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Iran Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat

Iran Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat


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Chogha-Zanbil Ziggurat زيگورات چغازنبيل is a pyramidal structure located in an immense plateau near the city of Shush in Khuzestan Province in southwestern Iran.
It’s an ancient temple which was once one of the most sacred sites for the Elamites. The structure is in the form of an upside down basket and that’s why the locals used to call it Chogha Zanbil meaning a basket-shaped hill.


The Elamite language is a language isolate [1] [2] [3] Choga Zanbil is typically translated as 'basket mound.' [4] It was built about 1250 BC by the king Untash-Napirisha, mainly to honor the great god Inshushinak. Its original name was Dur Untash, which means 'town of Untash' in Assyrian, but it is unlikely that many people, besides priests and servants, ever lived there. The complex is protected by three concentric walls which define the main areas of the 'town'. The inner area is wholly taken up with a great ziggurat dedicated to the main god, which was built over an earlier square temple with storage rooms also built by Untash-Napirisha. [5]

The middle area holds eleven temples for lesser gods. It is believed that twenty-two temples were originally planned, but the king died before they could be finished, and his successors discontinued the building work. In the outer area are royal palaces, a funerary palace containing five subterranean royal tombs.

Although construction in the city abruptly ended after Untash-Napirisha's death, the site was not abandoned, but continued to be occupied until it was destroyed by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in 640 BC. Some scholars speculate, based on the large number of temples and sanctuaries at Chogha Zanbil, that Untash-Napirisha attempted to create a new religious center (possibly intended to replace Susa) which would unite the gods of both highland and lowland Elam at one site.

The ziggurat originally measured 105.2 metres (345 ft) on each side and about 53 metres (174 ft) in height, in five levels, and was crowned with a temple. Mud brick was the basic material of the whole ensemble. The ziggurat was given a facing of baked bricks, a number of which have cuneiform characters giving the names of deities in the Elamite and Akkadian languages. Though the ziggurat now stands only 24.75 metres (81.2 ft) high, less than half its estimated original height, its state of preservation is unsurpassed. [1]

The main building materials in Chogha Zanbil were mud bricks and occasionally baked bricks. The monuments were decorated with glazed baked bricks, gypsum and ornaments of faïence and glass. Ornamenting the most important buildings were thousands of baked bricks bearing inscriptions with Elamite cuneiform characters were all inscribed by hand. Glazed terracotta statues such as bulls and winged griffins guarded the entrances to the ziggurat. Near the temples of Kiririsha and Hishmitik-Ruhuratir, kilns were found that were probably used for the production of baked bricks and decorative materials. It is believed that the ziggurat was built in two stages. It took its multi-layered form in the second phase.

The ziggurat is considered to be the best preserved example of the stepped pyramidal monument by UNESCO. [6] In 1979, Chogha Zanbil became the first Iranian site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The Ziggurat of Choga Zanbil

The Egyptians had pyramids, the Mesopotamians had ziggurats, which are massive brick structures with raised platforms with successively receding levels. Nobody knows what they stood for, but it’s presumed that they once contained shrines dedicated to the gods and had living quarters for priests. The Great Ziggurat of Ur in Iraq is one fine example of a ziggurat. But Choga Zanbil is one of the few ziggurats that lies outside Mesopotamia, and it’s the largest one among them. The ziggurat stands at the site of the ancient city of Elam, in today’s Khuzestan province in southwest Iran.

Choga Zanbil was built around 1250 BCE by the king Untash-Napirisha to honor the great god Inshushinak. But before the ziggurat could be completed, the king died and construction of the complex was abandoned. When the Assyrians attacked Choga Zanbil six centuries later, there were still thousands of bricks stacked at the site.

A recreation of the ziggurat of Chogha Zanbil.

The ziggurat is only a part of the complex. There are also temples, a total of eleven, dedicated to the lesser gods at the site. It is believed that king Untash-Napirisha originally planned twenty-two temples, which some scholars believe was an attempt to create a new religious center, possibly intended to replace Susa.

