Erebuni excavation

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Erebuni 10: Temples

 Temple Precinct

Erebuni citadel was not just a fortress, it was also a living city, a combination of three main complexes, each with its own sophisticated use of space uniquely constructed for very special purposes: the Service Quarter, the Palace and the Temples.

Temple to Khaldi (4) is in the southwest portion of the central square, and was dedicated to an Urartian god. Its design followed an ancient Near Eastern custom by which ziggurats (towers) were built at temples devoted to the supreme deity. The temple had two rooms; the ziggurat (4b) and a column hall (4a) made from two rows of 6 columns with brick benches along the walls. Only the foundations of the ziggurat survive. An altar for sacrifices was located on the southern wall. A cuneiform inscription marking the temple's construction was found while uncovering the roof of the ziggurat in 1968.

The temple's service quarters (storage rooms and wine cellars) lie to the south of the ziggurat and column hall. The walls of the temple—like other buildings in the citadel—were decorated with colorful frescoes and large, intricate bronze and cuneiform shields.

One of these frescoes depicts a bearded human figure standing on a lion (probably the god Khaldi). His right hand is raised with an upward palm and his left hand is stretched out in front clutching an object. He has a crown upon his head typical of those worn by Assyrian kings. The composition and choice of details closely match other ancient frescoes in the Near East.

In the 6th century BCE, following the collapse of Urartu and ascendancy of the Achaemenids, Erebuni became capital of one of their satrapies and was rebuilt. The 12 column hall from the 8th century BCE temple became a 30 column hall. This new hall was called an Apadana in old Persian but still retains its prototypical form from Urartu.

Judging from surviving column bases, the columns were arranged in five rows of six columns each which supported a flat roof. The purpose of the hall also changed after reconstruction, turning a worship space into a secular room for official receptions, festivities and assemblies. Among the many examples of the Apadana are those in the Achaemenid capitals of Pasargad and Persepolis.

Temple to Susi (9) The Achaemeids also rebuilt the palace temple of Susi, a small structure with a rectangular plan devoted to a local deity named “Ivarsha”, turning it into a fire worship temple (9a); excavators uncovered a thick layer of ash and new pillars at the entrance to the 8th century BCE Urartian temple. More about the temple to Susi can be found on Panel 11.

Another fire worship temple (9b) was built in the north-eastern corner of the central square. This temple consisted of three small rooms with blank walls and niches with steps.


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).