The ziggurat is arguably the most distinct architectural feature of the Mesopotamian civilization.
Nevertheless, some of these structures have been found to exist outside the area once occupied by this ancient civilization. One of these ziggurats is located in Chogha Zanbil (meaning ‘basket mound’), near Susa in the Khuzestan province of modern day Iran.
Located in ancient Elam (today Khuzestan province in southwest Iran), Tchogha Zanbil (Dur-Untash, or City of Untash, in Elamite) was founded by the Elamite king Untash-Napirisha (1275-1240 BCE) as the religious centre of Elam. The principal element of this complex is an enormous ziggurat dedicated to the Elamite divinities Inshushinak and Napirisha. It is the largest ziggurat outside of Mesopotamia and the best preserved of this type of stepped pyramidal monument.
The archaeological site of Tchogha Zanbil is an exceptional expression of the culture, beliefs, and ritual traditions of one of the oldest indigenous peoples of Iran.
Our knowledge of the architectural development of the middle Elamite period (1400-1100 BCE) comes from the ruins of Tchogha Zanbil and of the capital city of Susa 38 km to the north-west of the temple).
The ziggurat originally measured 105.2 m on each side and about 53 m in height, in five levels, and was crowned with a temple. Mud brick was the basic material of the whole ensemble. The ziggurat was given a facing of baked bricks, a number of which have cuneiform characters giving the names of deities in the Elamite and Akkadian languages. Though the ziggurat now stands only 24.75 m high, less than half its estimated original height, its state of preservation is unsurpassed.
The ziggurat is considered to be the best preserved example of the stepped pyramidal monument by UNESCO.In 1979, Chogha Zanbil became the first Iranian site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
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