One of the most important results of the excavation of Iron Age Hasanlu is the recovery of well-preserved architectural remains dating to the 9th century B.C., including buildings, gates, courtyards, and roadways. These structures, destroyed by a catastrophic fire, provide a closed context for thousands of artifacts buried in their ruins and afford an opportunity to examine the way in which various areas within the settlement were used. Patterns in artifact distribution may be observed not only at the ground floor level, but also in the collapsed remains of second floors. The buildings themselves show evidence of a long history, providing a view of the local evolution of architectural forms over a period of four or five centuries, beginning in the late 2nd millennium B.C.
Hasanlu Tepe is located in the Solduz valley at the southwest corner of Lake Urmia in Azerbaijan province, Iran (Fig. 24). The site consists of two distinct topographic zones: a high, flat-topped mound (or “tepe” in Persian), and a lower mounded area (see Dyson, “Rediscovering Hasanlu,” Fig. 1, this issue). For convenience, the central high mound has generally been referred to as the “Citadel Mound” and the low surrounding area as the “Outer Town”—even though the function of each area changed through time—a usage found in some of the articles in this issue. These descriptive names are misleading for Hasanlu periods V and IV, when the “Citadel Mound” was not strongly fortified and the “Outer Town” was probably not inhabited, but instead used as a cemetery. Within this article, therefore, we will use the terms “High Mound” and “Lower Mound.”
The entire site represents occupational debris built up in superimposed layers. The earliest Iron Age occupation, which began shortly after 1500 B.C., is represented by archaeological remains referred to as Hasanlu period V; these lay beneath later buildings and debris dating to between the 12th and 9th centuries B.C., called period IV. By 1977, the last season Lower Mound have encountered the remains of the Bronze Age settlement, which was considerably larger than Iron Age Hasanlu. Cut into these Bronze Age deposits were Iron Age cemeteries, the graves of the people of Hasanlu who died in the late 2nd and early 1st millennium (periods V and IVC-B; Fig. 3).
As we have noted, Hasanlu period IVB ended with a disastrous fire. This was the aftermath of a battle, graphically documented by abandoned weapons and human casualties. The IVB destruction has been placed at the end of the 9th century or the early 8th century by a large series of radiocarbon dates (Dyson and Muscarella 1989). Inscriptions found in the Lake Urmia area raise the possibility that this event occurred when the Ushnu-Solduz valley was annexed by the Urartian kings Ishpuini and Menua around 800 B.C. in their drive to expand their political boundaries southward. Their chief opponents were the Assyrians located west of Hasanlu across the Zagros mountains (see Schneider, this issue).
In the light of this historical information, it is interesting to observe that during the 9th century, imported Assyrian artifacts and their imitations occur with some frequency at Hasanlu (see introduction, Marcus, Pigott, this issue). At the same time, a high level of prosperity was enjoyed, as evidenced by the presence of a great amount of metal, including gold, silver, antimony, bronze, and iron, as well as other precious materials such as amber, glass, and ivory (Fig. 8; see also Muscarella 1980). This wealth is associated with the presence of a powerful resident authority at Hasanlu, as indicated by the large volume of stone brought to the site for the foundations of large-scale brick buildings—an effort that required command of a considerable labor force.
The archaeological evidence from the Solduz valley as a whole suggests that during the lion Age the ruling elite and those serving it lived in several lightly walled centers spread across the valley, each surrounded by good agricultural land. The bulk of the population, however, was dispersed. One small Hasanlu IV settlement has been discovered on a hillside; other small occupation sites may lie buried beneath the thick layer of alluvial soil that has accumulated in the valley during the past 3000 years (as was the case at Hajji Firuz Tepe; see Voigt 1983). It is also probable that a significant part of the population contributing labor and perhaps other products to the local elite was not sedentary at all: part of the population may have lived in tents and moved seasonally with herds of domesticated animals. The existence of nomadic or semi-nomadic groups would explain the presence of Iron Age cemeteries on so many of the small mounds in the Ushnu-Solduz valley—ancient sites that were not occupied during this period. Since there are cemeteries attached to the larger settlements such as Hasanlu, the notion of a nonsedentary population to account for these small isolated cemeteries.
