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Chroniques des travaux archéologiques en Turquie, 2016

The Van Tušpa excavations 2015-20161

Erkan Konyar, Bülent Genç, Can Avcı et Armağan Tan
p. 127-142

Texte intégral

  • 1 This work was supported by Scientific Research Projects Coordination Unit of Istanbul University. ( (...)

1The Tušpa/Van Fortress, the capital of Urartu, is located on the eastern shore of Lake Van. In 2015 and 2016, our excavations focused mainly on three different areas: The Mound, the old City of Van, and Sardur’s Burg.

2The Mound in its north, extending in the same direction as the old city of Van to the south, covers an area roughly of 46 hectares and has a settlement history sprawling from the Early Bronze Age up to the beginning of 20th century (Fig. 1). The Mound excavations were conducted in 17 trenches located in Area A (Fig. 2), which yielded important evidence regarding the period known as the post-Urartian/Late Iron Age, especially in trench M25 (Fig. 3). We restored the profile damage caused by a road passing through the north in trench N22, converting it into drilling work. Hence, some evidence regarding the earlier strata of the Mound was obtained. This year, passive protection and restoration works continued in the Urartian layers excavated in previous years in trenches N18 and N19. In other areas, apart from the Mound, only cleaning and restoration works were undertaken. In the old City of Van, all mudbrick walls previously unearthed in the trenches were reinforced, plastered, and faithfully restored along with conservation work. Illustration and cleaning work was done in and around Sardur’s Burg, the oldest known structure of the capital Tušpa, which also bears the oldest inscriptions. Harmful plant roots between the blocks of the structure and the reed bed in the swamp on its eastern side were cleaned; consequently, the inscriptions on the eastern side were uncovered and documented.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Van Fortress from the west. The citadel and the lower city surrounding it.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Area A, general view of Urartian architecture.

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

Area A, post-Urartian/Late Iron Age layer.

Van Fortress Mound

Area A eastern trenches

3The previous campaigns in the eastern parts of area a, revealed important evidence about the post-Urartian period, Urartian and Early Bronze Age strata. In this area, examples of Urartian architecture with standard plans were revealed in trenches M26, M25 and N25, where post-Urartian architectural remains and findings were also discovered.

Late Iron Age/Post-Urartian Strata

4In the 2015 and 2016 campaigns on the Mound of Van Fortress, post-Urartian and Urartian structures were uncovered in trenches M25, N21, N25 and L26 (Fig. 4). As is known, in situ remains had been discovered belonging to this structure level in area a western trenches (N20, N21) and area a eastern trenches (trenches M25, M26 and M27) in previous years. In the 2014-2015 campaigns, a thick orange mudbrick filling, which was apparently right on top of the Urartian strata and observable from the sections at the end of the second phase bases belonging to the medieval era, was discovered.

Fig. 4

Fig. 4

Area A, plan of the Urartian and post-Urartian architecture.

5This architectural level on top of the Urartian strata gives important data on the Late Iron Age or post-Urartian strata, which, although the evidence was thin, we occasionally came across and knew of, throughout the Mound. At the southern section of trench M25, walls made of mudbrick blocks measuring 45 x 45 cm were excavated. Similar ones were encountered in trench M26, found in double rows roughly in north-south directions. Although it does not give a clear plan, the fire layer can be tracked within these sides or walls, leaning and ending there. In 2016 excavations, new wall remains and floors belonging to this mudbrick structure were uncovered.

6A 2 m long part in the direction of trench M26 of a 1 m thick double row mudbrick wall made with blocks measuring 50 x 50 cm and 50 x 25 cm that was discovered on the southern section of trench L26 was exposed. This wall section, which is in relatively better condition than other wall remains, also has stratigraphic importance as it leans towards Urartian structures. Remains of this mudbrick wall and a related floor with two phases can clearly be traced in trenches M25, M26, M27, L26 and N25 located on the eastern section of area a which lay on top of the in situ findings and the Urartian strata.

7These architectural remains and the floor uncovered in 2016 made the layer, the in situ finding group found in the ashy area studied in 2015 more comprehensible, particularly the determined floor in the areas defined by mudbrick walls in trenches M26, M25 and L26 which have two phases. Although its relation with the mudbrick wall is not satisfactorily identified, the range of the floor of the earlier phase points strongly suggest that it is likely associated with this feature. Placing mudbrick blocks in a certain layout forms the floor. The joints do not always follow a proper course. In some areas, partitions made of compacted mud are used instead, in order to create the impression of mudbrick blocks. This substantially weak layer can be observed extensively in the aforementioned trenches with the same character. On top of this floor, there is another one made of compacted mud limited by the same mudbrick wall. It is directly related to post-Urartian architecture. In 2015 and 2016, many decorative objects and pottery were found on the ashen/conflagrated areas of the floor. The changing forms of pottery and product classes in particular are forerunners of a new culture.

