Turkey, Urartian Ayanis castle

Turkish archaeologists restore a 2,700-year-old Urartian castle

Located on a hill by Lake Van in eastern Turkey, Ayanis Castle is one of the best preserved sites of the Urartian civilisation, which dominated the region after the Hittites.

Turkish archaeologists are restoring stone inscriptions at Ayanis Castle, a fortification built by King Russia II of the ancient Kingdom of Urartu 2,700 years ago on a hill overlooking Lake Van in eastern Turkey.

Excavations and restoration works on this castle, built with baked clay walls and one of the best preserved in the Kingdom of Urartu (formed after the fall of the Hittite Empire) began 31 years ago. This year a team of 30 archaeologists and experts is working in the area under the direction of Mehmet Işıklı, professor of archaeology at Atatürk University.

As part of the works, the inscribed stones are being placed in their original place in the Haldi Temple, one of the most sacred places during the Urartian era. Speaking to the Anatolian Agency, Işıklı explained that his aim was to expose the secrets of the last great castle of the Urartians. “Our target is the Temple of Haldi, which is the most important part of the castle, and the buildings attached to it,” he said.

One of the best preserved places of the Urartian civilisation

Affirming that the Ayanis area is one of the best preserved places of the urartian civilization, Işıklı noted that the main temple, the podium hall and the extraordinary inscriptions and stonework are intact. “Especially the temple, there are walls decorated with ornaments known as intaglio, made by carving the stone, which are unique,” said the expert, who assured that they would like to open the castle to tourism.

“There are alabaster decorated with extraordinary quality. We have had to carry out a very important stone restoration in this area,” insisted Işıklı. “We plan to create an open-air museum that protects the entire area around the temple with a roof, and that displays the sacred values ​​of Urartians and exposes their culture,” he explained.

For her part, Ayşegül Akın Aras, a research assistant in the Department of Archaeology at Atatürk University, referred to the delicate and meticulous work to reconstruct the original stone inscriptions made using the intaglio technique on the temple walls. “The Urartians carved the stone blocks and put different ornaments according to their religious customs. Once the original stones are in place, the temple will be ready for tourism in all its glory,” she said.