Czech archaeologists find oldest settlement (150,000 years old) in Arbil, north Iraq

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An expedition of Czech archaeologists has found remains of an about 150,000-year-old prehistoric settlement in Arbil, north Iraq, which has been the so far oldest uncovered in this part of northern Mesopotamia, team head Karel Novacek told reporters Friday.

The archaeologists revealed a high number of items, mainly prehistoric stone tools, about nine metres under the ground in Arbil, capital of the Kurdish autonomous region, said archaeologist Novacek, from the University of West Bohemia in Plzen.

The eight-member expedition returned from Iraq at the end of last year. The team comprised experts from the University of West Bohemia, academic and university institutions in Prague and two companies.

Czech experts have succeeded in finding evidence of the oldest human settlement in the locality as all other finds of American expeditions working there 50 years ago are probably younger.

"We have been the first foreign expedition in this area since the second Gulf War in 2006," Novacek added.

The project, supported by the Czech Science Foundation (GACR), has been the first professional Czech expedition to Mesopotamia, a cradle of human civilisation.

"The expedition has mainly focused on the town of Arbil that used to be one of the royal residential centres of ancient Assyria. Its research is a real challenge for the modern 21st century archaeology," Novacek explained.

Unlike other more known ancient centres in this area, Arbil did not cease to exist and it has remained a lively town to date. It is one of the longest permanently populated sites in the world, Novacek added.

In spite of it, it has not attracted many archaeologists so far.

The beginning of this town dates back to the 3rd century BC.

The expedition's research was primarily based on geophysical exploration, historical buildings documentation and the assessment of aerial and satellite photos.

Novacek, in this respect, also praised cooperation with the Prague-based GemaArt Group heritage conservation company, that has worked in Iraq since 2004, without which the thorough research would not be possible.

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Thomas R. Cox - 3/10/2010

150,000 years?? That's got to be a typo. How about 15,000?