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.If the Sunnis would stop fritzing around and decide to live in peace with everyone else, the opportunities in places like Erbil could be significant.
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.
"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.
In 1964, when Kanaan Rashad Mufti and his prominent family were part of the neighborhood, a floor in his father's house, near the mosque, collapsed during some renovations.
Underneath was a whole series of rooms from some previous civilization, possibly the Abbasids, said Mr. Mufti, who is now director of antiquities in western Kurdistan. There is nothing that Iraqi archaeologists would like more than to begin systematic digs through those layers, said Donny George, director of the Baghdad Museum.
The direct evidence for what lies beneath Mrs. Mustafa's house is scanty: Assyrian pottery that tumbled out of the side of the Citadel in a renovation of its walls, a dig that Mr. Mufti said he participated in around 1980, an electromagnetic probe that provided intriguing hints about the layered structure.