Washington, March 23 (ANI): As the Euphrates River dries up in Iraq's western Anbar province, ancient buildings are emerging from the river bed, which archaeologists can now access for the first time.
According to a report by NPR (National Public Radio), the receding waters of the Euphrates River have revealed ancient archaeological sites, some of which were unknown until now.
That's because former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had flooded these sites in the mid-1980s.
For Ratib Ali al-Kubaisi, the director of Anbar province's Antiquities Department, the drought has opened up a whole new land of opportunity.
He explained that civilization began in Anbar, next to the Euphrates River.
"Everyone thought that Anbar was only desert with no historical importance. But, we discovered that this area is one of the most important archaeological areas in all of Iraq. This part of Iraq was the first to be settled," he said.
In the mid-1980s, Saddam Hussein's government dammed the Euphrates in the area, flooding a 120-mile-long stretch of land near Iraq's border with Syria.
What once was an enormous reservoir that stretched as far as the eye could see has shrunk an astonishing 90 percent since summer, according to officials.
Ratib said that at least 75 archeological sites had been partially excavated before the area was flooded. They ran the gamut of civilizations - from 3,000 B.C. to the Sumerian and Roman periods.
Ancient Jewish settlements were also submerged in the area.
But because of the receding waters, Ratib has been able to access some sites for the first time, including, for instance, a cliff with a series of pre-Christian tombs carved into its face.
Though the water has heavily damaged them, Ratib said that they still have value.
"I wish we could excavate these sites again. If we had the money and the resources, we could complete the work we began all those years ago," he said.
But, it's not only previously discovered archaeological sites that the drought has made accessible.
Ratib and a colleague have also uncovered what looks like an old stone wall, shards of pottery everywhere, which he believes it is a Roman-era irrigation ditch.
"I've never seen this site before. When we excavated this area decades ago, this was all buried underneath the soil, but the receding waters uncovered it," he said. (ANI)