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064. Sherquat, Qal'at Sherqat
        (ancient: Ashur, Assur)

Salah ad Din Governorate. 110 kilometers (60 miles) south of Mosul and 280 km to the north of Baghdad, located on a limestone bluff, high over the west bank of the Tigris River.

Dates of Site: 3rd millennium BC to the collapse of Assyria

The religious center of  the Assyrian empire, a city of great antiquity dedicated to the god Ashur, the embodiment of  the empire’s power and glory.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, the ancient city of Ashur, located on the Tigris River in northern Mesopotamia, was the first capital of the vast Assyrian Empire anciently called "The Land of Subarum" which included Iraq, Syria, Anatolia, Iran, Egypt and parts of Arabia. It was known to have come under the dominion of Uruk (Akkad), of the 3rd Dynasty of Ur, and of the Babylonians in the 31st year of King Hammurabi's reign.

At the convergence of major trade routes, Ashur was engaged in trade at the beginning of the second millennium with Anatolia, primarily exporting tin  from western Iran and textiles in return for copper. Around 1800 BC, the Amorite chieftain Shamshi-Adad I incorporated Ashur into his domain, where it became a ceremonial center and the first imperial capital. When Ashurnasirpal II moved the capital to Kalhu, Ashur continued as a very important ritual center, with 34 temples, of which the oldest was the Ishtar temple — the deep sounding there dates to the mid third millennium. The god Ashur was honored with a temple and ziggurat. Assyrian kings were buried in vaulted tombs underneath tow palaces, but these were plundered in antiquity. The city also yielded  stone stelae with the names of the eponym officials (limmu), so important for establishing Assyrian chronology.

Historians believe that Ashur was inhabited for the first time in the 3rd millennium BC. From the 14th to the 9th centuries BC it was the first capital of the Assyrian Empire, a city-state and trading platform of international importance. It also served as the religious capital of the Assyrians, associated with the god Ashur. The city was destroyed by the Babylonians, but revived during the Parthian period in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.

Ashur (today called Qal'at Shergat) lies on a stony hill overlooking the Tigris on the east near Himrin mountains believed by the Assyrians to be the abode of their major god Assur. Thus, it was the religious capital of Assyria at large periods of Assyrian history, and the center for worship of the god Ashur and the goddess Ishtar/Inanna.Ashur which was fortified by inner and outer walls, with several gateways, contained a large number of important religious buildings, about 34 temples, and three palaces as 7th century BC documents revealed. Only few of these have been excavated.

Its most important and striking sight today is the Ziggurat, which is a great construction built of backed bricks on the top of a rectangular platform composed of several layers, devoted to the god Assur, as well as the ground temple nearby devoted to the same god and called "Temple of the Universe". There are also temples devoted to the gods of the sun and the moon, and one with two towers sacred to Anu, god of the sky, and Adad, god of storms.

UNESCO July 2003 site assessment: "Assur / modern Qalat Sherqat The site shows no recent damages. Some traces of unprofessional diggings may have been undertaken earlier. Earlier restorations of the palaces and some temples need maintenance but are still preserved enough to protect the original structures underneath. The site is endangered by the construction project of a dam some 40 km to the South. Due to the war the construction project was stopped."


  35º 27' 32"   
  35.458889° N
  43º 15' 35"
  43.259722° E

GoogleEarth satellite view of Ashur (external resource)