To Chogha Zanbil
(Holly city of Dur-Untash)
From khorramshahr to chogha zanbil
Around 6.00 am we set off from city of khorramshahr and were off to chogha zanbil, the early morning air was not hot but dusty. A straight road took us to Ahwaz, 110 kilometers away, flat plains on both sides stretching to infinity, on two stretches there were very large sugar cane cultivations, feeding the two sugar cane factories – barely making it economically. Just before Ahwaz the sleepy Ali hit a big bump on the road and the car went dead, but fortunately after 30 minutes, with help of a truck driver who just happened to stop by us we were back on the road, it was only a special fuse that turns electricity off in event of a crash. We continued to shush (100km), but this time Ali slept and I drove. It is interesting to note that bellow Shushtar there are hardly any significant ancient sites not even along the mighty Karun river that perhaps was used for shipping
About 10 kilometers before shush (old name Susa) we turned left in to a very good asphalted side road that was to take us to Chogha Zanbil – the road was well sign posted you could not miss it, the plains on both sides were green dotted with occasional red poppy flower
The city of Dur-untash
About 8.30 am in a dusty hot morning we arrive at chogha zanbil (in lurs language simply means basket like hill, this name was coined at the time when chogha zanbil was unexcavated) located on top of natural hill overlooking the Dez river only 2 kilometers away from what is left of the forest
The complex or more correctly Dur-untash(simply meaning city of Untash) covers an area of 400 acres and has three concentric walls(the outer wall 2km by 2km, the middle wall about 400 mete by 400 meter and the inner wall with an irregular shaped) the area between the outer wall and the middle wall was dedicated to few houses and the palaces, the area between the middle wall and the inner wall was known as the holly area and dedicated to the lesser gods and a ziggurat (105 m by 105 m at the base) is situated within the inner wall
Reconstruction of ziggurat at Choga zanbil
Ziggurat is basically a terraced step pyramid dedicated to religious ceremonies,
Reconstruction of the Ziggurat at sialk
Currently there are 35 ziggurats in the world 28 of which are in Iraqi and 5 in Iran (Choga Zanbi, haft tapeh, sialk and jiroft, since its discovery 3 years ago 10,000 illegal holes have been dug at this site?). The oldest known ziggurat is at Kashan in Sialk,( some believe the ziggurat in Ur ( Iraq) to be the oldest) sialk was built around 3000 BC, it is believed that The precursors of the ziggurats were raised platforms in Iraq that date from the Ubaid period during the fourth millennium BC
The people who lived in Mesopotamia built many ziggurats; the first was built at city of Ur around 3000 BC.
It is interesting to speculate about the link between ziggurats and step pyramids that later appeared around the word (step pyramids in Egypt where certainly the forerunners of pyramids to appear later in Egypt), and pyramids in Egypt Sudan, china and Mesoamerica. A step pyramid also existed in the archaeological site of Monte d’Accoddi, in Sardinia,
Ziggurat of Choga zanbil (the house of Inshushinak)
View of chogha zanbil from the south eastern side, taken from outside the middle wall
Chogha zanbil is the best preserved sample of a ziggurat in the world and it is believed to have 5 levels (the fifth level is in dispute) and it is situated in the holy city of Dur-untash
The ziggurat was built in middle Elamite period around 1300BC by the king Untash-Napirisha, as earthly house for the great god Inshushinak. It is unlikely that many people, besides priests and servants, ever lived in the ziggurat.
The ziggurat is made of sun dried bricks covered with a layer of baked bricks, the dimension of the unbaked bricks was 10 x 40 x 40 cm and that of the baked bricks was 10 x 35 x 35.
Before the ziggurat was built there initially existed a court yard consisting of 28 rooms built around a open court, 8 meter high on three sides and 12 meter high on the northern side also built by the king Untash -Napirisha,
In a later development the inner court was built-up and so the entrance to the 28 rooms that opened into the court was blocked and their access became through the roofs. The ziggurat has no space inside and each level raises from the court ground to the relevant height
The inner area
The inner area houses the ziggurat, the house of the god, the ziggurat is basically a pyramidal structure with a flat top, it is speculated that there was a shrine at the top, but some say that there is no archaeological evidence for this and the only textual evidence is from Herodotus.
Access to the shrine on the top would have been by a series of stairs on one sides of the ziggurat. The ziggurat was not a place for public worship or ceremonies. They were believed to be dwelling places of gods and only priests and dignitaries were permitted on the ziggurat, and it was the responsibility of the priest to care for the gods and attend to their needs. Such as feeding them, putting them in bed, taking them out etc
Simplified map of inner area of ziggurat at Chogha Zanbil – the 7 entrances of the inner wall, the square temples beside the gates, other temples, circular sacrifice platforms and the ziggurats stairs
The south eastern entrance (4) of the inner wall (above) is the largest of the seven entrances on the inner wall and is of center to the west. Just before the entrance, to the left, there is a square temple dedicated to a god.
