Missione Archeologica Italiana a Nigin


The Italian Archaeological Expedition to Tell Zurghul is a join project between Sapienza University of Rome and Perugia University, co-directed by Davide Nadali and Andrea Polcaro. The site is a settlement of about 70 hectares, characterized by two principal mounds, called Mound A and Mound B. The first one, reaching actually a height of about 15 meters, is located in the center of the site and corresponds to the main occupational phases of the acropolis of ancient Nigin. The second one, reaching nowadays a height of 5 meters, is located 160 meters south-west from Mound A. Both mounds still show the signs of the two deep excavation trenches operated by Robert Koldewey in 1887. The site of Tell Zurghul was already identified as Nigin, one of the three main cities of the ancient Sumerian State of Lagash, corresponding to Tell el-Hiba (located just 7 kilometers to northwest), by the first excavations and surveys operated at the site in the past centuries.

Several cuneiform sources of the First and Second dynasties of Lagash describe the ancient city of Nigin referring to the existence of many sanctuaries (the main one dedicated to the goddess Nanshe) and the canal of the Sumerian state, coming from Tello and reaching the  sea to the South.

The first excavations of the Italian Archaeological Expedition in 2015 showed that the history of site is more ancient and dates back to the V millennium BC, in the Ubaid Period, with an imposing and large settlement in the IV millennium BC in the Late Uruk Period.

The Italian Archaeological Expedition to Tell Zurghul, ancient Nigin


Tell Zurghul was first noted by E. De Sarzec, who in his Decouvertes en Chaldée (1844) gives a brief description of the ruins and hills of the site. The site was then visited by W. H. Ward in 1885: he described the main hill in a more accurate way, which he interpreted as a ziqqurat, since the still visible line of a platform near the top of the mound. He also described the second mound, a large cemetery area and few objects bought from the local people. In 1887 R. Koldewey made two months of excavations at the site performing two narrow and long trenches on the top and on one side of Mound A and Mound B, registering a total lack of backed bricks and some objects of several periods, together with enigmatic, probably late, incinerated burials. Koldewey Also registered a funerary area on the northern side of the site, which he dated to the Old-Babylonian Period. In 1926 R. P. Dougherty made another survey to Tell Zurghul, registering the presence of water in the lower city of the site, typical of the marshland landscape. He also noted the cut of the larger trench operated by Koldewey, still visible on the top of the Mound A. The seasonal flooding inside the ancient settlement was already present in the 1990, when J. A. Black made the last survey to Tell Zurghul before the new Italian Excavations of 2015.

Mound A of Nigin in 1926

Mound A of Nigin in 2015