8On a locally preserved floor of stone chips, there is a dense in situ group of intact or restorable findings belonging to a post-Urartian period (Fig. 5). There are many remarkable bronze artifacts such as various beads, needles, tweezers, buttons and fibulae. Also recovered are beads and pendants made of glass, carnelian and marble, and alabaster seals. Bone and terracotta amulets with various creature designs were discovered. Many cylindrical bronze beads, hand-shaped pendants, and an almost intact miniature vessel with a cream slip are among the important finds. The vessel uncovered in 2012 in trench M26 in situ, which has a single vertical handle and a mountain goat depiction on it, is another important object that could be associated with these strata. Especially in terms of typology and ornaments, this unique and almost intact vessel, has parallels in northwestern Iran.

Fig. 5

Fig. 5

Area A, Trench M25, findings from post-Urartian layer.

9It is understood that the Triangle-Festoon Wares with linings of cream color found in these strata, which date to Late Iron Age, make up a very small part of the entire materials. It can be stated that in these strata, which we think dates to Post-Urartian/Late Iron Age, there are five different wares.

Urartian Strata

10As a result of the campaign to unearth the remaining southern sections of the Urartian structures previously excavated in trench M26, a new structure was uncovered, which mostly lies in the trench N26 (Fig. 6). At the central section of the southern wall of the room 2015M26-2, a 0.95 m wide doorway was discovered. The thickness of the northern wall, where the doorway of this newly discovered room is located, is 0.95 m. The eastern wall is 0.75 m. Its east-west interior width measures 3 m, while its north-south length reaches up to 3.2 m. at the northeastern corner of this newly uncovered structure, a unit with dimensions of 0.75 m in the east-west direction and 1 m in the north-south direction and walls of mud, which is thought to be a granary, was identified. While part of it lies in trench M26, the rest resides in trench N26. Preserved about 0.80 m above floor level, no finds were discovered in the granary. Here, the late phase floor with number 2015N26-51 locus was encountered first. Weak in terms of material, this floor must be contemporaneous with the granary to the northeast and the dividing walls to the south. This late phase floor ends ascending towards the granary in the northeast.

Fig. 6

Fig. 6

Area A, Trench N26, rooms of Urartian layer.

11On the southern wall of this room, another doorway of 0.65 m wide opening southwards was identified. Leading to a second room, the eastern dividing wall of this southern doorway is 1.20 m, while the western one is 1.45 m. This room, uncovered at the southernmost section, has two floor phases – early and late like the northern room. There are traces of mudbrick continuing southwards under the early phase floor with dimensions of 3 m (east-west) x 3.50 m (north-south), suggesting the existence of an even earlier floor. While the southern wall of this second structure in the south is an unelaborate construction made of small stones, the eastern wall features better craftsmanship and is made of flagstone. The western wall of the room seems to have collapsed eastwards, i.e. inside. We can say that the Urartian structures uncovered this year in this area have at least two construction / restoration phases. At the point where the southern and eastern walls of the northern room of 2015N26-40 meet, the southern wall can be seen. This less elaborate and eclectic dividing wall must have been constructed at a later time in order to divide the rectangular and bigger room in the north-south direction into two.

12When the uncovered Urartian rooms in trench n26 this year are taken into consideration, it became clear that the Urartian structures in trench M26 continue southwards. Of the four rooms in total, the three at the south are connected to each other via doorways (Fig. 7). Although the plans of all these rooms overlap substantially in early and late architectural levels, the central axis in late architectural level was constructed with an inclination of 5 degrees in the northwest-southeast direction.

Fig. 7

Fig. 7

Area A, eastern trenches, general view of Urartian architecture.

13In the 2016 campaigns, the remaining western part of the northernmost room in trench M26 that was excavated in the previous years and where a cuneiform tablet was recovered, was uncovered in trench M25. Work on Urartian structure levels after lifting the post-Urartian strata where mudbrick lines are present, began in trench M25. The latest Urartian structure level with dense Urartian pottery reached right under the post-Urartian strata. At this level, a room of 9 m long and 4 m wide in the east-west direction that lies on the northern side of trench M25 and belonging to the Late Urartian structure level was uncovered. The northern wall of this room is a mudbrick structure with a foundation of 4 rows of stone and the preserved section is about 0.70-1.20 m in height. On this wall, there is a 0.95 m wide doorway looking northwards. The southern wall is a mudbrick structure with a foundation of 3 rows of stone. The foundation of this wall becomes a double row of stone and the height of the preserved section is about 0.70-1 m. Starting from the eastern corner of the wall, following 0.70 m westward, is a doorway of 0.90 m wide. The eastern wall of this room is made of mudbrick on a foundation of 2 rows of stone and the preserved section is about a meter high. Also on this 3.70 m long eastern wall in the northsouth direction, there is a 0.90 m wide doorway. During the studies conducted on this doorway, cream-colored, thin-walled assyrian type vessel pieces were found. There are partial collapses on the walls of this room with a stone base foundation.

