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038. Ishan Bahriyat (ancient: Isin)***

- Looters on site during last inspection

Qadisiya Governorate.  On a flat plain in an uninhabited region, 20 kilometers south of Nippur and about 75 kilometers south-southeast of Baghdad .

Dates: First occupation during the Ubaid period (5th millennium BC) through the 1st millennium BC

A Sumerian city and home of the dynasty that exercised power after the fall of Ur III, Isin flourished during the 20th century BC.

The emergence of Isin was presaged by the gradual collapse of the Third Dynasty of Ur toward the end of the 3rd millennium BC, which created a power vacuum that the larger city-states scrambled to fill. As Sumeria desintegrated, a provincial governor of Ur named Ishbi-Erra, relocated to Isin and established the First Dynasty of Isin, circa 2017. Isin carried on the traditions of Sumerian culture, composing royal hymns and law codes, including the law code of Lipit-Ishtar. And under their care, the Sumerian king list attained its final form, drawing on earlier sources. Isin declined when the rival dynasty of Larsa began to cut off its lucrative trade to the Gulf, and rerouted canals, and fell to Larsa in 1794. 

Following the Elamites' overthrow of the Kassites and subsequent withdrawal, Isin returned to prominence under the Second Dynasty of Isin (1146-1010 BC).  The most famous ruler of this period, Nebuchadnezzar I, made a daring and successful campaign to Elam in the summer, when the blistering heat generally made warfare impossible, and restored national pride. This allowed the Isin dynasty to flourish for over 100 years and to control the culturally significant cities of Ur, Uruk, and the Nippur spiritual center. Remains of large temples complexes have been excavated along with tablets containing edicts and law-codes from that period.

Rediscovered in the 20th century, the site was being excavated since the 1980s by German archaeologists team but now looters are destroying the site. Hundreds of thousands of artifacts, including cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals, have ended up on the black market.

On May 21, 2003, Col. John Kessel and Professor Macguire Gibson of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago toured various sites in Southern Iraq by helicopter. After visiting Uruk, Professor Gibson "flew north to Isin, (modern Ishan al-Bahriyat) where I had already heard from a German visitor that it was being badly destroyed. Her report was correct. At least 200 to 300 men were at work on all parts of the site, and the damage was clearly of long duration. We landed and the men came up waving. They were surprised that the US troops would think that it was wrong for them to be doing the looting. They lied by saying that they had been working only a few days, only since the German woman has been there and told them to do so. We told them that it was forbidden, and the army men fired over their heads to speed up their exit. A boy with a tractor and cart, the only vehicle on this site, wanted us to pay him his taxi fee, since we had chased off his fares. The next day, the German woman returned to Isin with a German camera crew, to find hundreds of men at work again. Clearly, an occasional visit by a helicopter is not going to save the sites. Only the imposition of authority in the entire country, as well as the reconstitution of the State Board of Antiquities with its full complement of guards, backed by Coalition power, can preserve what is left of these major Sumerian sites." Scholar Simon Jenkins, in a subsequent report, noted "the remains of the 2,000 BC cities of Isin and Shurnpak appear to have vanished: pictures show them replaced by a desert of badger holes created by an army of some 300 looters."

According the researchers at the Oriental Institute, tens of thousands of artifacts, including cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals, have been illegally excavated, smuggled out and sold to dealers and collectors.

  31° 53' 12.7680"
  31.88688° N
  45º 16' 11.9999"
  45.27° E