Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Median or Achaemenid rock-cut tomb in Iraqi Kurdistan

Iraq is rarely in the news when it comes to archaeology but here is an exception: a rock-tomb that has been spotted some 65 kilometers northwest of Sulaymaniyah. This modern Iraqi city in turn lies roughly 220 km to the northwest of the Bisutun Relief in Iran. In antiquity, both Iraq and Iran were in Persia. As always, it is a small world.

It is heartwarming, to say the least, to hear that this tomb of Ashkawt-i Qizqapan has been investigated and, what’s more, that its façade has been restored and even copied to find a place of honor at the entrance of the Sulaymaniyah Museum. So far, only two examples of rock-cut tombs have been listed in Iraq and this is one of them and its history is shrouded in mystery.

The entrance to the tomb lies approximately eight meters above ground level and the most striking element to the visitor are the two ionic inspired columns that are supporting an awning-like imitation wooden roof. The entrance wall has been filled with a number of reliefs. High up are three divine emblems. The right one shows an otherwise unknown star-bust that suggests the goddess Ishtar-Anahita or Artemis. The central emblem is round as well and appears to rest on a lunar crescent supporting a seated figure which may represent the moon god, Sin. The emblem on the far left brings Ahura Mazda to mind set on a square background. Yet this figure has two pairs of wings, each set being different in shape and size which may refer to Mithras, the upper god of the Medes.

The analysis of the central relief located between the columns raises other questions. We see two men facing each other over a stepped altar holding a double-convex Parthian-like bow. They wear a similar kind of headdress in Median style and have their mouth covered in order to protect the sacred fire burning on the altar.

According to the contribution made by Dr Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin on location and published in Ancient History Encyclopedia in January 2018, the following tentative conclusions were drawn: the depicted scene shows King Alyattes of Lydia who reigned from 610 till 560 BC on the right and the Median King Cyaxares who reigned from 625 till 585 BC on the left as they manifest the end of their war. Mediator in this conflict was King Nabonidus of Neo-Babylonia as represented by the crescent moon. The divine emblem on the upper right corner is the Lydian goddess Artemis who accompanied Alyattes whereas Ahura Mazda blesses Cyaxares.

Under the central relief is a doorway that leads into three separate burial chambers. All three graves have been dug out from the floor and were apparently covered with a now missing lid. However, no bones or artifacts have been found inside the graves and the walls of these chambers are void of any inscription or decoration.

Well, no solid conclusion can be drawn from the above analysis that leans towards labeling these tombs as Median and dating them to 600-550 BC. Other scholars are more inclined to conclude that the style of the reliefs is Achaemenid and generally date the tombs to the second half of the 6th or the 5th century BC. Nothing is certain as yet since no other excavations have been carried out in the region and this rock-cut tomb simply cannot stand on its own.

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