The Approach to the Hasanlu IV Buildings
During the late 8th and 7th century B.C. (Hasanlu period IIIB), the victorious Urartians built a massive defensive fortress on the High Mound, capable of holding the site as a fixed strongpoint on their southern frontier. This fortress indicates a major change in military strategy from the preceding period. During Hasanlu period IV the buildings on the High Mound were protected only by lightly built outer walls. Judging by the amount of equestrian equipment (see de Schauensee, this issue), mounted troops and chariots probably formed the main defense.
Evidence for the outer enclosure wall of Hasanlu period IV has been obliterated in most places by the subsequent construction of the Urartian wall. At present, the only architectural evidence for such an enclosure is a meter-wide wall running up the western slope of the High Mound to its crest, bordering the outermost road of the entry system, and extending on uphill (Fig. 4). We do not know the original height of this narrow wall, but masses of sheep and goat bones were dumped over it, suggesting that it may not have been very high.
Access to the settlement was controlled by a triple road system, could be undertaken when needed. A strategy relying on pitched battles outside the town might also explain why so few soldiers with equipment were found slain within the settlement at the time of its destruction (see Muscarella, this issue).
A road system apparently built to facilitate the movement of equestrian troops and chariots during Hasanlu period IV raises an interesting question. Cavalry was first added to the Assyrian army during the 9th century, in the reign of King Assurnasirpal II (883-859 B.C.). The Hasanlu IV road system was constructed before this time, in period IVC. Was the adoption of cavalry by the Assyrians perhaps inspired by military practices in northwest Iran?
To the east of the road system at the top of the mound lay a series of buildings running along a north-south line. At the beginning of period IV (IVC), this line was discontinuous. A single large structure, Burned Building VI, stood just to the east of the roadway exits, with its entrance facing east toward a broad open area (Fig. 4). This structure had one room with two rows of three columns; benches lined the three preserved walls and probably the fourth (destroyed by the foundation trench for the later Urartian wall). Lying at some distance to the northeast of Burned Building VI stood a large residential structure, Burned Building III, which also faced into the central open area at this time Burned Building III consisted of. a large hall (9 by 11 m) with two columns, a kitchen and storerooms along the sides and back of this hall, and an anteroom; a stairway led from the anteroom to the second floor (Fig. 6a). In the columned hall was a central hearth aligned with the doorway and a platform at the rear of the room, and benches lining the walls.
After a fire, which damaged some of the period IVC buildings, new structures were erected along a line drawn between Burned Buildings III and VI and extending to the south (Fig. 6b). These new period I VB buildings effectively formed a barrier between the road-ways on the west and the open unbuilt area to the east. Starting at the northern end of this line, Burned Building III was enlarged by the addition of a portico, kitchen rooms, and an enclosed courtyard and gate. Set between the northeast corner of Burned Building VII and the southwest corner of Burned Building III was a double gateway. Burned Building VII was a long, narrow corridor building, with a stairway at its northern end. A foot passage through its southern end led from the eastern roadway to an open area of the settlement (Fig. 4). Although the northern end of Burned Building VII had been badly disturbed in later periods, the evidence suggests that there may have been a 4-meter-wide entrance from the west—an open area that could have been used for the marshalling of troops and chariots.
The broad entrance hypothesized for Burned Building VII, suitable for chariots, suggests that we may be looking at a 9th century garage—a storage area for chariots adjacent to an assembly area, and in close proximity to the road system. If stables for horses were also in this area, they could have been located in the triangular area between the outer wall, Burned Building VII, and Burned Building III (Fig. 6b). A double gate between Buildings III and VII suggests that there was significant traffic between this relatively small triangle and the central open area to the east. If stables are ruled out, one might suggest that a barracks was located here. Unfortunately, the period IV remains were totally destroyed by later construction, so that the use of this area will remain an open question.
Just to the south of Burned Building VI was another broad gate with a 4-meter-wide passage presumably for chariots (Fig. 6b). This had buttressed facades in Assyrian style. When the gate was built, the eastern roadway must have been altered so that chariots could turn and pass through the gate into the central area. This change is only partially documented, however, since the area where the road must have turned has not been completely excavated The new Chariot Gate stood directly opposite another equally wide gate that led into the Lower Court with its major buildings (see below). The open area between the gates had a hard-packed gravel surface, as determined through test excavations.
