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Ashur – First Capital And Powerful Religious Center Of The Assyrian Empire

A. Sutherland  – AncientPages.com – The beginnings of the city of Ashur, (also known as Assur) date back to the third millennium. The city was located about sixty miles to the south of the city of Mosul, Iraq, where today, there is a small village named Shergat (or Qalat Shergat), built of stones and bricks taken from the ruins of the city of Ashur (Asshur).

Ruins of the Assyrian city of AshurRuins of the Assyrian city, Ashur. Image source

From the 14th to the 9th century BC, Ashur was a thriving city. It developed fast and became an important trade center with trade routes leading to Anatolia (modern Turkey). The city exported tin from western Iran, textiles in return for copper, and provided transport of timber from Syria. Many merchants frequently visited the city, and the inhabitants of Ashur themselves began to deal with trade, who even founded their own trade colonies.

Around 1800 BC, the Amorite ruler Shamshi-Adad I included Ashur into his domain, where it became a ceremonial center and the first imperial capital of the Assyrian Empire, unquestionably, one of the greatest of the ancient world.

In Genesis 10:11 we read: “Out of that land came forth Asshur and built Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Kalah…”  Asshur was the second son of Shem and a grandson of Noah, however, in this case, the name Asshur is often used to refer to the place where his descendants dwelled (Ezekiel 27:23, Numbers 24:22, 24).

Ashur (its name was at the same time, the name of a god) was not particularly large city; it had probably no more than 15,000 inhabitants and was situated south of Nineveh and on the western bank of the river Tigris, in northern Mesopotamia, corresponding to modern country of Iraq, northeastern Syria northwestern Iran and southeastern Turkey.

Assyrian’s Vulnerable Location

Assyria had a vulnerable location in the vicinity of the major trading and raiding routes connecting north and east and stretching from Anatolia in the north to Babylon in the south. All cities near Ashur, located on the eastern side of the Tigris valley, in the foothills of Zagros, were easily accessible to foreign intrusions or armed invasions of mountain tribes, so the Assyrians still had to be ready for combat.

Ashur, the chief god of the Assyrian pantheon in Mesopotamian religion, worshipped mainly in the northern half of Mesopotamia, and parts of north-east Syria and south-east Asia Minor (old Assyria Ashur, the chief god of the Assyrian pantheon in Mesopotamian religion, worshipped mainly in the northern half of Mesopotamia, and parts of north-east Syria and south-east Asia Minor (old Assyria).

It was crucial to build a perfectly functioned self-defense in order to survive both in cities and within the borders of the empire. And yet, the city of Ashur was better situated strategically and easier to defend.

Fortifications were massive and the strongest of them were built on the southern part of the city as it was definitely its most vulnerable point. From one side, the city was well-protected by the cliffs and later in front by an immense high wall with eight huge gates and a 15-meter-wide moat.

On the other three sites, the first capital of Assyria was almost invincible.

Ashur – Important Religious Center

The city was Assyria’s oldest capital, which was already known during Akkadian and Sumerian times. It was also an important religious center for worship of the supreme god Ashur, who became the national god of Assyria and protected the Assyrian kings. He was venerated along with Enlil and Ninurta, god of agriculture, scribes, hunting, and war. Several Assyrian kings had the god Ashur’s protection in their names.

Ziggurat at AshurRuins of ziggurat at Ashur. source

In the city, there was an early cult of the gods Adad, Assur and the goddess Ishtar. Ashur contained a large number of important religious buildings, and a handful of palaces (more exactly three of them and thirty four temples, based on ancient sources dated to 7th century BC).

Many ruined structures (many of them had never been excavated) include several major buildings such as the double-temple of Anu and Adad (the god of storms), another was that of Bel, the lord and of the Sumerian goddess of love and war, Ishtar, known to the Hebrews as Ashtaroth and the Starte of the Greeks. There are also ruins of the Old Palace with its royal tombs and several living quarters scattered across the city.

However, the most striking construction among the ruins of Ashur is the ziggurat, built of backed bricks on the top of a rectangular platform composed of several layers, dedicated to the god Ashur, as well as the ground temple nearby devoted to the same god and called “Temple of the Universe”. There are also temples devoted to the gods of the sun and the moon, and one with two towers sacred to Anu, god of the sky, and Adad, god of storms. Assyrian rulers were buried in vaulted tombs beneath palaces, ancient records say, but these places were already robbed in antiquity.

Mesopotamia in 2nd millennium BC

Mesopotamia in 2nd millennium BC. source

Many clay tablets and bricks, covered with cuneiform inscriptions about historical events, conquests, eulogies of rulers, were discovered in the excavated ruins of Ashur.

When Assyria’s strategical value increased in the region, the capital of the empire was transferred from Ashur to Kalah and later to Nineveh about 880 BC, but Ashur still remained a highly prestigious city for a long time.

