The oldest Religious Construction in Iran

Chogha Zanbil is actually the name of a ziggurat in Khuzestan Province, Iran. It’s located in almost 30 km away from the historical city of Susa. The Elamite king Untash Napirisha ordered to build this place in about 1250 BC. They constructed Chogha Zanbil mainly to honor the great god and the protector deity of Susa, Inshushinak about 3000 years ago. Definitely Chogha Zanbil is the first and oldest religious construction in Iran region.

The Site

Chogha Zanbil ziggurat is in the center of a site surrounded by 3 layers of walls. In the second layer, there used to be smaller ziggurats and temples for other Elamite gods. Then, within the third layer, the royal palaces and imperial under-ground tombs were built. Besides, remains of a water purification is found in the latter layer too. Considering the difference of ground levels, they supplied the needed water from Karkheh River while Dez River was much nearer.

The Ziggurat

Evidence indicate that the ziggurat was built over a simple cube shape temple. Chogha Zanbil has a base of about 105*105 m which is huge. Originally, it had 5 levels that made it a building with 53 m height. Only two and a half levels still remain. The first and the fifth level weren’t solid and had rooms for related tasks and rituals. In contrast the rest of the layers were filled. Unlike other similar ziggurats, in Chogha Zanbil every level starts from ground and is not built over the previous level. The main material of Chogha Zanbil is mud brick. Some of the bricks are glazed and some with decorations to make the ziggurat more and more fancy for the gods. Importantly, some rows of the bricks have cuneiforms on them explaining the builder and the objectives. Furthermore, on two sides of the ziggurat, there are two round platforms. The usage of them is unfortunately not clear. Whether they used them as a sun clock to show them the exact time of the rituals, Or they were just the places for sacrifice!    


Chogha Zanbil is one of the few similar ziggurats to those of Mesopotamia, away from that area. It was originally called Dur Untash (place of Untash). After death of the king, the successors didn’t continue the construction of Dur Untash. However, it was still used for years. Until the year 640 BC when Assyrians invaded and Ashurbanipal, the king, ordered to destroy it. Over the centuries of abandonment, people saw the ziggurat as nothing but a mound in shape of a basket. And that is the exact meaning of Chogha Zanbil.

A New Zealand petroleum expert discovered Chogha Zanbil during their explorations in 1936. Following that, Roman Girshman pursued archeological excavations in the site from 1951 to 1961. Through the excavations some unused bricks were found in this ancient site, Due to the cessation of the development after the death of Untash the king. Some of those bricks were used in the construction of the Susa Castle in the past century by a foreign archeologist.  Chogha Zanbil was the first historical monument of Iran to be inscribed on UNESCO world cultural heritage list, in 1979.


Apparently Chogha Zanbil is the most prominent monument of the Elamite period in Iran. There are excavated pieces of this site in the museums in Iran and Europe. Best time to visit this amazing ziggurat is either early in the morning because of the hot weather or in the evening due to the beautiful view of artificial lighting. Don’t miss to visit Chogha Zanbil and find out more interesting details, facts and information about this ziggurat, the builder and of course, the Elamites.

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