The British Institute for the Study of Iraq
First published October 2015
In October 2013, Richard Wilding was awarded an outreach grant by The British Institute for the Study of Iraq (Gertrude Bell Memorial) towards Erbil: Research, Interpretation and Conservation of the World’s Oldest City, his book with archeologist David Michelmore, advisor to the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalisation.
This article for BISI’s annual journal outlines his photography of the Erbil Citadel.
In November 2013 I was awarded a BISI Outreach Grant in support of my photography of Erbil Citadel for a future joint publication with David Michelmore, Advisor on Conservation and Revitalisation to the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalisation.
I had visited Erbil in Spring 2013 when I travelled to Iraqi Kurdistan with Gulan, the UK charity established to document and promote the culture and heritage of Kurdistan. I was touched by the fragile beauty of Erbil’s citadel and impressed with the efforts being made to protect and restore it. With the aid of the BISI Outreach Grant I was able to return in Spring 2014 and photograph the citadel more extensively.
Erbil citadel is dramatically situated on top of a mound, or ‘tell’, of accumulated archaeological layers, visually dominating the modern city of Erbil, which radiates out from below in concentric rings of expansion. The citadel therefore occupies an important position geographically and culturally, forming a magnificent backdrop to Erbil’s annual Newroz festivities in which the citizens join arm-in-arm to dance around its base.
Believed to have been in existence for at least 6,000 years, Erbil correlates to ancient Arbela, an important Assyrian political and religious centre. The current buildings on the uppermost layer of the tell date back to the mid-18th century, the period when fortifications surrounding the town were replaced with houses. The urban fabric however reflects a much older pattern, as individual buildings have been levelled and rebuilt on the same site over successive eras, the process which also caused the tell to grow from the surrounding plain.