Takht-e soleyman – (400BC – 650AD)
Some 3 kilometers to the east of Zendan-e Soleyman lies another lake with geological history very similar to that of Zendan-e Soleyman, the sediments from water over flow from this second lake over time – perhaps 25,000 years – created a 12 acre platform that raises about 50 meters above the floor of the valley, with a small lake in the middle 60 meter deep and about 100 meters long, the water temperature is constant 21 deg c, an indication that it is from deep reservoir. The water due to heavy sedimentation is undrinkable, but not poisons
The plat form is oval shaped 300*400 meters, with its major axis pointing to North West, the lake is also oval shaped, 100 meters long along the major axis, and is situated on the southern half of the platform with its major axis pointing to the north east
On the northwestern and south eastern corners of Takht-e Soleyman, outside the platform, there are traces of prehistory as well as historic period settlements yet to be excavated
Takht-e Soleyman – (600 BC – 500 AD)
on the northern side of Takht-e Soleyman platform , remains of settlement, on a 60 centimeter raised base (see square on picture bellow), consisting of little rooms constructed of mud, used as living quarters has been found, the settlement is dated to 600 BC – 500 BC using carbon dating technique.
The settlement has not been fully excavated due to 3 to meter thick layer of stone like sediment deposited by the water flow from the lake. From excavation of a small area of the settlement it is found that the inhabitants buried their dead in the floor of the rooms, custom of indigenes people of Iran at the time and earlier – a custom that after 1000BC gradually stopped, perhaps due to arrival of newcomers from the north? – From burial customs it can be interfered that people living in the little rooms were not Zoroastrians
The 2-4 meters thick sedimentary rock on the settlement indicates a period of activity of the lake, perhaps from 500 BC to around 400 AD, when the lake flooded the platform for period of nearly 1000 years, from 500BC onwards there is no trace of settlement on Takht-e Soleyman platform, Large flow of water out of the lake is perhaps one reason why the early settlers chose Zendan-e Soleyman crater lake for their ceremonies instead of Takht-e Soleyman
There is nothing to indicate a Seleucid presence on Takht-e soleyman.
If the broken pottery found on the Takht-e Soleyman platform is accepted to be Partian (as some believe) then the pottery must have entered the platform with the construction material that was brought in at some later date around 500BC when the new temple was being constructed, at most one can assume that a Partian settlement must have existed some ware around Takht-e Soleyman
The Sassanid period 224 AD – 670 AD
There is little indication of early Sassanid settlement of any kind on Takht-e Soleyman before 550 AD, no Sasanid coins dated before 550 AD have been found on the platform, although large number of coins dated after 550AD have been found on the platform relating to:
Peroz-I – AD 484-457
Khosrau-I – 579-531
Khosrau-ii – 638-590
During early Sassanid period around 500 AD an impotent Zoroastrian temple existed at Ganzak, in miandoab plain (between two waters), Mary Boyce believe it to be the impressive Median ruin- mound near present day village of Laylan near the city of Miandoab, one of the three most holly temples of Sassanid Zoroastrians where fire of Azargoshnasb, dedicated to the cast of worriers was kept – Azargoshnasb fire is said to be the symbol of the unity of the country, and it is believed that Sassanid kings after their coronation used to make a pilgrim to the temple where this fire was kept
Note – the Sassanid society consisted of 4 casts, the rulers (mostly from non indigence stock presumably the so called Aryan speaking), the worriers, the merchants and the agricultural workers (mostly of indigenous stock), movement between the casts was strictly prohibited, and literacy confined to the upper casts
Exactly when Takht-e Soleyman got its first temple, which Sassanid king built it, when it was rebuilt with stone and mortar and when Azargoshnasb fire was moved to this new temple, and is it correct to identify Takht-e Soleyman with shize are all disputed questions and there is no agreement between various authorities on details of these questions? But in spite of the disagreements a general picture concerning the sequence of events can be provided – the following description of Takht-e soleyman history is mainly based on Naumann Rudolf book on Takht-e Soleyman.
