Erebuni excavation

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Erebuni 5: Karmir Blur

 Karmir Blur

The choice of place for Erebuni was not accidental. The citadel, set on a 65 meter hill called Arin Berd, ruled not only over a large city of the same name but also the area around it: the Ararat Valley and the Urartian cities Argishtihinili (today's Armavir) and Teishebaini (Karmir Blur), adjoining settlements and the connecting roads that can be seen from this vantage point.

Karmir Blur (named for its red clay soil) was built for the Urartian king Rusa II in the first half of the 7th century BCE, establishing a bulwark against northeastern Cimmerian and Scythian attacks. He founded the new administrative, economic and military center on the left bank of Ildaruni (Hrazdan) River (modern westen Yerevan) and called it Teishebaini in honor of Teisheba, the Urartian god of storms and war.

The citadel for this fortress-city—surrounded by massive defensive walls, with storage buildings and its own irrigation system, was a two level structure. The lower level had 150 storage rooms, used as wine cellars, workshops, for distilling beer and wine and even a sesame seed oil press. The upper level held chambers and palace rooms for the governor, priests, military officials and other high ranking persons. Temples were also inside the citadel.

We first learned of this wonderful ancient site when a cuneiform inscription was found by chance on the southeastern slope of Karmir Blur in 1936. It reads 'Rusa Argishti-hini' which translates "Rusa, son of Argishti", or Rusa II. Systematic studies of the site were launched in 1939 unearthing a large settlement which had been buried under a thick layer of red soil for more than 2,500 years. Another set of cuneiform inscriptions found in the later excavation was carved in cuneiform with the words "Rusa Son of Argishti, fortress of the city of Teishebaini" which helped to date the Urartian layer and identify its patron.

The excavations are considered among the most important archaeological discoveries in the Middle East and Asia Minor. Some of the findings include bone, stone and metal figurines, pottery and an astonishing variety of different metallic domestic tools and utensils, worship items, military equipment decorated with mythological symbols, forms and animals. Also found were remnants of burned or charred grains and fragments of colored knitted items showing highly developed economy, arts and crafts in Urartu.

Teishebaini was destroyed by Scythians and local tribes who set the fortified city on fire sometime around the beginning of the 6th century BCE. Numerous archeological finds, such as watermelon seeds found in the stomachs of animals, remnants of grass reaped in the month of August and other discoveries helped to date the city's surprise attack, its inhabitants caught off guard and unable to escape its destruction.


Original text edited by Erebuni Historical and Archaeological Museum-Preserve and the Armenian National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS-ARMENIA).