British archaeologists start second season of excavations in southern Iraq

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By Basem al-Rikabi

Azzaman, February 13, 2014

A team of British archaeologists have started their second season of excavations in southern Iraq, targeting an ancient Babylonian settlement that was a thriving urban center more than 4,000 years ago.

The site called Tell Khaiber is close to the ancient Sumerian city of Ur, which according to the Bible was Abraham’s hometown.

Tell Khaiber and Ur are situated within the administrative borders of the southern Province of Dhiqar whose officials see the excavations by the British scientists as a sign of international interest in the impoverished province.

Dhiqar Governor Yahya Baqer paid a visit to the site and met with the British excavators.

A statement issued by the governor’s office said Baqer promised to facilitate the scientists work and was keen to seen more foreign expeditions excavating the ancient riches of his province.

It said the governor discussed with Dr. Jane Moon, the head of the British excavation team, the prospect of future cooperation as “only 1 percent of the archaeologically significant sites in the province have been unearthed.”

The statement said there were more than 1,200 compounds in need of excavation in Dhiqar.

It quoted Dr. Moon as saying that the province was extremely rich in ancient sites and excavations would certainly turn it into an attraction for foreign tourists.

“The presence of the British scientists for the second season and other diggers from other universities is an indication that the province enjoys quiet and stability and we need to market it to the world,” the statement reported the governor as saying.

The excavators want to see what connection the compound had to Ur, one of Mesopotamia’s most famous cities.

Tell Khaiber is about 15 kilometers away from Ur, which archaeologists say was the last capital of the Sumerian Royal Dynasties whose civilization flourished in southern Iraq 5,000 years ago.

International archaeological teams used to visit Iraq in droves but foreign excavations came to a halt in 1990 following the country’s invasion of Kuwait and the imposition of U.N. trade sanctions as punishment for the invasion.

Foreign teams started returning albeit in fewer numbers only a few years ago.

Iraq is one of the world’s richest countries in ancient mounds with more than 10,000 sites awaiting excavations.