The rock of Van in Eastern Turkey

Paul Zimansky, in an article on Rusa II, the seventh century B.C. king of Urartu, describes the extent of the territory:

“The kingdom that Rusa controlled in the second quarter of the seventh century BCE stretched across the mountainous terrain of eastern Anatolia approximately eight hundred miles from east to west and five hundred from north to south” (“An Urartian Ozymandias,” Biblical Archaeologist, June, 1995, 94).

Dr. Oktay Belli says the name Urartu is not an ethnic term but a geographical one meaning “mountainous terrain” (The Capital of Urartu: Van, 20). Prior to the Urartians, this region was the home of the Hurrians.

There is a small museum in Van (unless enlarged since my last visit). Many inscriptions in the cuneiform language which the Urartians borrowed from the Assyrians are displayed. There were several pieces of gold jewelry and works of bronze on exhibit.

Urartian Ivory. British Museum.

Urartian Ivory. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The British Museum displays some Urartian pottery and ivories. The sign under this ivory piece reads,

Ivory objects were prized luxury items throughout the Near East. Some were made in Urartu and elephant tusks are listed by the Assyrians as booty from Urartian temples and palaces.

The photo below shows the castle or rock of Van. It is the site of Tushpa, an ancient city of the Urartians.

The Rock of Van, ancient Tushpa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Rock of Van, ancient Tushpa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tushpa, the ancient city of the Urartians, was built on this rock, which provides a commanding view over the lake, and at the base of the rock. At the beginning of the 20th century the city of Van was built over the ancient ruins, but was destroyed by the Russians in 1916. The area now is nothing more than a grassy knoll. On the side of the rock and at the top there are inscriptions, the tombs of eighth and ninth century B.C. Urartian kings, and ruins of a temple. A short distance from Van is another site called Toprakkale which marks the Urartian fortress of Rusahinili.

We know that the Assyrians were a threat to the kingdoms of Israel and Judah for about two hundred years. It is impressive to know that they also maintained an active engagement with the kingdom of Urartu closer to home. The distance from Nineveh to Tushpa on Lake Van is about 150 miles in a straight line. Think much further by mountainous road.

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