Erebuni excavation

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Erebuni 11: Palace Precinct

 Erebuni Palace Precinct

During excavations of the palace—and purely by chance—archeologists found the main entrance to the palace with a cuneiform inscription (7) still in its original place (on the left as you enter the palace) describing construction of the palace: “By the greatness of God Khaldi, Argishti, Son of Menua, built this marvelous palace”.

Time has been kind to the palace. The excavated walls (3-5 meters tall) clearly show the palace plan with spacious halls, living quarters, storerooms and cellars, open yards, corridors and a temple. Cuneiform inscriptions, cut on four massive column bases of what once was a large palace hall (6) and later turned into a vessel room (15), state that shortly after its completion, the palace was expanded. Argishti had new premises added to its south-eastern side, organically connected with the fortress layout .

The palace entrance leads into the central peristyle (columned) courtyard (8) lined with the palace temple of Susi (9), living and service quarters (12), and perhaps even soldier quarters (13). The hall had three vestibules and adjoined the courtyard from the north-east. It was probably the personal residence of Argishti I (11), more richly decorated than other premises found in the citadel. The murals include bands, palmettos, stepped towers (ziggurats), depictions of the tree of life with priests, rosettes, concave squares, lions and bulls. Judging by archeological finds, parts of the walls were decorated with carpets.

Palace Courtyard (5). The design for this peristyle courtyard is repeated inside Erebuni Museum, for the inner courtyard hall and is notable for its inclusion of the Temple to Susi.

Temple to Susi (9) is in the southeast part of the courtyard. Two similar inscriptions were found on both sides of the finely cut stone entrance to the temple:

“Argishti, Son of Menua, built this temple to the god Ivarsha. Argishti says: the land was desert, nothing there was built. Argishti is a mighty king, a great king, king of the land of Biainili [Urartu], ruler of the city of Tushpa [Urartu's capital].”

The name “Ivarsha” is not mentioned in the pantheon of Urartian gods on “Mher's Door”, a famous Urartian religious inscription found on a rock cliff in the Urartu capital at Van, present day Turkey. It was most probably a local deity equivalent to Urartu's Khaldi. Interestingly, this door is also mentioned in the Armenian epic poem Sassuntsi David.

The Antechamber (10). Rooms located in the northern part of the palace courtyard were built for different purposes. The large column hall, where only column bases have survived, presumably, was an antechamber. Traces of brick-laid benches can be seen on the southern wall.

 


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).