Chogha Zanbil

Chogha Zanbil

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Chogha Zanbil (literally “basket mound”) is an ancient Elamite temple complex located in the modern-day province of Khuzestan, Iran. It is also known as Dur-Untash (Fortress/City/Town of Untash), Tchogha Zanbil, and Al Untash Napirisha (“Place of Untash Napirisha”) and features the largest ziggurat in the world outside of Mesopotamia and the best preserved. It was built c. 1250 BCE during the Middle Elamite Period (c. 1500 - c. 1100 BCE) by the Elamite king Untash-Napirisha (r. c 1275-1240 BCE) and dedicated to the Elamite gods Insushinak and Napirisha but also included shrines to other gods, many of Mesopotamian origin, in order to provide the diverse population of Elam with an all-inclusive center of worship.

Untash-Napirisha originally dedicated the site solely to Insushinak, the patron deity of nearby Susa, and it is thought he intended to draw attention away from Susa as one of the royal cities of Elam and establish his new city as a capital. He changed his mind, however, possibly after considering the wide array of religious traditions and diverse gods followed by the people of Elam, had the original ziggurat dedicated to Insushinak torn down, and built a much grander complex with a larger ziggurat, temples, and shrines, and housing for priests all enclosed behind three massive concentric walls.

The complex was never completed as is made clear by mud bricks still stacked for use in construction & unfinished temples at the site.

The temple complex was never used, however, as it was incomplete at the time of the king's death and abandoned sometime afterwards. Archaeological finds at the site give evidence that it continued as a pilgrimage site up through 1000 BCE, but the complex was never completed as is made clear by mud bricks still stacked for use in construction and unfinished temples at the site. The complex was sacked by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (r. 668-627 BCE) when he invaded Elam in 647-646 BCE but, contrary to his boasts and the claims of later historians, he did not destroy the site. After c. 1000 BCE, Chogha Zanbil was forgotten until it was rediscovered in 1935 CE. To fully appreciate the significance of the site, one must understand the culture of Elam which produced it.


Elam was a region with a diverse population, who were most likely indigenous, stretching from the Zagros Mountains in the north across the Iranian Plateau southwards, corresponding roughly to the modern-day provinces of Ilam and Khuzestan in southern Iran and part of southern Iraq. It was never a cohesive polity except for the brief period of the Elamite Empire founded in the Middle Elamite Period by the king Shutruk-Nakhkunte (r. 1184-1155 BCE) who chose the city of Susa as his capital. Aside from the period of the empire (which did not last long beyond the reign of Shutruk-Nakhkunte's youngest son), the region was a federation of tribes ruled, at different times and with varying authority, by the cities of Awan/Anshan, Shimashki, and Susa. The history of the region is divided by modern-day scholars into four periods:

  • Proto-Elamite Period (c. 3200 - c. 2700 BCE)
  • Old Elamite Period (c. 2700 - c. 1600 BCE)
  • Middle Elamite Period (c. 1100 BCE)
  • Neo-Elamite Period (c. 1100 - c. 539 BCE)

Of these four, the Middle Elamite Period is the best-documented. Elamite is a language isolate, meaning it corresponds to no other known language, and so Elamite script, in use throughout the Proto-Elamite Period, has yet to be deciphered. After 2700 BCE, and closer contact with the Mesopotamian city-states of Sumer, the Elamites adopted cuneiform script for their language and their history comes into somewhat clearer focus. Even so, their cuneiform inscriptions and documents (found primarily at Susa) are incomplete and so a large swath of Elamite history is only known from Sumerian, Akkadian, and Assyrian records which often give brief descriptions without elaboration.

During the Old Elamite Period, the region was conquered by the Sumerian king Enemebaragesi of Kish in 2700 BCE in the first recorded war in history which introduced cuneiform to Elam. The Akkadians under Sargon of Akkad (r. 2334-2279 BCE) next took Elam and held it until the Akkadian Empire fell to the invading Gutians who were driven out by the Sumerian king Ur-Nammu (r. 2047-2030 BCE) and his son Shulgi of Ur (r. 2029-1982 BCE) who then established Sumerian rule in Elam.

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It was not until nearly the end of this period that the Elamite kings were able to assert their autonomy, defeat the Sumerians, and establish themselves as a significant power in the region. The kings of the Sukkalmah Dynasty of Elam (c. 1970 - c. 1770 BCE) provided the stability that would allow the rulers of the next period to concentrate more on domestic policies and building projects than defense of their homeland from invasion.

Middle Elamite Period

As noted, Elam's population was diverse, held together by a common language but apparently differing in customs and religious beliefs or, at least, which gods of the Elamite-Mesopotamian pantheon they chose to elevate. During the Middle Elamite Period, the kings of Anshan and Susa implemented a policy designated “elamization” by modern scholars by which they encouraged the adoption of Elamite beliefs, language, customs, and religion across the region but, especially, in the area of Susiana to the north where Mesopotamian influences had been widely embraced.

