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Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee

Contents

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Azerbaijan Urmia
N. Zagros

Azerbaijan

Mughan Plains & City

Gushtasfi District

Lake Urmia Region & Zoroastrian History

Lake Urmia

Urmia at Aryan Trade (Silk) Roads Junction

Azerbaijan / Lake Urmia / Zagros Historical Sites

The Ash Hills of Urmia

Hasanlu

Hajji Firuz. World's Oldest Wine-Making

Azargoshasb Temple Site. Shiz (Takht-e Soleyman)

Suggested prior reading:

» Ranghaya, Sixteenth Vendidad Nation & Western Aryan Lands


Related reading:

» Surakhani, Azerbaijan Chahar Taqi Temple
» Caucasia
» Khinalig, Azerbaijan, Atashgah
» Darband Sasanid Fortress
» Shamkir Achaemenid Era Ruins
» Azerbaijan Historic Sites



Azerbaijan

Ancient Media
Ancient Media showing 'Atropatia'. Estimation of nations 'before' Cyrus the Great
(6th cent. BCE). From atlas by C. Picquet (1771-1827) & A. H. Brué (1786-1832).
Note: according to the cartographers, Atropatia's northern border is the River Aras
which may or may not be correct.
(Click for a larger map)

Iran has four Azerbaijani provinces: West & East Azerbaijan, Zanjan and Ardabil. To their north lies the independent nation of Azerbaijan, a previous Soviet Republic. All five come together to form the Greater Azerbaijan region, a region that includes Lake Urmia and the Northern Zagros mountains.

The ancient region of Media, Persia's sister kingdom, included a northern sub-region known to Greek and Latin writers as Media Atropatene or Atropatian Media. (Strabo in his Geography at 11.13.1 tr. by Hamilton & Falconer) states, "Media is divided into two parts, one of which is called Greater Media. The other division is Atropatios Media. It had its name from Atropatou (Old Persian Aturpat?), a chief who prevented this country, which is a part of Greater Media, from being subjected to the dominion of the Macedonians. When he was made king he established the independence of this country; his successors continue to the present day, and have at different times contracted marriages with the kings of Armenia, Syria, and Parthia."

Atropatou/Aturpat joined Alexander's administration after Alexander defeated the Achaemenid king of the Persian Empire, Darius III around 330 BCE. Upon Alexander's death in 323 BCE, the territories he had conquered were divided amongst his generals and the region of northern Media was assigned to Atropates. Shortly thereafter, Atropates declared himself independent and the lands he ruled came to be known in English as Media-Atropatene or just Atropatene [Old Persian (OP) Aturpatan. OP 'Atur' is derived from the Avestan language 'Atar' meaning fire. 'Pat' may be derived from the Avestan 'payu' meaning 'guardian' or 'protector'. There are numerous Iranian place names ending with 'stan' 'gan' and 'an' meaning 'place'.]

In his Geography, Strabo goes on to state at 11.13.6, "Media is bounded... on the west by the Atropatíois (people)." Earlier, Strabo had led us to believe that Atropatene was named after the ruler Atropatou (Old Persian Aturpat?). However, here we are told that there were a people by that name. Since Strabo wrote his work some three hundred years after Atropatou ruled, it could be that he is correct in both instances - that by his time there was a nation and people named after Atropatou.

The northern extent of Greater Azerbaijan has been variously described as the Aras (Araxes) River, the Kura River and the Caucasus Mountains. In the map above, we see the northern boundary as the Aras River. Geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi notes that in the early 13th century CE, Azerbaijan included the Mughan Plains (see below) and all of the province of Arran bringing the northern boundary up to the river Kor (Kura). Medieval author Masudi also extends the border north of the Aras to include the Mughan Plains. However, the Mughan Plains have been specifically excluded by other medieval authors indicating perhaps a fluidity of governance in the northern regions.

