1,400-Year-Old Loom Discovered in Iraq
An ancient loom, a seal decorated with a griffin, and the remains of a stone watchtower are just some of the finds from a recent excavation in northern Iraq. A recent six-week excavation in the province fortuitously ended before the earthquake struck. The work focused on the 7.4-acre site Gird-î Qalrakh on the Shahrizor Plain, and unearthed evidence for an ancient, centuries-old textile industry in a region now famed for its colorful Iraqi-Kurdish carpets and related woven goods. Project leader Dirk Wicke of the Institute of Archaeology at Goethe University and his team were wrapping up their excavation, when student Lanah Haddad noticed a wall from a mysterious room within the trench where she was digging. Wicke asked her to keep removing dirt. As she did, several clay weights became visible, along with the charred remains of a large ancient loom. “Lanah worked hard with the support of 1–2 students, and I decided to leave her trench alone and open for 2 more days — which was really worth it,” Wicke told Seeker. His curiosity grew over other clay objects in the trench, due to their slightly off color and texture. Similar moments have happened to him before, he said, explaining that when he sees such clues, he will try to turn the clay objects over, in order to identify possible lines, dots, and curves, which form a pattern or shape. “Once carefully dry-cleaned in the dig house, you start to twist the find beneath strong light from all sides in order to identify the images,” he said. “In this case, they were beautiful Sasanian griffins and horses.” Griffins — mythical creatures with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion — are perhaps best known to people today from the popular Harry Potter films. Although the lighting was poor in the tiny, cramped dig house where he and his team were based during the excavation, they were able to photograph the griffin. His team determined that the object and others found with it were probably seals from rolls of fabric. About 16 and a half feet below the layer where the loom and seals were discovered, the researchers found an elaborate cylinder seal dating to a much earlier time, the 9th-7th century BC Assyrian period. Assyria refers to a major Mesopotamian kingdom that, at its peak, stretched from Cyprus and the East Mediterranean to Iran, and from what is now Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus, to the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, and eastern Libya. The scientists were able to take a clear photo of the Assyrian cylinder seal.