There is no evidence of coercion or violence of any kind in this elamization of the region and one of its benefits is more extensive documentation of the period as Elamite kings issued more decrees. The period was dominated by three dynasties:

  • Kidinuid Dynasty (c. 1400 BCE)
  • Igihalkid Dynasty (c. 1400 - c. 1200 BCE)
  • Sutrukid Dynasty (c. 1200 - c. 1100 BCE)

The Kidinuid Dynasty began the process of elamization, the Igihalkid Dynasty continued it, and the Sutrukid Dynasty spread Elamite culture throughout the region and across the region of Babylonia through the conquest which would establish the Elamite Empire. Interestingly, there is no evidence that Shutruk-Nakhkunte or his sons imposed their religion on any other region. If they had, there might be more documentation on Elamite religious beliefs but, as it is, little is known of the Elamite religion beyond the names of some of their many gods and what kinds of sites they chose for their rituals.

Elamite Religion

Napirisha eventually came to be regarded as the chief of the gods, the national god of Elam, recognized at all points.

How the indigenous Elamite religion was practiced during the Proto-Elamite Period is unknown and, even if the Elamite linear script were deciphered, there is no guarantee it would shed any light on this aspect of Elamite culture. By the time Elamite inscriptions relating to the gods were set down, the region had already been influenced by Sumerian and Akkadian culture and religion. Throughout the Old Elamite Period, therefore, Elamite deities are referenced in conjunction with Mesopotamian gods and goddesses.

The Elamites established sacred sites on high hills, mountain tops, sacred groves, and in caves. Based on inscriptions, seals, and impressions, they approached these sites in a procession and offered sacrifices, but nothing is known of the details of religious rituals beyond this. There were over 200 deities in the Elamite pantheon, many of them Mesopotamian (such as Ea, Enki, Inanna, Ninhursag, Nisaba, Shamash, Erra, and Nergal) while the Elamite deities corresponded to the geographical region in which they had developed and risen to prominence from there. Ten of the most influential Elamite deities were:

  • Napirisha – Lord of the Earth and the people
  • Insushinak – Lord of Susa, judge of the dead, protector of the weak
  • Humban – Lord of Anshan, guardian of the king (and royal family), sky god
  • Kiririsha – Wife and consort of both Insushinak and Humban, mother of the gods, a mother goddess
  • Pinikir – Queen of heaven, goddess of the sky
  • Nahhunte – Lord of justice, god of fair trade and contracts
  • Simut – God of Elam and all Elamites
  • Narundi – Goddess of victory
  • Ismekarab – Goddess of the underworld, hearer/protector of oaths
  • Lamagal – (also given as Lakamar) Goddess of the dead and judge of souls

Napirisha, who seems to have originated around Anshan, eventually came to be regarded as the chief of the gods, the national god of Elam, recognized at all points. Insushinak was originally a god of the northern region of Susiana and, although he remained the patron deity of Susa, he was venerated in other areas as well. Humban followed this same paradigm only with Anshan as his city to the south. Initially, based on statuary and impressions, it seems the Elamites worshipped a mother goddess – perhaps even a triad of female deities – who most likely were combined in the figure of Kiririsha who is often associated with Insushinak and Humban but is also depicted as the consort/wife of Napirisha.

The focus of the religion seems to have been the afterlife. Prayers and sacrifices were made for an easy passage between this life and the next but the details of the Elamite vision of life after death are unknown. It is likely, given their close association with Mesopotamia, that their afterlife would have mirrored that of the Sumerians in which the souls of the dead languished in a dim, shadow world presided over by a female deity (in the Mesopotamian vision, Ereshkigal) who made sure the dead remained where they were and did not trouble the living.

From inscriptions, it is clear that there was a concept of judgment after death and the two most prominent judges were Insushinak and Lamagal. It is not completely clear, but it seems Insushinak was merciful while Lamagal was harsh (one of her epithets was “She Who is Without Mercy”), and they would therefore balance each other and render a fair, impartial judgment. If all souls went to exactly the same place, however, this would not make sense and so it is possible that the Elamite vision was closer to that of the Persians in which there were levels of the afterlife corresponding to Paradise, Purgatory, and Hell, but this is speculative.

However they envisioned the afterlife, and whatever they believed their gods could do for them in assuring them of safe passage, one aspect of their religious devotion (common to all ancient cultures) was monumental building projects which would preserve their name, associate that name with their deity of choice, and thereby ensure that they would be remembered by future generations; this was the inspiration behind the construction of the temple complex of Chogha Zanbil.

Chogha Zanbil

Chogha Zanbil began as a ziggurat and surrounding courtyard dedicated to Insushinak. A baked clay brick, provenance unknown but thought to have come from the site, reads:

I, Untash-Napirisha, son of Humban-Numena, king of Anshan and Susa, desirous that my life be one of prosperity, that the extinction of my lineage not be granted when it shall be judged, with this intention I built a temple of baked bricks, a high temple of glazed bricks; I gave it to the god Insushinak of the Sacred Precinct. I raised a ziggurat. May the work which I created, as an offering, be agreeable to Insushinak! (Jones, 1)

Untash-Napirisha first dedicated the monument only to Insushinak in order to draw worshippers (as well as commerce and prestige) away from Susa, the god's patron city, to his own in which the Insushinak ziggurat would be the centerpiece (as per the model of Mesopotamian cities). At some point, after having finished or nearly finished the ziggurat, he had it torn down and embarked on a different course of a much grander vision: a temple complex honoring all the gods of the region to which anyone could come and pay homage to their deity of choice.

