Zigurat of Chogha Zanbil


“The ruins of the holy city of the Kingdom of Elam, surrounded by three huge concentric walls, are found at Tchogha Zanbil. Founded c. 1250 B.C., the city remained unfinished after it was invaded by Ashurbanipal, as shown by the thousands of unused bricks left at the site.”

One of the most significant 13th century BC architectural works of Iran is the Choqa Zanbil, an ancient complex in the Khuzestan province of Iran.

In 1979, Choqa Zanbil became the first Iranian site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List

It is one of the few extant ziggurats outside of Mesopotamia (the other is Sialk). It lies approximately 45 kilometers south of Susa and 230 kilometers north of Abadan by way of Ahvaz, which is 60 kilometers away.

It was founded in the 13th century BC by King Untas Napirisa and abandoned after his death. Only a few priests continued to live on the site until its destruction in 640 BC by the Assyrians.

The western vaults of Choqa Zanbil Temple were so skillfully built that at present, even after three thousand years, they remain in marvelously good conditions. The vaults are constructed on prolonged corridors and over internal staircases of the temple and represent an extraordinary achievement in the architecture of ancient Iran.

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. 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, and a necropolis containing non-elite tombs.

There is no adequate water source near Choqa Zanbil, and in order to secure a supply to the town’s inhabitants, the king dug a great canal from a river many kilometers away. This canal was a massive work at the time, and a length of it is yet in use.

Archaeological excavations undertaken between 1951 and 1962 revealed the site again, and the ziggurat is considered to be the best preserved example in the world.

Huge ziggurats relieved the flat monotony of the Mesopotamian plain, ritual imitations of the familiar sacred mountains that ring the Iranian Plateau. Thus, even if the impressive development of these colossal structures was Mesopotamian, their inspiration and meaning was clearly Persian. The men who came down from the eastern lands could not bring with them their mountains, so they made their own “holly hill” or “mountain of all lands”.”

The ziggurats serve as both temples and tombs with splendid tile work and inscriptions.

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