The Ziggurat's Courtyard

The courtyard of the ziggurat encompasses the area between the inner enclosure wall and the ziggurat building. The courtyard surface has been largely paved with bricks and brick shards.

The inner enclosure wall of Dūr Untaš, made of mud brick and a little amount of construction waste, encircles the ziggurat. The wall’s major part measuring 530 m in length has remained up to now. Six gates had been constructed on this 2.5-meter-thick wall.  

Figure 1: Inner enclosure wall, by Mehrdad Misaghian

The northeastern courtyard, which is the vastest one at the ziggurat, is considered to have been for commoners’ pilgrimage and ritual practice. There also is a podium in this courtyard leading to the ziggurat’s northeastern gate on one side and the gates of the first enclosure wall by a wholesome fine mud-brick pavement. There are three more square-shaped podia decorated with various glazed bricks in this courtyard as well. There are vestiges of a Postament in a circular shape on the courtyard surface. Postament are in fact circular brick pedestals probably used for putting inscriptions or statues on them. In this courtyard, next to the ziggurat’s entrance staircase, there are remains of a well for water disposal.

Figure 2: Northeastern courtyard, by Mehrdad Misaghian

In the northwestern courtyard, two wells had been dug to collect water coming through the gutters. There are also two altars with glazed-brick decoration for offerings here across from the ziggurat’s entrance staircase. Remains of an inscribed stone tablet have been recovered from one of these altars. In the central part of this courtyard was a circular brick construction known as Postament. The brick construction is 3.5 m in diameter and stands 124 cm high.  

Figure 3: Northwestern courtyard, by Mehrdad Misaghian

A set of temples, shrines, and relevant workshops dedicated to Elamite goddesses, Napiriša (Gal), Kiririša and Išnikarab, have been built in the northeastern courtyard. These temples are considered the most important ones built at Dūr Untaš. Gal temple, the first temple outside of the wall, has 6 rooms. These rooms surround a central court. The temple measures 21.5×17. Comparing to other temples, less objects have been found from this temple. Further to the west, there is a building complex including Išnikarab temple, three T-shaped rooms, eastern Kiririša temple, and western Kiririša temple.

The two temples, that of Kiririša and that of Inšušinak, are the only temples given a brick face; this shows the significance of these two temples. Inscribed bricks in the walls, entrances and podia of Išnikarab and Kiririša temples tell us about their construction by Untaš Napiriša and their dedication to the aforementioned goddesses. Among all the temples here, Kiririša is the elaborate one having some annexes added to it over a timespan. It has sumptuous corridors, kitchen, treasury, and two ornamented glazed brick podia. There is a niche and three chapels here where the highest numbers of Tchogha Zanbil cylinder seals were discovered.

 Gal and Išnikarab temples had staircases giving an access to the temple top.

In Kiririša temple, plenty of mace heads with the name of Untaš Napiriša engraved on most of them were discovered.

Figure 4: A view of the northwestern temples, by Mehrdad Misaghian

The southeastern courtyard is rectangular and smaller than the other ones. Ghirshman believed the access to the topmost temple had been possible through the staircase of this part of the ziggurat. Another Postament with about 4 m in diameter and 54 cm in height had been made using bricks. There are four niches on the four sides of the Postament. In the southwestern courtyard, across from the Postament there is a niche and three small chapels. From these chapels recovered cylinders made of stone or glass paste, armor pieces, bronze daggers, animal figurines such as that of a boar, a bull and a pigeon.  

Figure 5: A view of the southwestern courtyard from the ziggurat

In the southeastern courtyard, opposite the ziggurat gate, there are 14 podia measuring 25 cm high in two successive rows. These sloping podia have been made of mud bricks. A crock had been embedded in the courtyard ground across from the podia. Ghirshman regarded these podia as altars for sacrificing animals.

Figure 6: Southeastern courtyard, by Mehrdad Misaghian

At each side of the staircases of the northwestern, southwestern, and southeastern gates as well as one gate at the northeastern staircase, there are wells for disposing of waters flowing from the ziggurat gutters and waterways. These wells have supposedly been made when constructing the ziggurat and left functionless after sediment accumulation. Renovating brick pavements of the courtyard has covered and hidden these wells. It appears that after the wells lost function, the disposed waters would flow over the sloping courtyard to the south and then exited through the southern gate.