The ziggurat was now dedicated to Napirisha and Insushinak, thereby honoring all of Elam through the two most prominent gods of the south and north but also, in choosing Napirisha over, say, Humban, creating an all-inclusive center for the chief of the gods who presided over not only all the other deities of Elam but all of its people. It was an ambitious undertaking, as described by scholar Marc Van de Mieroop:

The construction was truly monumental: it contained millions of bricks, a substantial part of which was baked at great expense of fuel. The inner core of sun-dried brick was encased in a 2-meter-thick layer of baked brick. Every tenth layer of the outer casing had a row of bricks inscribed with a dedication from Untash-Napirisha to Insushinak. Because of the solidity of its construction, this is the best-preserved ziggurat in the Near east. Many of the temples in the inner enclosure were devoted to purely Elamite deities, while some of the others honored Mesopotamian gods popular in Susa. There was thus an increased attention to Elamite traditions. (186)

Construction began at the center with the ziggurat which, when completed, rose 174 feet (53 meters) high with a temple at its top (symbolizing the sacred sites of mountain tops) and at the bottom (representing sacred caves). After the ziggurat, the temples, shrines, and houses for the priests were built in an area of around 100 hectares which was enclosed by a concentric wall two miles (4 km) long which was then ringed by two others. There was a royal entrance into a courtyard and, to the right of the entrance, were four temples dedicated to Elamite deities, among them, Pinikir (Queen of Heaven). The temple at the top of the ziggurat was dedicated to Insushinak and Napirisha; the temple at the base honored Kiririsha and there were shrines to her and the other gods to either side.

Two large buildings, designated “palaces” by the original excavators, were located in the so-called “royal quarter” which had subterranean chambers designed as burial vaults. Although only one skeleton was found in this tomb, it seems to have been created to house the remains of the entire royal family. Who the skeleton once was, or why others were not buried there, is unknown. The palaces were ornamented, as was the ziggurat, temples, and shrines, with precious gems, statues of winged griffins, and other iconography honoring the gods. Even in its unfinished state, the complex would have been impressive, rising – as it did in its time – from a high, grassy plain with a forest below.

Construction was still underway when Untash-Napirisha died (cause unknown), and work was abandoned. Although Shutruk-Nakhkunte took some of the bricks to Susa, the complex was never raided for building material (as was the case with so many ancient sites, most notably the city of Memphis in Egypt which was dismantled to build Cairo). Although Chogha Zanbil was abandoned shortly after Untash-Napirisha's death, it continued to serve as a place of pilgrimage until c. 1000 BCE, after which it was forgotten. The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal sacked the site in 647-646 BCE (possibly as late as 640 BCE) but, contrary to his claims and those of later writers did not destroy it. Elam was claimed by the Assyrians after Ashurbanipal's conquest, passed to the Medes after the fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 612 BCE, and was finally absorbed into the Persian Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE) c. 539 BCE. By that time, the great complex of Dur Untash was not even a memory.


The site was rediscovered in 1935 CE when geologists in the region commissioned a program of aerial photography to identify oil fields. The photographers alerted a team of French archaeologists working at nearby Susa (where the baked, inscribed bricks from Dur Untash, taken by Shutruk-Nakhkunte, had been found) who arrived at the site and identified it as the ancient Dur Untash. Its modern name, Chogha Zanbil, dates to about this time as the shape of the complex was thought to resemble an upside-down woven basket.

The first excavations were initiated in 1946 CE but the most significant work at the site was done by the French archaeologist Roman Ghirshman (l. 1895-1979 CE) between 1951-1962 CE. Work was continued at the site afterwards by Iranian and international teams working to stabilize and preserve the ziggurat and surrounding walls. In 1979 CE Chogha Zanbil was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and preservation efforts continue even with the social turmoil of the region. Visitors from around the world regularly came to the site until the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 CE when tourism worldwide was interrupted. Even so, Chogha Zanbil is expected to draw visitors to the region again in the future as the site remains one of the most impressive ruins from antiquity, not only in the Near East but in the world.

Phenomenology in archeology is an interpretive method that addresses the existential philosophy of memorial sites as well as rational and better understanding, with regard to their manifestation. In this paper, phenomenology, as a methodology, examines the most prominent site of the historical period of the Middle Elam, which has a world-class value. Chogha Zanbı¯l gave the people of Elam a fundamental sense of rootedness. The placement of the Ziggurat at the central point, the core and the heart of Dur Untash, also manifests the significance of religion in the Elamite era. The Ziggurat affected the personal and collective circumstances of the people of Elam and gave objectivity to their religious beliefs. This objectivity met the most basic needs of the Middle Elam's people, and this meaningful experience was the basis for his "being". This essay studies Chogha Zanbı¯l Ziggurat using qualitative and phenomenological interpretation methodology, and concludes that the purpose of Untash Napirasha in making this great work was the permanent transfer of the religious center from Mesopotamia to Elam, the subjugation of the people and the sustainable propaganda for religious-political ideologies.



