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Urartian king's burial chamber opened for first time in Eastern Turkey

The burial chambers of Urartian King Argishti I and his family in the western wing of an ancient castle in the eastern Turkish province of Van have been opened for the first time.

Urartian king and his family's burial chambers are in a closed part of the ancient Van Castle. The chambers are reached through a 24-step staircase. “The burial chamber is in the western part of Van castle and bears workmanship of the highest quality. It is reached through a 24-step staircase,” said Rafet Çavuşoğlu, a professor at Van Yüzüncü Yıl University’s Archaeology Department.

King Argishti I was buried in a rock burial chamber called “Horhor Cave,” said the professor, who specially opened the doors to the graves to Anatolia news agency.

Van castle, which is 120 meters by 80 meters and was built on a rocky peak along Lake Van, has been the site of recent excavations headed by lecturer Altan Çilingiroğlu of Ege University.

Çavuşoğlu said Urartian writing on the wall of the burial chamber was very interesting.

“There are nail holes in spaces between doors opening to the chambers inside. These holes were used to hang torches and gifts,” said the Yüzüncü Yıl professor. “There are four inner chambers and each chamber has four alcoves on the walls. The location of the alcoves and doors and the dimension of the chambers are similar to each other.”

He said religious ceremonies were held in the hall in burial chambers and valuable objects were buried in the adjacent chambers.

“The burial chambers are described as caves in the 17th-century Ottoman plan and Evliya Çelebi’s travel book. They served as an armory, a food depot and a workshop in the time of the Ottomans,” he said.

Before kingdom in ancient times

Centered in eastern Anatolia, the Kingdom of Urartu ruled between the ninth and sixth centuries B.C. until its defeat by Media in the early 6th century B.C. The best monuments of Urartu exist in Van as the city was the capital of the kingdom with the name Tushpa.

The ancient castle, which has traces of a 3,000-year-old civilization and is composed of five separate sections, draws hundreds of visitors from Turkey and overseas every year. However, because the burial chambers of Urartian King Argishti I and his family are kept closed to visitors, only Anatolia was allowed in to take photographs of the graves’ interior.

Argishti I was the sixth known king of the ancient kingdom, reigning from 786 B.C. to 764 B.C. As the son and the successor of Menua, he continued a series of conquests initiated by his predecessors. Victorious against the Assyrians, he conquered the northern part of Syria and made Urartu the most powerful state in the post-Hittite Near East.

Source: Hurriyet [January 04, 2011]


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