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86th Faculty Research Lecture
The Discovery of Ancient Urkesh and the Question of Meaning in Archaeology
Giorgio Buccellati
Professor, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
April 27, 1999

What does it mean to "discover" an ancient city?

"Our" city was, in fact, well known already, and yet unrecognized. Three aspects of the puzzle were well known: a large hill, by the modern name of Tell Mozan; a city of myth, called Urkesh in antiquity, where the ancestral god of the Hurrian pantheon resided; and the capital of the only known Hurrian kingdom of the third millennium, also called Urkesh.

The peculiar chemistry of our discovery was that we linked the three elements. We were able, through our excavations, to prove that they all matched. The kings of history, the gods of myth, the buried remnants all came together: Urkesh, a city founded some 5,000 years ago, then buried some 3,500 years ago, could rise and speak today in her own name.

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