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Exploration of Ancient City, Susa History

North of Khuzestan plainthe sediments of the three rivers Karun, Karkheh,and Dezenter this sedimentary and fertile plain. It was a good place for early human settlement. In 5000 BC they solved the problem of water supply by constructing waterways and dams.

Archaeologists such as Gershmanand Jean-Peru have discovered the remains of huge buildings in the Susa Hills. Which indicates the importance of these hills in the region. There are many hills throughout the plain of Susa where show that there were numerous dispersed agricultural communities in this plain. All of which was centered in Susa culturally and industrially.

Susa History, Susa Citadel, Iran Destination

Komplexet byggdes omkring 1250 f.Kr. av kung Untash-Napirisha, i huvudsak för att ära guden Inshushinak. Dess ursprungliga namn var Dur Untash, vilket betyder 'Untash stad', men det är osannolikt att många människor, förutom präster och tjänare, någonsin bott här. Komplexet skyddas av tre koncentriska murar som definierar huvudområdet av "staden". Innerområdet är i sin helhet upptaget av den stora ziqquraten tillägnad huvudguden. Denna byggdes över ett tidigare kvadratiskt tempel med förrådsrum, också detta uppfört av samma kung. Mittområdet har elva tempel tillägnade mindre betydelsefulla gudar. Man tror att det ursprungligen planerades tjugotvå tempel, men kungen dog innan dessa hade färdigställts och hans efterträdare avbröt byggandet. I ytterområdet finns det kungliga palatset samt ett begravningsområde som har fem underjordiska kungliga gravar.

Trots att byggandet i staden avbröts efter Untash-Napirishas död, övergavs inte platsen utan var i bruk tills den förstördes av den assyriske kungen Ashurbanipal år 640 f.Kr. Några experter spekulerar, grundat på det stora antalet tempel och helgedomar i Tchogha Zanbil, att Untash-Napirisha försökte skapa ett nytt religiöst centrum (möjligen i ett försök att ersätta Susa) som skulle ena gudarna i både höglandet och låglandet i Elam på en och samma plats.

Arkeologiska utgrävningar som genomfördes mellan 1951 och 1962 tog fram lämningarna i dagen, och ziqquraten anses vara en av de bäst bevarade exemplaren i världen. 1979 blev Tchogha Zanbil Irans första världsarv.

Historia e etimoloxía [ editar | editar a fonte ]

O nome elamita desta estrutura é Cigurat Dūr Untash, [ 1 ] (/ˈzɪɡəræt/ ZIG-ər-at da palabra Semítico Acadio ziqqurat, baseada na D-stem de zaqāru "para construír nunha área elevada" [ 2 ] e "Dur Untash" é a combinación do Elamita Dur (Lugar / residente / cidade) como o árabe "Dur / Dar" co mesmo significado [ 3 ] e "Untash" o rei elamita que o construíu. No entanto, esta estrutura é coñecida polo seu novo mome persa actual [ 4 ] "Chogha Zanbil" que lle deu [ 5 ] [ 6 ] Chogha en Bakhtiari [Cómpre referencia] significa "outeiro" [Cómpre referencia] . Foi construído sobre o 1250 a.C. polo rei Untash-Napirisha, principalmente para honrar ao gran deus Inshushinak. O seu nome orixinal era "Dur Untash", que significa "cidade de Untash", pero é improbable que moitas persoas, ademais de sacerdotes e servos, vivisen alí. O complexo está protexido por tres muros concéntricos que definen as áreas principais da "cidade". A área interior está totalmente ocupada por un gran ziggurat dedicado ao deus principal, que foi construído sobre un templo cadrado anterior con compartimentos tamén construídos por Untash-Napirisha. [ 7 ] A área media ten once templos para deuses menores. Crese que orixinariamente planeáronse vinte e dous templos, pero o rei morreu antes de que puidesesen rematar e os seus sucesores deixaron de construír. Na zona exterior atópanse palacios reais, un palacio funerario que contén cinco tumbas reais subterráneas.

Aínda que a construción da cidade terminou abruptamente despois da morte de Untash-Napirisha, o sitio non foi abandonado, pero continuou sendo ocupado ata que foi destruído polo asirio Ashurbanipal no 640. Algúns estudiosos especulan, baseándose na gran cantidade de templos e santuarios en Chogha Zanbil, que Untash-Napirisha intentou crear un novo centro relixioso (posiblemente destinado a substituír a Susa) que uniría aos deuses das terras altas e aos das terras baixas de Elam nun só sitio.

