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Latest Findings Reject Urartu King's Direct Presence in Iran

By Maryam Tabeshian
Tehran, 5 December 2006 (CHN) -- Studies by a team of Iranian and Italian archeologists on the eastern banks of Uromia Lake rejected previous theories regarding the direct involvement of the Kingdom of Urartu in northwest Iran. The new findings were congruent with a number of Assyrian historic documents such as the one denoted to King Sargon II (722-705 BC) which was inscribed sometime during the 8th century BC.

Uromia Lake, northwest Iran (NASA photo)
The team of archeologists recently started its studies in the region in an area which dates back to the Iron Age with the aim of verifying the borders separating the Median and Mannai governments and Urartu Kingdom, believing that this region was under the direct influence of Urartu Kings. Examining the region’s political and social conditions between 1500 and 550 BC was another objective behind this season of excavations in northwest Iran.
According to Hamid Khatib-Shahidi, co-director of the joint archeology team, a proper environment that fostered agricultural development drew in large numbers of people to this region during the Iron Age which ultimately resulted in the formation of local governments.‌ He also said that large number of castles were built during this period by the local rulers on the mountain-skirts of Sahand to have full control over the valley.
Shahidi further said that one of the most outstanding accomplishments by the Irano-Italian archeology team during their recent studies in northwest Iran has been the discovery of archeological evidence of the Chalcolithic period (6th millennium BC). “The inhabitants of this region used to build their fortified dwellings on the heights; but we have not yet found out the reason the heights were preferred over the plain for living,” said Shahidi adding that more archeological studies are needed to unlock this mystery.
According to him, if archeologists could find evidence of architectural constructions of the Chalcolithic period in this region, then they may claim that they discovered the oldest defensive habitations in the Middle East.
“One thing is clear and that is Urartu people were in an indirect relationship with the people of this area (east of Uromia Lake). They sometimes got into conflict with the local governments of this region and sometimes allied to them, but never had any direct influence on Tabriz and Maragheh plains – that is in the northern and southern steeps of Sahand Mountain – to build defensive fortifications there,” explained Shahidi.
Shahidi added that the area which today falls within the boundaries of West Azarbaijan province and some parts of the neighboring Iranian province of East Azarbaijan were either indirectly under the domain of Urartu kingdom or allied to it during the end of the eighth to the beginning of the ninth centuries BC. “Before the rise of the Median Empire in 728 BC, the region’s local governments used to pay taxes to the Urartu kings. Historic accounts left from the Assyrian Kingdom (860-640 BC), especially those of the reign of Sargon II, also point to this fact,” said Shahidi.
The Median Empire came after the fall of the Mannaean kingdom (10th-7th century BC). Many archeologists believe that the Urartu government took temporary control of the area during the interregnum before Sargon II conquered the region and brought it under his power. During his reign, Sargon II had several attacks to Mannai city states as accounted by a number of clay inscriptions left from his kingdom.
Recent excavations in the region also resulted in unearthing of potshards dated to the Achaemenid dynastic period (550 BC–330 BC). “Thus far, large numbers of clay objects dated to the Achaemenid Empire have been discovered in an area expanding between ‘Send River’ valley in present-day Pakistan to the westernmost point of Turkey. The potshards discovered recently in northwest Iran, especially in East Azarbaijan province, indicate that this region was under the Achaemenid rule,” said Shahidi.
Historic evidence and archeological relics ranging in date from the Neolithic epoch up to the middle of the seventh century AD were also found during latest excavations in the eastern banks of Uromia Lake.
Out of the total of 27 historic sites identified so far east of Uromia Lake in the Iranian northwestern province of West Azarbaijan, 6 had been excavated in the past years and the remaining 21 ancient sites were studied recently by Iranian and Italian archeologists. A full report of the recent studies will be presented this evening by team directors, Hamid Khatib-Shahidi from Iran and Rafael Bishune from Italy, at the Documents Center of Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization.
Archeologists to Clarify Borders of Urartu Kingdom
Signs of Urartu Empire Revealed Around Urmieh Lake
2700 Year Old Tablets in Urmia Museum Providing Insight on Urartu Kings

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