Bronze Urartian Belt Proves Kingdom Extended Much Further North
The past four years of excavations in Turkey’s ancient city of Satala have produced many exciting finds. Perhaps the most remarkable of the artifacts discovered there so far are the ornate Urartian bronze belt fragments, belonging to a warrior from the Urartian period (9th-6th century BC).
According to the TRT Haber, the excavations of Satala, which is located in the Kelkit district of Gümüşhane province, are being carried out with the support of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the General Directorate of Museums, the Governorship of Gümüşhane and the Turkish Historical Society. Associate professor Şahin Yıldırım, is overseeing the dig.
The Satala site archaeologists unearthed structures belonging to the Roman imperial period including pottery fragments, stone figures, ceramic pots, and column fragments, galleries, tombs. Many objects dating to the early Bronze Age, early Iron Age, and early Christian period were also discovered at the site.
The Urartian bronze belt pieces were discovered inside a tomb in late 2021. They are decorated with images of the chief Urartian god Haldi, and intricate plant and animal motifs.
This ancient Urartian bronze belt, a rare artifact from the mysterious Urartu culture, was recently discovered in the ancient city known as Satala in Turkey. (TRT Haber)
What is most significant about this find is that is proves that the Urartian kingdom extended its northwestern boundaries right up to the northern Gümüşhane region. According to Arkeonews, until now scholars believed that the Urartu kingdom did not include the Black Sea region in northern Turkey.
A modern depiction of the god Ḫaldi based on Urartian originals, which was also found in the motifs on the Satala Urartian bronze belt (see image below). (liveon001 / CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Urartu Kingdom and the Urartian Bronze Belt
The Urartu kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of Van, was a Bronze Age and Iron Age civilization that developed around Lake Van in the Armenian highlands between the ninth and sixth centuries BC. At its height, it extended to what are now the regions of Armenia, eastern Anatolia in Turkey, and northwestern Iran. The kingdom controlled its considerable territories through the might of its army and a network of fortresses.
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Not much is known about the civilization because of a lack of written records. However, it was an early metalwork and craft center of the highest caliber. Since excavations started in the 19th century, many exceptional artifacts have been found that show just how skilled the Urartian metalworkers were. The kingdom only lasted a few centuries and disappeared rather abruptly in the sixth century BC due to causes that remain unknown.
The Urartian God Haldi: From Foreign Origins to Chief God
Haldi or Khaldi became the principle deity under Urartian king Ishpuini in the mid-ninth century BC. Haldi, however, was not a native Urartian god but likely of Akkadian origins. Not much is known about his functions, except that he was associated with war and military campaigns. He is often portrayed as a man, with or without wings, standing with a bull or lion, which were symbolic of his power.
Temples dedicated to Haldi had characteristic square towers with reinforced corners. Although many such temples were built in his honor, the main temple was in Musasir, believed to be near modern-day Rawandiz in Iraq, a fact again tying in with his supposed Akkadian roots.
Urartian kings also erected steles dedicated to Haldi, inscribed with their military successes. And Haldi was prominently featured on the buildings they commissioned.
On the rare Satala Urartian bronze belt one can see an image of Haldi and his lion just above the holder’s thumb; the lion is especially easy to recognize. (TRT Haber)
Metal Artifacts Illuminate Urartu Civilization
Metal belts, medallions, and bronze plates constitute an important source of information about Urartian religion, mythology, and social life, both through the quality of workmanship and the decorations or motifs used. The depictions on these objects give insights into Urartian clothing, daily life, and social organization.
Scenes of war, mythology, and daily life, including plants and animals, are finely worked into Urartian belts like the Satala find. It is believed that narrower belts were used by women and the wider ones by men.
Since ancient written records about the Urartian Kingdom are so scarce, this important but forgotten Bronze and Iron Age culture is mainly understood through its architectural ruins and remarkable craft achievements.
The recent Satala Urartian bronze belt fragments, which belonged to a Urartian warrior, are of great significance for their rareness and stunning workmanship but also because they prove the Urartu kingdom’s powers extended much further north than previously believed.
Top image: This ancient Urartian bronze belt, a rare artifact from the mysterious Urartu culture, was recently discovered in the ancient city known as Satala in Turkey. Source: TRT Haber
By Sahir Pandey
Altuntas, L. 2022. Bronze belt of Urartian warrior found in the ancient city Satala. Available at: https://arkeonews.net/bronze-belt-of-urartian-warrior-found-in-the-ancient-city-satala/.
Cartwright, M. 2018. Urartu Civilization. Available at: https://www.worldhistory.org/Urartu_Civilization/.
TRT Haber. 2021. Bronze belt of Urartian warrior found in Satala. Available at: https://www.trthaber.com/foto-galeri/satalada-urartu-savascisinin-bronz-kemeri-bulundu/39390/sayfa-2.html.