The Arrangement of Major Buildings and Courts
The most important of the excavated Iron Age buildings lie on the southern half of the High Mound. The three oldest, initially constructed in period IVC, are Burned Buildings II, IV-East, and V (Fig. 6a). At the present state of analysis, it is not possible to determine their order of construction, but there are some clues to be drawn from their relative position and orientation. Thus it might be argued that Burned Building IV-East was built after Burned Building V, since it seems unlikely that as special a building as V (see below) would have been sited so that it faced the blank wall of another structure at a time when there was no need for crowding.
Building Plans and Alterations
While each of the larger buildings surrounding the Lower Court during Hasanlu IV incorporated a basic plan, with central hall, anteroom, and stairway, the details of each building varied. In the earlier IVC phase, for example, Burned Building IV-East had a 5-meterwide internal doorway made with three pairs of wooden columns, joining the western anteroom to the central columned hall (Fig. 11). When this structure was rebuilt in period IVB, the doorway was bricked in and partially blocked by two newly positioned columns within the hall, leaving only a small entrance.
In the case of Burned Building V an even more basic change occurred. During period IVC this building had a 7-meter-wide opening in the east wall of its columned hall; this opening had four pairs of wooden columns set on a brick sill about 30 cm above floor level (Fig. 6a). What this opening faced to the east we do not know, since later (period IVB) construction filled in that area; but looking through the opening into the central hall during period IVC, one would have seen what appears to have been a central altar (Fig. 9). The altar was a brick block on which stood a tall pinnacle, the latter formed by the accumulation of more than a hundred distinct layers of burned plaster. These layers indicate a repeated process of burning and replastering.
The altar itself stood in the center of the columned hall. It was aligned not only with the eastern opening, but also with the primary north-south axis of the building, set between two rows of wooden columns and lined up with a low platform set against the south wall of the room. During the period IVB rebuilding, the eastern opening was almost entirely bricked up, leaving only a small doorway at its north end. Additional wooden columns were placed asymmetrically along the eastern and western sides of the hall, apparently added to strengthen the structure (Fig. 10). With the eastern opening blocked, the room was completely reoriented to its north-south axis. Clearly the original function of the room had been given up, a change that is confirmed by the condition of the room and its contents at the time of the period IVB fire (see below).
Another important change made in period 1VB was the addition of an exterior portico to Burned Building 1I, and to Burned Buildings IV and IV-East (as well as to Burned Building III in the northwest). The new double portico of Burned Building IV and IV-East formed a unified facade at the north end of the Lower Court, facing Burned Building II. Each portico had three pairs of wooden columns that helped to support the floor and facade of a second floor room or porch. Additional columns flanked these pairs at the front of both porticos, providing additional support for the superstructure and helping to enhance the openings (Fig. 10). Undecorated stone stelae, over 4.5 m in height and set into prepared sockets, stood against the front wall of the double portico and against the party wall in the center (Fig. 12). These three stelae (as well as those in front of Burned Building 1I, described below) were of unshaped, naturally bedded limestone from nearby hilts, the same material used for the stairway to the Upper Court.
The portico added to the rebuilt Burned Building II was similar to those of Burned Buildings IV and IV-East. It was also made of three pairs of wooden columns with an additional column at the front on either side. The Burned Building II portico was unique, however, in having at its center a great stone slab that formed a meter-high platform mounted by small stone steps in front and at the side (Fig. 14). Set on this platform in front of the paired wooden portico columns was a limestone stele 1.5 m high, found standing erect; lying flat before the stele was a smooth, waterworn slab of bluish-grey stone (Fig. 14). Another stele, broader than that on the platform and only 0.9 m high (although perhaps incomplete), had been placed on a low mud-brick bench against the back wall of the portico, aligned with the platform stele. A third limestone stele, 3 m high with an asymmetrically pointed top, stood against the outer facade of Burned Building II.
The Upper Court with its flanking buildings appears to have been a wholly new installation built in period IV (Fig. 10). The porticos of both Burned Buildings I-East and -West, as well as the flanking buttressed facades (features added onto the older buildings), formed part of the initial plan. The size of rooms and the layout of Burned Building IV-East indicate that it was a service building, while the layout of Burned Building I-West repeats the large formal columned hall system seen in other buildings. The use of stepped niches in the anteroom and in the columned hall is a special feature of Burned Building I-West; also unique is a paved “seat” in a bench facing the fireplace in the northeast corner of the columned hall.