the first Zoroastrian temple on the Takht-e soleyman platform was constructed by Peroz-I (AD 484-457) on the north western side of the lake, it was made of mud and had a protective mud wall 20 meters at the base and height in excessive 7 meters that was constructed around the platform ( this wall still exists and at some places it is 7 meters high), the wall had two gates one on the north, the main gate, and one on the south side, located on the major axes of the oval shaped platform, the gates each had two towers one on each side, the temple itself had an inner protective wall. Rudolf believes that the old temple had fallen out of favor during mazdak uprising (524-528 AD) and after the uprising was put down in 528, a new temple was constructed with stone and mortar in its place
Time line providing general sequence of events
Relating to Takht-e Soleyman
The golden age of Takht-e soleyman – 531 AD – 627 BC
Sometime in 5th century AD, after the Mazdak uprising was put down in 528, Azargoshnasb fire in Gnzak was moved to Takht-e Soleyman where a new temple was constructed by the 23rd Sassanid king khosrau-I, The old temple constructed by Peroz-I in second half of 4th century AD was systematically cleared, – who’s layout is now known from excavation of a lower layer – and a new large temple complex was constructed with stone and mortar in its place, Takht-e soleyman is also referred to shize, today some scholars believe the name Shize has its root in translation error from old manuscripts and refers to city of Ganzak
A wall 13 meters high, 3.8 meters thick and 1120 meters long was constructed just in front of the old mud wall that was in bad shape, with stone that had finished surface on the outside, The new wall basically followed the course of the old wall, it has 36 towers, each tower being little higher than the wall with a room on top, it also like the old mud wall has two entrances, that are located on the main axles of the platform, the northern entrance is the main entrance.
The southern entrance – on the southern side that is used for entering the site today – to the right of current entrance pavement, was constructed a little to the east of the main axis.
No door hinges have been found on the two entrances and it is not clear how the entrances were closed. The southern gate with a tower on each side has seven arcs engraved on stone above the entrance giving rise to speculation as to their significance; some believe that they referee to the seven amshaspand in Zoroastrian religion
the current tourist entrance and The lakes southern over flow stream, that flows in to the fields, at some places due to sedimentation the overflow water bead has risen by as much as 3 meters, the local call the winding elevated water course dragon
cuts are made on the sides of the lake to let the water out, it is believed that if the number of water outlets from the lake are increase no change will be observed in the lakes water level, perhaps indicating that the lakes water level is connected to an large underground reservoir
The new temple design that replaced the old mud structures divides the area inside the platform in to two squares one around the lake and one on the north of the lake
The southern square basically has the same design as current day mosques, a square space with a veranda running all around it, the main entrance to this square was from a large vaulted corridor on the east side.
From the middle of the northern side of the southern square, a large vaulted hall leads directly to the temple behind it, the southern square with the lake in the middle and the rooms and the veranda running all-around it by many is regarded as the blueprint for the latter Islamic mosques, very much like shah mosque in Esfahan, it is not quite certain if there were other vaulted halls on the east or the south side
What is left of the structures and vaulted entrance on the western side of the lake
The area to the north of the lake – or the northern square – consist of two rectangles separated by a corridor, enclosed by a inner defensive wall,
The eastern rectangle (X) houses the temple complex where the scared fire of Azargoshnasb was kept, and the western rectangle (y) houses another temple complex and ceremonial halls, beneath which lies the foundation of the older Sassanid mud buildings, and the old settlement (600 BC)
old literature on Takht-e Soleyman talks of grand coronation halls in this complex and there is a legend about king khosrau parviz’s special throne seat, which according to the legend could be moved so as to face the sun at all times, in a room with sealing of gold and Lagevard(lapis-lazuli)
The scared temple complex of azargoshnasb located in rectangle (x) is basically a square a square room 8*8 meters, with four vault like entrances, in the middle there is a square platform made of brick were the fire is placed, next to its north side are 5 ceremonial tables, there are four small platforms around the inner square platform each with I small hole on top for placing branches of scared barasam, a hall with 3 entrances runs around the inner temple
the scared fire was on display in the inner room when there were visitors, the ceremonies were performed in the inner room, the scared fire was placed on the middle platform on an alter, there were tables for placing tools, preparing sacred ceremonial drink haoma (soma Sanskrit) – juice of special intoxicating plant, mixed with milk.
The ceremonies were performed by Zoroastrian priests, wearing gloves and mouth pieces so as not to desecrate the fire, in the alter a special wood that had been previously purified was burnet
The visitors would watch the ceremonies performed in the temple from the hall
The fire temple, the dome is gone but the walls remain.
