Choghazanbil, A Unique Elamite Structure

By Sadeq Dehqan
Choghazanbil ziggurat in Shoush, Khuzestan province, is the largest remnant from the Elamite era (2700-539 BC) which is among the three Iranian sites registered on the list of global heritage. Choghazanbil Ziggurat is located 40 kilometers southeast of Shoush. A city known as ’Ziggurat’ was built in the early 13th century BC by an Elamite king named Untash Napirisha near Dez River and was called ’Dur Untash’ meaning ’Fort of Untash’.
Some hieroglyph texts have referred to it as ’Al Untash’, meaning Untash City. In the middle of the city, a large temple known as ziggurat was constructed in the shape of a terraced pyramid of successively receding stories, of which only two stories are standing today.
Choghazanbil Ziggurat was built of brick and covers an area of 11,000 square meters. Bricks with inscriptions in Elamite and Akkadian scripts featuring the names of kings involved in the construction of the monument are etched on the outer side of the ziggurat. Choghazanbil was registered by UNESCO in 1979 because of its historical identity and tourist attractions. Speaking to Iran Daily, Omid Ataeifard, a researcher on the ziggurat, said that archeologists believe that Iran is the origin of the first ziggurats in the world. Despite damage to the ziggurat, it is still considered the biggest and most well-preserved ziggurat in the world, he said.
He further said that according Mohammad Karim Pirnia, a researcher on the Iranian architecture, the ziggurat was treated as a large ancient library since the beginning of the excavations because there are inscriptions on each row of bricks which, once deciphered, can provide a lot of information. Commenting on the features of the ziggurat, Ataeifard noted that each tier begins from the ground-level instead of atop the lower one.
Another characteristic of the monument is the construction materials used. The mortar used in the edifice was of a specific type with maximum durability, he said. Other noticeable feature of the ziggurat is its water filtration system, which was pioneered by scientists in ancient Iran, he said.

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