Long-Lost Temple of Haldi Found in Iraqi Kurdistan?


Working in Iraqi Kurdistan, archaeologist Dlshad Marf Zamua has investigated what may be the remains of a long-lost Urartian temple. Photo: Dlshad Marf Zamua.

Archaeological fieldwork led by Leiden University doctoral student Dlshad Marf Zamua has investigated the remains of what may be a long-lost Iron Age temple in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Among the evidence Marf Zamua studied were seven life-size stone statues, several jars and pottery fragments, a small bronze statue of a wild goat and 17 column bases, which had been reused as stairs or seats by villagers in the town of Mdjeser in Iraqi Kurdistan. Marf Zamua published his findings in the archaeology journal Subartu.

In a Bible History Daily-exclusive report, the directors of the Kani Shaie Archaeological Project describe the preliminary results of the first systematic investigation of an Early Bronze Age site in Iraqi Kurdistan.



The column bases possibly belonging to an Urartian temple were reused by the villagers of Mdjeser. Photo: Dlshad Marf Zamua.

Marf Zamua dates the column bases, which are identical to temple columns at the Urartian site of Altıntepe and at other sites, to the 9th–7th centuries B.C. Marf Zamua believes that the columns from Mdjeser belong to the temple of a long-lost Urartian city.

Epigraphic evidence indicates that there was an Urartian holy city known as Ardini by the Urartians and as Muṣaṣir by the Assyrians. Ardini/Muṣaṣir is thought to have been one of the “buffer states” between Urartu and Assyria, rivaling powers of the day in Iron Age eastern Anatolia. Scholars believe that ancient Ardini/Muṣaṣir is located somewhere in the most northeastern corner of Iraq.

Urartian inscriptions record that a temple of Haldi, the chief god of Urartu, was built in Ardini/Muṣaṣir by the late ninth century B.C. A relief from the palace of Sargon II at Khorsabad depicts the plunder of Ardini/Muṣaṣir and its temple during the Assyrian king’s eighth campaign in 714 B.C. Based on his research, Marf Zamua contends that the ancient city of Ardini/Muṣaṣir can be found in the modern village of Mdjeser in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.


This drawing of a relief from Sargon II’s palace at Khorsabad depicts the sack of Ardini/Muṣaṣir and its temple.

Marf Zamua, who teaches at Salahaddin University in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, recently presented his findings at the 9th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East in Basel, Switzerland.

Read more about Marf Zamua’s research of the temple remains in his article in Subartu and in LiveScience.

From Babylon to Baghdad: Ancient Iraq and the Modern West examines the relationship between ancient Iraq and the origins of modern Western society. This free eBook, a collection of articles written by authoritative scholars, details some of the ways in which ancient Near Eastern civilizations have impressed themselves on Western culture. It examines the evolving relationship that modern scholarship has with this part of the world, and chronicles the present-day fight to preserve Iraq’s cultural heritage.


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