Gabriele Giacosa is burrowing into an ancient city full of artifacts and history. His location? The Nineveh of the Bible, the place God sent the reluctant prophet Jonah to preach and where people repented of their wickedness and turned to God. Nineveh still exists. But one must dig for it.
Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city in Upper Mesopotamia. The city’s ruins lie along the Tigris River across from the modern city of Mosul in northern Iraq.
Nineveh was the largest city in the world for several decades and the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Today, the entire eastern part of Mosul is commonly called by the biblical name.
Archaeologists have excavated many parts of Nineveh. Two large mound-ruins have yielded a wealth of Assyrian artifacts.
Antiquities and Heritage Inspector Omar Hamdoun mentions finding “around 50 clay figures in addition to antiquities of stamps and cuneiform tablets. We also discovered the water canals that carry water to ancient Nineveh from the eastern side.”
Archaeology professor Nicolò Marchetti was part of a joint Iraqi-Italian excavation project begun in 2019. The project is a cooperation between the University of Bologna and Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage. The team works not only to protect the Nineveh site but also on repairing some of the damage done by the Islamic State to the ancient structures.
Today, historians and scientists want to make repairs and prevent further damage.
Archaeologist Giacosa is a researcher at the University of Bologna. He’s part of the team excavating Nineveh. For years, people believed this dusty, clay patch of desert contained mainly gardens and orchards. But recent excavation shows otherwise. “This area was very tightly packed with buildings, connected by small roads, large roads, streets,” Giacosa says. “So this part of Nineveh was very heavily occupied by structures like houses and workshops.”
The project’s success requires that Iraqi locals understand that Nineveh’s ruins can generate income. Tourists from around the world will pay to visit the site. Mosul residents will likely benefit from the revenue.
Local authorities plan to build a green area next to the site to attract tourists. They will place a tourist center in the middle. Marchetti says the center won’t be made of concrete. “It will be a traditional mud brick building.” That choice is “respectful of the environment, of the archaeological area,” he says. “Tourists can find rest, information.”
Why? While the faithful don’t need material proof to believe God’s word is true, a study of archaeology is still fascinating as it reveals God’s fingerprints in the historical record.