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Archaeologists stunned after finding 'world's oldest city' hidden deep in Syria's desert

Humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years — a long enough time for a vast archaeological record to build up.

Such ancient sites are scattered across the world and come in all shapes and sizes: from Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain to the Mayan Temple of Inscriptions.

There are, however, several architectural relics that remain completely undiscovered for a variety of reasons.

Whether that’s because they have been built over or perhaps lay on private land, the variables are endless.

One such site remained completely untouched largely because of its location, an ancient city hidden deep inside the Syrian desert that is thought to be the world’s oldest city and is filled with clues about our ancestors.

Tell Brak, as it was called, started as a small settlement in the seventh millennium BC but soon grew into a metropolis whose size had never been seen.

It became the biggest city in Upper Mesopotamia, and went through several phases of flux, but always returned to its behemoth stature.

You’d think that a city with such deep cultural and historical roots would be revered, but it only came to the world’s attention in 2007, when researchers reviewing old Cold War-era spy plane images struck lucky.

Speaking to the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary, ‘The Life of Earth: The Age of Humans’, Anthropologist Dr Jesse Casana was given access to the US’s CORONA Spy satellite.

Between 1960 and 1972, the satellite carried out countless reconnaissance missions in the Middle East in its efforts to surveil the Soviet Union’s activities in the region.

The technology employed by the CIA was powerful enough to take extremely detailed images of secluded places, many of which had not been explored.

“We were able to document something like 10,000 previously unknown archaeological sites that through the history of 150 years of archaeologists working in the Middle East, no one had ever documented,” Dr Casana explained.

Tell Brak is thought to be 4,000 years older than the pyramids of Ancient Egypt, and though it remains largely a mystery, researchers believe the people who inhabited it would’ve called the city Nagar.

It served as a vital trading point along the route from the Tigris Valley northwards to the mines of Anatolia and westwards to the Euphrates and the Mediterranean.

The city would have become a great hub of trade and commerce, and would have been influenced by a range of cultures.

Excavations have since taken place at the site in a bid to further understand the city and its people.

Some of the finds include workshops alongside evidence of the mass production of bowls and other items made of obsidian and white marble, stamp seals and sling bullets.

The city’s population were as such highly skilled and made things like flints and other weapons, and perfected the process of graining basalt to make blocks.

Archaeological work has also suggested that the urban-based society was based on rain-fed agriculture.

Cuneiform tablets found in the ancient city of Ebla, Syria, suggest that during the third millennium, Tell Brak was one of the dominant cities in northern Mesopotamia.

While the settlement is thought to have grown even bigger in the fourth millennium BC, from this point it soon began to dwindle until eventually fading away, coinciding with the arrival of Mesopotamia’s Copper Age.


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