Darband-i Basara Rock Relief

Darband-i Basara Rock Relief

Author: Osama S. M. Amin

Osama graduated from Baghdad University, College of Medicine and was the valedictorian student in internal medicine. He got membership diplomas of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of Ireland (MRCPI) and Glasgow (MRCP Glasg) and then became Board-certified in neurology. Osama is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians (FACP), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (FRCP Glasg), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (FRCP Edin), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (FRCPI), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London FRCP Lond), and Fellow of the Stroke Council of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (FAHA). Currently, he is a Clinical Associate Professor at the Clinical School of the International Medical University, Malaysia. Osama published more than 50 articles in international peer-reviewed neurology journals and 5 self-assessment books for the membership diploma of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom and Ireland. He is an associate editor, guest editor, reviewer and former editor-in-chief in several international peer-reviewed internal medicine and neurology journals. Osama is very interested in Mesopotamian history and always tries to take photos of archaeological sites and artifacts in museums, both in Iraq and around the world. He is a contributor/team member of "Medical MasterClass," the online educational arm of the Royal College of Physicians of London, UK.

Kurdish region of Iraq political division

Presently, the Kurdish region of Iraq can be divided into three sections:

  1. Kurdistan region RED MAP (Dohuk Governorate, part of Erbil Governorate, part of Sulaymaniyah Governorate, Halabja Governorate)
  2. Disputed areas that make part of the Kurdish Regional Government since 1991 PINK MAP (part of Ninawa Governorate, part of Erbil Governorate, part of Sulaymaniyah Governorate, part of Diyala Governorate)
  3. Disputed areas under the control of the central government in Baghdad YELLOW MAP (part of Ninawa Governorate, Kirkuk Governorate, part of Salah ad-Din Governorate, part of Erbil Governorate, part of Sulaymaniyah Governorate, part of Diyala Governorate, and part of Wasit Governorate).

Some destinations on this page are located on disputed areas and under the control of the central government in Baghdad. Technically and by the Iraqi constitution, they don’t belong to the Kurdistan region, and are indeed controlled by the Iraqi Army and not by the Kurdish Peshmerga army. Because these regions are a kind of buffer zone, check-points are not as tight, and I was authorized to pass through driving my camper van. In some regions of Diyala, I was 15 km away from the line of fire against terrorist groups.

Iraqi Kurdistan Off the Beaten Path Destinations – Part 1

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Never Before Seen: The Belula Pass Rock Relief

I visited one of my relatives who resides at Lake Darbandikhan. It was a holiday. I was chatting with him about the relief of “Horen Shekhan” (Kurdish: هۆرێن و شێخان Arabic هورين- شيخان ) at Darband-i-Belula (Belula Pass). I told him that at the main hall of the Sulaymaniyah Museum, there is a large wall poster of a rock relief the poster’s caption says that this is the “Relief of Belula Pass.” Where is this rock-relief of Belula Pass is located? He did not know the answer, but his son-in-law said that there is an ancient structure on a mountain at Darband-i-Belula (Kurdish: ده ربندي بيلوله) . “There is a sign on the road, I read it, which says that this the Akkadian relief of Belula Pass, but I have not seen that thing because it lies high up in the mountain,” he added.

Fantastic! I said: “Can you take me there, please, at least I can start from there?” He agreed. This archaeological trip was entirely unplanned but I always take my Nikon gear with me wherever I go!

Finally, we have found it! One my friends climbed up, in a very risky situation to sit down before the relief. Note the location of the relief and the very small space in front of it. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Darband-i Basara Rock Relief - History

Territory of the Lullubi in the Mesopotamia area. 2300 BC – 675 BC

Common languages : Unclassified Akkadian (inscriptions)

Religion : Mesopotamian religions

Today part of : Monarchy

Historical era : Antiquity

• Established : 2300 BC

• Disestablished : 675 BC

Today part of : Iraq and Iran

The Lullubi or Lulubi (Lu-lu-biki "Country of the Lullubi") were a group of pre-Iranian tribes during the 3rd millennium BC, from a region known as Lulubum, now the Sharazor plain of the Zagros Mountains of modern Iraqi Kurdistan, and the Kermanshah Province of Iran. Lullubi was neighbour and sometimes ally with the Simurrum kingdom. Frayne (1990) identified their city Lulubuna or Luluban with the region's modern Iraqi town of Halabja.

