Significance of Excavations: Located in the lower Diyala river basin northeast of Baghdad, excavations at the sites of Tell Agrab, Tell Asmar (ancient Eshnunna), Ishchali (ancient Neribtum), and Khafaje (ancient Tutub), have provided some of the most comprehensive data for Mesopotamian archaeology and chronology. Undertaken by the University of Chicago, Oriental Institute (1930-1937) and by the University of Pennsylvania (1938-1939), these projects were of an unprecedented scale. Up to 25% of the total area of each site were excavated, uncovering not only the remains of palaces and temples, but also of houses, manufacturing facilities, streets, and urban defensive systems, with some soundings extending as deep as 16 meters below the mound's present surfaces. Covering the time between the late Uruk period and the end of the Old Babylonian period (3000-1700 BC), the Diyala material represents a crucial part of Mesopotamia's early history during which large territorial states emerged, cities grew to unprecedented sizes, and the cuneiform writing system emerged.
Significance of Artifacts: Over 15,000 artifacts, representing all aspects of public and private life, were excavated carefully and recorded systematically: statues, votive plaques, seals, pottery vessels, tools, weapons, jewelry, cosmetic sets, weights, figurines, inlays, toys, and almost 2,000 tablets inscribed with cuneiform inscriptions. Following find divisions between the expedition and Iraq's Department of Antiquities these artifacts entered the collections of the Iraq Museum (Baghdad), the Oriental Institute Museum (Chicago), and the University Museum (Philadelphia). In spite of a comprehensive publication program that resulted in nine volumes, four on architectural complexes and four on key artifact groups (sculpture, seals, pottery), some 75% of these finds (over 11,000 items) unfortunately remained unpublished to the present day. This is regrettable since this corpus is one of the largest artifact assemblages from a controlled excavation undertaken in Iraq, hence remaining a vital chronological backbone for Mesopotamia's early history.
The Project: Launched in 1992 the Diyala Database Project will, for the first time, publish all archaeological data from these excavations in an integrated database. Supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities Division for Preservation and Access (1994-1999, 2004-2010), the University of Chicago's Women Board (1997), and by the University of Chicago's Provost Innovative Technology Grant (1999, 2000) archival materials, object registers, field diaries, photographs, plans, and correspondence were scanned, object descriptions entered into database tables, and new photographs of artifacts taken at the Oriental Institute Museum.