From Academic Kids

Urartu was an ancient kingdom in eastern Anatolia, centred in the mountainous region around Lake Van (present-day Turkey), which existed from about 1000 BC, or earlier, until 585 BC, and which, at its apogee, stretched from northern Mesopotamia through the southern Caucasus, involving parts of present-day Armenia up to Lake Sevan.

The name Urartu is actually from Assyrian, a dialect of Akkadian, and was given to the kingdom by its chief rivals to the south; it may have meant simply "mountain country". The kingdom was named Biainili by its inhabitants, the origin of the name of Lake Van. The name Urartu apparently corresponds to the Ararat of the Old Testament. Indeed, Mount Ararat is located in ancient Urartian territory, approximately 120 km north of its former capital.



Assyrian inscriptions from about 1250 BC mention a loose confederation called the Uruartri or Nairi in North-East Anatolia, in the region around Lake Van. These towns or tribes became a unified kingdom between 860 BC and 830 BC, under king Aramu or his son Sardur I.

At its height, the Urartu kingdom may have stretched North beyond the Aras River (Greek Araxes) and Lake Sevan, encompassing present-day Armenia and even the southern part of Georgia almost to the shores of the Black Sea; west to the sources of the Euphrates; east to present-day Tabriz, Lake Urmin, and beyond; and south to the sources of the Tigris. Its capital was the ancient city of Tushpa, modern Van, on the shore of Lake Van.

Urartu was a rival of Assyria, and fought several wars against their southern neighbors. Much of our historical information on Urartu comes from Assyrian inscriptions and from spies' reports found in Assyrian archives.

The Urartu kingdom suffered heavily from Cimmerian raids and from the campaigns of the Assyrian kings, notably Shalmaneser I, Shalmaneser III and Sargon II. The main temple at Mushashir was sacked and the Urartan king Rusa was defeated by Sargon at Lake Urmin in 714 BC. The kingdom of Urartu was destroyed by Scythians from the North in 585 BC. Many Urartu ruins show evidence of destruction by fire. After the disappearance of Urartu as a political entity, the Armenians dominated the ancient highlands, absorbing portions of the previous Urartian culture in the process.

Urartu archaological sites include Altintepe, Toprakkale, Patnos and Cavustepe. Urartu fortresses are found Van, Anzaf, Cavustepe and Baskale.

The existence of Urartu was forgotten by the 5th century AD. It was not rediscovered until historical and archaeological work done in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Urartian ruins were generally assumed to be Assyrian.

Economy and politics

The people of Urartu were mostly farmers. They were experts in stone architecture; they may have introduced the blind arch to the Near East, and their houses may have been the precursor of the Persian apadana layout. They were also experts in metalworking, and exported metal vessels to Phrygia and Etruria. Excavations have yielded two-storied residential houses with internal wall decorations, windows, and balconies. Their towns generally had well-developed water supply (often taken from far away) and sewage systems.

Their king was also the chief-priest or envoy of Khaldi, their major deity. Some Khaldi temples were part of the royal palace complex while others were independent structures. Other deities included Teisheba, god of the heavens (the Teshshub of the Hurrians and Khurits), and Shiwini, the sun goddess.


The Urartians spoke an agglutinative language, conventionally called Urartian, which was related to Hurrian in the Hurro-Urartian family, and was neither Semitic nor Indo-European. It had close linguistic similarities to Northeast Caucasian languages. Some scholars also place it in the Alarodian family, based on linguistic similarities with Northeast Caucasian languages. There is also possibly a connection between Urartian and the modern Georgian language.

The Urartu language was originally written using locally-developed hieroglyphics, but the Urartians adapted the Assyrian cuneiform script for most purposes. After the 8th century BC, the hieroglyphic script was restricted to religious and accounting purposes. Currently, samples of Urartian written language have survived in many inscriptions found in the area of Urartu kingdom.

See also


  • Boris B. Piotrovsky, The Ancient Civilization of Urartu (tranlated from Russian by James Hogarth), New York:Cowles Book Company, 1969
  • Giorgi Melikishvili, Nairi-Urartu (a monograph in Russian), Tbilisi, 1955.
  • Giorgi Melikishvili, About the history of ancient Georgia (a monograph in Russian), Tbilisi, 1959.
  • R.-B. Wartke, Urartu, das Reich am Ararat (in German), Mainz: Zabern, 1993.
  • Paul Zimansky, Ecology and Empire: The Structure of the Urartian State, [Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization], Chicago: Oriental Institute, 1985.

External links

  • An Urartian Ozymandias (http://www.asor.org/pubs/nea/ba/Zimansky.html) - article by Paul Zimansky, Biblical Archaeologist

hy:Ուրարտու nl:Urartu ja:ウラルトゥ pl:Urartu


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