2,700 years ago, someone carved a message to the ancient king Esarhaddon in a tunnel under a tomb. The message remained sealed away, unseen and undocumented by archaeologists, until the '80s and '90s.
In present-day Mosul, Iraq, archaeologists have been exploring and documenting tombs from the kingdom of Nineveh. Looters, with a suspected affiliation with ISIS, had dug a tunnel under the supposed tomb of the biblical prophet Jonah. Archaeologists took advantage of the uncovered tunnel and explored, found, photographed, and translated the writing on the walls and on stone objects. They found several intriguing remnants of the past, including ancient Neo-Assyrian inscriptions.
One message translates to “The palace of Esarhaddon, strong king, king of the world, king of Assyria, governor of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the kings of lower Egypt, upper Egypt and Kush,” according to LiveScience. Kush is an ancient kingdom located in present-day Nubia.
Archaeologists discovered these inscriptions and more between 1987 and 1992, but because of political conflict in the region, they weren’t able to complete and publish their work until December of 2017. The archaeologists documented their findings in the journal Iraq.
Luckily, archaeologists were able to uncover some of this ancient history before the site was too damaged to explore. ISIS had blown up parts of the shrine containing Jonah’s reputed tomb in 2014 before Iraqi troops came in and liberated the site, according to The Times of Israel.
Jonah, known as Yunus in the Koran, is a religious figure in Abrahamic religions most famous for the story of being swallowed by a “giant fish,” or possibly a whale. The text says that he preached in the city if Nineveh, which was the capital of the ancient Assyrian empire.
The inscriptions describe the rule of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon. They describe his family history and a first-person account, saying “I surrounded, conquered, plundered, demolished, destroyed and burned with fire twenty-one of their cities together with small cities in their environs,” according to LiveScience. According to the inscriptions, Esarhaddon was a ruthless and revered ruler and conqueror.
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