Early Explorations

19th Century

Archaeological exploration at Tell al-Hiba dates back to the late nineteenth century. Between March 29 and May 11 1887, a German expedition under the direction of Robert Koldewey excavated three separate areas around the highest part of the site, exposing large public buildings and part of a residential sector. At the end of his six week season, he concluded that the mound was a large necropolis that had experienced extensive burning. 


Robert Koldeway (1885 – 1925)
Photo from “Koldewey at Babylon”
World Archaeology Issue 57 Jan 25, 2014

Photo of Area C from the north al Hiba archive

20th Century

Until the middle of the 20th century, scholars thought that the site of Telloh, 25 km to the north, was ancient Lagash because of the monumental architecture, sculpture and other works of art as well as thousands of cuneiform documents that contained references to the cities of Girsu, Lagash and Nigin. In 1953, the site was inspected during a survey of the area by Thorkild Jacobsen (1904 – 1993) and Fuad Safar. On the surface of the mound an inscription was found, making it was possible for Jacobsen to confidently identify Tell al Hiba as ancient Lagash, and to associate the ancient name of Girsu with the modern site of Telloh. 


Thorkild Jacobsen at Tell Asmar in 1931/31.
Photo from Alchetron June 29, 2018.

Fuad Safar (1911 – 1978) Iraqi archaeologist.
Photo from Iraq 40 (1978): 1.
© The British Institute for the Study of Iraq