These two buildings (I-West and I-East) are characterized by relatively easy access, especially when compared with the Lower Court and its structures. The entrance to the Upper Court leads from an open area to the north and is made inviting by its width and the broad stairs that lead up to the adjacent buildings. From the Upper Court one has access both to the Lower Court (by means of a door in Burned Building I-East) and to smaller buildings lying to the south through a door at the south end of the court. These architectural attributes suggest that the Upper Court buildings served a more public purpose than those of the Lower Court. Burned Building I-West may well have functioned as the seat of secular power within the community of Hasanlu IVB. Although few artifacts were preserved within this building, they are compatible with this hypothesis based on plan and architectural decoration (see below).
As part of its basic layout, each of the major Iron Age buildings at Hasanlu included a spiral stairway leading to a second story or to the roof (Fig. 10). The stairs were all built around a central column of brick set on a free-standing stone foundation. The lower part of the stairway was of solid brick; the upper part was supported by corbeled vaulted brickwork, as evidenced by the stairway in Burned Building IV-V, which was preserved almost to the second floor level. Exactly the same structure with comparable dimensions may be seen today in stairways in Malyan village in southwestern Iran. Nine such stairways have now been found at Hasanlu, dating to periods V and IV.
The presence of these staircases, combined with the height of fallen brick walls and concentrations of artifacts lying over fallen ceiling remains, raises questions about the nature of the second floor plan of these buildings and of the function of rooms on the upper floor level. To assist us in thinking about these problems, Thomas Applequist, one of the Hasanlu Project architects, built a model of the southern complex (Fig. 17). This model is based on the available evidence, conservatively interpreted. For example, the excavated evidence indicated a minimum height of 7 m for the side walls of the columned hall in Burned Building II, but other buildings may have been lower. Ink the mode! Applequist has made all of the columned halls this same height, recognizing that in reality they probably varied.
Each wall consisted of a freestanding, uncut stone foundation 1 m high, supporting a sun-dried brick superstructure that was preserved an additional 2 m in some areas. From the basic plan it is possible to build up the first story of the model. The placement of the columns in the model is especially useful in considering changes in structure due to the remodeling after the first fire (end of period IVC). Even so, a series of questions arise that are not easily answered. For example, what was the height of the paired columns in the porticos? Were they a monumental two stories in height, or were they a single story with a lintel across? If the latter, was the upper facade an open balcony, a solid wall, or a wall with windows? What was the location of doors on the second floor? What were the room plans? What kind of roof was used, gabled or flat? If it was flat, what was the relationship between the height of the surrounding rooms and that of the columned hall? Was there access to the roof? The choice of answers to these questions dramatically alters the appearance and the functional understanding of any resulting reconstruction, as may be seen by efforts applied at various times to other ancient buildings, for example those at Persepolis in the south of Iran (Trümpelmann 1988).
Artifact Distributions as Clues to Building Function
Architectural evidence, including the model, has provided some hypotheses and a set of questions about the way in which the Hasanlu IV buildings were used. These ideas must ultimately be viewed against other kinds of evidence to provide confirmation and perhaps a new set of questions and answers. We realized when first considering the question of building function that important information was to be found in the stratigraphic context and distribution patterns of artifacts within the ruined structures. Initially, stratigraphic evidence allowed us to separate artifacts found lying on the ground floor from those lying in the collapsed second floor debris. At my request, the Hasanlu registrar, Mary Virginia Harris, began plotting artifacts on two plans of the southern buildings, one for each floor level. During this process, patterns in the distribution of materials and artifact types, as well as distinctive artifact clusters, began to emerge. The distributions completed, it is now possible to say a good deal about the differences between first and second floor levels in each building, and about differences in the use of individual rooms and buildings.