14In this room, artifacts broken and scattered around densely in an area of 4 x 4 m (Fig. 8), including pieces of Urartian pottery and stone vessels, about seven shattered pithoi with a height of about 60-65 cm, whose mouthpiece diameters are about 40-42 cm, egg-shaped lank storing vessels with 1-3 holes on their bases and 2 ground and 4 grinding stones were uncovered. Among these pottery pieces, a terracotta seal with a depiction of a stylized winged horse on its bell shaped stamp section was also discovered.

Fig. 8

Fig. 8

Area A, Trench M25, Late Urartian layer.

15The presence of pieces of the same vessel scattered throughout the room indicates that they were deliberately broken and spread around. Correspondingly, the existence of opposing holes on some of these vessels, like some redlined plate pieces and vessels of daily use give information about their restoration. Some bronze pieces, including ring shaped ones and others with various dimensions are also found with these vessels. The discovery of various vessels with seals in this area indicate the importance of this room as a storeroom.

  • 2 Piotrovsky 1969: 42.
  • 3 Kleiss 1979: Tafel 39.
  • 4 Ayvazian 2006: 434.
  • 5 Ayvazian 2006: 516, 518, 520, 522, 524, 552, 560, 566, 568.
  • 6 Ayvazian 2006: 691, 693, 771,783.
  • 7 Ayvazian 2006: 875.
  • 8 Salvini 2001: 281.

16In the filling of the Late Urartian structure level, many findings such as mixed cattle and ovine bones, seals, various bronze pieces, bronze objects, beads and a lank bronze piece, which we think might have been used as a handle, were unearthed (Fig. 9). Among the pottery, large and small roundish stones were also found. Especially, during the excavations on the eastern side of the room, a conical Urartian seal was found in the filling. The ornament on the seal is a winged solar disk. Similar seals were also discovered in the Urartian structure during the 2015 campaign in trenches M26 in 2014 and N21. Similar examples are also known in Karmir Blur2, Bastam3 and Armavir4. The winged solar disk impression on the seal is also encountered in some bullas in Bastam5, Karmir Blur6 and Arin Berd7. The winged solar disk impression on a bulla in Ayanis is also noteworthy8.

Fig. 9

Fig. 9

Area A, Trench M25, findings from Urartian layer.

  • 9 Yıldırım 1994: 299, Pl. 26.2.1.
  • 10 Burney 1966: Plate XX.b.

17A mudbrick oven was also uncovered in the northwestern corner of the same room. The “U” shaped oven is attached to the northern wall. From inside the oven and its periphery, especially in the cinereous area on its west and south, approximately 250 mushroom headed bronze nails that might either be used as rivet or for decoration were exposed. These nails, which were probably nailed on wood, were found together with ashes. Also in this area, iron nails, bronze earrings, beads, a piece of iron sheet and obsidian were found. West of this oven, carbonized grain corns like wheat and barley were identified. One pipe-shaped leg (8 x 8.50 cm), which we believe is a piece of furniture found very close to the northwestern corner, gives an idea about the object and its relation with other materials in the area. It is evident that the mentioned bronze objects were part of a wooden object. There are similar furniture parts in Elazığ Museum9 and Kayalıdere10.

18When we consider the findings recovered in this room, which is made with mudbrick walls that sits on top of a stone foundation with dimensions of 9 x 4 m and is at Late Urartian structure level, they give us an idea about its purpose. The broken and scattered pieces of vessels of various forms, pithoi, stone vessel pieces, grinding stones, and the grain samples found in and around the oven give us clues on how this room might have been used in daily life. The doorways on its northern, southern, and eastern walls show the room’s connection to other rooms. In addition to this, discovery of seals and numerous bronze nails and bronze pieces shows the room was used for a number of purposes.

19The filling that contained the aforementioned findings of the Late Urartian structure was lifted and the flagstone floor was uncovered. These flagstones, which formed the floor of the Late Urartian structure were lifted so the filling constructed on top of this structure level and the mud brick ruins and burnt strata belonging to the Early Structure Level related to this filling, were encountered. During the studies conducted in this layer, a two-phased room belonging to the Early Urartian structure level with the dimensions of 8.50 x 4 m was uncovered. It has been understood that the Urartian ceramics with red linings found in the filling belonging to the late phase of this early structure level is relatively denser than in the Late Urartian structure level. On the following part of the division wall, which connects to the western wall of the late phase of the early structure level and surrounds the furnace by making a turn northwards, a hollowed stone where the doorway bottom sill was placed was found. The occasionally dense burnt layer observed at this structure level is striking. There are various scattered vessel pieces in the late phase level filling. In the west of the area, remains of a furnace was encountered with a diameter of 50 cm, an interior wall of 5 cm and a preserved height of 25 cm. The wall surrounding this furnace from the east and the south has a stone foundation of 1 m long and 0.50 m wide. This wall, which is in north-south direction, was built with mudbrick on the 1 m high stone foundation, and continues southwards and turns west. The ashes, layer of debris, and the pieces of blue plaster are all related to the filling of the Early Phase. We can say that the walls were built for tandoor.

