Site located about 3 km (2 mi.) north of Aššur in northern Iraq, on the east bank of the Tigris River. Since 1960, two villages have appeared within the old ruin: Tulul al-῾Aqir (its official modern name) and Na῾ifeh. Serious archaeological work at the site was carried out in winter 1913–1914 by the architect Walter Bachmann, a member of Walter Andrae's team at Aššur. The identification of Tulul al-῾Aqir with ancient Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta, a residential city founded by the Middle Assyrian ruler Tukulti-Ninurta I (1233–1197 BCE), already suggested by Friedrich Sarre and Ernst Herzfeld (1911), was proved by the several foundation tablets Bachmann excavated. Unfortunately, Bachmann did not write a final report and the original field notes were considered lost. Based on the existing original plans and maps, it was at least possible for Tilman Eickhoff (1985) to publish a summary of Bachmann's work. Fieldwork under the direction of Reinhard Dittmann sponsored by the German Research Foundation was reopened at the site in 1986 and continued in 1989. The original data belonging to the early campaign were recovered in 1992, in Dresden, Germany. [See Aššur; and the biography of Andrae.]

The site is about 500 ha (1,235 acres) in area (only 250 ha, or 617 acres, have been surveyed and mapped thus far). The site's western limit is defined by the Tigris; its eastern one must be next to a large Middle Assyrian channel running parallel to the river that enters the plain about 25 km (16 mi.) to the north. The ruin's northern limit cannot be defined today because of recent leveling activities; the southern city wall was not traced until 1989. The city was subdivided into several quarters: an official royal-administrative one, separated from the others by a fortification wall and further subdivided by a smaller wall into western and eastern sections. This complex could be entered through at least four gates (figure 1: D, F, G, N). The western quarter, on the bank of the Tigris, includes the palace and temples. The eastern part is as yet functionally unidentified and partly overlaid by the two recent villages.

Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta

KAR-TUKULTI-NINURTA. Figure 1. The official section of the town. (Courtesy R. Dittmann)

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Of the original palace complex (minimum measurements 320 × 150 m), only two parts have been excavated so far. The so-called North Palace (figure 1: M) was accessed from a courtyard or an open space to the north through a monumental entrance that led to the representative rooms; this plan foreshadows the later Neo-Assyrian reception suite layout, in which access is given to a large unexcavated area, perhaps to a courtyard (or more than one) ending in a huge terrace originally about 18 m high (see the South Palace, figure 1: A). Fragments of elaborate wall paintings on the flanks of the eroded terrace indicate the former importance of the rooms on the top; assuming two stories, they were almost the same height as the top of the neighboring ziggurrat of the Aššur Temple (see figure 1: B, i.e., about 30 m high). South of the terrace are industrial-like installations.

Recent surveys, south of the terrace, makes likely the existence of a large (165 × 120 m) unexcavated structure. About 60 m north of the North Palace, recent excavations unearthed parts of another large complex with a room or courtyard paved with unique rhomboid bricks. The walls had been decorated with glazed tiles in green and yellow, with frit panels with palmette motifs. The only large fragment found has a direct, contemporaneous parallel in the area of the Ishtar Temple at Aššur; in light of the three votive altars found in the immediate vicinity, this structure might be another temple and not part of the palace, as the stamps, marked É. GAL, on the bricks suggest. In the northeast corner of the western official part, a small (18.5 × 20 m), towerlike structure of unknown function has been excavated (figure 1: K).

The Aššur Temple with its ziggurat (figure 1: B, figure 2; measuring 30 × 30 m) at the base) is located immediately to the southeast of the terrace of the South Palace. The niche of its cella, whose layout is somewhat Babylonian, offers some enigmatic installations that could belong to a wood-panel construction once perhaps decorated with paintings. Because in the 1913–1914 excavations no other temple was found or traced on the ruin, the structures found in 1989 have now altered the assumption that the large oblong room next to the cella is the place where the gods mentioned in the texts (see Freydank, 1976–) as worshiped at Kar-Tu-kulti-Ninurta (in addition to Aššur: Adad, Shamash, Ninurta, Nusku, Nergal, Sebittu, and Ishtar), were assembled in the form of votive altars. Access to the ziggurat is unclear. Andrae and Bachmann identified a small structure west of the ziggurat as a staircase building from which, via a bridge-like construction, the first level of the ziggurat could be reached. Another hypothesis, based on the evidence of Tell er-Rimah (possibly ancient Karana), envisions access via the roof of the temple. [See Rimah, Tell er-.] The Aššur Temple at Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta has no staircase, and the possibility that there was no real access to the Middle Assyrian ziggurat needs to be considered. This would also be in harmony with the Aššur-Enlil Ziggurat at Aššur. [See Ziggurat.]

