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Observations placeholder

Susa - Ziggurat of Chogha Zanbil



Type of Spiritual Experience


guesswork, but not bad guesswork

Chogha Zanbil (Persian: چغازنبيل‎‎; Elamite: Dur Untash) is an ancient Elamite complex in the Khuzestan province of Iran. It is one of the few existent ziggurats outside of Mesopotamia.

It lies approximately 42 km (26 mi) south-southeast of Dezful, 30 km (19 mi) south-east of Susa and 80 km (50 mi) north of Ahvaz.

We have provided this observation for comparison purposes, because although not part of the Mesopotamian system, the ziggurat bears all the hall marks of having been influenced by the Babylonian system and sacred architecture in general, meaning the belief system was far more wide spread than the political empire itself.

Choga Zanbil was built about 1250 BC by the king Untash-Napirisha.  The complex is protected by three concentric walls.  Thus we have three areas:

  • Inward court - As to be expected, the inner area is the holy of holies dedicated to ‘God’ although the name given is not God but an equivalent. 
  • Inner court – the Planets and Signs of Zodiac.  The middle area holds eleven temples for the Intelligences although it is believed that twenty-two temples were originally planned.  There are seven planets and 12 signs of the zodiac meaning 19 temples would normally be in the middle court, with perhaps two in the centre – Sun and Moon – Creator and Created – giving 22
  • Outward court  – Earth, Water, Air, possibly Fire

Note that the king died before the temples could be finished, and his successors discontinued the building work. In the outer area are royal palaces, a funerary palace containing five subterranean royal tombs.

Although construction in the city abruptly ended after Untash-Napirisha's death, the site was not abandoned, but continued to be occupied until it was destroyed by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in 640 BC.

The main building materials in Chogha Zanbil were mud bricks and occasionally baked bricks. The monuments were decorated with glazed baked bricks, gypsum and ornaments of faïence and glass. Ornamenting the most important buildings were thousands of baked bricks bearing inscriptions with Elamite cuneiform characters were all inscribed by hand. Glazed terracotta statues such as bulls and winged griffins guarded the entrances to the ziggurat.

In 1979, Chogha Zanbil became the first Iranian site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

A description of the experience

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items

Activities and commonsteps



Creating a sacred geography



Babylonian Zodiac