The Bronze Palace.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that we would be working in the Bronze Palace on the eastern edge of the high mound. This is the area marked Operation A/N on the topographic map I just posted. I thought it might be useful to give you a little background information on the palace since it will figure prominently in our posts.

First of all the name “Bronze Palace” is my invention, not the building’s ancient name. It is useful shorthand for referring to the building, and people tend to remember catchy names better. The Bronze Palace was used by the Assyrian rulers of Tushhan to house the central administration, conduct state business, and probably served as the residence of the governor. It is likely that the Assyrian king would have slept here when passing through Tushhan to conduct military campaigns along the northern frontier. Our current dating for the Bronze Palace is that it was in use during the 8th century BC.

Our excavations have uncovered only a small portion of the plan of the Bronze Palace, a large courtyard (Room 5) surrounded by a number of smaller rooms. The entire structure is made of mudbrick on a massive scale. Much of the palace was built upon a 2m (= 6 feet) thick platform of solid mudbrick, and in places the walls were decorated with polychrome wall paintings in black, blue, and red paint over white plaster. The paintings are now sadly in fragments, but they give us some sense of the grandeur of the palace in its heyday. Here is a plan of the building.

Room 7 was the throne room (often called the “reception room”) to the Palace. We know this because of parallels with other Assyrian palaces excavated elsewhere, and because of certain special features found here. I’ll tell you more about that later.

So, why the name “Bronze” Palace. Under the courtyard floor, which was paved with large flat baked bricks, we found evidence of at least five cremation burials, fired to a very high temperature, and containing (in addition to human remains) a large hoard of elite Assyrian artifacts made of metal, stone, ivory, and ceramics, including a very substantial collection of bronze artifacts: vessels, pitchers, lamps, furniture fittings. Since bronze was typically recycled in ancient times, it is rare to find such a large quantity of metal in one place, hence the nickname “Bronze Palace”.

Excavation of a sounding below the Bronze Palace to expose a drainage channel which carried water beneath the palace. The Bronze Palace had a well planned and sophisticated plumbing system.


A close-up view of the engraved handle of a bronze pitcher found in a cremation burial beneath the courtyard floor of the Bronze Palace. The artifacts found here were of the highest craftsmanship.

You’ll learn much more about the Bronze Palace (as will we!) as the excavations continue this summer. We will be working close to the throne room, and elsewhere in the palace, so stay tuned.

About matney

Dr. Matney is Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology and Classical Studies at the University of Akron. He is the Director of the Ziyaret Tepe Archaeological Expedition.
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