ERBIL, Iraq - If a neighborhood is defined as a place where human beings move in and never leave, then the world's oldest could be here at the Citadel, an ancient and teeming city within a city girded by stone walls. Resting on a layer cake of civilizations that have come and gone for an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 years, the Citadel looms over the apartment blocks of this otherwise rather gray metropolis in Iraqi Kurdistan. The settlement rivals Jericho and a handful of other famous towns for the title of the oldest continuously inhabited site in the world. The difference is that few people have heard of the Citadel outside Iraq. And political turmoil has prevented a full study of its archaeological treasures.
While there may be confirmed traces of more ancient settlements in Iraq, said McGuire Gibson, a Mesopotamian archaeologist at the University of Chicago, the people have all vanished from those places.
"The thing about Erbil is that it is, in fact, a living town," Dr. Gibson said. "It goes back at least to 5,000 B.C.," he said. "It might go back further."
Among the peoples that have lived in this neighborhood are the Hassuna, Akkadians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Greeks, Parthians and Abbasids.