The Expedition at Nuzi

Originally Published in 1931

View PDF

Aerial view of city walls
Plate II — Nuzi, Near Kirkuk, Iraq, From the Air

THE Museum, in association with Harvard University and the American School of Oriental Research at Baghdad, has resumed operations at Nuzi, near present-day Kirkuk, Iraq. Since progress in uncovering the lower temple, discovered last year, has been delayed pending permission to remove the upper building, the work in this area has been restricted to test-soundings, which, however, indicate the presence not only of the lower temple, but of a third level below. Now that the necessary permission has been received, work will proceed apace.

Meanwhile, a more thorough investigation of the lower level of the mound has been in progress, the excavation of an area represented by a room of the palace being carried down to virgin soil. In the fourth level, some fifty or sixty tablets of an archaic type were found in excellent condition. Most of them are receipts for offerings of grain, animals and the like. One tablet of unusual interest is a word-list written altogether in Sumerian. Mr. Richard F. S. Starr, the director of the expedition, has had the tablets examined by Dr. T. J. Meek who is now at work deciphering them.

An excavated stone block in the middle of a room
Plate III — Stone Hearths in Two Different Strata, Altar in Background; Nuzi, Iraq

In the north corner of the mound, an area of considerable interest has been excavated, bringing to light a series of rooms whose walls are very thick and well built. Another series of rooms has been found to have a most unusual floor construction: being of mud bricks stood on end in rows on the pavement, each row separated from the next by the width of a brick, while in between these rows was put loose, porous earth and over this was laid a real floor of mud brick lying flat on top of the upright rows. The result of this peculiar construction was a very dry floor as well as a very level and solid one.

A short distance away, a large court was discovered with an area somewhat larger than that of the palace. One of its walls is faced with brick, which is the first example of brick facing to be found since the early excavations in the palace several years ago. This gives to the structures in this locality an added importance and it may well be an indication of a connection with the temple area which lies just to the west.

First among the objects of artistic worth that have been found at Nuzi are the sculpture in glazed terra-cotta. Antedating the Assyrian and late Babylonian glazing by several hundred years, these objects reveal extraordinary skill in technique, as may be seen from the examples now on exhibition in the Museum. Among these is the figure of a lion, found last year, referred to in the November Bulletin; although this is apparently a couchant figure, there has recently been found a terra-cotta fragment, representing the forelegs of a standing animal, which almost certainly belongs to this lion. In addition to this fragment, there have also been found this year several other large fragments of grotesque lion figures. These last were found in the northern temple well, for which search has been made for some time and which was only found the day Mr. Starr wrote his last report. It appears from the high level of the objects so far found in the well, that it must have been in use and filled up at the time of the destruction of the temple, and if this is so, material of considerable importance may be found before the bottom is reached.

Cite This Article

"The Expedition at Nuzi." Museum Bulletin II, no. 4 (February, 1931): 111-115. Accessed July 15, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

Report problems and issues to