The hall that runs around the fire temple ( a)
The interior of the azargoshnasb fire temple (a), thousand years ago an ordinary mortal would have never dreamed of putting foot in such a place?
The temple (A) is connected to the lake on the south and an open area on the north by two vaulted halls
To the east of the temple is another temple (b), without the hall and only one entrance to the main temple, very similar in design to the main temple (a),
This is where the eternal fire was kept. The historian Abu dulaf in 1000 AD, long after the Sassanid’s had gone, wrote that this fire had been burning uninterrupted for 700 years, implying that it was still functional during Islamic period implying that the fire had been started in 300 AD, perhaps in old median temple in Ganzak
To the east of temple (b), there is a room where lots of Sassanid coins were found, and it is believed to be where they kept the gifts presented to the temple
The spaces to the south of temples (G) are herb gardens were special herbs used in the rituals were grown
Temple (A) through a vaulted hall on the south is directly connected to the lake, and through a smaller vaulted hall is connected to an open court on the north with a veranda running all around it
The main axis of the two halls, the center of temple (a) and the center of the lake lie on the main axis of the Takht-e soleyman plat form,
Functionality of room (D) is in dispute, as room D is connected to main temple (a) some believe it to be where sacred woods were stored, others believe it to be the temple of Anahita
It is not known if the lake played any role in the Zoroastrian ceremonies
There is a small temple (F) near the northern entrance of the inner area
Lots of seals (1500) – covering the period of 100 years before destruction of temple by roman emperor -were found in the room to the right of this northern entrance, altogether 800 individual seals were found, bits of clay on which the imprint of seals were kept some had up to 40 imprints
The second temple complex (y)
The second rectangle (y) on the north of the lake houses a second temple complex and is separated from the first temple complex(x) by a long hall (R1) and it consists of three parts
Halls G, H, I AND j
During the initial phase of excavation when column halls were discovered, as there were references in old sources to grand buildings on the platform, and as columns were associated with palaces, incorrectly it was thought a palace had been discovered
hall G is divided two into 3 parts by two rows of square columns, each part has its own cradle shaped sealing with widows in it to let the light in, initially the north end of this hall was open to hall H, but at later date middle part was closed by a clay wall, there are two holes in the ground near the wall for pots, but the functionality of this hall is not known
hall H is also divided into 3 parts by round columns, the hall is partitioned in to 3 north south sections by a clay wall bridging the gap between the columns, there is a row of square columns in the middle added later to support the crumbling sealing, the eastern side of the hall (H1, H2) have a small water canal and small pond, which perhaps had a ceremonial function, on the western side (H4, H5) there are two alters, and in the middle section(H3) there are small conics made of chalk with unknown functionality
Initially there was a widow in the northern wall of this hall for looking in to the section J, The general layout of hall H is very similar in design to current day layout of fire temples in India, which suggest that buildings in section Y could have been a second temple
in hall J under its floor a fire alter with 3 steps, very similar to that in temple A, has been found, the alter with bits of charcoal found in this area suggests that J must have been a fire temple at some time, The design of this hall is very much like temples found at Persepolis, the various forms of Achaemenid and Sassanid fire temples in itself rises many interesting unsolved questions
The cross shaped building k the hall R3 and rooms L M, kk and N around it,
In The cross shaped room K with a doom shaped sealing with access to adjacent rooms nothing has been found to suggest its functionality, some believe that it must have been a small dining hall, perhaps due to its proximity to the kitchen
And the yard Z and the rooms O, P,Q, s, t, w, X,U,V and z around it,
Two of the rooms were kitchen but nothing has been found in other rooms to clear their functionality, z is an open court yard
The old clay temple beneath section Y
Under the current structure in area (y) and adjacent are to the north lies an extensive structure with stone base and clay walls which has been excavated, under the halls G and H, lies the base of a long hall with similar dimensions but it has not been possible to establish if it was roofed or open court, the area beneath section (x) due to existing structures has not been excavated
At the south of two halls G and H In area (I) remains of 4 brick columns similar to those at Susa and Persepolis have been found
To the west of the halls remains of 3 rows of small rooms have been found
On the north rough lying under the R3 corridor, a hall, with two adjacent rooms have been found, the hall has 4 brick columns very much like those found in Persepolis fire temples
Interesting related sites:
Interesting site with a different view on questions such as location of shize, interesting information on local fire temples (ash hills of Lake Urmia)
List of kings of Persia
Indian fire temple