About 250 m north-northeast of the North Palace, a new small temple was excavated in 1989 at an elevation called Tell O. The deity worshiped is as yet unidentified; it is also unclear whether this structure belonged to the administrative sector of the city, to a residential area, or the suburbs. Midway between this temple and the palace is an area (about 150 × 150 m) with a dense concentration of pottery and a lot of grinding-stone fragments. The finds may indicate a grain-manufacture and storage unit, such as mentioned in the texts. Traces of large structures are found in the vast southern parts of the city along the channel, surely the place where the king settled the different peoples exiled there following his campaigns in neighboring countries.

Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta

KAR-TUKULTI-NINURTA. Figure 2. Plan of the Aššur temple with ziggurat. (Sketch by W. Bachmann)

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It has been assumed that after the violent death of Tukulti-Ninurta I the ruin was either completely deserted or was no more than a hamlet. Survey evidence, as well as a critical examination of the historical sources, shows that there was a brief interruption in the use of most of the public buildings (with the exception of the new temple in Tell O, which continued to be in use for a short time) and that in the one-year reign of Ninurta-Tukulti-Aššur (1133 BCE) parts of structures had been pulled down. So-called Ishtar hands, found in some quantities especially in the South Palace, attest to a partial reuse of the ruin in the ninth century BCE. Important traces of a Neo-Assyrian occupation have mostly been found in the official sector of the town (figure 1: J? and newly excavated areas). Historical records mention at least two official administrators of the town at the end of the ninth and the second half of the eighth centuries BCE. No traces of a post-Assyrian occupation have yet been found, with the exception of a few Parthian sherds and some medieval pottery.

Bibliography

  • Bastert, Katrin, and Reinhard Dittmann. “Anmerkungen zu einigen Schmuckelementen eines mittelassyrischen Temples in Kar Tukultī-Ninurta (Iraq).” Altorientalische Forschungen 22 (1995): 8–29.
    Preliminary report on the excavation of the temple in Tell O in 1989
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  • Dittmann, Reinhard, et al. “Kar Tukultī-Ninurta/Al-῾Aqar 1986.” Sumer (1989–1990): 86–97.
    Preliminary report on the campaign of 1986
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  • Dittmann, Reinhard, et al. “Untersuchungen in Kār-Tukultī-Ninurta (Tulūl al-῾Aqar), 1986.” Mitteilungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft 120 (1988): 97–138.
    Preliminary report of the work at the site in 1986 and a critical review of the old data
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  • Dittmann, Reinhard. “Ausgrabungen der Freien Universität Berlin in Assur and Kār-Tukultī-Ninurta in den Jahren 1988–89.” Mitteilungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft 122 (1990): 157–171.
    Second preliminary report on the new excavations
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  • Dittmann, Reinhard. “Assur und Kar Tukulti-Ninurta.” American Journal of Archaeology 96 (1992): 307–312.
    Treats the campaigns of 1986 and 1989
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  • Eickhoff, Tilman. Kar Tukulti Ninurta: Eine mittelassyrische Kult- und Residenzstadt. Abhandlungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft, 21. Berlin, 1985.
    The first comprehensive compilation of the data from the old excavation
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  • Frame, Grant. “Assyrian Clay Hands.” Baghdader Mitteilungen 22 (1991): 335–381.
    Compilation of data on the so-called Ishtar Hands
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  • Freydank, H. “Kār-Tukulti-Ninurta. A. Philologisch.” In Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie, vol. 5, pp. 455–456. Berlin, 1976–.
    Overview of the textual finds and historical information on the ruins
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  • Sarre, Friedrich P. T., and Ernst Herzfeld. “Der Djabal Makḥül.” In Archäologische Reise im Euphrat- und Tigris-Begiet, vol. 1, pp. 212–214. Berlin, 1911.
    The earliest correct identification of the site and some pottery sherds, already indicating a Neo-Assyrian occupation
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Reinhard Dittmann