together and offset differential settling are not as notable as in ziggurat's structure. Further, major artwork from Kassite period was found in discovered palace in Tell al-Abyad.
More broadly, Kassite period was characterized by commerce and communication in what is now known as Middle East (Alexandria Archive Institute n.d.:Aqar Quf, para. 3). This fact, emphasized by Aqar Quf's centrality and significance in ancient Mesopotamia, makes Aqar Quf a particularly interesting archeological site, notwithstanding scarcity of available artifacts. Accordingly, further excavations are required for deeper insights into not only Kassite period but also into wider areas around for which Aqar Quf' could very possibly – given city's significance as capital of old Babylon or, at least as repeatedly referred to in literature, a major city – be a nexus of commerce, communication, culture and arts, as was most common in metropolitan areas in ancient history.
As matters stand currently, Aqar Quf experiences different factors which impact not only on site's significance but also on site's very existence. Notably, Aqar Quf is suffering from natural erosion factors being situated along a limestone ridge between Euphrates and Tigris rivers which makes site subject to periodical floods (World Public Library Association n.d.:para. 7). Further, increasing urbanization is another risk factor which Aqar Quf is currently subject to. As urbanization rates accelerate – in addition to lack of strict state control over development plans, particularly during recent war periods – Aqar Quf's ziggurat – a centuries-old post for Baghdad and a signal for visitors – could not only be lost from sight but also submerged as urbanization continues to invade surrounding areas.
Probably, as just noted, one particular development over recent years in Iraq is political one. Battered by war, Iraq has experienced major losses archeologically. These losses are not only confined to absence of excavations but, more significantly, to loss of valuable artifacts as a result of a series of conflicts Iraq has experienced in recent years. In addition to acts of looting, allegedly faith-driven motivations appear to be behind Iraq's most recent damage in Assyrian cities of Nineveh, Nimrud, and Khorsabad (Romey 2015:para. 4). Given recurring reports about Iraq's lost and damaged artifacts, Aqar Quf might be a site recommended for damage if adequate protections are not put in place. Admittedly, U.S. has invested efforts to help local community protect Aqar Quf's ziggurat as one case study shows (Forum Archeaologiae 2010:para. 1). However, since majority of U.S. ground combatant force has left Iraq and given present sectarian violence and conflicts, concerns remain as to how not only archeological sites such as Aqar Quf could be preserved but also how cultural heritage be protected particularly during periods of war.
As noted, Aqar Quf remains a notable archeological artifact. This is not only justified by site's strategic positioning but also to Kassite dynasty. The Kassite dynasty remains, indeed, a unique occurrence in Iraqi history. Having ruled old Babylonia for 400 years, Kassite dynasty left a notable archeological artifact which has not – so far – been fully deciphered. True, recovered cuneiforms and pottery work have partially offered insights into unique architectural features. However, as noted, placing Aqar Quf in a broader socio-political context remains an effort which further excavations onsite should uncover. Thus, by further support from Iraqi's Ministry of Culture and international stakeholders, particularly UNESCO, Aqar Quf could enjoy a refreshed interest.
Alexandria Archive Institute
2010. A Case Study in Cultural Heritage Protection in a Time of War: The Ziggurat at Aqar Quf. https://homepage.univie.ac.at/elisabeth.trinkl/forum/forum0610/55roberts.htm, accessed April 25, 2015
2015. Despite ISIS Threat, Looted Antiquities Returning to Iraq. National Geographic March 24. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/03/150324-iraq-artifacts-return-isis-baghdad-museum-islamic-state-archaeology/, accessed April 25, 2015
United States Department of Defense
World Heritage Encyclopedia
World Public Library Association