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Ruins of Tushpa, Capital City of Urartu

Ruins of Tushpa, Capital City of Urartu


Urartu is the ancient name for the region called Ararat in the Judeo-Christian bible, located in parts of what are now the modern day countries of Turkey, Armenia and Iran. The main capital of Urartu was at Tushpa, on Lake Van in Turkey, established by King Sarduri I about 830 BC.

The society built a series of fortresses in this rugged terrain, of large cut stone blocks. Other public works include temples, roads, and a massive irrigation system for their farmlands, including the Canal of Semiramis, built in the 9th century AD and still in use today. While Urartu withstood an assault by the Assyrian King Sargon, by the 6th century BC, they fell to the Medes.

Archaeological evidence for Urartu was first discovered at Van in 1826 by F.E. Schulz, who identified cuneiform inscriptions cut into the walls. In the late 19th century, A.H. Sayce deciphered the inscriptions and excavations at Topprakale were conducted by the British Museum.


This article is a part of the About.com Guide to Biblical Archaeology, and part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Scarre, Chris. 1996. Urartu. In Brian Fagan (ed). 1996. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Smith, Adam T. 2000 Rendering the political aesthetic: Political legitimacy in Urartian representations of the built environment. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 19:131-163.

Smith, Adam T., Ruben Badalyan, Pavel Avetisyan, and Mkrtich Zardaryan 2004 Early Complex Societies in Southern Caucasia: A Preliminary Report on the 2002 Investigations by Project ArAGATS on the Tsakahovit Plain, Republic of Armenia. American Journal of Archaeology 108(1):1-41.

Tushpa (Turkey), Van (Turkey), Cavustepe, Anztaf, Korzut Kale, Topprakale

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