What a Sensation at the Sulaymaniyah Museum

What a Sensation at the Sulaymaniyah Museum

I’d just finished my neurology ward tour and the rest of my duty in our hospital. My Nikon D90 camera and its incredible Nikkor AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR lens were in my car. “I have plenty of time, what to do?” I asked myself. After a while, I decided to visit the Sulaymaniyah (Slemani) Museum. How about taking some pictures there and publishing them on Ancient History Encyclopedia?

The Sulaymaniyah Museum is the second largest museum in Iraq (after the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad) and was founded in the year 1961 CE. It lies within the heart of the city of Sulaymaniyah and looks over Salim Street, one of the main streets in the city. What a surprise! A lot of school children are about to enter the museum.


A group of primary school children are scrutinizing various artifacts. The girl close to me was looking at glass containers, which date back from the Sasanian period (from 226 CE) to the early Islamic and Umayyad period (750 CE). Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
There are no tickets and the entry is free (similar to the British Museum). Once you enter the museum’s building, the main halls are straight ahead. The very first thing you will encounter is a replica of the rock-relief from the entry into the cave of Kiz Kappan, which is flanked by replicas of two mountainous rock-reliefs of Rabana and Meer Quli; these three replicas represent historical landmarks within the Governorate of Sulaymaniyah.


Turn right. You will enter a small hall which was reconstructed recently by UNESCO. This hall contains artifacts that date back from the pre-historic era to the Abbasid Islamic period. Many of the main and most important of the museum’s artifacts are displayed here.

Next, and behind this hall, the museum is divided into two long halls, connected by a short and open lecture hall. The artifacts are displayed according to their chronology within Mesopotamian history (irrespective of their location within the Fertile Crescent) in separate displaying cases. Some artifacts belonged to ancient local city-states within modern-day Iraqi Kurdistan. We have not studied these cities or their findings in our school history books (for example, Simurrum kingdom)! The history of these cities was deliberately overlooked by Saddam’s regime, which concentrated on Assyrian and southern Mesopotamian history.

I saw many artifacts which were labeled with “IM”; this means that these belong to the Iraqi Museum! I then understood that they were on temporary loan to the museum. If you check out each and every item, you will finish the visit within one working day. It is not that large of a  museum, though.

I shot innumerable pics and then met my friend, Mr. Hashim Hama Abdulla, the director of the museum. He  took me to a private room where they restore and reconstruct recently excavated artifacts. I saw a woman who was polishing a newly excavated dish. Another woman was reconstructing an ancient necklace. Mr. Abdullah then took me to another room where a foreign archaeologist was studying the cuneiform inscriptions on several newly acquired clay tablets. I held some of the tablets in my hands! What a sensation and I thought, what good luck I have. It was indescribable!


Paikuli Tower Blocks

A stone block with inscriptions. This block and the one on the right are from the Paikuli tower. The tower lies on a hill near Barkal, a modern village south-west of Lake Darband -i-Khan, Sulaymaniyah Governorate, Iraq. It was set up as a monument commemorating the victory of the Sasanian king Narseh over his nephew Warham III (Barham III). The inscriptions were written in the Parthian and middle Persian languages. All the inscribed stone blocks are now in the Sulaymaniyah Museum. No other museum in Iraq or the world has any of these inscribed stone blocks. 293 CE. (The Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraq). Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.


Old Babylonian Clay Tablet

Dr. Laith Hussein, a German archaeologist, is analyzing this Mesopotamian clay tablet which dates back to the Old-Babylonian period, 2003-1595 BCE. I’m holding the tablet; what a feeling! The Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraq



Osama S. M. Amin