About 16 and a half feet below the layer where the loom and seals were discovered, the researchers found an elaborate cylinder seal dating to a much earlier time, the 9th-7th century BC Assyrian period. Assyria refers to a major Mesopotamian kingdom that, at its peak, stretched from Cyprus and the East Mediterranean to Iran, and from what is now Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus, to the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, and eastern Libya.
The scientists were able to take a clear photo of the Assyrian cylinder seal.
"The seal was used as in modern administrative procedures — to function like a signature and authorize a treaty, letter, or other official document,” Wicke said. “One has to bear in mind, that the Assyrian documents were written in cuneiform script on wet, clay tablets, which later dried or got baked to last."
The cylinder seal depicts two winged genies with a purifying "cone" and a bucket of purifying liquid that was most likely water. The genies, he said, "flank a sacred tree expressing purification," which is "a standard topic in neo-Assyrian art."
"It is difficult to pinpoint an exact meaning to it, but this image was very often depicted in the royal palaces and appears to act as a beneficiary motif used to magically protect the king and inhabitants of the palace or palaces," he said.
RELATED: Hidden Chamber Discovered Inside the Great Pyramid of Giza
On the back of this seal, opposite the tree, is a spade associated with the Babylonian god Marduk. This suggests that the seal was made and used when there were strong connections between Assyria and Babylonia, which was another ancient empire at the time.
Also dating to the 9th-7th century BC is a terraced, stone wall. The archaeologists believe it was part of a watchtower.
Wicke said that the land at the site was, and still is, "very fertile," making it an attractive location for settlement. Additionally, springs upstream of the site provide a near-continuous supply of fresh water, even during the hot and arid summer months.
It is little wonder then that people thrived on the Shahrizor plain during the much later era of the loom, which to an untrained eye looks a bit like a skeleton stretched out in a grave. The pieces instead are what is left of the large standing device that featured vertical hanging threads, which were pulled vertically straight by the clay loom weights. The threads were then woven horizontally.
"This is one of the oldest arrangements of a loom," Wicke said.