Fulbrighter Discovers Ancient Historical Site in Iraq

This year I discovered an ancient site on top of a mountain about two kilometers to the north of my hometown, Dohuk, while hiking with one of my friends. This site, locally called Kela Gunde Piromera, a Kurdish term meaning Piromera village citadel, was neither referenced in any literature or local publications nor is it well-known locally despite its apparent magnitude and history.

The site consists of many rocky structures stretched over the mountain top forming chambers with seats carved out of rock wall, rocky cells and grounds, wells carved deep in the ground, and remains of a masonry well with a seam connecting gypsum-like material. The cells could have had many functions, such as shelter, protection from invaders or beasts, and as watchtowers (for those overlooking the northern side of the mountain where several villages are located).

Almost all structures on this site resemble those on the site of Kela Akrè, also known as Akre Citadel, a formidable fortress located in the city of Akre. For example, the wells on Kela Gunde Piromera have similar shape and structure of those on Kela Akrè, which was built on the top of a mountain during the Neo‐Late Assyrian period and is unique for its highly engineered construction technique. It is characterized by a network of caves, tunnels, rooms, wells, ditches, and other structures, all carved out of rock. This hill-fort was continuously inhabited as an administrative and military headquarters. The only visible difference found between the two is that the wells in the former do not have a layer of gypsum and some of them are deeper and wider in diameter.

My goal is to nominate this historical site as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I plan to meet with elderly people of the nearby villages to collect oral information about the history and functions of the new site. This effort will be built upon with the experience and skills I gained under a 2016 Fulbright Alumni Community Action Grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The grant funded the implementation of a community action project titled “Stories, Legends and Oral History: A Community-Based Initiative Towards Historic Preservation.” The project was implemented in coordination with the Center for Cultural Sustainability at the University of Texas, San Antonio and the University of Duhuk’s Spatial Planning Department in Akre’s old town and in Dohuk province, including Akre’s ancient citadel (Kela Akrè). The experience helped me to recognize and distinguish different ancient structures on Akre citadel, and relate them to other similar sites. My Fulbright experience has given me all the tools needed to protect this important cultural heritage site in my home country. Stay tuned for the second stage of my project as I collect stories and incorporate my findings into the history of this site.

Read Jambally’s previous blog on his ACAG grant which also focused on cultural preservation here.

Jambally graduated with a Master’s in Geographic Information System and Community Planning from Texas Tech University in 2011 through the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. He is from and currently lives in Iraq.

Read more Fulbright stories here.