Chogha Zanbil - Khuzestan Province

The Ziggurat of Chogha Zanbil (Ziggurat Dūr Untash)

Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat is an ancient The Elamite temple complex in Khuzestan province, 30 km southeast of Susa. The site is one of the largest and best-preserved ziggurats out of Mesopotamia. Chogha Zanbil was founded by the king of Elamite Untash-Napirisha (1250 BCE) who dedicated it to one the Elamite gods named Inshushinak the guardian of Susa. The ziggurat was built in two stages. It took its multi-layered form in the second phase. The Ziggurat was mainly destroyed by the Assyrian king, Asur Banipal in 640 BCE.  The Elamite name of this structure is Ziggurat Dūr Untash meaning the city of Untash (the Elamite king). However, due to its shape, the site is known by its Persian name “Chogha Zanbil” which means an upside-down basket.


The Ziggurat of Chogha Zanbil is a pyramidal structure mainly made with raw bricks as the basic material and backed bricks for the facing. The well-preserved temple is surrounded by three widely apart homocentric walls as protection. In the inner area is a perfect (105 meters on each side) quadrangular structure with an estimated original height of more than 50 meters. Each of its corners is pointed towards one of the cardinal directions. The ziggurat was constructed pyramidally with four receding floors holding the Inshushinak temple on the top. The inner court area holds temples for lower grade gods, a place for religious ceremonies and receiving pilgrims and their offerings. To the southwest of the ziggurat is a small round structure that is probably the foundation of a statue, or as some say a sundial. Royal palaces and a royal underground symmetry are in the outer area.  Several of the facing bricks on the ziggurat walls have inscriptions of names of gods with the Elamite and Acadian cuneiform characters. Kilns were found that were probably used for the production of baked bricks and decorative materials. A staircase was built at each side of the ziggurat leading directly from the courtyard to only one of the floors except for the main temple on the fifth floor which had indirect access. The entrances were guarded by glazed terracotta and blue sculptures of bulls and griffins.


Clean drinking water was provided for the ziggurat and it’s surrounding through channels from a water purification site found at Chogha Zanbil. Muddy water from Karkheh River has been channeled 45 km to the site and stored in a reservoir. Water was then filtered through gravel, sand, and coal. This process provided clean drinking water for the Elamite who lived at Chogha Zanbil.          

Although the ziggurat now stands only 24.75 meters high, less than half its estimated original height, it is considered to be the best-preserved example of a stepped pyramidal monument.  Chogha Zanbil became the first Iranian site to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List In 1979.