Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat
Shush | Temple
For over three millennia, the holy Elamite town of Dur Untash currently known as Chogha Zanbil has stood majestically in isolation in a vast plateau in present state of Khuzestan in southwest Iran. Chogha Zanbil is the best remnant of Elamite civilization. It is the largest Ziggurat in the world and the last example of this type of architecture in Iran.
During a 1935 aerial survey in Khuzestan geologists of an oil company spotted a huge mound and informed the French archaeologists stationed in Susa. The commission of archaeologists led by Roman Girshman found bricks in the area on which the sacred town of Dur Untash had been cuneiformed. Chogha Zanbil means basket hill or tiered hill. It is the same as the lost town of Dur Untash town.
Roman Girshman conducted the excavations in the mound between 1951 and 1962 to unearth the ziggurat. The architects of Chogha Zanbil used the traditional building material of near east namely soil. Adobe bricks are among the most used building materials used in the area. They were used in the construction of arches, aqueducts, architectural combinations as well as pavements. Once bricks were out of furnace, they were enameled or inscribed upon and used for decorative purposes. Elamite architects employed 22 types of various mortars. The front door of some of the important town structures were made of wood and decorated with engravings and glass.
One of the wonders of this amazing town is its incredible water supply system transferring water from Karkheh River to the town. It is also a witness to the great dexterity of the architects of this holy town. Archaeologists assume that Elamite architects had laid a long canal from Karkheh River to the sacred town to supply it with water which was then distributed across town via water reservoirs, purification system and special canals. In addition, a sophisticated drainage network was created to safeguard the ziggurat against torrential rains. Gutters lined with tar had been placed on four sides of the structure to carry rain water to the lower levels and then drain it.
This 100-hectare complex is comprised of three separate areas which are protected by three concentric walls. The inner area with its great tiered ziggurat was dedicated to the main Elamite gods. This area has a vast courtyard with a wall enclosing it. Girshman called the middle area Tamnus which means holy court. It is surrounded by a wall and includes temples dedicated to 25 lesser Elamite gods of which little has remained. Being the largest, the outer area must have been allocated to houses, royal palaces and storage places.
One out of each 10 rows of bricks in the exterior walls of ziggurat were decorated with inscriptions which gave it a special spirit. The inscriptions are believed to be created by King Untash Napirsha, the founder of the structure. They honored the gods to whom the temple was dedicated and cautioned those who intended to damage it.
The most eye-catching structure in the outer area is a funerary palace containing five royal tombs which presumably belonged to the king’s associates. Here a great deal of information regarding burial ceremonies during the Elamites’ era was dug up.