Entrances (2, 4, and 7) still have rectangular temple dedicated to one of the lesser gods, most probably all entrance had a square temples. Before entering the inner area one was expected to pay respects to the temple of the god next to the entrance
The path from the entrance(4) meets the center of the ziggurats south eastern side at an angle, apparently the Elamites code of conduct forbid straight approach to the ziggurat or temples. From the areal picture of the sight one gets the impression that entrance (4) was moved from the center to the east perhaps to allow for slant approach to the ziggurat – required by new code of conduct
To the right of entrance (4) there is a gate without a pavement (not shown) perhaps this was used by chariots to bring in offerings or supplies
The path from the entrance (4) leads to a flight of stairs, with roofs, on the center of the south eastern side of the ziggurat, in the olden days the bricks where covered by many color glaze, there were all kinds of statues, that of a lion, a humped back bull about 1.5 meters high guarding the temple (each statue vested with the magical power of kiten, which on its own was assumed sufficient to guard the temple)
A statue of a humped back bull kept in Iran-Bastan museum Tehran
In front of the stares on this side only there are two rectangles each with seven tables for placing of offerings or sacrifices to the god. Music was also played night and day by group of the musicians paid by the temple – Elamites used music in their religious ceremonies
To the right of the stares there is a little arch, which leads to an inner room, sort of small shrine, with a platform inside and one outside belonging to god Inshushinak, the statue of the god Inshushinak was at times put on these platforms. The god had a another shrine at the fifth floor of the ziggurat
This little shrine is referred to as the lower temple (as against the upper temple at 5th floor), the god Inshushinak would commute between the two temples.
Inside the lower shrine there is a small room with a clay bed where the god, most probably used to rest, or perform scared marriage (heiros gamose) as indicated by clay figures of couple found around the bead.
The god Inshushinak had quota of two daily sacrifices, one for the upper temple and one for the lower temple
Doors were used in the ziggurat; the lower hinge of the door was placed in a stone cylinder (no; 17) the upper part of the door was placed in the whole made in a flat stone, similar to that in (no: 18), sticking out of the wall horizontally
Stones, shown above, were used to look the doors of the lower temple from inside; a wooden pole placed in the holes secured the door. The doors were covered with thin strips of glass and door knobs were made of glass
The south eastern face has the largest of the inner areas; this is the observer’s side, it also has its own gate (6) on New Year ceremony people gathered here to observe the king entering the god’s chamber on the fifth level. As with all of the sides there is also a flight of stairs on this side with a slightly raised platform in front of it, and a circular raised table, either used for sacrifice or as some speculate to place the kings statue
On some of the tiles of the platform imprint of foots, man or beast can be seen, this must have happened when the brisk were wet before baking, but what was the significance of these imprints or to what where they attributed?
On the way to the north western side, just facing the corner is entrance no (7) with a rectangular temple dedicated to god Humban . This side of the ziggurat is similar to the other sides expect that it has a circular raised platform directly in front of the stairs (the platform was called “shoo nshoo eirpi” 4 meters in diameter 4 depression with writings on the side).the Elamites used to place either tokens to the god here or perhaps as some believe the statue of the king – according to this hypostasis during ceremonies the king is present on the side his which he is not present is asserted by his statues on the platforms
The main body of the ziggurat being made of sun dried mud and only faced with baked bricks, the structure is quite sensitive to moister therefore an intricate open and underground network exists for collecting rain water and directing it away from the structure , the arrow an shows a open duct
Simple open water duct, terminating the open ducts to the floor of the inner area, where the water is collected by underground pipes
Underground pipes collect and direct the rain water to outside of the outer wall; the pipes are made of clay covered with natural tar for insulation (see arrow)
Again a pair of grownup foot prints on a tile
In front of the North West face of the ziggurat there are 2 temples dedicated to very old goddesses’ eish-ni-karab and kiririsha (second wife of Humban from present day port city of Bushehr, the first wife being pinikiri ), with gate (1) somewhere in between
Just to the east of the 2 temples there is a peculiar looking structure very much like a stable. Some believe that this place is used to cool large vases just out of furnace – very unlikely, performing manual work in such a holly area?
Walking to the south west side of the ziggurat one passes gate (2) with a square temple to a god, the west side is basically very much same as the other sides,
Except that it has a raised platform with half of the top cut away
Due to platforms shape some believe it to be a sun clock?
In front of the stares there are a number of rectangular rooms in the wall for praying
Last remainder of glazed brick, left to vanish by cold or the sun, no kittens to protect it from man
On all four sides of the ziggurat after every tenth row of bricks there is a row of bricks with writings on them, altogether more than 5000 such bricks have been identified but some have been damaged by man, we are told that about 30 percent of the bricks contain historical information and rest are hymens, the Elamites loved to repeat words again and again, in these writings there is also reference to the splendor of the colors of the bricks used in the ziggurat.
Part – 2
New Year festival in detail
The middle area
Temples of 11 gods, and story of the gods
Zoroaster, Mithra and the Elamites
The outer area
The Elimate people
The palaces, burial chambers, and the water purification?
The gardens of haven