Shimshara (36°12'1.86"N, 44°56'17.60"E) is located on the north-eastern edge of the Rania Plain, close to the Lesser Zab river. Danish and Iraqi excavations in the 1950-60s revealed extensive settlement of Bronze Age and Neolithic date. Following construction of the Dokan Dam in 1957 the site periodically submerged below the waters of the new lake. In recent years very low water levels mean that the site is now above water for much of the year, thus enabling renewed archaeological investigation. The aim of our work at Shimshara is to record and excavate as much as possible of the Neolithic levels before they are completely eroded by repeated flooding.

Early Neolithic occupation deposits at Shimshara

The CZAP team undertook section cleaning and interdisciplinary sampling in summer 2012, in order to investigate Neolithic ecology, society and activity at the site. This initial phase of rescue work on the eastern edge of the mound revealed an Early Neolithic terrace cut into a natural spur, which represents the earliest evidence for occupation at Shimshara. This phase includes rich animal and plant remains, as well as finds such as marble bracelets, incised stone bowls and obsidian tools indicating a community linked into far-reaching networks across the region.

Finely stratified areas of burning and well-preserved surfaces

Rescue excavations in 2013

Rising water levels at Shimshara in 2013 threatened to submerge the site. Rescue work in the summer included two trenches opened adjacent to the section we explored in 2012. External surfaces with sloping layers of ash and areas of intense burning were located, with samples taken containing rich deposits of animal bone and material culture.