2,800-Year-Old Castle from Lost Kingdom of Urartu Discovered in Eastern Turkey

One might think it’s difficult to lose a castle. But, while on an expedition, a team of archaeologists spotted one in Eastern Turkey, reported the Anadolu Agency last week.

Located among the mountains of the Gürpinar district of eastern Van province, the castle sits at an altitude of 8,200 feet. There, the team found ancient walls, a cistern for water storage, and, further within the grounds, some ceramic fragments. Though the structure is not intact, piled stones provide outlines of former foundations and walls. During the Medieval period, the 2,800-year-old castle was reoccupied according to Rafet Çavuşoğlu, the head of the excavation team and an archeology professor at Van Yuzuncu Yil University, which sponsored the excavation project.

The castle is believed to date back to the Kingdom of Urartu (also known as the Kingdom of Van), which once filled present-day Eastern Anatolia.

Urartu’s reign was short, spanning dates from roughly 860 B.C.E.–590 B.C.E.. The kingdom’s end was mysterious. Most sources on the Uratu were written by Assyrians or other enemies of Urartu. Their brief success was during the temporary decline of the Assyrian Empire in 8th century B.C.E. Urartian King Ishpuini conquered the ancient city Musasir, which would become the holy capital of the Kingdom.

Little is known about the city’s history, however, especially after a shipment of artifacts from Musasir were lost in the 1850s. The British Assyrian Excavation Fund removed numerous objects from Musasir and sent them up the Tigris River. While in transit, the convoy was intercepted by local Arabs raiders. During the fracas, Urartu’s ancient treasures toppled into the river, where they have remained since. 

There was another discovery of Uratian artifacts in 2014. Live Science reported the discovery, made by Kurdistani villagers in Northern Iraq, of column bases depicting the supreme Urartian god Haldi. These are believed to have belonged to a Musasir-based temple (though, the dating suggests it might have been made after the fall of Urartu when the Assyrians came back into power).

The excavation of the castle, ultimately, marks a rare opportunity to learn more about Urartu’s opaque history. Notably, the kingdom was a large producer in the arts, particularly metalwork, and was known for controlling territories with military force using constructed fortresses. While more research is needed to determine the castle’s functionality, the mayor of nearby Gurpinar, Hayrullah Tanis, said to the Anadolu Agency that the find added to the cultural richness of the province and “excited us in terms of tourism and culture.”

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