As an example of this approach, let us examine the distribution of selected ornamental items in Burned Building II (Fig. IBa, b). On the first floor are a few pieces of ivory inlay, charred pieces of shaped wood, copper furniture attachments, a tall iron lamp with tripod feet, and red deer skulls complete with antlers. The wooden items included inlaid plank fragments and lathe-turned legs from a piece of furniture; some of the inlays and copper attachments also probably came from other pieces of furniture used in the columned hall. Two ivory inlays in the shape of eyes had a very different function, and may provide an additional key for the interpretation of the room and its contents: using texts from Mesopotamia, these inlays may be interpreted as the eyes of a cult figure, a deity who resided in Burned Building II (Fig. 20).
Ornamental artifacts from the second floor collapse included a great many glazed wall tiles, a large quantity of ivory inlay and fragments of wooden inlay preserved by charring, and other wood and ivory fragments. From this second floor distribution we conclude that decorative wall tiles, additional pieces of furniture, small ivory boxes, and wood and ivory statuettes were stored on the southeastern and eastern second floor side of the building (above rooms 10, 11, and 6).
Another pattern is provided by small- and medium-sized containers made of copper, plain or glazed pottery, and large storage jars or pithoi. The latter, not surprisingly, are all confined to the first floor level and to storerooms along the western side of Burned Building II (rooms 13, 14; Fig. 19a, b). Smaller vessels in a variety of materials appear to have been stored in a small room on the west side of the building (room 15), and small ceramic pots were also found in rooms 8 and 9. A line of small pottery vessels in the columned hall suggests storage on a shelf or along the bench on the west side of the hall. The location of other containers on the first floor corresponds to the general location of bodies of men, women, and children crowded at the north end of the room. Unlike victims found elsewhere on the High Mound, these people were all wearing clothing and ornaments, and were apparently carrying small objects when they were crushed by the collapse of the burning building. Under these circumstances, the location of artifacts on the first floor of Burned Building 1I (and other buildings as well) may not always represent original patterns of storage or use. The same comment applies to small artifacts found on the paving in the Lower Court outside Burned Building II, which were apparently dropped as they were being carried during the sacking of the surrounding buildings.
When we turn to the distribution of containers on the second floor of Burned Building 1I, we find an interesting contrast to the first floor. We may first note that all of the stone containers found in this building come from the second floor. These include a vessel bearing the name of a Kassite king, Kadashman-Enlil (Pigott, Fig. 16, this issue); two kings of this name ruled in southern Mesopotamia, dating the container between ca. 1360 and 1255 B.C. This fragment, along with several other objects dated to the late 2nd millennium, may have arrived at the site in period V, and if so, would represent heirlooms already several centuries old at the time of their accidental burial at the end of the 9th century (Fig. 21). The existence of such heirlooms is demonstrated by the presence of two stone mace-heads belonging to the King of Susa, Tan-Ruhurater, who ruled ca. 2100 B.C. Given the evidence of cultural continuity between periods V and IV, and given the history of deposits at other religious centers in the ancient Near East, it is possible that such objects arrived at the site long before the 9th century. Alternatively, it is also possible that these objects were already old when they arrived at Hasanlu. Such old objects, given to the Hasanlu temple by the Assyrians, would have reflected a high regard for their provincial friends or allies; in Assyria such items were valued antiques, linked to ancient rulers and deities.
Small glazed containers were concentrated in the same area as the glazed wall tiles with which they were apparently stored (see Dyson, “Rediscovering Hasanlu,” Fig. 10a,b). The near absence of glazed objects elsewhere at the site and the storage of these objects with other luxury goods in Burned Building H indicate the relative value of glazed pottery at this time at Hasanlu. Metal containers were also found in fair number on the second floor, toward the front of the building above the northeastern storerooms (rooms 9, 8). A beautiful lion-shaped censer, made of a glass compound known as Egyptian blue and covered with gold leaf, had fallen into the west end of the anteroom (Fig. 22).
The distribution of containers in Burned Building I-West is quite different from that in Burned Building II. The contents of the first floor of this building are not well known, due to earth removal toward the and artifact distributions, we can begin to draw some additional inferences. For example, both Burned Buildings IV-East and V are large buildings with the same general plan as Burned Buildings II and I-West. Moreover, the presence of what appears to be a fire altar in Burned Building V suggests that it may originally (that is, during period IVC) have served a ritual function of some kind. Burned Buildings IV-East and V were significantly remodeled during their occupation, and from plan alone we have suggested a change in function.
