Ruins of Long Sought-for Musasir Temple Found in Iraq

Ruins of Long Sought-for Musasir Temple Found in IraqIn 2005, human statues and fragments of columns of a long lost temple of a chief god were discovered in Kurdistan, north of Iraq. The Iron Age finds are over 2,500 years old. Back in the days, several ethnic groups, including Armenians, Assyrians, and Scythians sought to seize control over the territory now known as northern Iraq.

The Iron Age Kingdom of Van (Urartu) with the Van Lake at its center was located in the Armenian Highlands and occupied the whole Highlands as well as some area of Iran and Iraq. One of its lost monuments is the Musasir temple (also known as Ardini) dedicated to Haldi, one of the three chief deities of Urartu.

“I didn’t do excavation, just archaeological soundings —the villagers uncovered these materials accidentally,” said Dlshad Marf Zamua, a doctoral student from Leiden University in the Netherlands, who started fieldwork in 2005.

The foundations of columns were found in one place while other artifacts, like the bronze statuette of a wild goat, were found in an area south of the location where the borders of Iraq, Iran, and Turkey intersect.

At one point in the Iron Age, this region was controlled by the Musasir city (also called Ardini), said Marf Zamua. Ancient records refer to Musasir as a “sacred city established in bedrock” and “city of the raven”.

“One of the best results of my fieldwork is the uncovered column bases of the long-lost temple of the city of Musasir, which was dedicated to the god Haldi,” said Marf Zamua to Live Science in an email.

It is known that Haldi has been one of the three chief deities of Urartu.  It is said that the Musasir temple was so significant that after it had been plundered by the Assyrians in 714 BC, Rusa I, a ruler of the Kingdom of Van, ripped his crown off before killing himself.

According to an ancient account, the king “threw himself on the ground, tore his clothes, and his arms hung limp. He ripped off his headband, pulled out his hair, pounded his chest with both hands, and threw himself flat on his face…”

The precise location of the temple has long been questioned, but Marf Zamua thinks that possible answers can be narrowed down after the discovery of the column bases.

A winged bull with a human head, found during excavations. Stored in the Louvre.

• A 19th-century drawing of an ancient relief depicting the plundering of the temple by the Assyrians.
• A bronze statuette of a wild goat (3.3 inches (8.4 cm) in length and 3.2 inches (8.3 cm) in height). It features a cuneiform inscription, which is currently being deciphered by experts.
Sargon II with a nobleman.

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