20The excavations have also yielded grinding and ground stones belonging to late phase of the Early Structure Level. A deep groove under one of the ground stones shows that it was converted from a stone vessel or another object. Two iron spearheads and two bronze arrowheads are the findings of this phase. A 0.65 m high pithos with a 0.40 m wide mouth was found intact at the southeast corner of the eastern wall surrounding the furnace. The far end of the southern wall and the section, which extends 0.40 m northwards, were uncovered. The pithos belongs to the late phase of the Early Urartian architectural level. It was buried in a pit opening to the base and placed compressed with covering its surrounding with stones. The two grinding stones placed around the pithos, one of which is broken, must be from the early phase of the Early architectural Level.

21Scattered flagstones related to the floor of the late phase of the Early Structure Level, which were almost at the same level, were excavated. Various pottery shards also scattered over the floor in the same level were recovered.

22Flagstones belonging to the late phase of the Early Urartian Structure Level were lifted to reach the early phase beneath it. In the filling of the early phase of the Early Structure Level, numerous ground and grinding stones, some of which were broken, and various Urartian vessels were encountered scattered on the floor. The layer shows sporadic traces of dense ash layers and fire. Related to the floor of the early phase, a furnace with a 0.50 m wide mouth was uncovered. Part of it is in the section at the bottom of the foundations of the southern wall of the Late Urartian structure.

23During excavations conducted in the filling of the early floor of the Early Urartian architectural level, various animal bones and pottery shards were revealed. After the removal of the filling, a yellowish earth layer forming the floor began to emerge beginning from the western section of the area, where ash pits are observed in particular. The floor produced various finds such as small bronze buttons, beads made of sea shells, iron pieces, cubic stones, and stone vessel shards.

24In the lower sections of the Late Urartian Structure Level stone foundations, located at the northeast, a part of the stone foundations belonging to the Early Urartian Structure Level, was uncovered. This wall is 2 m long, 0.30 m high and has a stone foundation of two rows. This wall in east-west direction with a stone foundation belonging to the early phase of the Early Structure Level, is located 0.20-0.30 m beneath the northern wall of the room of Late Urartian Structure Level. A 0.20-0.30 m thick debris between the two stone walls and the filling formed by the burnt layer belong to the debris of Early Structure Level. As is seen in the section between the Early and Late Structure Level walls, there is a layer of debris mixed with a burnt layer. Two iron arrowheads were recovered on the floor belonging to the early phase of the Early Structure Level. Pebbles along with various shards dating to the Bronze Age were recovered mostly from the filling.

25During the excavations conducted north of trench M25, the existence of two structure levels was identified – Early and Late, the former being composed of two phases. In both phases of the early structure level, burnt and ash layers were encountered. Storage vessels, grinding and ground stones and furnaces found in both levels indicate the continuing use of this area. Stratigraphically, these levels match with the architectural levels in the trenches N20 and N21 that are located at the western side of the mound. The reasons for the existence of two levels and the destruction of the Early Structure Level, whether due to a disaster or a fire, are not clear for the moment. Like the northern, southern, and western walls of the room in trench M25, walls of both architectural levels come on top of each other, presenting the structuring in this section.

26This year, work on trench N27 resumed. Starting from the northern border of the trench, excavations were conducted southwards in the stair-shaped 3.50 m wide area. Excavated for the first time in 2010, the northern section of the 5 m long and 1 m wide Urartian wall of double row of stones, which is located at the southeast of trench, was uncovered. As a result of the conducted campaigns, after the 5th meter of the said wall’s part in the north-south direction and continuing towards the section in the north, the continuing 2 m long and 0.40 m high mudbrick section of the wall is unearthed. To the east of this wall, in the section with the Urartian debris, thin plates of little bronze pieces were encountered apart from the Urartian pottery. A sandstone floor that blocks the wall, which we keep track of from the section, continues westward from the trench. Although a structure is yet to be encountered related to this floor, it could be argued that it belongs to a period after the early phase Urartian structures.

Area A western trenches

27Our team has been conducting excavations since 2010 in the eastern part of the area that had been excavated in 1989-1991 on the western point of the area a of the Mound. Studies on the identification of the range of the Urartian structures unearthed in previous years were continued and the excavation area was expanded eastwards in that regard.

Late Iron Age/Post-Urartian Strata

28In trench N21, we identified the post-Urartian strata, which are right on top of where the Urartian strata commenced. The aim was to understand the post-Urartian architectural levels in the Mound and to have a better understanding of the post-Urartian era with the available data. Accordingly, we started to excavate the filling strata mixed with the mudbrick debris located on the northern section of the trench. Two floors emerged here together with the one we uncovered. It can be surmised that these floors collapsed during their use and the collapsed sections were repaired thrice. On the eastern side of the trench, a wall was encountered. From the mudbrick wall fragments exposed in this stratum, which are about 0.40 m long, it was understood that settlement in the Mound continued in the post-Urartian era.

