Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tushpa: Bronze Gates of Shalmaneser

Photos by Jack Waldron

The area around Tushpa (the ancient name for Van) was in the time of the 8th century BC the land of the Urartu people, the source of the Old Testament story of the Garden of Eden, so many scholars believe.  In fact, several Old Testament stories show strong connection to the Urartu culture, of which, one is the story of Noah and his drunkenness from wine, of which the Urartrians were famous as cultivators of the vine, as well as winemakers.  Ararat, which is a corruption of Urartu, enters the Old Testament as Mt. Ararat, the resting place of Noah's Ark.  In the picture above, the ruined city lay below the ancient mud brick fortifications and compartments of the citadel.
Above, a picture of the walled city of Tushpa, as it appeared in 1893.  Below, a picture of what is left of the great wall surrounding the city, with the ruined ancient city to the right side of the photo; it was bombed into ruin at the end of the Ottoman Empire in a successful attempt to oust any remnants of Armenian culture.
The earliest references to ancient Tushpa can be found in reliefs on the great bronze gates which once controlled entry to the palace of Shalmaneser III, the Assyrian king from 858-824 BC, who waged war against the Urartu (the gates were found in Balawat, near Nimrud, now in the British Museum).
Pictured above, a view down the back spine of the citadel and its restored wall, with the ancient city inside to the right (West).  
Tushpa was the capital of the Urartian kingdom in the 9th century BC.  The early settlement was centered on the steep-sided bluff now known as Van Castle, close to the edge of Lake Van.  Here have been found Urartian cuneiform inscriptions dating to the 8th and 7th centuries BC.  In the Behistune inscription, carved on the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Babylonian is called Armenia.
In the two pictures below, an inscription of Xerxes the Great on the citadel cliffs (South face) above the ancient city of Tushpa (Van).
"King Xerxes (486-465 BC) left an inscription, known as XV, on the south face of the citadel. It is almost funny, because it states that Xerxes' father Darius had prepared the place for an inscription but had never inscribed it, and that therefore - Xerxes tells you - there had not been any inscription. And by recording that there was no inscription, from now on, there was something to be read."
A view of the ruined ancient city from citadel, above; and a closer view from below.
"The region came under the control of the Armenian Orontids in the 7th century BC and later Persians in the mid 6th century BC. In 331 BC, Van was conquered by Alexander the Great and after his death became part of the Seleucid Empire.  By the early 2nd century BC it was part of the Kingdom of Armenia.  It became an important center during the reign of the Armenian king, Tigranes II, who founded the city of Tigranakert in the 1st century BC.  This region was ruled by the Arsacid Dynasty of Armenia before 4th century AD. In the History of Armenia attributed to Movses Khorenatsi, the city is called Tosp, from Urartian Tushpa."  Wikipedia
Pictured above and below, one of the ancient royal tombs (South face).  
Pictured below, a view down on the ancient city with a royal tomb perched on the South cliff face of the citadel.
The ancient mud brick palace (below), sits majestic atop the Tushpa (Van) capital city (pictured from the North side of the citadel).
Above and below, the ancient mud brick palace, which must have seemed magnificent when viewed from below by the people of Urartu, the Armenians, the Persians, the Asyrians, and other visitors to this capital city.
Above, looking up the spine of the citadel along the north face.  Below, a view approaching from East along the North side of the citadel with views of the ancient mud brick fortifications, compartments and palace.  
Above, a lower mud brick fortification below the citadel (North side).
Views of Van Lake (looking West/North) from atop the citadel.  The day began warm and sunny, but later in the afternoon came freezing rain.  
Above (ancient city in the background looking West), mid-noon, warm and sunny with a slight breeze (I was sweaty!).  Below, late-afternoon, freezing driving gusts of heavy rain which nearly discouraged me from going up to the castle/citadel, which cannot be entered from the back of the spine, and must be entered from the Western gate, and which I had left till the end, as the ancient city was so absorbing!!

*All photos and content property of Jack Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

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