Regional Co-operation for Cultural Heritage Development
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Տարածաշրջանային համագործակցություն հանուն մշակութային ժառանգության զարգացման
Національна політика щодо культурної спадщини
Mədəni irsin inkişaf Etdimilməsi üçün regional əməkdaşlıq
Рэгіянальнае супрацоўніцтва ў мэтах развіцця культурнай спадчыны
E- Journal №3
Archaeological Heritage
Erebouni Fortress: an Example of an Endangered Heritage

Erebouni fortress is located in south-east of Yerevan city, on top of a hill called Arin-Berd.

In 1950, during archaeological excavations a cuneiform inscription was discovered at Arin Berd, which clarified the fact of construction of Erebouni city-fortress. The value of the monument doubled based on the comment of urartuologist M. Israyelyan that it is a “birth certificate” of Yerevan city, the first real scientific certificate (Fig. 1).



Erebuni was founded by King Argishti I in 782 BCE as a strategic military center in Aza country of Ararat valley (Fig.2).

In the 6th c. BCE the Urartu kingdom collapsed but Erebouni continued its history during the Achaemenid Empire, early Armenian and Hellenistic periods. It is proved by structures and archaeological artifacts discovered in Erebouni (2 millet coins, August Emperor coin, 3 silver horn-shape cups and a vessel).


Description of the Fortress and present technical situation

The fortress built on top of a hill was inaccessible from two sides, and the main gate was surrounded by three layers of walls reinforced by counter forts. The walls were 12 m tall and 3,5-4 m wide. The lower layers of the walls were built using irregular stones, and the upper layer was made of mud bricks (Fig. 3).

The location of fortress was not accidental. It was inaccessible, but at the same time connected with other Urartian cities in Ararat valley – Argishtihinili, and later on, Tejshebaini. 

Cuneiform inscriptions found in Erebouni fortress open for us a short message about construction works done by kings of Urartu Argishti I, his son Sardur II, and Rusa III.

“Erebouni” is a magnificent architectural complex consisted of palace, worship structures and service quarters. The palace with its Susi temple and open columned courtyard was situated in north-west of the hill in the centre of the citadel. Civil structures were built in the north part of the hill, and service rooms for the temple – on the south. Residential and service quarters around inner courtyard were built on the north part of the hill, covering almost the entire slope. 

Another very important structure in south-west of the citadel is a large temple with column hall dedicated to Khaldi, the great god of Urartian myth (Fig. 4).  The main hall of the palace is to the right  of the square. During the later reconstructions it was transformed into rooms with vessels, where the bottoms of the vessels still survived; on both sides of this room there were bedrooms for soldiers, and next to it – residential   and other auxiliary structures. The walls of the temple were decorated with frescoes depicting sacrifice images, parades of gods, and other ritual pictures.

While stating the historic-cultural value of this fortress, it should be noted that it continued traditions in art of construction of central Urartu and Mesopotamia.

The research and excavations on the territory of the fortress were undertaken in 1950-1968 and afterwards in 2004 and 2006 and continue till present. Reconstruction works were done in 1980-s in the structures next to the columned courtyard. Despite the excavations and reinforcement works are going on, though the monument, especially the palace rooms, temple to Khaldi, and walls of certain rooms are estimated as being in highly endangered conditions.


Technical status of the Citadel structures

Foundations. In some parts they do not exist as the walls were built on rocks, but construction of other parts was done using basalt and tuff stones with clay mixture used to fill holes in the walls, a method, which provided additional reinforcement to the foundation.  The lower level of walls in Erebouni were more than 1 m tall.

The foundation walls were built of basalt and tuff stones on top of which the brick walls with clay mixture were built.

The monument, left in open air for a long period, has become wind-scattered and ruined. Some parts of the fortress wall around the monument collapsed, the wall of portico (guest hall) cracked, damaging its frescoes (the recreated copies). The roof of Khaldi temple collapsed (fig. 5), the walls decayed and cracked, and frescoes (the recreated copies) have almost disappeared (Fig. 6). The raw brick walls of structures which were 2,5 – 3,0 m tall after the excavations, do not exist now and only stone foundations remained.

Nothing but traces of some paint remained from the frescoes recreated on the walls of the palace and adjacent hall. The roof of palace rooms and the wall of the hall collapsed. The second room of the palace where the brick wall still exists is under risk of collapse.

In the left side of the fortress, the raw brick walls of service quarters which partially survived are now under risk of decay, and they need to be reinforced and reconstructed (Fig. 7).

During the last years the excavations on the territory of the citadel continued by Armenian-French archeological joint team. The French team where Armenian archeologists also worked, have opened in 2010 a structure next to the Khaldi temple, possibly, of a worship nature. During this excavation, in the room adjoined to this structure, remains of frescoes were uncovered on the floor, probably, fallen from the collapsed wall. Professor David Stronach from Berkeley University, California discovered next to the Khaldi temple a niche decorated with frescoes, moved them to the museum, restored and reinforced them in order to, when needed, put back into the niche for display.

Though there was an Agreement signed between French archeological expedition and management of “Erebouni” historic-archaeological museum-preserve, in parallel to the excavation work, to do reinforcement of the excavated parts and restoration of damaged sections, the existence of the historic-archaeological preserve having an exceptional value, is in danger. The Citadel of 3000 years old needs to be restored, reinforced, and protected immediately (Fig. 8).   

It can be stated with confidence that the monument still hides many secrets, discovering and researching of which will add value to the history of “Erebouni” fortress.

Araxya Meshinyan
 Erebouni museum-preserve, Armenia

1. Cuneiform inscription about of Erebuni fortress foundation
2. General view of Erebuni fortress situated on the Arin berd hill
3. Erebouni fortress walls
4. Columned hall
5.Collapsed roof of Khaldi temple
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