29At the southwest section of the trench, another mudbrick structure located at the walls foundation level was come upon. It extends in the northeast-southwest direction and is 1 m wide with a length over 2 m. An evaluation of this wall in the Urartian structure level with other findings in the area, points to a post-Urartian date.

30It became evident that the floor uncovered during the earlier campaigns in the east of this wall belongs to a room related to it. The Late Iron Age painted vessel found here in 2013 is an in situ find of this stratum and is very important piece of evidence for dating this level. Judging from this wall, the related floor and the Late Iron Age painted pottery shards, it is safe to say that we now have important evidence for the existence of post-Urartian architecture.

31During the removal of the post-Urartian layer in this area, Late Iron Age pottery shards were encountered together with Urartian plain and painted pottery. At the northern side of the trench, in the area with the mudbrick debris, no wall remains were identified. As the Mound was used as a cemetery beginning with the medieval era, the Late Iron Age strata were heavily damaged and destroyed by burial pits. As a result, the traces of Late Iron Age architecture are weak and fragmentary. In this stratum, formed by mudbrick ruins, bronze buttons were found with bone pieces. During the work in the stratum with mudbrick ruins, an ornate lid dating from the Late Iron Age was found, which fitted a vessel found in the previous years.

Urartian Strata

32The excavations were conducted in trench N20 belonging to Early Urartian Structure Level. Excavations at this section of the mound were conducted with aim of identifying the Urartian structures here. Hence, a drilling campaign began in 2013 within the Urartian room with a northern wall of 5.50 m and eastern and western walls of 8 m long, whose southern wall was heavily damaged by a big pit. With a foundation of one row stone, it is understood from the collapse on its northern wall that these structures were built upon a ruin.

  • 11 Sevin and Kavaklı 1996: 41-44.

33During the work at the southeastern part of the trench, a debris layer that cuts the mound from the south was identified. Excavations in the big pit that destroyed the southern wall of this structure, allowed to bring to light the southern section of the western wall. In the west of it and on the related floor, the bottom part of a storage vessel was found in situ. Beneath it were little stones that were placed as paving. The floor of this structure, as mentioned above, had been removed in 2013 and a test drill was conducted here. Filling layer with mudbrick remains, bone fragments, and ceramic pieces were discovered in this area. Some of the bones bear traces of consumption. Urartian ceramics were also found together with Early Bronze Age vessels. The pit yielded Urartian and Early Bronze Age pottery mixed with ash. We can also say that the frit beads found here are similar to those found in Karagündüz11. Apart from the mudbrick blocks in the destruction layer, which is approximately 2 m deep, mixed Urartian and Bronze Age ceramics are important for predicting the strata on which the early phase of the Urartian Structure Level constructed over.

  • 12 Piotrovsky 1969: 42.
  • 13 Kleiss 1979: Tafel 39.
  • 14 Kleiss 1979: Tafel 38,7-9.72/3=D3.

34After the removal of the Late Iron Age filling in trench N21, work on the debris belonging to the Urartian Structure Level beneath began. During the excavations, a mudbrick wall of 0.90 m wide built upon a foundation of single course of stone was uncovered. This wall also forms the eastern wall of the 5.50 m wide room belonging to the early phase of the Urartian Structure Level in southeast of trench N20. Here a conical Urartian seal with a mixed creature figure was found. Similar seals are known from other Urartian centers like Karmir Blur12 and Bastam13. The creature on the Bastam seal in particular resembles the one on the seal from the trench N2114. In the Urartian period debris, where this seal was found, an obsidian arrowhead was dug up, which was probably mixed with the Bronze Age stratum beneath it. In the filling of this structure various findings like pottery shards, bone fragments, grinding stone, bronze pieces, obsidian, and beads were found.

35To the east of this wall, in the north-south direction and the intersecting wall in the east-west direction, there is a mudbrick wall of 0.90 m wide and 5 m long. on the northwestern side of the trench, a 3 m high and 0.90 m wide wall was identified. That room is 5 m wide and 9 m long and is parallel to the room to its west and an extension of these structures. West, east, and north of this room are marked by a mudbrick wall resting on foundation of one row of stone. The room produced Early Bronze Age and Iron Age potteries, animal bone fragments, which we think are result of consumption, and a bronze bead mixed with Urartian debris. Also at the northwestern corner an intact dog skeleton, probably dating from the Late Iron Age was discovered. To the north of this room and trench, a southern section of another Urartian room was partially uncovered.

36Work at the eastern side of the eastern wall of this room brought another room into light, which is an extension of these structures and half of which was uncovered within the eastern section of the trench. That wall also forms the western wall of this room. It contains pottery shards and bone fragments in mixed state. At the southeastern corner of the trench, two drop-shaped bullas were found mixed with ashes in this Urartian layer. Moreover, found in this area together with numerous shards and bone fragments, is a piece of dye, known in the literature as “Egyptian Blue”.

