From Shush to Chogha Zanbil: A Journey through Ancient Elam

Shush, the world's oldest city, was established around 5000 BC as a religious center for the inhabitants of the Khuzestan plain. The ancient city is known as the oldest in the world because urban life has continued there since its inception.
What is Shush known for historically?

Shush, historically known as Susa, is one of the oldest known settlements in the world. It served as a key religious and political center for the ancient civilization of Elam and later became an important city for successive empires, including the Persian and Parthian Empires. The site is famous for its archaeological remains, including the grand Apadana Palace and the ancient ziggurat, Chogha Zanbil.

Chogha Zanbil is one of the few extant ziggurats outside of Mesopotamia. Originally built by King Untash-Napirisha around 1250 BC, the site was dedicated to the Elamite divinities and is notable for its magnificent, well-preserved structure. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its historical and architectural significance.

Shush has been crucial in the study of ancient Near Eastern civilizations. Excavations have uncovered numerous artifacts, inscriptions, and structures that provide insight into Elamite culture, as well as the broader interactions between the major civilizations of Iran and Mesopotamia.

Yes, visitors can explore the ruins of the Apadana Palace, which was built by Darius I in the 6th century BC. The palace is famous for its grandiose architecture, including massive columns and exquisite relief sculptures depicting the diverse subjects of the Achaemenid Empire.

Visitors to Shush should prepare for hot and arid weather conditions, especially during summer. It’s advisable to carry water, wear sun protection, and visit during the cooler parts of the day. Hiring a local guide can greatly enhance the experience as they can provide detailed historical context and help navigate the extensive site.

Frequently Asked Questions: Exploring Shush

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Archaeological Insights

Archaeological excavations show that this area was inhabited by farmers around 9000 BC. They left remnants of their lives, now discovered in various ancient mounds. Around 5000 BC, people lived in a fortress in this place, and from 4000 BC, life in Shush became urbanized.

Geographical and Historical Significance

Located between the Karkheh and Dez rivers, this area was the political capital of the Elamites. The Elamite fortress was situated on a hill in the center of Shush, upon which the French later built a new fort. Adjacent to it is the royal mound, possibly a ziggurat, and the artisans’s bank is nearby.

Conquests and Reigns

Ashurbanipal conquered the city of Shush between 465 and 460 BC and leveled it like other Assyrian conquests. Darius I of the Achaemenid Empire rebuilt the town and established his Apadana Palace on the royal mound. Xerxes also lived in Shush. During the time of Ardeshir I, a significant fire they destroyed most of Shush’s structures. The remnants of these ancient sites were unearthed in the 20th century.

Elam: Land of the Gods

Elam is the Assyrian pronunciation of the land “Haltamti” in the Elamite language, meaning “Land of the Gods.” This city has long been the cradle of the birth and expansion of great civilizations, which now have a lasting presence in history.

The Reign of Various Empires

The Elamites, Assyrians, Achaemenids, Seleucids, Parthians, Babylonians, and Sassanids ruled in this historical city. The ancient site of Shush in the town of Shush covers a vast area that includes various architectural structures from prehistoric times to the Islamic era.

The Majestic Apadana Palace

The Apadana Palace is one of the grandest palaces and is world-renowned, being one of the most unique ancient structures in the world. The Apadana Palace was built by order of Darius the Great, an Achaemenid king, on top of Elamite ruins between 521 and 515 BC in Shush.

Chogha Zanbil: A Testament to Ancient Elam

Chogha Zanbil is an ancient Elamite complex in the Khuzestan province of Iran. Dating back to approximately 1250 BC, it is one of the best-preserved ziggurats in the world. Commissioned by the Elamite king Untash-Napirisha, this architectural marvel was dedicated to the Elamite gods. Its unique structure and historical significance have earned it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The site offers valuable insights into the ancient Elamite civilization’s religious, cultural, and architectural practices.

Notable Attractions in Shush

The French Castle, ancient mounds of Apadana, Shush Museum, Shapur Palace, Haft Tepe, Haft Tepe Museum, Shush Castle, and the Tomb of the Prophet Daniel are among the prominent historical sites in this ancient city.