Oshnavieh, an archaeologist’s paradise

May 2, 2020 - 21:4

TEHRAN – Resting on a layer cake of civilizations that have come and gone for millennia, Oshnavieh county, in northwest Iran, is teemed with ancient hills, tomb chambers, archaeological sites and bas-relief carvings. According to many, it’s a paradise for archaeologists.

Located in West Azarbaijan province, Oshnavieh boasts 106 sites registered on Iran’s National Cultural Heritage List. It is also home to five bas-relief carvings, originally belonging to the Kingdom of Urartu (860 BC – 590 BC), the main reason why Oshnavieh is called an archaeologist’s paradise.

However, over the past couple of years, the region has witnessed series of unauthorized, unprecedented drillings and excavations committed by unauthorized diggers and antique dealers, IRNA reported in April.

“According to local officials, such illegal excavations with such detentions have not been recorded in this county so far, while in [the Iranian year] 1397, media coverage of these illegal excavations and the destruction of the walls of Qalatgah Castle caused a wave of concern among those interested in the region’s cultural heritage.”

Last year, archaeological relics relating to the ancient Kingdom were found in Anaqizli mount, Chaypareh county, northwest Iran.

The Urartu kingdom rose to power in the mid-9th century BC, but it went into gradual decline and was eventually conquered by the Iranian Medes in the early 6th century BC. The Urartians were succeeded in the area in the 6th century BC by the Armenians.

Urartu, ancient country of southwest Asia centered in the mountainous region southeast of the Black Sea and southwest of the Caspian Sea. Today the region is divided among Armenia, eastern Turkey, and northwestern Iran. Mentioned in Assyrian sources from the early 13th century BC, Urartu enjoyed considerable political power in the Middle East in the 9th and 8th centuries BC.

According to Encyclopedia Iranica, the territory of the ancient kingdom of Urartu extended over the modern frontiers of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and the Republic of Armenia. Its center was the Armenian highland between Lake Van, Lake Urmia, and Lake Sevan.

Urartian archeological finds in modern Iran including castles, settlements, water channels and other water constructions, rock chambers, rock graves, stelae, rock inscriptions, and building inscriptions.

Most impressive are the Urartian architectural remains with their different building forms and ground plans, mainly as castles and larger fortresses. They range in size from small, mostly rectangular castles or road stations to the extended fortification systems of large settlements.

Urartian pottery is mainly earthenware and, to a lesser extent, red polished ceramic, so-called palace-ware, since it is found only in the larger, central Urartian sites. Urartian pottery is mostly monochrome ware made by potter’s wheel.

Cuneiform inscriptions have been found on clay tablets, cylinder seals, and bullae; there are inscriptions on building stones, as at Bastam and rock inscriptions, others on stelae and on clay vessels.

The Urartian rock chambers influenced the Achaemenid rock graves in layout and in stonecutter techniques. The monumental scale of the Urartian rock cuttings and surface preparation for cuneiform inscriptions prepared the way for the Achaemenid monumental inscriptions, in particular that of Darius at Bisotun.


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