37Ground level was reached in the Urartian room located on the northern side of the other Urartian room, which is part of the same architectural structure. Most of it extends into the northern section. Here, various vessels dating to the Urartian period, bronze pieces and animal bones, and remains of consumption, were encountered. On the floor were in situ stone beads, bone fragments, fragments of bronze objects, a bronze needle, a leaf shaped bronze bead, round bronze beads, bronze rings, bronze earrings, bronze circles, two stone pendants, a bracelet with a snake head, and earrings and needles.

38At the southern section of the trench N22 due to damage caused by the asphalt road running through it a 10 m long section was cleared (Fig. 10). During this cleaning work, a piece of iron, clinker pieces, and a piece of burned timber were found mixed with obsidian pieces. We have also come across a sterile layer, where obsidian, shells and a shard (Halaf?) were found.

Fig. 10

Fig. 10

Area A, Trench N22, south section.

39A graveled floor was also discovered on the ground of the western section. The floor, which might belong to the Urartian structure levels of earlier stratum, was left high, and a step was created. Traces of mudbrick rubble were observed here. Immediately to the east of this step, a drill with the dimensions of 2.60 x 3.20 m was opened. It is remarkable to find Early Bronze Age ceramics together with modern rubbish pieces during our campaigns conducted here. Humidity in the soil rises in this area, making it more difficult to conduct excavation and flattening works. From here came a large quantity of Early Bronze Age ceramics, mudbrick rubble, burnt timber, and animal bone fragments. Also, a terracotta object (a wheel, which might belong to a model cart), a bronze arrowhead (whose tip and handle are broken), obsidian pieces, and a stone object thought to be a perforated bead were found.

40No architectural element was encountered in the drilling hole, and the stones infrequently happened upon were removed after documentation. The pottery belongs to the Early Bronze Age and their numbers decreased as the drilling continued. Water was found approximately at 1681.60 m above sea level, 7 m deeper than the highest point of the mound. It is remarkable to find pottery at this level, even though no architectural elements were encountered.

Van Citadel

Area J-BG 90 Underground Rock-cut Tomb

41During the surveys and investigations carried out in the section described as the Eastern Ditch of the Van Citadel in previous years, the existence of some clear-cut floors and architectural traces had been noticed. In the areas, east of the Eastern Ditch, the existence of rooms cut into the bedrock like the rock-cut tombs known as analıkız and Doğu odaları, and the foundation beds carved into the bedrock, whose range are sometimes extensive, were already known. Surveys conducted 35 m south of the niche with Assyrian inscription uncovered a room carved into the bedrock with an orderly plan. Up until present, no excavation campaign was undertaken in this area, coinciding with the area J and trench BG 90 and there is no data about its structuring. Excavation works started in order to investigate and uncover some of the rock-cut traces that were visible on the surface of citadel on this section.

42During the excavation, a dromos shaped anterior room in the east-west direction, which was carved into the bedrock and dug into the underground, was encountered (Fig. 11). The wall between this rectangular anterior room with the dimensions of 2.78 x 2.15 m, whose corners were rounded, and the main chamber with the dimensions of 5.80 x 3.15 m, where there is also a door, has the measurement of 1.20 cm. Hence, the length of the rock-cut tomb becomes about 9 m (Fig. 12).

Fig. 11

Fig. 11

Area J, Trench BG90, dromos shaped anterior room.

Fig. 12

Fig. 12

Area J, Trench BG90, underground rock-cut tomb.

43On the eastern side of this “anterior room”, a 1.08 m high and 0.76 m wide doorway opens to a façade of 1.60 m high, 1.30 m wide and 0.32 m deep. The depth of the doorway is 0.70-0.75 m and carved into the bedrock to place the 0.72 m long and 0.20 m wide doorway bottom sill. The depth of this doorway bottom sill, located in the east-west direction, starting from the ground, reaches to 0.11-0.12 m in the east. According to the bearings on and under the door, the height of the doorway bottom sill should be about 1.74 m.

44There is an elevation difference of 0.18 m between the floor of the anterior room and the door. This anterior room directly opens to the main chamber, which is reached via a step of 0.90 m long, 0.30 m wide and 0.28 m high from the door. The height of the anterior room varies between 2.20 and 2.50 m. Like in the main chamber in the east, in the filling mixed with stones and soil of the anterior room, various animal bone fragments, glazed-unglazed ceramic pieces, and brick pieces were discovered. Also, from this filling, two pieces of bone and one spearhead were recovered. Especially in the anterior room, right in front of the doorway, the broken and scattered medieval ceramics point to the rock-cut tomb’s utilization phases. From this filling, medieval ceramics were uncovered, including two jug-shaped vessels, one of which is intact, while the other is shattered.

