VAN, Turkey (Anatolian News Agency)–The burial chambers of Urartian King Argishti I and his family in the western wing of an ancient castle in the eastern Turkish province of Van have been opened for the first time.
“The burial chamber is in the western part of Van castle and bears the workmanship of the highest quality. It is reached through a 24-step staircase,” said Rafet Çavuşoğlu, a professor at Van Yüzüncü Yıl University’s Archaeology Department.
King Argishti I was buried in a rock burial chamber called “Horhor Cave,” said the professor, who specially opened the doors to the graves to Anatolia news agency.
Van castle, which is 120 meters by 80 meters and was built on a rocky peak along Lake Van, has been the site of recent excavations headed by lecturer Altan Çilingiroğlu of Ege University.
Çavuşoğlu said Urartian writing on the wall of the burial chamber was very interesting.
“There are nail holes in spaces between doors opening to the chambers inside. These holes were used to hang torches and gifts,” said the Yüzüncü Yıl professor. “There are four inner chambers and each chamber has four alcoves on the walls. The location of the alcoves and doors and the dimension of the chambers are similar to each other.”
He said religious ceremonies were held in the hall in burial chambers and valuable objects were buried in the adjacent chambers.
“The burial chambers are described as caves in the 17th-century Ottoman plan and Evliya Çelebi’s travel book. They served as an armory, a food depot and a workshop in the time of the Ottomans,” he said.
Before kingdom in ancient times
Centered in the Armenian Highlands, now under Turkish occupation, the Kingdom of Urartu ruled between the ninth and sixth centuries B.C. until its defeat by Media in the early 6th century B.C. The best monuments of Urartu exist in Van as the city was the capital of the kingdom with the name Tushpa.
Referred to as the Kingdom of Ararat in Hebrew, Urartu spanned beyond present day Turkey to include the current Republic of Armenia, where the Erebuni city and fortress are located in the Armenian capital of Yerevan. The Urartians are the ancient ancestors of the Armenians.
The ancient castle, which has traces of a 3,000-year-old civilization and is composed of five separate sections, draws hundreds of visitors from Turkey and overseas every year. However, the burial chambers of Urartian King Argishti I and his family are kept closed to visitors.
Argishti I was the sixth known king of the ancient kingdom, reigning from 786 B.C. to 764 B.C. As the son and the successor of Menua, he continued a series of conquests initiated by his predecessors. Victorious against the Assyrians, he conquered the northern part of Syria and made Urartu the most powerful state in the post-Hittite Near East.