Iraq Afghanistan Egypt (Bright Star) United States Department of Defense

Home Major Focus Areas Protecting Cultural Property Iraq Laws, Treaties & Enforcement Test Your Knowledge
History & Culture
Rediscovering the Past
Significant Sites
Iraq Cultural Property Law, 2002
The Impact of War on Iraq's Cultural Heritage

098. Tell Senkereh (ancient: Larsa)**

** = signs of recent looting

Western Dhi Qar Governorate. The ancient site is situated northwest of Nasiriyyah, some 25 kilometers southeast of the mounds of Uruk, near the east bank of the Shatt-en-Nil canal.

Dates: The site has had a lengthy occupation, from the Ubaid period in the fifth millennium BC to the Parthian period. Principal period of occupation: late 3rd millennium BC to circa 1750 BC

An important Sumerian city, and the home of a dynasty that exercised control over southern Mesopotamia in the early years of the second millennium.

As one of the earliest Sumerian cities, Larsa seems to have been part of some kind of league or confederation, as its emblem is on the “city seal” impression from Jemdet Nasr. Inscriptions from around 2700 BC record the rebuilding at Larsa of the E-Babbar (“Shining House”), temple of Shamash, the city god. Ur Nammu of Ur III also rebuilt this complex, which consisted of a temple and ziggurat, and which continued to function into the Neo-Babylonian period.

Larsa first became a formidable force in Mesopotamia during the Old Babylonian period (c. 2000-1600 BC). After the Third Dynasty of Ur collapsed, a power vacuum arose that many of the larger city-states hurried to fill. Amorite tribes suddenly made their appearance, and it was one of these tribal leaders, Gungunum, who established an independent dynasty in Larsa,  challenging the reigning dynasty of Isin, capturing Ur, and even giving himself the old title “King of Sumer and Akkad”. Gungunum's successors continually chipped away at Isin’s territory, cutting off its access to canals. As Isin continued to lose political and economic ground, the situation reached a tipping point: Isin was finally conquered around 1800 BC by the long-ruling (60 years!) Rim Sin of Larsa, who was, in turn, conquered by Hammurabi of Babylon in 1763 BC.

Even at its height, the Larsa dynasty only controlled 10-15 city states, nowhere near the territory controlled by other dynasties in Mesopotamian history. Nevertheless, huge building projects and agricultural undertakings can be validated by archaeological evidence.

Fieldwork: Loftus, British diplomat, in 1850’s, who described and explored the remains of the ziggurat of the Shamash temple; also French, 1960’s.

Site condition: in May 2003, a group of scholars travelling with Major Sadowski and a platoon of Marines saw evidence of extensive looting, the most extensive and recent digging having occured at some of the large baked-brick buildings where a team of French archaeologists working at Larsa during the 1970s and 1980s had discovered an archive of clay tablets with cuneiform texts. The excavation house built by the French had been destroyed after the 1991 Gulf War, and the site guard had been murdered. There was no sign of the present site guard; his house had been destroyed. Since that time, the site has been only intermittently guarded, because it occupies the border between two provinces, making it unclear which jurisdiction is responsible for the site.


  31° 17' 9.00"   
  31.285833° N
  45° 51' 13.00"     
  45.853611° E

GoogleEarth satellite view of
Larsa (external resource)

View site photos of Larsa made
by Joanne Farchakh-Bajjaly
in 2002 - 2004