The ziggurat originally measured one hundred meters on each side and was about fifty meters in height, in five levels, at the apex of which stood a temple. It now stands 24 meters high, less than half its estimated original height. Its ornate facade was once covered in glazed blue and green terra-cotta, and its interior was decorated in glass and ivory mosaics. Glazed terracotta statues such as bulls and winged griffins guarded the entrances to the ziggurat.

Although the glazed tiles have long been stripped off the façade, the ziggurat, in general, is in an exceedingly good state of preservation. In 1979, Chogha Zanbil became the first Iranian site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


What is Chogha Zanbil? (with pictures)

Chogha Zanbil is an enormous ziggurat located in Iran. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been since 1979. The site is more than three-thousand years old, and is in remarkably good condition. It is also one of the only ziggurats built outside of Mesopotamia.

Ziggurats were constructed by a number of the people who inhabited Mesopotamia, including the Babylonians, the Assyrians, and the Sumerians, all of whom constructed enormous examples. The oldest ziggurats reach back to the 4th millennium BCE, and they were no longer built after about the 6th century BCE. In that three-thousand year span of time, more than thirty known ziggurats were constructed, and Chogha Zanbil is one of the greatest examples of its kind, and the largest in modern-day Iran.

Ziggurats were built not as temples in the traditional sense, in that they weren’t meant for priests to reside in or perform rituals in. Instead, a ziggurat was viewed as a resting place for the gods. By building a ziggurat near a major city, the rulers could ensure that the gods stayed near, offering their aid in battle and keeping the crops growing. Ziggurats were essentially large pyramids, with anywhere from three to seven stories. The ziggurats were closed to all but the priests of these Mesopotamian societies, who made offerings at a shrine that was located at the top of the ziggurat.

Chogha Zanbil is one of the most intact ziggurats left in the world, and as such offers an excellent opportunity to view this fascinating bit of history from thousands of years ago. Chogha Zanbil was built sometime in the 13th century BCE, by king Untash-Napirisha. The ziggurat was constructed as a dwelling for Inshushinak, one of the three major Elamite go. Inshushinak was also known as the Father of the Week, and was looked at as a wise and generous god, judging the dead in the underworld along with the goddess Lagamal.

Inshushinak was also known as the Lord of Susa, where his major temple was. Some people believe that Untash-Napirisha constructed Chogha Zanbil in an effort to turn the region into a new religious hub, taking the place of Susa. The grand project was abandoned, however, upon Untash-Napirisha’s death, although Chogha Zanbil continued to be occupied and used until the 7th century BCE, when it was damaged by the Assyrians.

The entire complex of Chogha Zanbil contains eleven minor temples, in addition to the ziggurat of Inshushinak, a royal palace, various tombs, and a three-tiered wall guarding the area. Originally it appears the complex was meant to house a full twenty-two temples, each devoted to a various minor god of the Elamites. Because of the breadth of gods represented, it is possible Untash-Napirisha intended Chogha Zanbil to help unite the religions of the highlands and lowlands in Elam.

The ziggurat at Chogha Zanbil has five stories, and although it has collapsed over the years from wind and water, and from earlier attacks, it is still remarkably preserved. The entire shape can still be seen quite clearly from a distance, inscriptions are still found on many stones, water channels made of brick are still fully intact, and a number of carved visual elements are still found in situ.


The Unique Construction of the Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat

Unlike the ziggurats of Mesopotamia, the monument in Chogha Zanbil was not constructed by placing one storey on top of another. Rather, all five storeys of the Chogha Zanbil ziggurat rose from the ground. According to the archaeologists working at the site, the original temple dedicated to Inshushinak surrounded a square open courtyard. It was this open courtyard within the temple that made it possible for the ziggurat to be constructed in its unique manner. The archaeologists (led by Roman Ghirshman between 1951 and 1961) also reported that (when they measured it in the 1950s), the remains of the ziggurat measured around 25 meters (82 feet) in height. It was also speculated that the original ziggurat would have reached a height of almost 53 meters (174 feet). In addition, the archaeologists also measured the square base of the structure, which was 105 meters (344 feet) in length. Incidentally, the ancient site was discovered accidentally in 1935, 16 years before Ghirshman’s first season at the site, during an oil searching project by British Petroleum.