O cigurat medía orixinariamente 105.2 m. en cada lado e preto de 53 m. de altura, en cinco niveis, coroado cun templo. O ladrillo de barro era o material básico de todo o conxunto. O cigurat recibiu un revestimento de ladrillos cocidos, algúns dos cales teñen personaxes cuneiformes que dan nome a deidades nas linguas elamita e acadia. Aínda que o cigurat agora ten só 24.75 m. de alto, menos da metade da altura orixinal estimada, o seu estado de conservación é insuperable.[1]

Os principais materiais de construción en Chogha Zanbil eran ladrillos de barro e ladrillos cocidos ocasionalmente. Os monumentos estaban decorados con ladrillos cocidos, xeso e adornos de faia e vidro. Adornando os edificios máis importantes atpábanse miles de ladrillos cocidos que conteñen inscricións con caracteres cuneiformes elamíticos inscritos a man. As estatuas de terracota vidreada como os touros e os grifóns alados custodian as entradas ao cigurat. Preto dos templos de Kiririsha e Hishmitik-Ruhuratir, atopáronse fornos que probablemente foron usados ​​para a produción de ladrillos cocidos e materiais decorativos. Crese que o cigurat foi construído en dúas etapas. Tomou a súa forma multi-capas na segunda fase.

O cigurat considérase o mellor exemplo preservado de monumento piramidal escalonado por parte da UNESCO.. [ 8 ] En 1979, Chogha Zanbil converteuse no primeiro sitio iraniano en inscribirse na lista do Patrimonio da Humanidade da UNESCO.

Okar Research

"Chogha Zanbil (Persian: چغازنبيل‎) Elamite: Dur Untash) is an ancient Elamite complex in the Khuzestan province of Iran. Chogha in Bakhtiari means hill. It is one of the few existent ziggurats outside of Mesopotamia….Choga Zambil means 'basket mound.' It was built about 1250 BC by the king Untash-Napirisha, mainly to honor the great god Inshushinak. Its original name was Dur Untash, which means 'town of Untash', 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"….

The ziggurat of Chogha Zanbil in Khuzestan Province, near Susa. Ziggurats were pyramidal structures built in receding tiers with sun-baked brick cores and multi-coloured glazed-brick exteriors.) It was built on a plateau above the banks of the Dez River. ….the largest of all the ziggurats) and dates to circa 1250 BCE. It is surrounded by 3 huge concentric walls. The outer city wall was about 4 kilometres long and enclosed an area of approximately 100 hectares. The first (outer) wall has 7 gates. Between the inner and middle walls, several temples dedicated to different Elamite divinities were built. Thousands of baked mud bricks bearing inscriptions with Elamite cuneiform characters, all inscribed by hand, adorn the most important buildings. Chogha Zanbil is the best preserved of all the ancient ziggurats.

At the time of its construction this part of present-day Iran was part of ancient empire of Elam. Within an ethnological and cultural context the ancient Elamites were close to the Mesopotamian civilisations. However, it is not unusual to come across the claim that the written history of Iran began circa 3200 BCE with the Proto-Elamite civilization and was followed by the Elamite civilization. The ziggurat at Chogha Zanbil was part of an ancient Elamite complex built by the Elamite King Untaš-Napiriša (1275-1240 BCE) near the Elamite capital city of of Susa.

The ziggurat is a square structure with its base measuring 105 metres x 105 metres. It had 5 levels and it's height is variously estimated but believed by some to have been 52 metres. The ziggurat was a temple dedicated to Inshushinak, the bull-god of near-by Susa. It has been speculated that it may also have served an astronomical purpose. This four-sided, broadly stepped ziggurat is aligned so that its corners face the cardinal directions. Ziggurats originally had a cosmic significance. They were an image of the 7 spheres of the world and were also the seat of the Sun-god. The building complex at the site of the ziggurat includes 11 temples, a palace, and burial chambers…… It is believed that 22 temples were originally planned, but King Untaš-Napiriša died before the construction of the complex could be finished….Some schol….which would unite the gods/goddesses of both highland and lowland Elam at one site.

The first enclosure contains the temenos…..The ziggurat was built within a sacred precinct, which was, again, surrounded by a wall ("the outer temenos wall"), almost rectangular in shape of 400 x 500 meter, its corners facing the north, east, south, and west. The eastern corner was occupied by several minor sanctuaries….In the center of this rectangular zone was a second wall ("the inner temenos wall") of irregular shape…..

"Following some geophysical studies, Iranian archeologists have managed to discover the remains of an age-old ziggurat, possibly dating back to 6,00 years, near the 3,000-year-old famed Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat, Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency reported…..

"The building materials in Chogha Zanbil are mainly mud bricks and occasionally baked bricks. The monuments were well built and beautifully decorated with glazed baked bricks, gypsum, ornaments of faience and glass. Thousands of baked bricks bearing inscriptions with Elamite cuneiform characters were all inscribed by hand, ornamenting the most important buildings. Glazed terracotta statues such as bulls and winged griffins guarded the entrances to the ziggurat. Near the temples of Kiririsha and Hishmitik-Ruhuratir, kilns were found that probably were used for the production of baked bricks and decoration materials….

