BAGHDAD - A British Museum excavation mission working with a local Iraqi team have discovered a mud mosque dating back around 1,300 years in a rare and important archeological find in Iraq.
The mosque dates back to the year 679 AD, when the Umayyad dynasty ruled the Islamic world, and was found in the Al-Rifai area of Dhi Qar province in the south of the country, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported on Wednesday.
The mosque, which is 8 metres wide and 5 metres tall, contains a small Mihrab - a niche in the wall of the mosque that indicates the direction of prayer - for an Imam which can fit approximately 20 people, though only a few remnants of the building have been found due to erosion.
"[The mosque] is located in the middle of a well-defined residential city... it is considered one of the important discoveries because it dates back to the beginnings of the emergence of Islam," Ali Shalgham, the director of the Iraqi Department of Investigation and Excavation, told INA.
The discovery is said to be particularly significant because previous excavation missions "have found little information in revealing the early Islamic periods", according to Shalgham.
Dhi Qar province is known for its archaeological sites, including the ancient city of Ur, which Pope Francis toured during his visit to Iraq earlier this year.
The head of Dhi Qar’s antiquities department, Amar Abdel Razaaq, called on the next government to make the governorate the “archaeological capital of Iraq” in an interview with a local news channel, Al Jazeera reported.
“The number of foreign and local tourist for this season has doubled and it’s an opportunity to seize,” Razaaq said.