During the subsequent Parthian era (1st cent. BCE to 3rd cent. CE) the Old Persian name 'Aturpatan' evolved to 'Atarpatakan' (see Greater Bundahishn 29.12). Still later, we find that in the inscriptions of Persian-Sassanian King Shapur I (r. 241 to 272 CE) and those of a contemporary Zoroastrian high priest Kartir or Kerder, we find 'Atarpatakan' named as 'Adurbaigan'. 'Adurbaigan' would then have evolved to the 'Azerbaijan' in New Persian when 'Adur' evolved to 'Azar' or 'Azer'.

The region is known for its continuously burning natural gas fires which to the ancients must have seemed like the miraculous phenomenon of an ever-burning fire - a symbol of special importance in Zoroastrianism. In ancient texts, Azerbaijan was known as the land of fire and burning hillsides. Farroukh Jorat, an Azerbaijani engineer from Baku, informed me that locals called Azerbaijan, "Aghvan". The name bears resemblance to 'Athravan', keeper of fire.

Greater Azerbaijan would have been situated between the twelfth Avestan Vendidad nation of Ragha (today's Rai near Tehran) and the sixteenth nation of Ranghaya (the upper Tigris-Euphrates region).

While fourteenth century author Hamdallah Qazvini noted in his Nozhat al-Qulub that the people living in the area between the Aras and Kur (Cyrus) rivers spoke the Pahlavi language, nowadays, the Azerbaijanis (in the Republic and Iranian provinces) speak a Turkic language. The 'Turkification' of Azerbaijan started in the 11th century CE when the Seljuks, an Oghuz Turkic dynasty conquered Iran-shahr (Greater Iran). The Oghuz Turks originated from the region around the Aral Sea - a region that forms southern Kazakhstan today. While the Seljuks adopted Persian culture, they settled a significant Oghuz Turkic population in Azerbaijan. While the Turks were still a minority in Azerbaijan, being the dominant group, they imposed the Oghuz Turkic language on the local population in a manner the Russians would do in the last two centuries. As a result, there is a significant Turkic-speaking population in Iran today. This 'Turkification' by the Seljuks occurred from Turkey to Turkmenistan for a period of about five centuries interrupted briefly by the Mongols in the thirteenth century CE. Turkic domination was brought to an end at the start of the sixteenth century by the Safavids who were coincidentally native to Ardabil, part of Greater Azerbaijan.

Despite their 'Turkification', genetic-DNA testing shows the Azerbaijanis (also called Azaris) close to Persians and Kurds and quite distant from ethnic Turkomans.

Also see
» Surakhani Fire Temple in Baku, Azerbaijan
» Ani Fire Temple in Ani, Turkey


Mughan/Mugan Plains & City

Aras-Kura confluence and the Mugan/Mughan Plains (steppe)
Aras-Kura confluence and the Mugan/Mughan Plains (steppe).
Image credit: Walter 1974 at UNEP/GRIDA & Shirvan National Park - Andrea Burmester.

Farroukh Jorat (previously Aliev) in his article Zoroastrian Toponyms of the Republic of Azerbaijan has brought to our notice that a significant part of the Republic of Azerbaijan consists of the Mughan (also spelt Mugan) Plains. These plains lie between the River Aras (or Araz) to the south and the Caucasus Mountains to the north, and between the Karabakh region in the west to the Caspian Sea in the east. The plains are also known as the region of Aran (also spelt Arran).

'Mughan' could mean 'place of the Mugh (Moogh)'. Mugh or Mug (Moogh or Moog) is a name by which Zoroastrians were known to groups such as the Arabs. Islamic writers such as Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta (1304-c.1368) called Iran 'Mughistan' or 'Majustan'. The name 'Mugh' and 'Majus' likely evolved from 'Magha' and 'Magus', the name given to Zoroastrian priests of old – the Magi. The Greeks and Romans also called all Zoroastrians, Magian, and they named Zoroaster as the founder of the Magian order. The Maga mentioned in the hymns of Zoroaster, the Gathas (at Yasna 29.11, 33.7, 46.14, 51.11/15/16, 53.7 - interestingly, more frequently than elsewhere in the Avesta), are commonly associated with the Magha or Magi.