It was also discovered that the ziggurat could be accessed via a flight of vaulted stairs which were invisible from the outside. Mesopotamian ziggurats, on the other hand, were equipped with three external staircases. Therefore, the flight of vaulted stairs was another feature that set the Chogha Zanbil apart from its Mesopotamian counterparts. In the 1950s, the flight of stairs led the archaeologists all the way up to the third storey of the structure, which was preserved in part. The last two storeys were already destroyed.


History of Choqa Zanbil

Choqa in Bakhtiari means “hill”. Choqa Zanbil means ‘basket mound.It was built about 1250 BC by the king Untash–Napirisha, mainly to honor the great god Inshushinak.

Its original name was Dur Untash, which means ‘town of Untash’, but it is unlikely that many people, besides priests and servants, ever lived there. The complex is protected by three concentric walls which define the main areas of the ‘town’. The inner area is wholly taken up with a great ziggurat dedicated to the main god,which was built over an earlier square temple with storage rooms also built by Untash-Napirishia . The middle area holds eleven temples for lesser gods. It is believed that twenty-two temples were originally planned, but the king died before they could be finished, and his successors discontinued the building work. In the outer area are royal palaces, a funerary palace containing five subterranean royal tombs.

Although construction in the city abruptly ended after Untash-Napirisha’s death, the site was not abandoned, but continued to be occupied until it was destroyed by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in 640 BC. Some scholars speculate, based on the large number of temples and sanctuaries at Choqa Zanbil, that Untash-Napirisha attempted to create a new religious center (possibly intended to replace Susa)which would unite the gods of both highland and lowland Elam at one site.

The main building materials in Choqa Zanbil were mud bricks and occasionally baked bricks. The monuments were decorated with glazed baked bricks, gypsum and ornaments of faïence and glass. Ornamenting the most important buildings were thousands of baked bricks bearing inscriptions with Elamite cuneiform characters were all inscribed by hand. Glazed terracotta statues such as bulls and winged griffins guarded the entrances to the ziggurat. Near the temples of Kiririsha and Hishmitik-Ruhuratir, kilns were found that were probably used for the production of baked bricks and decorative materials. It is believed that the ziggurat was built in two stages. It took its multi-layered form in the second phase.

The ziggurat is considered to be the best preserved example in the world. In 1979, Chogqa Zanbil became the first Iranian site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


Chogha Zanbil

Chogha Zanbil (Persian: چغازنبيل ‎‎ Elamite: Dur Untash) is an ancient Elamite complex in the Khuzestan province of Iran. It is one of the few existent ziggurats outside of Mesopotamia. It lies approximately 42 km (26 mi) south-southeast of Dezful, 30 km (19 mi) south-east of Susa and 80 km (50 mi) north of Ahvaz.

Contents

History [ edit ]

Chogha in Bakhtiari means "hill". Choga Zanbil means 'basket mound.' [1] It was built about 1250 BC by the king Untash-Napirisha, mainly to honor the great god Inshushinak. Its original name was Dur Untash , which means 'town of Untash', but it is unlikely that many people, besides priests and servants, ever lived there. The complex is protected by three concentric walls which define the main areas of the 'town'. The inner area is wholly taken up with a great ziggurat dedicated to the main god, which was built over an earlier square temple with storage rooms also built by Untash-Napirisha. [2] The middle area holds eleven temples for lesser gods. It is believed that twenty-two temples were originally planned, but the king died before they could be finished, and his successors discontinued the building work. In the outer area are royal palaces, a funerary palace containing five subterranean royal tombs.

Although construction in the city abruptly ended after Untash-Napirisha's death, the site was not abandoned, but continued to be occupied until it was destroyed by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in 640 BC. Some scholars speculate, based on the large number of temples and sanctuaries at Chogha Zanbil, that Untash-Napirisha attempted to create a new religious center (possibly intended to replace Susa) which would unite the gods of both highland and lowland Elam at one site.

The main building materials in Chogha Zanbil were mud bricks and occasionally baked bricks. The monuments were decorated with glazed baked bricks, gypsum and ornaments of faïence and glass. Ornamenting the most important buildings were thousands of baked bricks bearing inscriptions with Elamite cuneiform characters were all inscribed by hand. Glazed terracotta statues such as bulls and winged griffins guarded the entrances to the ziggurat. Near the temples of Kiririsha and Hishmitik-Ruhuratir, kilns were found that were probably used for the production of baked bricks and decorative materials. It is believed that the ziggurat was built in two stages. It took its multi-layered form in the second phase.

