The horrible story of Hasanlu Gold Cup

The three soldiers knew full well that there was not much time left. Hasanlu Fortress was besieged by the enemy. The soldiers entered the treasury building and removed all the precious artifacts, including a very fine gold cup, a stone cylinder with a gold cover, an ivory statue, and a bronze sword grip. However, as they climbed the wooden stairs, the walls and roof of the building caught fire and collapsed completely, and the soldiers were buried with ashes under the treasures. They remained intact for three thousand years until they were finally discovered in 1336.

When the news of the discovery of the remains of soldiers, especially the Hasanlu Gold Cup, reached the press, there was a commotion as usual, and newspapers around the world covered the discovery of the Hasanlu Hill in Iran. This discovery later became one of the most important archaeological events of the decade, and many historians, artists, archaeologists, and others interpreted the mythological inscriptions on the cup.

The following year, Life magazine published an article with full-color photos of this amazing cup; But amid the media hype and widespread news coverage, no one paid attention to the soldiers and their identities. Were they heroes who bravely defended the fort and wanted to save the city’s treasures before they fell into the hands of the enemies, or were they warriors from foreign tribes who looted houses and temples after the massacre of the city’s inhabitants?

Michael Dante, An archaeologist at Boston University in the United States, has conducted extensive research to clarify the story of these soldiers and other bodies found in the Hassanlu ruins. Dante believes that the glory of the Hasanlu Gold Cup is far less than the reports of the press at the time of its discovery, and that the true story of the cup is full of cruelty and murder.

Ancient site of Hasanlu hill near the city of Naqadeh, West Azerbaijan

Hasanlu hill is an archeological site in the weekly city of Naqadeh, West Azerbaijan. In fact, it is a fortress and city surviving from the Iron Age, which was completely destroyed by a massive fire in the late ninth century BC. This massive fire and the collapse of brick buildings have caused the city with all its fortifications and buildings to go under a layer of ashes and rubble and be rediscovered after years. For this reason, Hasanlu Hill is sometimes referred to as the “Ancient Near Eastern Pompeii”. Hasanlu Hill is thought to have been inhabited at least from the sixth millennium BC to the third century AD (ie, centuries after fire destruction).

Between 1935 and 1977, a team of international and Iranian archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Archaeological Survey of Iran led by Robert H. Dyson dug up Hasanlu Hill. Due to security pressures and large amounts of valuable discoveries, the excavations were carried out very quickly, and as a result, the information of most of the discovered antiquities was not recorded by accurate scientific methods. Many artifacts were excavated without being photographed at the site. For example, no photographs of the Gold Cup were taken on the ground.

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Nowadays, fortifications, towers and fortifications with paved squares remain from the ancient city, which was once located on Hasanlu hill. Hasanlu hill was much larger in the past than now; However, with the advancement of agricultural lands and houses, the area of ​​this hill gradually decreased; So that now a large round hill with a diameter of 280 meters remains from the entire ancient site of Hasanlu.

However, earlier this summer, officials at the Hasanlu Naqadeh National Base criticized the renovation of this ancient site. خبر They gave. Among the measures taken in the new operation are the construction of a thatched building to protect the mud-brick buildings, the removal of plants and weeds growing in the area, and the arrangement and repair of visitation paths and some damaged buildings. Apparently, this action was taken by the officials of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage with the aim of registering Hasanlu Hill in the UNESCO World Heritage List. File It has been under investigation since 1397.

Terrible events

Evidence suggests that a surprise attack led to the collapse of the city and Hasanlu Fortress. The remains of many residents of the city were found while many had their heads cut off or severe blows to the head, and some had no limbs, and at least one person was completely torn in two. Archaeological excavations have shown that most of the victims were women and children and the elderly, whom the attackers apparently could not take as slaves; For this reason, they brutally massacred them. Dante believes that the great massacre that took place in this ancient fortress was to erase the identity of the people and to poison the eyes of the survivors.

He considers the rough brick architecture of Hasanlu Hill to be very similar to the solid brick buildings built in the southwestern United States. However, due to the fact that mats, timber and wooden beams were used in the construction of the roof, floor and columns of the Hasanlu Fortress, they were quite prone to fire. The remains of the unfortunate victims, which archaeologists have been discovering over time, indicate a horrific event. In fact, the remains were so horrifying that Dante says many of the students accompanying the professional archaeologists in the excavations said they had had nightmares for a long time.

Robert H.  Dyson bRobert H. Dyson happily shows Hasanlu Gold Cup to photographers (1336)

However, due to the lack of written resources, we do not have much information about the residents of Hasanlu and its ruthless attackers. As Irene G. Winter“There is no written evidence of Hasanlu Hill that can prove the identity of the inhabitants,” the American historian wrote in an article. “We do not know the ancient name of the place, nor the province that belongs to it, nor its linguistic or ethnic affiliations, nor before it and the period we are considering.”

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Who were these soldiers?

Can the very delicate designs engraved on the body of the Hasanlu Gold Cup help archaeologists solve the Hasanlu riddle? These motifs represent the mythical religious beliefs of the ancient inhabitants of Hasanlu, and scholars and historians have provided many interpretations of them, tracing their origins to Urartian or Hurrian or Indo-European traditions. However, in October 2014, Dante published a study in the journal Antiquity stating that the three warriors found with the Gold Cup were probably attackers who had been sent to the region from the kingdom of Urartu.

Historical texts show that the kingdom of Urartu, whose capital was in Arzashkon and later Tuspa (both in present-day Turkey), at that time was in the most ruthless way possible in expanding its territory to the area around Hasanlu Hill. Evidence shows that some time after the destruction of the fortress, a strong Urartian-style wall was built over the ruins of Hasanlu; For this reason, Dante believes that these three people could not have thought of saving the precious objects of the city during the fall of the city and the killing or capture of many people and the prey of the burning of the fort.

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Dante, who had returned to the site to investigate the ancient warriors in Hasanlu, says they may have been climbing a wooden staircase when the building collapsed. And later fell into the gutters used for waste disposal and were buried under rubble and rubbish. In addition to the gold cup, other artifacts were found at the site where the warriors were found, including armored belts, metal vessels, and cylindrical seals with very delicate and beautiful carvings.

The designs were engraved on the body of Hasanlu Gold CupThe designs were engraved on the body of Hasanlu Gold Cup

Dante believes these were the warriors’ clothes and weapons. These soldiers wore helmets with ear protection and were also equipped with edged spears; So it is quite clear that they were preparing for war. Hence, Dante concludes that these soldiers are unlikely to have sought to save the Gold Cup and other valuables; Because with the fall of the city and the destruction of the fortifications, not much hope was saved.

There is still no conclusive evidence to support Dante’s hypothesis. We hope that in the future other researchers will be able to test Dante’s hypothesis on the plant by analyzing the skeletons and bone remains of warriors and victims. Remarkable biomarkers of diet and drinking water remain in the bones, which can help researchers identify warriors. For example, where did they come from and try to protect the property of their city, or after the brutal massacre of the inhabitants, they also wanted to plunder their property and treasures.

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