King Anubanini of Lullubi, holding an axe and a bow, trampling a foe. Anubanini rock relief, circa 2300-2000 BC. Sar-I Pul, Iran

The language of the Lullubi is regarded as an unclassified language due to the complete absence of any literature or written script, meaning it cannot be linked to known languages of the region at the time, such as Elamite, Hurrian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Hattic and Amorite, and the Lullubi pre-date the arrival of Iranian-speakers by many centuries. The term Lullubi though, appears to be of Hurrian origin.

Historical references :

The early Sumerian legend "Lugalbanda and the Anzud Bird", set in the reign of Enmerkar of Uruk, alludes to the "mountains of Lulubi" as being where the character of Lugalbanda encounters the gigantic Anzû bird while searching for the rest of Enmerkar's army en route to siege Aratt.

Lullubi-ki ("Country of the Lullubi") on the Anubanini rock relief

Relief of the Lulubian Tardunni, known as the Darband-i Belula, the Darband-i Hurin or Sheikhan relief, Kurdistan, Iraq

Lullubum appears in historical times as one of the lands Sargon the Great subjugated within his Akkadian Empire, along with the neighboring province of Gutium, which was probably of the same origin as the Lullubi. Sargon's grandson Naram Sin defeated the Lullubi and their king Satuni, and had his famous victory stele made in commemoration:

"Naram-Sin the powerful . . . . Sidur and Sutuni, princes of the Lulubi, gathered together and they made war against me."

— Akkadian inscription on the Victory Stele of Naram-Sin.

After the Akkadian Empire fell to the Gutians, the Lullubians rebelled against the Gutian king Erridupizir, according to the latter's inscriptions:

Ka-Nisba, king of Simurrum, instigated the people of Simurrum and Lullubi to revolt. Amnili, general of [the enemy Lullubi]. made the land [rebel]. Erridu-pizir, the mighty, king of Gutium and of the four quarters hastened [to confront] him. In a single day he captured the pass of Urbillum at Mount Mummum. Further, he captured Nirishuha.

— Inscription R2:226-7 of Erridupizir.

The Victory Stele of Naram-Sin (circa 2250 BC), commemorating the victory of Akkadian Empire king Naram-Sin (standing left) over Lullubi mountain tribe and their king Satuni. Musée du Louvre

Following the Gutian period, the Neo-Sumerian Empire (Ur-III) ruler Shulgi is said to have raided Lullubi at least 9 times by the time of Amar-Sin, Lullubians formed a contingent in the military of Ur, suggesting that the region was then under Neo-Sumerian control.

Another famous rock relief depicting the Lullubian king Anubanini with the Assyrian-Babylonian goddess Ishtar, captives in tow, is now thought to date to the Ur-III period however, a later Babylonian legendary retelling of the exploits of Sargon the Great mentions Anubanini as one of his opponents.

In the following (second) millennium BC, the term "Lullubi" or "Lullu" seems to have become a generic Babylonian/Assyrian term for "highlander", while the original region of Lullubi was also known as Zamua. However, the "land of Lullubi" makes a reappearance in the late 12th century BC, when both Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon (in c. 1120 BC) and Tiglath-Pileser I of Assyria (in 1113 BC) claim to have subdued it. Neo-Assyrian kings of the following centuries also recorded campaigns and conquests in the area of Lullubum / Zamua. Most notably, Ashur-nasir-pal II had to suppress a revolt among the Lullubian / Zamuan chiefs in 881 BC, during which they constructed a wall in the Bazian pass (between modern Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah) in a failed attempt to keep the Assyrians out.

They were said to have had 19 walled cities in their land, as well as a large supply of horses, cattle, metals, textiles and wine, which were carried off by Ashur-nasir-pal. Local chiefs or governors of the Zamua region continued to be mentioned down to the end of Esarhaddon's reign (669 BC).