Tchogha 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.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Tchoga Zanbil

À l'intérieur de trois formidables enceintes concentriques, le site de Tchoga Zanbil conserve les ruines de la ville sainte du royaume d'Élam, fondée vers 1250 av. J.-C., qui, après l'invasion d'Assurbanipal, resta inachevée, comme l'attestent ses milliers de briques inutilisées.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

تشوغا زنبيل

في داخل ثلاثة أماكن مسوّرة متراكزة رائعة، يحفظ موقع تشوغا زنبيل آثار المدينة المقدسة في مملكة إيلام، التي تأسست قرابة العام 1250 ق.م. والتي ظلّت غير مكتملة بعد اجتياح أشوربنيبعل كما تدلّ على ذلك آلاف حجار القرميد التي تتواجد فيها ولم تستعمل.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Древний город Чога-Занбиль

В Чога-Замбиль найдены руины священного города царства Элам, окруженного тремя концентрическими рядами мощных стен. Основанный в 1250 г. до н.э., из-за захвата Ашшурбанипалом город остался недостроенным, что видно по тысячам оставленных на месте неиспользованных кирпичей.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Tchogha Zanbil

En este sitio se hallan las ruinas de la ciudad sagrada del reino de Elam, rodeadas por tres imponentes murallas concéntricas. La construcción esa ciudad, fundada hacia el año 1250 a.C., permaneció inacabada después de su invasión por Asurbanipal, como lo atestiguan los miles de ladrillos sin utilizar que se han encontrado.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Chogha Zanbil

In Chogha Zanbil liggen de ruïnes van de heilige stad van het Koninkrijk van Elam, omringd door drie enorme concentrische muren. De stad werd circa 1250 voor Christus opgericht en bleef onvoltooid nadat het werd binnengevallen door Assurbanipal, zoals blijkt uit de duizenden ongebruikte stenen gevonden op deze plek. Chogha Zanbil heeft de best bewaarde en grootste ziggurats van Mesopotamië. De eerste omheining bevat de ‘temenos’. Deze tempel stond oorspronkelijk in het midden van een vierkant gebouw en was gewijd aan de Soemerische god Inshushinak. De tempel werd omgezet in een ziggurat en vormt daar de eerste verdieping van.

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Outstanding Universal Value

Brief Synthesis

Located in ancient Elam (today Khuzestan province in southwest Iran), Tchogha Zanbil (Dur-Untash, or City of Untash, in Elamite) was founded by the Elamite king Untash-Napirisha (1275-1240 BCE) as the religious centre of Elam. The principal element of this complex is an enormous ziggurat dedicated to the Elamite divinities Inshushinak and Napirisha. It is the largest ziggurat outside of Mesopotamia and the best preserved of this type of stepped pyramidal monument. The archaeological site of Tchogha Zanbil is an exceptional expression of the culture, beliefs, and ritual traditions of one of the oldest indigenous peoples of Iran. Our knowledge of the architectural development of the middle Elamite period (1400-1100 BCE) comes from the ruins of Tchogha Zanbil and of the capital city of Susa 38 km to the north-west of the temple).

The archaeological site of Tchogha Zanbil covers a vast, arid plateau overlooking the rich valley of the river Ab-e Diz and its forests. A “sacred city” for the king’s residence, it was never completed and only a few priests lived there until it was destroyed by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal about 640 BCE. The complex was protected by three concentric enclosure walls: an outer wall about 4 km in circumference enclosing a vast complex of residences and the royal quarter, where three monumental palaces have been unearthed (one is considered a tomb-palace that covers the remains of underground baked-brick structures containing the burials of the royal family) a second wall protecting the temples (Temenus) and the innermost wall enclosing the focal point of the ensemble, the ziggurat.

The ziggurat originally measured 105.2 m on each side and about 53 m in height, in five levels, and was crowned with a temple. Mud brick was the basic material of the whole ensemble. The ziggurat was given a facing of baked bricks, a number of which have cuneiform characters giving the names of deities in the Elamite and Akkadian languages. Though the ziggurat now stands only 24.75 m high, less than half its estimated original height, its state of preservation is unsurpassed. Studies of the ziggurat and the rest of the archaeological site of Tchogha Zanbil containing other temples, residences, tomb-palaces, and water reservoirs have made an important contribution to our knowledge about the architecture of this period of the Elamites, whose ancient culture persisted into the emerging Achaemenid (First Persian) Empire, which changed the face of the civilised world at that time.

Criterion (iii): The ruins of Susa and of Tchogha Zanbil are the sole testimonies to the architectural development of the middle Elamite period (1400-1100 BCE).

Criterion (iv): The ziggurat at Tchogha Zanbil remains to this day the best preserved monument of this type and the largest outside of Mesopotamia.

Within the boundaries of the property are located all the elements and components necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, including, among others, the concentric walls, the royal quarter, the temples, various dependencies, and the ziggurat. Almost none of the various architectural elements and spaces has been removed or suffered major damage. The integrity of the landscape and lifestyle of the indigenous communities has largely been protected due to being away from urban areas.

