The Ayanis Fortress – Van, Historical Armenia

Archaeological works in Ayanis were launched by the Prehistoric and Middle Eastern Archaeological Department of the Ege University of the city of Smyrna (Turkish name Izmir) in 1989. The works have initially been supervised by A. Chilingiroglu.

Ayanis is located 38 km north of the city of Van, in the territory of the village of the same name, on the shore of Lake Van in front of Mount Sipan. The fortress is lying on top of a mountain hill and is surrounded by powerful fortress walls.

The Ayanis fortress was built and suddenly destroyed during the reign of King Rusa II.

Ayanis is sized at 150 x 450 meters and has Urartian and Medieval layers. Its walls are fortified with towers and beams. The stones of the defensive walls were built with the rustication method which is characteristic of both urban and military architecture of the time.

A 14-line cuneiform script made by Rusa II was discovered in the southeastern part of the fortress. The script, among other things, reads “Rusakhinili – in front of Mount Eiduri”. In addition, the record mentions the construction of temples and palace complexes.

During the excavations, palace buildings with warehouses, temple complexes, courtyards, and sheds were unearthed as well. Aside from that, fragments of burnt buildings and logs that collapsed along with the walls as a result of a fire were found.

The fortress’ temple complex has an area of 30m x 30 meters and is surrounded by ten columns. In the complex’s center is a 12,75 x 12,75-meter temple with an entrance, a lobby, and a cella measuring 4,58 x 4,62 meters. The temple along with its cella and the platform is decorated with bas-relief images. In front of the entrance, one can see an 88-line cuneiform inscription.

The bas-reliefs feature harmonious holistic images of people and animals whose motifs are similar to those of the Urartian bas-reliefs.

Of the archaeological finds, the most valuable was the umbon, the head of a bronze lion.

Rusa II built the Susi temple to honor his victory over the enemy countries and dedicated it to the god Khaldi. Archaeological material here is rich and luxurious, mostly consisting of artifacts made of bronze, iron, gold, and semiprecious stones.

Of particular interest are Susi’s complexes and the courtyard with columns. The temple and the courtyard were filled with various items – shields, helmets, swords, daggers, quivers, arrows, spears, bridles, cauldrons, and so on.

References: Çilinigiroğlu 1994; Çilingiroğlu, Salvini 1995; Çilinigiroğlu, Salvini 1997; Çilingiroğlu, Salvini 1999; Çilingiroğlu, Salvini 2001; Stone, Zimansky 2004; Çilinigiroğlu 2006

Avetisyan A., Bobokhyan A.




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