Classical 5th century BCE Greek writer and historian Herodotus localizes the Magi as one of six Median groups or clans. Azerbaijan, as we have seen above, was once part of ancient Media. Three centuries after the Arab invasion, medieval author Istakhri noted in his 930 CE Book of Routes and Countries, that in the Mughan there were many villages whose inhabitants were still Zoroastrians.

Through the heart of the Mughan Plain runs the Kur or Kura River - its name being associated with Kurosh or Cyrus.

Two ancient cities are said to be located towards the east of Mughan Plains at the confluence of the Aras and Kura rivers. These are the cities of Mughan and Gushtasfi (also spelt Gushtaspi). [The Caspian's shoreline has apparently fluctuated with stories of cities being submerged and now the coastline receding.]


Gushtasfi District

As noted above, the Mughan/Mugan Plains included the Gushtasfi (Gushtaspi) District, a name that harkens back to King Gushtasp/Vishtasp, Zarathushtra's patron king. According to Farroukh Aliev (Jorat) in his article Zoroastrian Toponyms of the Republic of Azerbaijan citing 14th century CE writer Hamdallah Qazvini in his book Nuzhat al-Qulub, "Gushtasfi is the province located along the shores of the Caspian Sea and was founded by Shah Gushtasb son of Lukhrasb. He dug a great canal from the Kura River to the Aras, which diverts water from the small canals in the villages along its shores."

Aliev continues by stating, that the area at the mouth of the Kura river is called Gushtasfi.

According to Henry Howorth's History of the Mongols from the 9th to the 19th century (London, 1876), "the district of Gushtasfi (was) situated between the Araxes and Kur (rivers)." Hamdallah Qazvini (who we had cited above), states that the Kur and Aras rivers merged in the province of Gushtasfi and that in his time (14th century CE), the residents spoke the Pahlavi language.

This area is currently the subject of an underwater archaeological exploration by Dr. Viktor Kvachidze. Kvachidze states (edited by us), "One is the investigation of submerged ancient cities that we discovered at Bandavan 1 and Bandavan 2 in the Kur estuary. We consider Bandavan 1 to be one of the newer cities of the Middle Ages. This is the city of Gushtasfi (alternative spelling: Gushtaspi). This city seems to have come into existence around the 12th century. Many ceramic plates with illustrations of birds were found in this town. Bandavan 2 is archaeological name for the (earlier) 9th century city of Mughan, which was located on the three branches of the Kur River. It was a strategic location and on a major trade route. We don't know what happened that the city became inundated. Did the river change its course? Were there cataclysmic events that made the inhabitants leave the settlement? Or did they just simply decide to move to Gushtasfi? We don't know with any certainty.


Lake Urmia Region & Zoroastrian History

Northwest Iran & Lake Urmia
Northwest Iran & Lake Urmia
(Click for a larger map)

Lake Urmia (also spelt Urmiyeh, Urumiyyeh, Urmiye, Urmiya, Urmiah, Urumiah, Oroumiah or Ormieh) lies in the northwest corner of present-day Iran, close to Iran's present border with Turkey and Iraq. The lake also sits on the border between the Iranian provinces of West and East Azerbaijan.

Medieval Iranian literature (catalogued by A. W. Jackson in Persia Past and Present and Zoroaster, the Prophet of Ancient Iran), strongly links the region around Lake Urmia with Zoroastrianism - so much so, that they make Urmia the birthplace of Zoroastrianism. These assertions lend credence to the notion that Urmia was home to the ancestors of the southern Persians - early Persians who were the bearers of the torch of Zoroastrian heritage.