Civil wars tormented and significantly weakened the region, including  the city of Ashur, especially under the reign of Shamshi Adad (824-811 BC). Later, under the next kings who followed including Tiglath Pileser III (745-727 BC) and Ashurbanipal (668-627 BC), the city was rebuilt and its walls strengthened.

Ashur was finally captured and destroyed by the Babylonians in 614 BC and did not fully recover until the Parthian Empire controlled the city from the 1st century AD until the Romans sacked it in 257. Then, the city was populated again until the 14th century before Timur (1336-1405), the founder of the Timurid Empire (1370-1507) sacked the city and murdered its inhabitants.

The city today serves as an important example of the past Assyrian Empire.

Written by – A. Sutherland  – AncientPages.com Senior Staff Writer

Copyright © AncientPages.com All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of AncientPages.com

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References:

Kriwaczek, P. Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization

Claude Hermann Walter Johns, Ancient Assyria

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Ancient

The burning of ancient Jerusalem by Babylon was proven with the help of a magnetic field

Israeli scientists with the help of a magnetic field were able to prove that Jerusalem in ancient times was burned by the Babylonian Empire. This approach can be applied in other archaeological studies in order to clarify the time and causes of catastrophic events in the past. 

Using data from the Earth’s magnetic field, archaeologists were able to confirm the fact of the burning of Jerusalem by the army of Babylon in the 6th century BC. 

Archaeologists, conducting excavations in the Jerusalem National Park, discovered the ruins of a large building several stories high with traces of a strong fire and fragments of utensils of that time. Analysis of the ceramic fragments showed that the structure was destroyed in the same year as the Temple of Solomon in 586 BC.

In addition, the scientists took samples of the floor covering in order to measure the magnetic field encoded in the fragment. According to co-author of the study, Yoav Vaknin, the scientists had two goals: to measure the direction and magnitude of the magnetic field on the day Jerusalem was destroyed and to understand what this data has to say about the history of the place.

According to the results of the study, the scientists found that the temperature during the fire in the building was above 500 degrees Celsius, as a result of which the floor of the upper floor could not withstand such loads and collapsed. In general, scientists were able to confirm that in the VI century BC Jerusalem suffered great destruction. 

“Even without measurements of the magnetic field, we could assume that this grand structure was burned at the same time as the First Temple, but they showed several important details ,” said study author Yoav Vaknin.

Measuring magnetic data is not a common practice for archaeologists, the researchers said. This was a complex work, as a result of which a unique method of decrypting data through measuring the magnetic field was created. 

“Yoav was able to decipher the magnetic code and provide important information for history, archeology and geomagnetic research ,” said Ron Shaar of the Hebrew University Institute of Earth Sciences.

The possibility of linking the destruction of Jerusalem to the earth’s magnetic field seemed unrealistic, Vaknin noted. Nevertheless, the developed method made it possible to learn more about the catastrophe in Jerusalem.

Recall that Jerusalem in 586 BC was captured by the Babylonian state and its king Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonians devastated the city, destroyed the city walls and burned Solomon’s Temple. Most of the inhabitants of Jerusalem were killed, the rest were taken captive and driven into slavery in Babylonia.

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Ancient

Ancient pyramid found in China- the same age as the Great Pyramid in Egypt

In China, archaeologists in the north of Shaanxi province excavated the city of Simao, previously unknown to science, which possessed not only the most powerful fortress walls, but also a huge pyramid built at the same time as the Great Pyramid in Egypt.

The details of this discovery, already called one of the greatest in archeology in China, are given by National Geographic magazine. For many years, the ruins of this city were considered part of the Great Wall of China. And only the excavations carried out in recent years proved that it was a separate city, and very powerful.

It all began with the fact that local residents began to find jade discs, blades and a scepter in the ruins. But there is no jade in this region. The very first field season allowed the excavation of the powerful fortress walls. Later it turned out that they surrounded a massive pyramid 70 meters high.

Carbon dating has determined that Shimao (as the place is now called, but the original name of the city is unknown) was built about 4,300 years ago, that is, almost 2,000 years before the construction of the most ancient section of the Great Wall and 500 years before the Chinese civilization settled. in the Central Plains.

The pyramid is practically the same age as the city, that is, it was built at the same time as the Great Pyramid at Giza, but was half the size. Its purpose was completely different. This city was built on the hills above the Tuway River. Bloody wars have been going on in this region for thousands of years. Therefore, the city was powerfully fortified.

The pyramid, according to scientists, was one of the elements of defense. It was erected on the highest of the hills, it consisted of 20 tiers and was clearly visible from anywhere in the city. The upper tier was arranged for living, and it was probably used only by the elite.

The upper tier included a luxurious complex with an area of ​​about 81 thousand square meters. m. with its own water tank, craft workshops and temples. Researchers believe that no one lived there permanently. But during the wars, the elite rose to the upper tier to protect themselves from the enemy.

From the Simao pyramid, kilometers of various walls spread out in all directions throughout the city, forming a powerful defensive line. Scientists estimate that only 125,000 cubic meters of stone were needed to build these inner city walls. This compares to the combined volume of the 50 Olympic swimming pools.

