The focal point of the celebratory sculptural programme is to be seen at Khinis, where the beginning of the main branch of the canal system derived from the River Gomel was located. Here a great relief measuring approximately 10 x 10 m represented King Sennacherib at both sides of the panel in the act of paying homage to a series of deities placed at the centre. In front of the rock relief stood a huge monolith, now lying in the water, decorated on at least two sides to mark the watershed between the Gomel and the beginning of the channel (Pl. 2.d.1.4). Along the cliff, there are twelve niches of various sizes and at different heights from the ground, portraying the sovereign. Three of these bear what is known as the Bavian inscription (the name of the small village located east of the River Gomel after which the Khinis site was also named for many years), repeated three times, in which Sennacherib lists the major points of his endeavour and the operations carried out for the construction of the canals . At the southern end of the archaeological area, a portion of the original canal is still visible, and a short tunnel dug into the stone to pass a rock outcrop. At the northern limit, near the large rock relief, the ramp starts climbing towards the stone quarry from which the blocks were hewn, and then transported for the construction of the canal and the Jerwan Aqueduct.
All along the splendid cliff, which a few metres away from the large rock relief features a (badly damaged) panel depicting a figure on horseback, there are late antique tombs or monk’s hermitages dug deeply into the beautiful natural rock face .
The system of canals, in addition to its rock reliefs, also featured complex – yet little studied – hydraulic engineering works, of which the most important is the well-known aqueduct of Jerwan, an imposing structure built to allow the stone channel that brought water to Nineveh to pass over an extensive wadi, which was excavated by a team of the Oriental Institute of Chicago in 1933.
Over 280 metres long, its north side is reinforced by buttresses bearing inscriptions; the west section of the south side has in the past suffered a collapse, which has been awkwardly repaired. In the reconstruction blocks with inscriptions in cuneiform – perhaps from other monuments – were used, and assembled in a completely random way .
The whole central part of the aqueduct, originally held up by load-bearing pillars between which the wadi water flowed, has long been used as a source of construction material. A single pillar still stands in situ, as well as the beginning of the false vaults under which the wadi once flowed.
In the Shifka Valley it is still possible to follow the path of the original channel from Khinis to Jerwan, in a landscape that appears substantially unchanged from the Assyrian era. The River Gomel is still today the main watercourse in the area – which, as in antiquity, is dotted with small farming villages. Along the Shifka Valley, areas of historical interest have been identified that can be reached by means of footpaths and bridleways that will allow visitors to reach the recreational areas, pass alongside the areas reserved for the green economy and typical agricultural products, journey through the many small local settlements and get a panoramic view of the archaeological sites from high ground.
The first phase of the methodological path consisted of the acquisition of the cartographic documentation relating to the archaeological complex…
The project is aimed at the conservation of cultural heritage and the strengthening of the local economy through the creation of an Archaeological Environmental Park.
Sennacherib’s irrigation system was built by the Neo-Assyrian ruler to bring water to his new capital, Nineveh, and to irrigate its hinterland.