A complex of Urartian bronzes in RGZM’s collection (photo: RGZM / R. Müller).


A complex of Urartian bronzes in RGZM’s collection



deutsche Version

The kingdom of Urartu developed from the second half of the 9th century BC and was destroyed in the second half of the 7th century BC. Its vast territory included a large part of East Turkey, but also modern Iranian Azerbeijan, Armenia, the autonomous Republic of Nachicevan and a small part of Iraq. The ancient capital of Urartian kingdom was Tušpa, on the lakeshore of Lake Van in Eastern Turkey. In the ancient sources Urartu was depicted as a powerful adversary of the Assyrian Empire.

The Urartian collection of the RGZM includes a corpus composed by 870 bronze artefacts circa acquired during the 1970s and 1980s in the art market, sold as come from the same context. These items belong to seven functional categories that include: weapons, tools, horse harness, chariot fittings, furniture, vessels and belts. The main aims of it is firstly defined a catalogue of the Urartian bronzes with a focus on the technological features and metal analysis but also on inscription, pictogram, special decoration and comparisons with objects found in good archaeological contexts which allowed to establish a precise chronology and cultures observations. These comparisons are also important to circumscribe the geographical area from which the complex came, that possibly is close to Lake Van (Eastern Turkey). 

This bulk of material includes objects of major significance, some with royal ownership inscriptions related to King Išpuini (830-810 B.C.) and his son King Menua (810-785/780 B.C.). This means that these items are connected to the Urartian phase from which they started to use their own language and alphabet, while before they used the Assyrian’s one.

All these items were found destroyed on purpose, and showed similar patina; these features allow supposing that the objects came from the same found complex that may be a so-called “susi” temple. Furthermore some items showed on their owned patina imprints of other objects belonging to this complex. This aspect represents a proof that these items belong to the same complex and the way on which each objects were intentional destroyed is consistent with a votive offers possibly happened in a single time. Moreover, this systematic destruction, defines ritual practises, which took place in a precise moment (after the first half of 8th century BC), and is consistent with a sanctuary storage. Deposing gifts to the gods with kings’ inscriptions shows a group identity and the study of it will help to define better the social background and the cultural values of people performing these specifics votive practices in Urartian culture and will make a contribution to understand human votive practices in general.