Representations :

Defeated Lullubis in Akkadian representations

Barbarian prisoner of the Akkadian Empire, nude, fettered, drawn by nose ring, with pointed beard, long hair and vertical braid. 2350-2000 BCE, Louvre Museum

Lullubi victim with pointed beard and long braided hair. Rock relief at Darband-iGawr. The depiction of the vanquished Lullubis is also similar in the Victory Stele of Naram-Sin

In depictions of them, the Lullubi are represented as warlike mountainers. The Lullubi are often shown bare-chested and wearing animal skins. They have short beards, their hair is long and worn in a thick braid, as can be seen on the Victory Stele of Naram-Sin.

Rulers :

Rulers of the Lullubi kingdom :

1. Immashkush (c. 2400 BC)

2. Anubanini (c. 2350 BC) he ordered to make an inscription on the rock near Sar-e Pol-e Zahab.

3. Satuni (c. 2270 BC contemporary with Naram-Sin king of Akkad and Khita king of Awan)

6. Ikki (precise dates unknown)

7. Tar . duni (precise dates unknown) son of Ikki. His inscription is found not far from the inscription of Anubanini.

10. Hubaia (c. 830 BC) vassal of Assyrians

Lullubi rock reliefs :

Various Lullubian reliefs can be seen in the area of Sar-e Pol-e Zohab, the best preserved of which is the Anubanini rock relief. They all show a ruler trampling an enemy, and most also show a deity facing the ruler. Another relief can be found about 200 meters away, in a style similar to the Anubanini relief, but this time with a beardless ruler. The attribution to a specific ruler remains uncertain.

Anubanini rock relief :

The relief is located on the top of a cliff towering over the village of Sarpol-e Zahab. A second relief (Parthian Empire period) appears below

Anubanini rock relief at Sarpol-e Zahab, also called Sarpol-e Zahab II

King Anubanini

Goddess Ishtar

Prisoners of the Lullubis (detail)

Prisoners of the Lullubis and their king (detail)

Prisoner king (detail). He appears to be wearing a crown

Anubanini rock relief Akkadian inscription

Other Lullubi reliefs :

Sar-e Pol-e Zahab, relief I. Beardless warrior with axe, trampling a foe. Sundisk above. A name "Zaba(zuna), son of . " can be read. This is possibly the son of Iddin-Sin, a ruler of the Kingdom of Simurrum

Sar-e Pol-e Zahab, relief III. Beardless warrior trampling a foe, facing a goddess

Sar-e Pol-e Zahab, relief IV. Beardless warrior trampling a foe, facing a goddess

Relief of Tardunni, a possible Lullubi ruler, also holding weapons and trampling foes, with an inscription in Akkadian

Source :


New Investigations in the Environment, History, and Archaeology of the Iraqi Hilly Flanks: Shahrizor Survey Project 2009–2011

Recent palaeoenvironmental, historical, and archaeological investigations, primarily consisting of site reconnaissance, in the Shahrizor region within the province of Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan are bringing to light new information on the region's social and socio-ecological development. This paper summarises two seasons of work by researchers from German, British, Dutch, and Iraqi-Kurdish institutions working in the survey region. Palaeoenvironmental data have determined that during the Pleistocene many terraces developed which came to be occupied by a number of the larger tell sites in the Holocene. In the sedimentary record, climatic and anthropogenic patterns are noticeable, and alluviation has affected the recovery of archaeological remains through site burial in places. Historical data show the Shahrizor shifting between periods of independence, either occupied by one regional state or several smaller entities, and periods that saw the plain's incorporation within large empires, often in a border position. New archaeological investigations have provided insight into the importance of the region as a transit centre between Western Iran and northern and southern Mesopotamia, with clear material culture links recovered. Variations between periods' settlement patterns and occupations are also beginning to emerge.


Si bé els petròglifs tallats prehistòrics són comuns a Egipte, en general no fo foren en l'art de l'Antic Egipte, i només en algunes parts de la zona, generalment allunyades dels principals centres de població, com el cas d'Abu Simbel. Hi ha un grup de figures que envolta una imatge de Mentuhotep II, que va morir al 2010 ae i fou el primer faraó de l'Imperi Mitjà. [6]

Abans que foren tallades i mudades, les figures colossals fora dels temples d'Abu Simbel tenien alts relleus. Altres escultures fora dels temples es consideren relleus en roca. Els relleus de Nahr el-Kalb commemoren Ramsés II, i es troben als confins del seu imperi (en realitat fora de la zona on exercia un control real), en el que és el territori actual del Líban. [7]