How the people of the Neolithic were able to solve the difficult task of construction is still a mystery. According to archaeologists, the population of the city was from 10 to 20 thousand people. At the same time, the city was huge in its time.

It is estimated that the total length of the fortress walls exceeded 10 km. The city had a large sanctuary decorated with frescoes and jade artifacts. In it they found terrible evidence of human sacrifice. Also, archaeologists have discovered 70 stunning relief sculptures made of stone – snakes and mythical monsters.

They resemble the iconography of the late Bronze Age in China. Interestingly, there is no mention of this city in any written source or oral legend. Meanwhile, Simao is currently the largest known settlement of the Neolithic era in China – its area exceeds 4.04 thousand hectares.

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Ancient

What secrets of the Mayan queen were discovered by a new decoding of ancient records

The Maya are a mysterious people who built their civilization in Mexico long before the coming of the Aztecs. He left behind many books and other inscriptions. Archaeologists can now decipher the documents of the era, and each time new secrets are revealed to them.

An important discovery for Mexico

The city of Coba, once built by the Mayans on the Yucatan Peninsula, has long attracted the attention of archaeologists. It was a large polis, full of pyramidal temples with decorations and inscriptions and connected by many roads with other polis. 

Traces of culture have not yet been able to destroy even the local aggressive jungle, and archaeologists have struggled for decades to understand the history of the city itself and its place in the general history of the Maya.

To date, they have managed to reconstruct the dynasty of rulers of the city-state. It consisted of fourteen people who were in charge of the policy from about 500 to 780. ad. The dynasty was founded by a man named Junpik Tok, but most surprisingly, among the rulers is a woman known as Lady Yopaat.

What secrets of the Mayan queen was opened by a new decoding of ancient records
After the Maya, there are many drawings and inscriptions in stone.

To understand why this discovery is so significant, one must have an understanding of the cultures of America’s major civilizations.In almost all of them, women were in the same humiliated condition as in most cities of Ancient Greece. 

It seems that even the women of royal families were not perceived as something that special. Although it is known that the sisters of the Great Incas were their co-rulers, the ladies did not rule on their own even there. Until now, only three rulers were known on the territory of Mexico.

Archaeologists almost missed this chance

Archaeologist Maria José Con Uribe of the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico notes that the establishment of rulers and the sequence of their rule is important in order to understand the historical connections of Coba and other cities and regions.

 Fortunately, a lot of inscriptions dedicated to these rulers remained on the stone ruins of Koba (Mayan books are often so damaged that it is impossible to leaf through them for decoding).

Unfortunately, these ruins were in such a state that archaeologists did not dare to touch them for a long time, so as not to destroy them completely. Modern technology made it possible to study the inscriptions with minimal contact with the ruins that were decorated with letters. 

Deciphering the inscriptions was like a detective investigation. So, in order to better see the half-erased letters, they were photographed with lighting at different angles and then the photographs were superimposed on each other so that the shadows indicated contours that were already invisible to the eye. 

Often, it was impossible to come up to take a picture, and it was necessary to invent something. Archaeologists had to show a lot of ingenuity.

What secrets of the Mayan queen was opened by a new decoding of ancient records
Photo from the website of the institute.

Surprisingly, among the reasons why archaeologists took up the deciphering so late was also the belief that among the policies of this area there cannot be any where many hieroglyphs can be found. That is, scientists did not see the point in deploying large-scale research using the necessary technologies. 

They did not even try to find more inscriptions than they could be seen at a glance. The northern Mayan cities were considered “not very literate”, and new research refutes this long-held belief.

This resembles the situation with the drawings of primitive people in caves. As you know, archaeologists of the nineteenth century, working with cave sites of ancient Europeans, practically ignored these drawings, because they believed that for so long in the past people could not draw – so the multi-colored lines on the ceilings and walls of the caves cannot tell anything about their life. It took a long time for the drawings to attract the attention of scientists.

What the Mayan queens are known for

As for Yopaat, as far as archaeologists can judge, she ruled for quite a long time – about forty years – at the beginning of the seventh century and significantly strengthened the position and influence of her city in the region. That is, her rise and reign were not a brief episode in a series of violent upheavals, as was the case in some Muslim countries in the Middle Ages.

In addition to her, as you know, the warlike queen Kauil Ahau ruled in Kobe, but she already belongs to another, later dynasty. As you know, Kahuil Ahau, competing with the influence of Chichen Itza – another city-state – built the longest road of its era, and also conquered a polis called Yahuna.

What secrets of the Mayan queen was opened by a new decoding of ancient records
Image of Kahuil Ahau

Another famous ruler is considered Mistress Cable, or Mistress Lily Hands, who ruled at about the same time as Kauil Ahau, but in Calakmula. She reigned for about twenty years. 

Although there were no high-profile cases during her reign, the city flourished under her leadership. Two more Maya queens bore the romantic names Mistress of the Heart of the Windy Place and Mistress of the Sixth Heaven.

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