45From the anterior room, the main chamber that is carved into the bedrock and in the east-west direction, whose north-south and east-west walls we uncovered, was reached. It has a rectangular plan with rounded corners measuring 5.80 x 3.15 m. There is an uninterrupted 12 m long and 0.50 m wide niche that covers all of the southern and eastern walls and half of the northern wall. This belt of niche is located 1 m above ground level. After rising about 0.40 m and carved in 0.70 m high, the niche belt is corrected towards the ceiling with an inclination and connected to an 0.80 m long surface. The height of the main chamber from the straightened floor varies between 2.65 m to 2.80 m depending on the upper limit of the walls. The cover coat of the burial chamber is entirely destroyed. The Medieval materials found on the floor suggest that the main chamber was used during that period (Fig. 13). The presence of a dog skeleton is especially remarkable. Right on top of the floor, a heavily damaged bronze bowl with a rose ornament was uncovered.

Fig. 13

Fig. 13

Area J, Trench BG90, rock-cut tomb used during medieval times.

46In the main chamber’s filling, there are stones of various size. These stones are of the same material as the rock tomb was carved in. Some of them must have broken off from the burial chamber’s plaster. Glazed and unglazed medieval shards, mudbrick and brick fragments, animal bones and pieces of bronze too were encountered in this filling. A preserved furnace 0.60 m in diameter and about 0.15-0.20 m in height was uncovered on the south corner of the main chamber door. This furnace shows that the main chamber was used as a furnace house during medieval times.

  • 15 Sevin and Kavaklı 1996: 14-21.
  • 16 Sevin 2012: 111-127.

47This rock-cut tomb carved into the bedrock and opened underground, which we discovered in the section known as the Eastern Ditch of Van Citadel, is different from the rock-cut tombs known since the earlier times. Although the tombs of Neft Kuyu, İç Kale, Argishti I and Doğu odaları have multiple rooms, they only have one façade. The newly uncovered BG90 rock-cut tomb however was carved underground and is composed of a dromos shaped anterior room and a main chamber at the back. In that regard, it differs from the other tombs constructed in the citadel and sets an example of a tomb of this type. Underground rock-cut tombs, in terms of planning, are widespread in Urartian geography. Although the tombs like Karagündüz15 and Altıntepe16 with dromos, resemble the BG90 tomb in terms of plan, tombs in Karagündüz were built underground with stones. A tomb carved into the bedrock in the citadel similar to those tombs, which are also defined as public tombs, is important. As a result, a new type of Urartian royal tomb was added to the list of types of tombs.

Old City of Van

48The 2013 and 2014 campaigns were conducted near the southern walls of the old City of Van, which was surrounded by the walls lying in the south of Van Citadel, the area between Kaya Çelebi and new Gate/Palace Gate. With a series of trenches opened in the east-west and north-south directions, architectural elements that were last used in 19th century were uncovered (Fig. 14). On both sides of the stone road from Kaya Çelebi Mosque to new Gate/Palace Gate, the foundation remains of structures, thought to be aligned at intervals, have two storeys and a courtyard in the middle, with mudbrick walls on top of a stone foundation form the main characteristic of this structure. The plans and sizes of these structures and the images from the 19th century or information from travelers indicate that they were public buildings. Archaeological finds support this claim. This road, which is east-west in direction, and another road going northward, whose route is defined with the architectural pattern, reach the city center. On both sides of the road, there are examples of civil architecture with mudbrick garden walls surrounding the residences. Located south of this area, flanked by public buildings, despite the orderly pattern, a stone road with a channel in the middle move toward a less orderly area and indicates a complicated architectural pattern; reflecting the general characteristics of eastern cities.

Fig. 14

Fig. 14

Excavation areas in Old City of Van.

49During the excavation season of 2015-2016 passive protection and restoration work was carried out in the areas uncovered in previous seasons. In the areas north of the stone road going between Kaya çelebi and new Gate / Palace Gate in the east-west direction and the intersecting stone road with a channel in middle going northward and the civilian architecture adjacent to them were the areas of application. In that regard, like in the previous years, mudbrick blocks of 27 x 27 cm and 27 x 13 cm with 10 cm in thickness, which were identified to be used in the structures, were produced. Passive protection applied on the stone walls uncovered and restored in the excavation season of 2013-2014, by placing mudbrick blocks in three rows on it. During this process, the bonding timber system, which was used in the original wall pattern and used between the stone wall and mudbrick body and, at times, in the mudbrick body itself, was also applied. Between the newly produced mudbricks, 10 x 10 cm bonding timbers were used and moved to the mudbrick body.

50During our campaign of 2015-2016, the local wall collapses and rubble in the aforementioned structures was completed using the stones that came from that location and the same application techniques and materials. Other mudbrick collapses due to many reasons were restored using the newly produced mudbrick blocks.

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Ayvazian, A., 2006: Urartian Glyptic: New Perspectives, Unpublished PhD Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.

Burney, C.A., 1966: ‟a First Season of Excavations on the Urartian Citadel of Kayalıdere”, Anatolian Studies 16: 55-111.