Identified threats to the integrity of the property include heavy rainfalls, which can have a damaging effect on exposed mud-brick structures a change in the course of the river Ab-e Diz, which threatens the outer wall sugar cane cultivation and processing, which have altered traditional land use and increased air and water pollution and deforestation of the river valleys. Visitors were banned from climbing the ziggurat in 2002, and a lighting system has been installed and guards stationed at the site to protect it from illegal excavations.


The historical monuments of the archaeological site of Tchogha Zanbil are authentic in terms of their forms and design, materials and substance, and locations and setting. Several conservation measures have been undertaken since the original excavations of the site between 1946 and 1962, but they have not usually disturbed its historical authenticity.

Protection and management requirements

Tchogha Zanbil was registered in the national list of Iranian monuments as item no. 895 on 26 January 1970. Relevant national laws and regulations concerning the property include the National Heritage Protection Law (1930, updated 1998) and the 1980 Legal bill on preventing clandestine diggings and illegal excavations. The inscribed World Heritage property, which is owned by the Government of Iran, and its buffer zone are administered by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (which is administered and funded by the Government of Iran). A Management Plan was prepared in 2003 and has since been implemented. Planning for tourism management, landscaping, and emergency evacuation for the property has been accomplished and implementation was in progress in 2013. A research centre has undertaken daily, monthly, and annual monitoring of the property since 1998. Financial resources for Tchogha Zanbil are provided through national budgets.

Conservation activities have been undertaken within a general framework, including development of scientific research programs comprehensive conservation of the property and its natural-historical context expansion of the conservation program to the surrounding environment concentration on engaging the public and governmental organizations and agencies and according special attention to programs for training and presentation (with the aim of developing cultural tourism) based on sustainable development. Objectives include research programs and promotion of a conservation management culture scientific and comprehensive conservation of the property and surrounding area and development of training and introductory programmes.

Sustaining the Outstanding Universal Value of the property over time will require creating a transparent and regular funding system, employing efficient and sustainable management systems, supporting continuous protection and presentation, enjoying the public support and giving life to the property, adopting a “minimum intervention” approach, and respecting the integrity and authenticity of the property and its surrounding environment. In addition, any outstanding recommendations of past expert missions to the property should be addressed.

Ziggurat of Choga Zanbil magnificent ruins

TEHRAN, Jun. 15 (MNA) – Ziggurat of Choga Zanbil, the world's largest ziggurat is located in Shush a city in Khuzestan Province, southwest of Iran. It was the first Iranian monument to be registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.

Ziggurat of Choga Zanbil is located approximately 30 km southeast of Shush and 80 km north of Ahvaz. It is an ancient Elamite complex in Shush a city in Khuzestan Province, southwest of Iran. Shush is located beside ancient Susa an ancient city of the Proto-Elamite, Elamite, First Persian Empire, Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian empires of Iran.

Ziggurat is a type of massive structure built in ancient Mesopotamia. They were built by ancient Sumerians, Akkadians, Elamites, Eblaites and Babylonians for local religions, predominantly Mesopotamian religion and Elamite religion. Ziggurats have the form of a terraced compound of successively receding stories or levels. They were the site of keeping statues of gods and performing religious ceremonies.

History and Etymology

Ziggurat of Choga Zanbil was built by the Elamite king Untash-Napirisha (1275-1240 BCE) as the religious center of Elam. He ordered to build a religious city where the Choga zanbil building was located in the center of the city and was considered the highest part of it. The entire complex consists of the magnificent Chogha Zanbil ziggurat, temples and three palaces. It originally measured 105m on each side and about 52m in height, in five floors, and at the apex of which stood a temple. Today, it is 25m high and only two and a half floors of it have remained.

In 1890, a person named Jacques de Morgan a French mining engineer, geologist, and archaeologist, made a statement stating that there were oil mines in Choga Zanbil lands. For a long time the place was unfamiliar to people, but it was accidentally discovered in 1935 by prospectors of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company during an oil searching project. A number of engineers found a brick on which it was written.

Several bull sculptures of Inshushinak were found within the complex, which served the royal families of Elam as a place both of worship and of interment. In addition, a variety of small artifacts were recovered, including a collection of Middle Elamite cylinder seals.

Chogha Zanbil is a local word made up of the two Chogha meaning hill and Zanbil meaning basket. It is an ancient name for this structure and it means basket mound.

Features of Choga Zanbil

Choga Zanbil’s building is a square shaped circular fence around it. The number four is a sacred number in architecture. “Four” indicates of the four main directions, four seasons, the sides of the square, and etc. There are bricks to the cuneiform (one of the earliest systems of writing which was invented by the Sumerians) on the walls of the temple all of them have the same text which expresses the name of the king and his purpose to build the temple.

It is is considered to be the best preserved example of an ancient construction in the world. Chogha Zanbil became the first Iranian site to be registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.

Best Time to Visit

The best season to visit Ziggurat of Choga Zanbil is winter. It is not a favorite destination in summer since it gets so hot. Visiting this ziggurat will take one hour.