Lake Urmia

Lake Urmia salt deposits
Lake Urmia salt deposits

Lake Urmia (Persian, Daryacheh-ye Orumieh), is Iran's largest lake with a surface area of approximately 5,200 km2 (2,000 mile2). It is a relatively shallow lake. At its deepest point, it is 16 m (52 ft) deep.

In the early 1930s, it was called Lake Rezaiyeh after Reza Shah Pahlavi. In the late 1970s, after the Islamic revolution, the Government of Iran reverted to calling the lake by its previous name - Lake Urmia.

Lake Urmia's ancient Persian name, however, was Chichast (meaning glittering), a reference to the glittering mineral particles suspended in the lake water and its shores, a result of the lake's very high salt content. In the medieval times the lake came to be known as Lake Kabuda, meaning azure in Persian.


Urmia at Aryan Trade (Silk) Roads Junction

Silk Road Iran
Historic Trade Route Through Iran
The Silk Road

One arm of the Aryan trade roads (the Silk Roads) went west from Balkh (Bactria) in Central Asia, through Marv, Nishapur and Rai, skirting the Alborz / Elburz mountain range (that runs along the southern shores of the Caspian), to present-day Tabriz just east of upper Lake Urmia. From there one branch of the route proceeded into Cappadocia or present day Turkey. Another branch ran south along the Zagros mountains to present-day Isfahan. If at some point in history, Urmia was home to the predecessors of the Persians, then it would be along the southern branch of the trade route that the Persians migrated south towards Susa and Anshan, finally settling in the land we now know as the province of Fars in Iran.

The trade road that ran from Khorasan & Balkh (Ariana / Aria) to Babylon and Susa - from the northeast to the southwest of present day Iran - was in medieval times called the Great Khorasan Road. One arm of the road ran through Ecbatana (Hamadan) and Kermanshah, beside the rivers Qareh Su and Diyala to Babylon. This could have been the route for Median (as well as Persian) migration.

Assyrian King Shamsi-Adad V (822-811 BCE) left behind inscriptions that mention raids east into Median lands. His armies crossed the Kullar mountains (the main Zagros range) and entered Messi on the upper reaches of the River Jagatu where they captured a large quantity of cattle, sheep and a number of two-humped Bactrian camels. The capture of Bactrian camels is significant as they were widely used by Aryan traders.

» Additional offsite reading (pdf file): Lapis lazuli and the Great Khorasan Road by Y. Majidzadeh at Persee.fr.


Lake Urmia / Azerbaijan / Zagros Historical Sites

The Lake Urmia region has a wealth of archaeological sites that were home to some of the most advanced Neolithic communities known. Archaeological excavations of settlements in the Lake Urmia area have found artefacts that date from the Neolithic (New Stone) age, that is, from about 7,000 BCE. A number of these settlements were destroyed in the Iron Age around 800 BCE, a dating that coincides with records of devastating Assyrian raids in the region.


The Ash Hills of Urmia

There are sixty-four ash hills scattered around Lake Urmia - a dozen or so within the immediate vicinity of the city of Urmia - each hill rising from a small natural elevation. The hills were said to have been formed from ashes from ancient fire shrines and are called 'hills of the Fire-worshipers' by the local people, though there is no surviving evidence of fire shrines. Professor A. V. Williams Jackson writes in his book, Persia Past and Present, "The hill of Degalah, close to the city (of Urmia), was one such ash-hill. It was three or four hundred yards long, nearly as broad, and a hundred feet high... and easy to examine, since it had been excavated all over by the neighbouring farmers, who had lately taken to using the ashes to fertilize their fields and make saltpetre with." He was informed that within local memory, stone buildings had stood on the hill, but they had all been pulled down to build the local village.