The ziggurat is considered to be the best preserved example in the world. [ according to whom? ] In 1979, Chogha Zanbil became the first Iranian site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Archaeology [ edit ]

Choga Zanbil was excavated in six seasons between 1951 and 1961 by Roman Ghirshman. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Threats [ edit ]

Petroleum exploration due to increased global demand threatens the foundations of the site, as various seismic tests have been undertaken to explore for reserves of petroleum. Digging for oil has been undertaken as close as 300 metres (984 ft) away from the ziggurat. [8]


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Tchogha Zanbil was registered in the national list of Iranian monuments as item no. 895 on 26 January 1970. Relevant national laws and regulations concerning the property include the National Heritage Protection Law (1930, updated 1998) and the 1980 Legal bill on preventing clandestine diggings and illegal excavations. The inscribed World Heritage property, which is owned by the Government of Iran, and its buffer zone are administered by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (which is administered and funded by the Government of Iran). A Management Plan was prepared in 2003 and has since been implemented. Planning for tourism management, landscaping, and emergency evacuation for the property has been accomplished and implementation was in progress in 2013. A research center has undertaken daily, monthly, and annual monitoring of the property since 1998. Financial resources for Tchogha Zanbil are provided through national budgets.

Conservation activities have been undertaken within a general framework, including development of scientific research programs comprehensive conservation of the property and its natural-historical context expansion of the conservation program to the surrounding environment concentration on engaging the public and governmental organizations and agencies and according special attention to programs for training and presentation (with the aim of developing cultural tourism) based on sustainable development. Objectives include research programs and promotion of a conservation management culture scientific and comprehensive conservation of the property and surrounding area and development of training and introductory programmers.

Sustaining the Outstanding Universal Value of the property over time will require creating a transparent and regular funding system, employing efficient and sustainable management systems, supporting continuous protection and presentation, enjoying the public support and giving life to the property, adopting a “minimum intervention” approach, and respecting the integrity and authenticity of the property and its surrounding environment. In addition, any outstanding recommendations of past expert missions to the property should be addressed.


Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat

Chogha Zanbil is a ziggurat dedicated to Inshushinak, the Elamite god. Ziggurat is a kind of stepped pyramid that its origin goes back to religion and the place of gods among human in Mesopotamia and areas around it like southwest of Iran.

Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat is one of the major archaeological sites in Iran that was created by the Elamite king Untash-Napirsha as a religious building around 13th century BC. According to the inscriptions on the exterior of Chogha Zanbil bricks, the whole construct was dedicated to Inshushinak, the lord of Elamite and Susa.

The ziggurat has a 100 * 100 m (330*330 ft.) base that serves as both a temple and a tomb.

It consists of five separately built concentric levels with varying elevation and each level was constructed directly from the ground.

This form of architecture (each level built from the ground and not over the previous layer) is what differentiates Chogha Zanbil and Mesopotamia ziggurats.

Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat Plan & Architecture

The top of temple was where the most important cultic rituals were performed. There were four gates with the southwestern gate being the main one. It was named imperial gate by Professor Roman Ghirshman (French archaeologist) which was connected to the top by side stairs. Only King and first-rate clergies were allowed to walk in these stairs. On both sides of the entrance gate, the statues of guardian bulls and winged griffins glazed in terracotta were placed.

Mud brick at the ancient Elamite complex of Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat

The monument was constructed using firebricks for the casing of structure and sun-dried bricks as filler. In the past, the exterior of the monument was decorated with blue and green glazed firebricks, inlaid ivory mosaics as well as opaque glass mosaics depicting prancing creatures.

Around the main ziggurat were other small shrines that were dedicated to other Elamite gods, the holy city was also protected by three layers of defensing walls.

Today, Chogha Zanbil lies approximately 40 km southeast of Susa and Khuzestan province. In 1979, UNESCO registered it as the first world heritage of Iran.


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