A Brief History of Glassblowing

At the Duncan McClellan Gallery and the DMG School Project, we love sharing the wonders of glass art and glass making with our local community, tourists, students, and anyone who wants to learn about this amazing art form. When you visit the gallery and spend some time in our on site Hot Glass Workshop, you are sure to learn a lot about modern glass art. For those planning to visit, or those who’ve already been to the gallery but want to learn more, we’ve put together a list of five fun and interesting facts about glassblowing throughout history.

1. Mother nature was making glass long before humans existed

Glass is made by applying extreme heat to certain natural materials such as sand and rocks. Lightning strikes on the sand of beaches and deserts creates glass rods called fulgurites. Volcanic eruptions also create glass, when lava flows fuse sand and rocks into obsidian. Scientists have even found glass of extraterrestrial origin, most likely carried to Earth by meteorites or comets.

2. Glassmaking may have been discovered by accident by ancient peoples

Roman author and natural philosopher Pliny the Elder suggested that ancient traders may have accidentally discovered a rudimentary techniques of glass making. In his Historia Naturalis, written around 77 AD, he relates a story of sailors stopping on a beach to prepare a meal, and using lumps of soda to support their cooking cauldrons. When the heated soda mixed with the sand of the beach, according to the story, the first manmade glass was formed. Ancient Egyptians or Mesopotamians may have also discovered how to make glass even earlier, in the process of firing clay to make pottery.

3. Glassblowing is an ancient art

The earliest known evidence of glassblowing was found by archeologist Roman Ghirshman in the Chogha Zanbil ziggurat complex in the Khuzestan province of Iran. During the excavation of the site, which dates back to the 2nd millennium BC – more than 3,000 years ago, numerous glass bottles were found. The technique by which these bottles were made isn’t known, so it’s difficult to say if they were created using techniques we now know as glassblowing.

4. The Roman Empire spread glassblowing through the ancient world

Glassblowing as it is known in the modern world was invented during the Roman Empire in the first century BC. The art was developed and spread with the support of the Roman government, with the first large glass workshops established by the Phoenicians on the eastern borders of the empire, in areas which are now Israel and Lebanon. Glass objects became more common during the Empire, as both functional devices and works of art.

5. Knowledge of glassblowing was often a closely guarded secret

Throughout history glassblowing techniques were kept hidden by governments, and glassblowers were at times essentially kept as prisoners for fear they would spread their knowledge. During the first century AD, Phoenician glassmakers were not permitted to travel. During the Middle Ages, Venetian glassblowers were sequestered to the island of Murano due to fears their foundries would cause fires in the city – but also as a way to protect their secrets. The island became a leading center for glassmaking, but the artists weren’t permitted to leave the Venetian Republic.

Structural analysis of earth construction’s vaults: Case of underground tombs of Chogha Zanbil

The 3300-year-old Chogha Zanbil is the largest and best-preserved five levelled pyramidal earth ziggurat outside Mesopotamia, which was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Underground tombs of Chogha Zanbil are accepted as outstanding instances in Iran and consist of vaults, which are built with special methods by Elamite architects. In this context, the main purpose of this paper is to contribute to sustain the outstanding universal value of the Chogha Zanbil. For that purpose, this paper puts forward a structural analyse of the vaults of five Chogha Zanbil underground tombs, which were built inside the ground by brick, lime mortar, plaster and bitumen materials. Data for underground tombs and vaults were collected upon field observations and literature study. SAP software was used to determine the way the forces are transmitted through the vaults, the conditions of bending moments, the shear forces. As a result, it has been observed that the bending in the vaults turns into pressure force that is perfectly resisted by bricks. In conclusion, it was ascertained that the vaults of the Chogha Zanbil underground tombs were built with the right techniques at that time, so that the vaults still have solid behaviour after thousands of years and remained completely healthy to this day.

New at LacusCurtius & Livius

A ziggurat is a pyramid-shaped artificial mountain, which served as the base of a temple. The most famous example is the “Tower of Babel“: a temple tower meant to “reach into heaven”, as the author of Genesis states – a claim that has indeed been made by the Babylonian kings Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar. The best-preserved ziggurat is in Choga Zanbil, in Khuzestan (Iran).

It is also one of the largest: it occupies a surface of 110𴡆 meters, and still rises some 25 meters high, less than half of it original heighth. But Choga Zanbil is not just a big heap of ancient tiles and bricks: there are courts and temples, there’s a water refinery, and there’s a royal palace with royal tombs. To be honest, everything is small compared to the building erected by king Untaš-Napiriša (1275-1240).

A “zanbil”, BTW, is a bucket, usually made of leather or rubber. From an excavation in Greece (Halos), I remember that we carried away the dirt in “zambilis”, which suggests that the word has entered modern Greek as a loanword from the Turkish language. Perhaps it’s originally an Arabic word, that was borrowed by the Turks first?

I used to have two pages on the site, based on photos from 2004. But I’ve been there again and again, sometimes twice a year, so I revised everything, and it’s now here.

Watch the video: Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat, Susa, Khuzestan