Professor Jackson also informs us that another ash hill called Lakki was located seventeen miles north of Urmia and that six miles east of Lakki was the ash hill of Termani. In Jackson's time, the Termani cone-shaped mound was still fairly intact and 'the outline of an old building's foundation could be traced on the ground nearby'. The remaining stones from the ruined building were large enough to make the villagers wonder how they could have been moved into place. They remarked that in the 1880's, after a shaft had been sunk into the hill, a large image was discovered buried in the ashes. The local Muslims destroyed this statue, believing it to be an idol. Jackson observed that the ground around was the mound strewn with potsherds.


Lake Urmia Site Map
Lake Urmia Site Map. Base map courtesy Microsoft Encarta

In addition to the ash hills there are other artificial hills that jut up from the surrounding plain called tepes or tells. A tepe is often an ancient settlement or citadel covered over the ages by soil.

Hasanlu is the largest of the historical sites that include the Neolithic sites of Pisdeli Tepe and Hajji Firuz, the Bronze Age and Iron Age sites of Ziwiye and Dinkha Tepe, as well as the sites of Qalatgah, Agrab Tepe and Dalma.

Between 1979-1985, the site of Qalaichi Tepe (7 km. north of Bukan) was plundered on a massive scale before it could be officially excavated. Some glazed bricks discovered as a result of the illegal excavations, found their way into antique auction rooms and were subsequently purchased by foreign private collectors and museums such as the National Museum of Tokyo, Ancient Orient Museum of Tokyo, and Middle Eastern Cultural Center of Japan.

East of the district capital of Miandoab near the village of Jan Aqa Bulaqi and at elevation 1612m are the ruins of a fort built on a rocky ridge overlooking the eastern Plain of Miandoab and the banks of the Simine Rud river. The fort was built in the form of a 150m long rectangle, with double walls separated by a metre wide corridor. The fort had two gates and seven square towers along the southern wall.

The present village of Jan Aqa lies on the ridge to the west. To the east is Gover Qale Si, the ruins of the ruins another Mannaean fort.


Hasanlu

Hasanlu Aerial View
Hasanlu Aerial View
Hasanlu Topographical site map
Hasanlu Topographical site map
Hasanlu from west
Hasanlu from west
Hansanlu jar 9th cent. BCE
Hasanlu jar 9th cent. BCE

Hasanlu is an ancient settlement located close to the southern shore of Lake Urmia in the Solduz Valley of present-day province of West-Azerbaijan, in the northwest of Iran. Hasanlu sat on the cross roads of the trade routes that ran east-west and the route than went south along the Zagros mountains. Hasanlu dominated the small plain of Solduz in the Qadar River valley.


Hasanlu dates from about 7,000 BCE, (the Neolithic era or New Stone Age). It was occupied continuously until its destruction around 825 BCE following a devastating attack when it was burnt to the ground. During that surprise attack some 240 inhabitants were trapped and entombed in the collapsed ruins and fiery debris.

The site was since reoccupied and abandoned until a final occupation during the Achaemenid and Early Parthian periods.

Artifacts have been found in most of Hasanlu's buildings, especially materials stored on their second floors, which were buried in the collapsed ruins. Over 7,000 artifacts have been identified including a wide range of utensils, weapons, jewellery, decorative wall tiles, metal and ceramic vessels, horse gears, and seals. The materials used to make these artifacts include iron, bronze, gold, silver, antimony, shell, ivory, bone, amber, glass, wood, and stone. No written tablets have been recovered.


Hansanlu Citadel
Hasanlu Citadel

Hasanlu's site consists of a 25m high central artificial mound called the citadel, with massive fortifications and paved streets. The citadel is surrounded by a low outer town, 8m above the surrounding plain.

The entire site, once much larger but reduced in size by local agricultural and building activities, now measures about 600m across. The citadel has a diameter of about 200 m.

At the end of the second millennium BCE, the top of the citadel mound was occupied by monumental buildings, one of which had a columned hall measuring 18 by 24 meters with four rows of six columns each, a forerunner of later columned halls in Media and Achaemenid Anshan.

Some writers and archaeologists have speculated that the hall is a fire temple.

