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Assur (also spelled Ashur, from Assyrian ; Arabic: ; Hebrew: , Aramaic: ), was one of the capitals of ancient Assyria. The remains of the city are situated on the western bank of river Tigrismarker, north of the confluence with the tributary Little Zab river, in modern day Iraqmarker, more precisely in the Al-Shirqat District (a small panhandle of the Salah al-Din Governoratemarker).

Assur is also the name of the chief deity of the city. He was considered the highest god in the Assyrian pantheon and the protector of the Assyrian state. In the Mesopotamian mythology he was the equivalent of Babylonian Marduk.

The site of Assur is a United Nations World Heritage Site, but was placed on the list of World Heritage Sites in danger in 2003, in part due to the conflict in that area, and also due to a proposed dam, that would flood part of the site.

Archaeology

Exploration of the site of Assur began in 1898 by German archaeologists. Excavations began in 1900 by Friedrich Delitzsch, and were continued in 1903-1913 by a team from the German Oriental Society ledinitally by Robert Koldewey and later by Walter Andrae.

More than 16,000 tablets with cuneiform texts were discovered. Many of the objects found made their way to the Pergamon Museummarker in Berlin.

More recently, Ashur was excavated by B. Hrouda for the University of Munichmarker and the Bavarian Ministry of Culture in 1990.

During the same period,in 1988 and 1989, the site was being worked by R. Dittmann on behalf of theGerman Research Foundation.

Name

is the name of the city, of the land ruled by the city, and of its tutelary deity.At a late date it appears in Assyrian literature in the forms An-sar, An-sar (ki), which form was presumably read Assur.The name of the deity is written A-šur or Aš-sùr, and in Neo-assyrian often shortened to .

In the Creation tablet, the heavens personified collectively were indicated by this term An-sar, "host of heaven," in contradistinction to the earth, Ki-sar, "host of earth."In view of this fact, it seems highly probable that the late writing An-sar for Assur was a more or less conscious attempt on the part of the Assyrian scribes to identify the peculiarly Assyrian deity Asur with the Creation deity An-sar. On the other hand, there is an epithet Asir or Ashir ("overseer") applied to several gods and particularly to the deity Asur, a fact which introduced a third element of confusion into the discussion of the name Assur. It is probable then that there is a triple popular etymology in the various forms of writing the name Assur; viz. A-usar, An-sar and the stem asdru.

Early Bronze Age

Archaeology reveals the site of the city was occupied by the middle of the third millennium BC. This was still the Sumerian period, before the Assyrian kingdom emerged. The oldest remains of the city were discovered in the foundations of the Ishtar temple, as well as at the Old Palace. In the following Old Akkadian periodmarker, the city was ruled by kings from Akkadmarker. During the "Sumerian Renaissance", the city was ruled by a Sumerian governor.

Old and Middle Assyrian periods



By the time the Neo-Sumerian Ur-III dynasty collapsed at the hands of the Elamitesmarker in 2004 BC, the local princes, including those in Assur, had shaken off the foreign yoke. Assur developed rapidly into a centre for trade, and trade routes led from the city to Anatolia, where merchants from Assur established trading colonies. These Assyrian colonies in Asia Minor were called kârum, and traded mostly with tin and wool (see Kültepemarker). In the city of Assur, the first great temples to the city god Assur and the weather god Adad were erected. The first fortifications were also began in this period.

Assur was the capital of the kingdom of Shamshi-Adad I (1813-1781 BC). He expanded the city's power and influence beyond the Tigris river valley. In this period, the Great Royal Palace was built, and the temple of Assur was expanded and enlarged with a ziggurat. This kingdom came to end when Hammurabi of Babylonmarker incorporated the city into his kingdom following the death of Shamshi-Adad. Renewed building activity is known a few centuries later, during the reign of a native king Puzur-Assur III, when the city was refortified and the southern quarters incorporated into the main city defenses. Temples to the moon god Sin (Nanna) and the sun god Shamash were erected in the 15th century BC. The city was then subjugated by the king of Mitanni, Shaushtatar, who removed the gold and silver doors of the temple to his capital, Washukani, as plunder.

Assyria regained its independence in the 14th century BC, and in the following centuries the old temples and palaces of Assur were restored. Tukulti-Ninurta I (1244-1208 BC) also started a new temple to the goddess Ishtar. The Anu-Adad temple was constructed during the reign of Tiglath-Pileser I (1115-1075 BC). The walled area of the city in the Middle Assyrian period made up some 120 ha, or 300 acres.

Neo-Assyrian period

Parthian temple in Assur.
In the Neo-Assyrian period (912-612 BC), the royal residence was transferred to other Assyrian cities. Ashur-nasir-pal II (884-859 BC) moved the capital from Assur to Kalhu (Nimrudmarker). Yet the city of Assur remained the religious center of the empire, due to its temple of the national god Ashur. In the reign of Sennacherib (705-682 BC), the House of the New Year, akitu, was built, and the festivities celebrated in the city. Several Assyrian rulers were also buried beneath the Old Palace. The city was sacked and destroyed during the conquest of Assyria by the Medes, in 614 BC.

Persian Empire period

The city was reoccupied some centuries later, in the Parthian period. New administrative buildings were erected to the north of the old city, and a palace to the south. The old Assur temple was also rebuilt. However, the city was destroyed again by the Sassanid king Shapur I (241-272 AD). Some settlement at the site is known from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Threats to Assur

The site was put on UNESCOmarker's List of World Heritage in Danger in 2003, at which time the site was threatened by a looming large-scale dam project that would have submerged the ancient archaeological site. The dam project was put on hold shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Notes

  1. Walter Andrae, Der Anu-Adad-Tempel in Assur, JC Hinrichs, 1909, (1984 reprint ISBN 3764818050)
  2. Walter Andrae, Die Stelenreihen in Assur, JC Hinrichs, 1913, (1972 reprint ISBN 3535005876)
  3. Walter Andrae, Die archaischen Ischtar-Tempel in Assur, JC Hinrichs, 1922, (1970 reprint ISBN 3764818069)
  4. Walter Andrae, Hethitische Inschriften auf Bleistreifen aus Assur, JC Hinrichs, 1924
  5. Walter Andrae, Das wiedererstandene Assur, 1938, JC Hinrichs, (1977 reprint ISBN 3406029477)
  6. Excavations in Iraq 1989-1990, Iraq, vol. 53, pp. 169-182, 1991
  7. R. Dittmann, Ausgrabungen der Freien Universitat Berlin in Ashur und Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta in den Jahren 1986-1989, MDOG, vol. 122, pp. 157-171, 1990
  8. UNESCO World Heritage in Danger 2003


See also



References

  • Walter Andrae: Babylon. Die versunkene Weltstadt und ihr Ausgräber Robert Koldewey. de Gruyter, Berlin 1952.
  • Eva Cancik-Kirschbaum: Die Assyrer. Geschichte, Gesellschaft, Kultur. C.H.Beck Wissen, München 2003. ISBN 3-406-50828-6
  • Olaf Matthes: Zur Vorgeschichte der Ausgrabungen in Assur 1898-1903/05. MDOG Berlin 129, 1997, 9-27. ISSN 0342-118X
  • P. A. Miglus: Das Wohngebiet von Assur, Stratigraphie und Architektur. Berlin 1996. ISBN 3-7861-1731-4
  • Susan L. Marchand: Down from Olympus. Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany 1750-1970. Princeton University Press, Princeton 1996. ISBN 0-691-04393-0
  • Conrad Preusser: Die Paläste in Assur. Gebr. Mann, Berlin 1996. ISBN 3-7861-2004-8



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