The site of Ashur is located about 100 km south of Mosul, on the west bank of the River Tigris. It occupies a spur of land which dominated an important crossing of the river, and could take advantage of the caravan routes running north-south and east-west. The Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II presented the site to the German emperor Wilhelm II, and the Deutsche Orient Gesellschaft excavated there between 1903 and 1913. They revealed a number of monumental buildings such as the temple of Anu and Adad, and the Old Palace, though many structures were too large to make full excavation possible. A deep trench revealed that the site had been occupied back to at least the mid-third millennium BC.
The name of the city and its god are identical; the word Assyria itself derives from Ashur, the early capital of the country. The city remained important even when other Assyrian towns, like Nimrud and Nineveh, developed into major political centres. In 614 BC Ashur was captured and looted by the Medes. It was abandoned soon after, but the German excavations found evidence of reoccupation in the Parthian period.