Also see » Hajji Firuz Tepe, Iran by Mary M. Voigt, Richard H. Meadow at Google.


Hajji Firuz. World's Oldest Wine-Making

Wine jar from Hajji Firuz
Hajji Firuz

Persians were known for their wine-making, and the site now called Hajji Firuz, just west of Hasanlu, is noted for the discovery of a jar containing the earliest known residue of wine in the world.

The residue contained resin from the Terebinth tree that grew wild in the region, and was possibly used as a preservative indicating that the wine was deliberately made and was not result of the grape juice fermenting unintentionally. Terebinth resin was widely used as a preservative in ancient wine because it killed certain bacteria. Pine resin is currently used in Greek Retsina wine.

The jar with the wine residue, had a volume of about 9 litres (2.5 gallons), and was found together with five similar jars embedded in the earthen floor along one kitchen wall of a Neolithic mud brick building, dated to c. 5400-5000 BCE. Clay stoppers about the same size as the jars' mouths were located close by, suggesting that they could have been used keep out the air and prevent the wine from turning into vinegar.


Wine jar from Hajji Firuz
Wine jar from Hajji Firuz

The building in which the jars were found, consisted of a large room that may have doubled as a bedroom, a kitchen, and two storage rooms. The room thought to be a kitchen had a fireplace and numerous pottery vessels probably used to prepare and cook foods.

It is unclear if the name of the site has any connection with the trickster who is supposed to make an appearance at Nowruz or New Year's day.

At Godin Tepe, a 3500-3000 BCE settlement six hundred km (400 miles) south along the Zagros mountains, additional jars containing wine residues have been found.


Azargoshasb Temple Site. Shiz (Takht-e Soleyman)

In the south-eastern corner of West Azerbaijan (Iran) - see map above - about 60 km to the northeast of the town of Takab, and midway between Urmia and Hamadan, are ruins known locally as Takht-e Soleyman (for spelling variations, see below). UNESCO designated the ruins as a World Heritage Site on July 3, 2003.


View of the Shiz environs
View of the Shiz environs
Image credit: CAIS

[Note: the ruins are known locally as Takht-e Soleyman meaning the throne of Solomon.

There is also a nearby (3 km west) conical volcano mound known as the Zendan-e Soleyman meaning Solomon's prison (where King Solomon supposedly imprisoned monsters inside the volcano's 100 m deep crater). About seven hundred kilometers to the south-east, a structure beside the tomb of Cyrus is also known locally as Zendan-e Soleyman.

The identification of the sites with Solomon took place after the Arab conquest of Iran and the conversion of the local population to Islam. The reasons could have been to deny the area's Zoroastrian connections, or as some authors have suggested, a way of preserving the ruins from the hands of Arab Islamist zealots bent on obliterating anything Zoroastrian or of Iranian heritage. Other nearby landmarks have also been associated by the locals with Solomon. Tawila-ye Soleyman (Stable of Salomon) and Takht-e Belqis / Belqeis (the throne of the queen of Sheba / Bathsheba, Solomon's mother) are other landmarks in the area.

Instead of the volcano's crater being Solomon's prison, there are ruins of a Median Fire Temple on the crater's slopes at Zendan-e Soleyman.]


View of the Shiz environs
View of the Shiz environs looking west northwest
Centre: Ruins of Shiz with pond in the centre
Top-left: Volcano called Zendan-e Soleyman (Prison of Solomon) with 100 m deep crater
Centre-left: Village of Nosratabad (behind ruins and in front of the volcano)
Left: Highway 23
Image credit: Behnam at Virtual Tourist

Professor A. V. Jackson (see above) identified the ruins as Shiz. The Arab geographer Yakut described the fortified city of Shiz c. 1220 CE as containing a fire-temple was still in use. Yakut wrote that "Shiz is a district of Azarbaijan. Its name is a form of Jis / Chis, out of which the Arabs have made Shiz. It is said that Zardusht, the prophet of the Fire-Worshippers, came from there... ."

