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[Anatolian Civilizations] [Ancient civilisations]


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Urartu Kingdom had an important role in Near Eastern History since the 9th century BC. In Mesopotamian documents the northern and north-western part of Lake Van was called Uruatri and south and southwestern part of it was named as Nairi countries from the 13th to the 10th centuries BC. A period of approximately 400 years from 1274 to 858 BC when the name Uruatri appeared in the history of Near East is known as the establishment years of Urartu kingdom.

1274-858 BC Urartu Principalities Period
858-609 BC Urartu Kingdom

In this time period, these principalities united due to the increasing pressure of the Hittite and Assyrian kingdoms on either side.

The Assyrian King Tiglatpilesar III had attacked Tushpa in 735 BC. However, strong walls and the defence system prevented the city from being seized by the Assyrian armies. Increasing danger of the Northern tribes (Cimmerians, Scythians) caused the Urartians to build many castles. It is understood that the Meds or Scythians demolished it after 609 BC.

In Urartu architecture, castles were of utmost importance. Castles were situated to face each other in order to protect the trade and military roads. Stone blocks up to 3 or 4 metres were used in their construction. For the walls first row the stones are raised on stone foundations, which were excavated from the bedrock, and the walls have a concave slope by pulling the stone-blocks to the internal side in each row. By this method, a strength is given to the lower wall to carry the heavy adobe section that reaches a height of 15 metres on the upper section. In Urartu castles, adobe bricks are raised upon the base walls of the towers and the walls. In the Cavustepe and Van castle, it is seen that wide moats were dug and filled with water around the castles. Various buildings, palaces and temples that were devoted to rulers and soldiers who protected the castle to live in, hold important places in the castles. King Sardur I had built Van Castle, which was built over a rocky area. There is an inscription in the Sardur bastion of the castle, which provides information about how the castle was built. Temple of Bin Merdivenler (Thousand Steps) inside of the Van Castle is an example to Urartian temples.

Urartian temples have square plans and square cells. Towers with salient parts, which were an important feature of the Urartian temple plan, are called “risalit” and are located at the four corners of the temple. The thickness of the walls are always more than 2 metres. It is assumed that there were towering temples that reach 10-15 metres high over these thick walls; therefore this genre is called tower-type Urartian temples.

The buildings called Apadana hold an important place in Urartian architecture. These are reception or meeting halls whose roofs are supported by columns. Apadana of Altintepe is a flat-roofed structure that is supported by 20 columns.

Many pottery examples were found in the castles of Urartu. Urartu pottery is called red-polished pottery. Sharp profiled bowls, potbelly jugs, dishes and there are handled and mostly clover-shape rimmed pitchers. Besides these adornments, decorations are a rare exception. They were used for serving of drinks for religious ceremonies other than for casual usage. The containers, which were used as storage jars are mostly cylindrically trunked, wide rimmed and flat based. Their height reach 1,5 - 2 metres.

Urartian mining was very highly developed. Rich iron and copper mines in the region, which were, employed in the process the manufacturing of copper or bronze belts during the early period of the kingdom. Those have various engraved scenes and motifs on them. Furthermore, there are specimens of other metal items such as helmets and shields. Development of the Urartian artistic depictions can be examined with these exemplary items. Tablets with vows and large cauldrons with bronze bull-shaped head are examples, which endured to today from the Urartu Civilization.