Kleiss, W., 1979: Bastam I: Ausgrabungen in den Urartäischen Anlagen 1972-1979, Berlin.

Piotrovsky, B.B., 1969: The Ancient Civilization of Urartu, Nagel Publishers, London.

Salvini, M., 2001: ‟Inscriptions on Clay”, in Çilingiroğlu, A. and Salvini, M. (eds.), Ayanis I: Ten Years’ Excavations at Rusahinili Eiduru-kai 1989-1998, CNR, Istituto per gli Studi Micenei ed Egeo-Anatolici, Roma: 279-319.

Sevin, V., 2012: Van Kalesi: Urartu Kral Mezarları ve Altıntepe Halk Mezarlığı, Ege Yayınları, İstanbul.

Sevin, V. and Kavaklı, E., 1996: Bir Erken Demir Çağ Nekropolü Van/Karagündüz, Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayınları, İstanbul.

Yıldırım, R., 1994: ‟The Urartian Furniture Fragments in Elazığ Museum”, in Çilingiroğlu, A. and French, D.H. (eds.), Anatolian Iron Ages III. Anadolu Demir Çağları 3. The Proceedings of the Third Anatolian Iron Ages Colloquium held at Van, 6-12 August 1990/ III. Anadolu Demir Çağları Sempozyumu Bildirileri Van, 6-12 Ağustos 1990, Van, The British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, Ankara: 295-300.

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1 This work was supported by Scientific Research Projects Coordination Unit of Istanbul University. (Project no SBa- 2016/22066), Ministry of Culture General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums - DÖSİMM and AYGAZ. We would like to thank all the organizations, which contributed to the excavation.

2 Piotrovsky 1969: 42.

3 Kleiss 1979: Tafel 39.

4 Ayvazian 2006: 434.

5 Ayvazian 2006: 516, 518, 520, 522, 524, 552, 560, 566, 568.

6 Ayvazian 2006: 691, 693, 771,783.

7 Ayvazian 2006: 875.

8 Salvini 2001: 281.

9 Yıldırım 1994: 299, Pl. 26.2.1.

10 Burney 1966: Plate XX.b.

11 Sevin and Kavaklı 1996: 41-44.

12 Piotrovsky 1969: 42.

13 Kleiss 1979: Tafel 39.

14 Kleiss 1979: Tafel 38,7-9.72/3=D3.

15 Sevin and Kavaklı 1996: 14-21.

16 Sevin 2012: 111-127.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1
Légende Van Fortress from the west. The citadel and the lower city surrounding it.
Fichier image/jpeg, 116k
Titre Fig. 2
Légende Area A, general view of Urartian architecture.
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Titre Fig. 3
Légende Area A, post-Urartian/Late Iron Age layer.
Fichier image/jpeg, 124k
Titre Fig. 4
Légende Area A, plan of the Urartian and post-Urartian architecture.
Fichier image/jpeg, 256k
Titre Fig. 5
Légende Area A, Trench M25, findings from post-Urartian layer.
Fichier image/jpeg, 92k
Titre Fig. 6
Légende Area A, Trench N26, rooms of Urartian layer.
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Fig. 7
Légende Area A, eastern trenches, general view of Urartian architecture.
Fichier image/jpeg, 100k
Titre Fig. 8
Légende Area A, Trench M25, Late Urartian layer.
Fichier image/jpeg, 136k
Titre Fig. 9
Légende Area A, Trench M25, findings from Urartian layer.
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Titre Fig. 10
Légende Area A, Trench N22, south section.
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Titre Fig. 11
Légende Area J, Trench BG90, dromos shaped anterior room.
Fichier image/jpeg, 604k
Titre Fig. 12
Légende Area J, Trench BG90, underground rock-cut tomb.
Fichier image/jpeg, 532k
Titre Fig. 13
Légende Area J, Trench BG90, rock-cut tomb used during medieval times.
Fichier image/jpeg, 136k
Titre Fig. 14
Légende Excavation areas in Old City of Van.
Fichier image/jpeg, 139k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Erkan Konyar, Bülent Genç, Can Avcı et Armağan Tan, « The Van Tušpa excavations 2015-2016 », Anatolia Antiqua, XXV | 2017, 127-142.

Référence électronique

Erkan Konyar, Bülent Genç, Can Avcı et Armağan Tan, « The Van Tušpa excavations 2015-2016 », Anatolia Antiqua [En ligne], XXV | 2017, mis en ligne le 01 mai 2019, consulté le 20 août 2019. URL :

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Erkan Konyar

Istanbul University, Faculty of Letters Department of ancient History, Fatih - Istanbul / Turkey

Bülent Genç

Mardin artuklu University, Faculty of Letters Department of archaeology, Artuklu – Mardin / Turkey

Can Avcı

Istanbul University, Faculty of Letters Department of ancient History, Fatih – Istanbul / Turkey

Armağan Tan

Istanbul University, Faculty of Letters Department of ancient History, Fatih – Istanbul / Turkey

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Anatolia Antiqua

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