The Citadel Of Erbil Has Been Continuously Inhabited Since 5000 BC

Grace Higgins | November 7th, 2020

The Erbil Citadel known as Qelat to the locals in Iraq is a historic mound in the city of Erbil. The citadel itself is listed as a world heritage site and located in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. It rises between 25 to 32 meters from the surrounding plain, giving it key advantages for keeping inhabitants safe. For many historians, it is a key location of human civilization because the mound has been inhabited since around the 5th millennium BC. Potentially, there were humans living there even earlier. Furthermore, we find documentation confirming its existence on the Ebla Tablets as early as 2,300 BC.

In fact, as human civilizations grew we found the mound of Erbil was a key component of many cultures. During the Sasanian period, it became an important center for Christianity. But there is a lot of evidence the site was largely used during the Neolithic period. Potentially, a center for a pagan religion. For example, archeologists have found many pottery fragments that seem to indicate the site is the oldest continuously occupied site in the world.

In 1258, the mound was captured by the Mongols, and its importance as a regional power started to decline. After that, it went through various empire invasions such as Muslim conquests and then the Ottomans. During the modern period in the 20th century, the city government decided the mound needed a lot of structural work to remain safe. This resulted in hundreds of historic houses and public buildings being lost to demolishing crews. Currently, the only religious structure that survived was the Mulla Afandi mosque.

However, in 2007 the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization (HCECR) group was formed and laid out the groundwork for a restoration process. The idea is to restore the citadel to its former glory. Every inhabitant except for one family was relocated to different parts of the city. Only one family was picked to stay as the government wanted to continue the tradition of the citadel always being inhabited.

During this restoration process, hundreds of international archaeological teams have been allowed onto the site. The plan is to work with local specialists to ensure the restoration process preserves the local history and culture of Erbil. Once completed, 50 families will be allowed to return and live in the citadel.

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