According to Professor Dietrich Huf, "The mention of the thermal lake in the Middle Persian Zoroastrian literature (Humbach), the medieval literary tradition, as well as the inscriptions on clay bullae found during the excavations (Göbl), provide grounds for identifying the site as the sanctuary of Adur Gushnasp." Adur Gushnasp / Gushasp was one of the three great fires of the Sassanian era (224 to 651 CE), and perhaps even the largest of its time. The site also contains Mongol Ilkhanid period (13th century CE) additions around the lake. In addition, there are traces of a 5th century BCE occupation during the Achaemenid period, as well as a small Parthian era (247 BCE - 224 CE) fortification in the area of the site's citadel at the northern edge of the lake. The first archaeological survey was carried out by the American Institute of Iranian Art and Archaeology under Arthur Upham Pope in 1937.


View of the Shiz environs
Winter at Shiz
Image credit: karbaf at Flickr

The principle structures that are visible to us today are thought to have been constructed during the reign of King Pirooz (457- 484 CE). Sassanian kings reportedly made a pilgrimage to the site upon their coronation. Reputedly, they journeyed to the temple complex on foot to receive their divine investiture at the sanctuary of the eternal flame which left no ashes and from which all other sacred fires were ignited. (Note: Azerbaijan was known to have ever-burning natural gas fires cf. Surakhani Fire Temple in Baku, Azerbaijan.)

The fire temple itself is said to have been of the chahar taqi design with a dome, the gonbad. The structure identified as the fire temple had royal quarters and a courtyard to the south. These in turn bordered the lake. The entrance for pilgrims was from the north door and the main north gate.

The site is surrounded by a 12 m thick mud brick wall with semicircular bastions. There are two gates - a north and a south gate. In the area between the lake and the north gate is a square area walled on three sides and open on the lake side (see plan below). The north gate of this inner enclosure is in line with the site's north gate.


Southern Gate (right of the image. A present-day visitor's enterance is in the centre)
Southern Gate (right of the image. A present-day visitor's entrance is in the centre.)

The site sits on a outcrop of limestone about 60 m above the valley. Within the site is the crater of the volcano is now a small crater lake fed by a spring at its base. The crater lake's water has a temperature of about 400C and spills over the edge into two streams. The water has a high in sulphur content giving the stream water a yellowish hue. At its deepest point, the depth of the lake is 112 meters.


The Sassanian Era ruins of Shiz (Takht-e Soleiman)
The Sassanian Era ruins of Shiz (Takht-e Soleyman)
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Persia Past and Present, Jackson quotes traveller Mis'ar ibn Muhalhal (940 CE). "Muhalhal says about Shiz: '...This town is situated between Maraghah, Zanjan, Shahrzur, and Dinavar, in the midst of mountains containing mines of gold, quicksilver, lead, silver, orpiment, and amethysts ... A wall encloses the city, and within its circuit is a pool whose bottom cannot be sounded. I dropped a line in it more than fourteen thousand cubits, but the lead did not find any resting-place and remain steady. The area of the lake is about one quarter of an acre. Earth soaked with water form it immediately becomes hard stone. Seven streams of water flow from the lake, each of which turns a mill before flowing out under the wall. At Shiz there is also a large fire-temple, which is held in great veneration. From it are lighted the fires of the Magians from the east to the west. On top of the dome there is a silver crescent which is a talisman. Many rulers have tried to remove it, but have not succeeded. One of the extraordinary things connected with the temple is, that a fire has been kept burning in it for seven hundred years without any ashes having been found; nor has the fire gone out for a single hour. ... Whenever an enemy advances to take the city and plants his ballista against its walls, the stone from the machines falls into the pool which we have mentioned; and if he move the ballista back, even as far as one cubit, the stone falls outside the wall ...' ... Someone else has related that in Shiz there is the fire of Adharakhsh, a temple honored of the Magians. It was customary for their kings, when they ascended the throne, to make a pilgrimage thither on foot. The people of Maraghah and of this neighbourhood call this place Gazna.' "


