Next Project

Repository of Ancient Literature, Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Part 2 Project 2014
Soreen Billbas
University of Huddersfield Huddersfield UK
Mesopotamia is a land of “first ofs.” A region deemed to be the cradle of civilisation. This is the place where the first organised societies came to be. The first laws, developments in science and where time was divided into 60 parts.

This was also the birth place of the first writing system and as a result, the earliest known work of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh, a tale about a king on a quest to find immortality. The epic consists of all the ingredients and themes of love, loss, and death which have echoed as literary topics throughout the ages.

An excavation in mid-19th century Nineveh took place by Sir Austen Henry Layard. Over 20,000 cuneiform tablets were discovered to which most were taken to England and can now be found in the British Museum. The most significant discovery was the aforementioned Epic itself.

During the Medieval times, the Mongolians sacked Baghdad and destroyed everything they could find. The Tigris River was blackened because of the ink from books thrown. However there were book vigilantes who had rescued many thousands of precious manuscripts.

In the same year, the Mongolians had breached the citadel of Erbil, which is 92km East of Nineveh. A prominent Kurdish Historian by the name of Al Mustawfi decided to take preventative action in order to preserve and protect knowledge.
Without the luxury of time, he, alongside others, buried the books deep within the citadel mound.

In the year 2007, the government of Kurdistan set up a restoration programme in collaboration with UNESCO. In 2014, the programme had come to its midpoint and the Citadel was granted its UNESCO status as the longest continuously inhabited citadel in the world. It was not until 2020 when an important discovery was made by construction work, into the foundations of a house, at the southern gate area.

An excavation team had found 30,000 books of arts, maths and sciences with a note by Al Mustawfi himself proclaiming that, “Immortality is found within knowledge.” A building was built. The Epic of Gilgamesh was reinstated back to its place of origin.

Soreen Billbas

Mr Gerard Bareham
• Page Hits: 10056         • Entry Date: 12 September 2014         • Last Update: 15 September 2014