The Ziggurat of ChoghaZanbil

The Ziggurat of ChoghaZanbil

History of ChoghaZanbil Ziggurat

The ziggurat of ChoghaZanbil (Tchogha Zanbil) is an ancient Elamite (ruled 3500 BC) complex in the Khuzestan province of Iran, and it was built in ancient Iran almost a thousand years before Persepolis. It is one of the few existing ziggurats outside Mesopotamia. It lies approximately 30 km (19 mi) southeast of Susa and 80 km (50 mi) north of Ahvaz.

The Great king of Elam, Untash-Napirisha constructed it, mainly to honor the great god Inshushinak, the Susa’s guard. This ziggurat was destroyed during Assyrian Ashurbanipal’s attack and was hidden under the ground until the contemporary period when Roman Ghirshman, the French archeologist who specialized in ancient Iran, excavated it.

ChoghaZanbil Ziggurat-

The Etymology of Chogha Zanbil

The ancient name of this building is “Choghazanbil”, a compound word. “Chogha” means “hill” and Zanbil means “basket”. In fact, it refers to the appearance of the building, which is placed in the form of an overturned basket on the hill. The other name of this building is also written in the cuneiform texts of Al-Avantash, meaning the city of Ontash.

The Architecture of Tchogha Zanbil Ziggurat

The ziggurats were built according to religious rites and beliefs and with the best materials available in each period, which was an offering to please the gods. The architecture of Choghazanbil is unique and a sign of the accuracy and knowledge of the builders of that time and it is a symbol of Elamite art and architecture. It was initially 52 meters high and consisted of five floors but today, it is 25 meters high and only two and a half floors of it remain. This structure is the first historical monument in Iran that was registered in UNESCO World Heritage in 1979.

A model of the ChoghaZanbil Ziggurat

The world appreciates Chogha Zanbil as a valuable monument. Orientalists consider ChoghaZanbil as the first religious building in Iran. It is the biggest ziggurat in the world. This temple had two walls. Inside the inner wall was the ritual section and had seven gates.

In front of the southeastern staircase are seven rows of altars, probably the number 7 being a sacred number for the Elamites. The southeast gate is closed with bitumen and the collision of the chariot can be clearly seen on it. This gate was where the chariots passed. Six other gates lead to the ziggurat via cobblestones.

Choghazanbil ziggurat, main stairs to the top

There is paving around the building and in some of the paving, footprints of children can be seen. The four corners of this huge building are built in the direction of one of the four geographical directions, and this shows that they knew north, south, east, and west well.

The first floor is 105 meters by 105 meters and is one meter above the ground and its walls are three meters wide. The second floor is 8 meters high and about 16 meters wide. The rooms on the first floor are connected by arched entrances to a height of 4 meters, but the rooms on the second floor are independent of each other and each room is accessible only through its own stairs.

This building is made of millions of bricks and on the bricks, there are written many inscriptions in Elamite handwriting.  In these inscriptions, the name of the king and his purpose in building this temple have been stated. The bricks are not stamped and each is handwritten separately and this is another surprising factor of this building. The Elamites used the line to decorate the building.

There are waterways along the entire length of the building, perhaps due to the protection of the building from the torrential rains of Khuzestan. In the northwestern part of this great temple, there are three temples with the names of Ishmkarb, Oban, and Elahe Kirirsha, each of which has a courtyard, a shrine, a barn, and a room. The construction of these temples is also handwritten with bricks.

Three columns have been found in the Choghazanbil ziggurat, which seems to indicate the hours of the day, the days of the month, and the seasons of the year. It is said that the Choghazanbil sundial is the first sundial in the world made by the Elamites.

The big difference between this temple and other ziggurats discovered since then is on the bases of each floor. In this way, the floors of the Mesopotamian ziggurats are built on top of each other, but the floors of the Choghazanbil Temple of Susa are separate from below and have their unique construction.  The fifth floor was the place where the idols were placed.

Choghazanbil, inscription on bricks

Water Supply System in the Ziggurat of Chogha Zanbil

One of the wonders of this temple is the water supply to Choghazanbil. Dez river passes near Choghazanbil, but because this river has eroded the plain surface and the riverbed is at a lower level than the plain surface, it was not possible for the locals to use the water of this river.

ChoghaZanbil Sedimentation Ponds

Therefore, the Elamite king Ontesh-Napirisheh ordered the construction of a canal 45 km long to bring the water of the Karkheh River, which was at the same level as Choghazanbil.

This water reaches Choghazanbil after passing through 7 hills, but because the water of Karkheh is muddy after passing through the plain of Khuzestan, the water has been poured into large and small sedimentation ponds. Using the laws attributed to Pythagoras, they purified water and separated the mud. This is one of the oldest water treatment plants in Iran.

Untash Memorial Lithograph

One of the antiquities of the Elamite period is the lithograph of the monument of Untash Napirisha. On this ancient lithograph is engraved a woman with a fishtail and 2 snakes in her hands. It is made of sandstone and is related to 1340 to 1300 BC. It was brought to Susa from Choghazanbil in the 12th century BC and now it is in the Louvre Museum.

Below are some recommended Iran tours that from taking them, you will visit this magnificent monument and historic structure. Also, you can easily find all Iran tours in the link below.

At last, if you traveled to Iran before and were able to see Khuzestan and this amazing temple, write your comments for us and give us feedback!

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