Plan of the temple area
Plan of the temple area
Site map
Site map
1. The northern veranda, 2. Azar Goshnasp Temple, 3. Place of Eternal Fire, 4. Presumed Anahita temple, 5. The western veranda, 6. presumed Mithraic altar (Mehrab), 7. Dining Hall, 8. northern entrance gate, 9. Gallery, 10. Reconstruction southern fortification project, 11. Royal south-eastern entrance gate

Professor A. V. Jackson identified one of the buildings at Takht-e Suleiman as a Zoroastrian fire temple stating that the temple was an arched, vaulted and domed building, partly below the ground, and made from bricks nearly a foot square in a fashion similar to other Sassanian era fire temples. There were two arched portals, through which one descended to the vaulted brick chamber below. The walls were four or five feet thick, and inside the chamber were arched wall-recesses. The interior had the air of a place built for the preservation of precious treasure.

While the structure identified as the fire temple dates to the Sassanian era, archaeological excavations have revealed traces of a 5th century BCE occupation from the Achaemenid period.

In addition to the authors cited above, various other Arab and Persian geographers mention Shiz and its fire-temple which some called Adharjushnas. Al-Hamadhani (writing c. 910 CE) adds that the fire of Adharjushnas (Adar Gushnasp dedicated to warriors) belonged to legendary king Key Khosru / Khosrow and was originally located elsewhere in Azarbaijan, but was later moved to Shiz. According to the Middle Persian Bundahishn, the Adar Gushnasp fire was one of three 'Great Royal' fires of the Sassanian era.

"The fire Gushnasp used to protect the world, in that manner, until the reign of Kay Khosrow. When Kay Khosrow was razing the idol temples of Lake Chichast, it settled upon the mane of his horse, dispelled the darkness and gloom, and produced light, till he razed the idol temples. He forthwith established fire altars, in the same locality, on the Asnavand mountain. For that reason they name it 'Gushnasp,' because it had settled on 'the mane of the horse'." Greater Bundahishn (18.12)


Spelling variations - Google results:
Takht-e Soleyman - 2,860,000 Takhte Soleyman - 82,200 Takhte Sulaiman - 58,300 Takhte Suleiman - 56,800 Takht-i Suleiman - 40,400 Takht-e Soleiman - 28,000 Takhte Soleiman - 5,770 Takhte Suleyman - 3,830 Takht-e Suleyman - 3,210


Reference:
» Greater Bundahishn, Chapter 18
» Persia Past and Present by Professor A. V. Williams Jackson
» Takhté Soleymân, Azar Goshnasp Fire-Temple Complex, by Professor Dietrich Huff at CAIS.

Image sites:
» Photo page by Behi (Behnam) at Virtual Tourist. Very useful. This site identifies the photographs according to the site map above.
» Takht-e Soleyman
» Gahambar Gathering by Ramtin Boostani
» Azar Goshasp Fire Temple at CAIS
» Flickr Takhte Soleyman
» Flickr Takht-e Soleyman
» Flickr Takht-e Soleiman
» Flickr Takhte Soleiman

Below: Satellite Image of Shiz / Azargushnasp Temple site / Takht-e Suleiman


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Related reading:

» Surakhani, Azerbaijan Chahar Taqi Temple
» Caucasia
» Khinalig, Azerbaijan, Atashgah
» Darband Sasanid Fortress
» Shamkir Achaemenid Era Ruins
» Azerbaijan Historic Sites


Also see:

» Early Persian History - The Formation of Persia

» Kandovan (Troglodyte) Village

» Ranghaya, Sixteenth Vendidad Nation & Western Aryan Lands

» Mitanni

» Kassites

» Hittites

» Suppiluliuma (Hittite) - Shattiwaza (Mitanni) Treaty



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