This is confirmed by differences in the nature of the floor deposits from one building to another. At the time of the destruction, the floors of the Burned Building I complex and Burned Building II were kept quite clean. The floors of Burned Buildings IV-East and V, however, were covered with an accumulation of rich black organic soil containing numerous bones of cattle. Lying on this deposit were the skeletons of horses who fell victim to the fire, and some areas of the floor were colored green, a stain commonly associated with latrine deposits. These data alone suggest a radical difference in the use of Burned Buildings IV-East and V in period IVB as compared to IVC (when the formal columned halls were presumably kept clean). Artifact distributions provide more detail on the use of these two structures during period IVB. The objects found in these trash-filled older buildings as well as in the connecting Burned Building IV-V included elaborate horse gear: head stalls made up of bosses, bits and cheekpieces, pendants and bells, and necklaces of glazed beads, along with a number of equestrian breastplates (see de Schauensee, this issue). The second floor level of Burned Building IV-V, between the two older columned hall buildings, seems to have been a storage area for similar equipment, as well as medium-sized pottery jars and pieces of textiles. There can be no question that in period IVB in this location we are dealing with storerooms of equestrian equipment and perhaps stables. Whether the horses killed in these columned halls were normally kept there or in some structure further east in the unexcavated area behind Building IV-V remains to be determined by excavation in the future.
Architecture as Symbol at Hasanlu
After a quarter century of excavation and archaeological analysis, Hasanlu is as well “documented” as many contemporary Assyrian sites with texts. Because so much material was accidentally and suddenly buried, and thereby preserved, Hasanlu provides an almost unprecedented opportunity for the functional analysis of architectural units and of the settlement as a whole. The successful integration of this information with studies of technology and with art historical analyses—both represented in this issue of Expedition—will eventually provide a rich and multifaceted reconstruction of life in this part of Iran.
The study of architectural form and function has been a focus of archaeological research in the Near East since its inception. What is clear as a result of our analysis of the Hasanlu Iron Age architecture is the contribution that it can make to an understanding of broader cultural and historical questions. In this article, we have described the use of buttressed facades. This architectural device is of particular interest since it is commonly used in the architecture of Mesopotamia, where it is specifically placed at entrances to symbolize religious and royal power.
In Mesopotamia buttressed facades first appear on the exterior temple walls in the 4th millennium B.C. (as at Eridu); they were later used on walls enclosing courtyards or entry vestibules to temples (as at Khafajeh and Tell Asmar), as well as on some exterior palace walls (as at Kish) (see Amiet 1980). By the 2nd millennium such decorative elements were also commonly used on exterior palace walls and structures adjacent to religious precincts (as at Ur). This use of buttressed facades to mark enclosed courtyards or entries to temples and palace chapels in particular is clearly of a symbolic nature, setting the approach to such structures apart from ordinary domestic installations (Fig. 16).
At Hasanlu buttresses were used extensively in the rebuilding of period IVB, and the placement of these decorative and symbolic elements is clearly deliberate and systematic. Buttresses were employed on the side walls lining the Lower Court, on the exterior facade of the Lower Court Gate, on the facades of Burned Buildings IV-East and I-West flanking the Upper Court, and almost certainly on both side walls of Burned Building I-West. Along the western edge of the settlement, they are found on the Chariot Gate leading into the open area from the road system on the west slope of the mound, as a false front added to the eastern facade of Burned Building VI, on the eastern face of Burned Building VII, and on the gate structure linking Burned Building VII with an extended Burned Building III. This facing provided a continuous series of buttresses facing the open area in the center of the excavated area and the (buttressed) public buildings to the south.
The carefully placed buttressed walls employed in the rebuilding of Hasanlu period IVB almost certainly symbolize the political-religious nature of the major buildings. Their use shows a combination of older Mesopotamian architectural practices with traditional local forms, a combination that is seen also at sites of the Median period, such as Godin Tepe, Babajan, and Nush-i Jan in west central Iran, and at the later Persian capital of Persepolis (illustrated in Amiet 1980). Documentation of the systematic and purposeful use of architectural elements and organizational concepts drawn from Assyria during period IV is clearly as important as texts or artifact comparisons for the demonstration of close cultural contact between Hasanlu and its neighbor, and for understanding the changing economic and political system that we call Assyria.