Els hitites eren artistes en relleus en roca, els quals constitueixen una part significativa de les poques restes artístiques que n'han perdurat fins a l'actualitat. El relleu Karabel d'un rei, el va veure Heròdot, que erròniament pensà es tractava del faraó egipci Senusret. Igual que molts relleus hitites, es troba proper a un camí. N'hi ha més d'una dotzena de llocs, molts a altures de més de 1000 msnm, amb vista a planícies, i en general prop de cursos d'aigua. Potser estaven situats considerant la relació dels hitites amb el paisatge en comptes de mers instruments de propaganda del governant, signes de "control sobre el paisatge", o fites delimitant la frontera, com s'ha pensat sovint. Se solen trobar en indrets amb un significat religiós abans o després del període hitita, i en llocs on es pensava que el món diví es podia relacionar amb el món humà. [8] [9] [10] [11]

A Yazılıkaya, als afores de la capital d'Hattusa, una sèrie de relleus de déus hitites en processó decoren "cambres" obertes a l'aire lliure formades afegint barreres entre les formacions naturals de roca. Aparentment el lloc era un santuari, i possiblement un cementeri, on es commemorava els ancestres de la dinastia governant. Podria ser un espai privat accessible només als membres de la dinastia i un petit grup d'elit. L'esquema habitual n'és mostrar homes de la reialesa portant armes, normalment una llança, un arc sobre l'espatla, i una espasa al cinnyell. Tenen atributs associats a la divinitat, i per tant són presentats com "déus guerrers". [8]

Iraqi Muslim Tribal King’s mural with slave creates controversy

Lucknow: A mural depicting Tardunni, the head of a mountain tribe in Iran dating back to 2000 BC has created controversy as many Indians are of a different opinion.

Etched into the Darband-i-Belula cliff the mural overlooks a narrow pass in Iraq’s Horen Shekhan area and belongs to a mountain tribe head.

The mountain tribe King holds a bow, a quiver of arrows and a dagger in his belt with a slave can be seen.

On my channel. This is the first and exclusive video on the net featuring of Tar…dunni's rock-relief of Barband-i Bellula, c. 2100 BCE. Shot on April 26, 2019. #iraq #kurdistan #lullubi #sulaymaniyah #belula #rock_relief #mesopotamia #tardunni https://t.co/BBKXNfPDTj

&mdash Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin (@OsamaSMAmin) May 9, 2019

The Indian diplomat at the Ebril consulate, Chandramouli Karn was accompanied with other historians from the University of Sulaimania and the Iraqi Governor of Kurdistan.

Archaeologists and historians in Iraq have never come across any links of the murals with Indian mythology that claims otherwise.

Achaemenid Art and Darius I

Both the text and image continually reinforce the “fact” that Ahuramazda, the supreme god, chose Darius to dethrone the supposed usurper of the Achaemenid crown. Although the relief is extremely bias in that it was completely commissioned by Darius and was used as propaganda, it does relay an important story about the history of the Achaemneid dynasty.

The story explained in the relief is often contrasted with that which is relayed by Herodotus in his infamous book, The Histories. According to Herodotus, Darius was the real usurper of the crown and no such man known as Gaumata existed. After Cambyses died of a supposed “natural” cause, Darius murdered Smerdis, not an imposter and seized the throne (Herodotus). Because this story circulated at the time, Darius made sure to continually reinforce the legitimacy of his reign. Not only did the relief depict Ahuramzada bestowing power unto him, but every foundation tablet he commissioned repeatedly mentioned this idea. To further enforce his legitimacy, Dariud copied and translated the Behistun inscription into the various languages of his peoples and circulated the text. Consequently, it became a part of the imperial texts and survived in various forms. Not only did Darius try to link himself to Ahuramzada in his inscription, but to Cyrus as well. He claimed he was a distant relative of Cyrus and further solidified this assertion by marrying two daughters and a grand-daughter of Cyrus during his reign (Roaf 207).

Despite the supposed lies that are dictated through the Behistun relief, historians agree it indirectly tells a lot about the Achaemenid Empire and how various cultures influenced it. The relief shows Darius and his bow/ lance carriers overlooking nine conquered peoples tied together by their necks with their hands bound behind their backs. The tenth figure which lies under the mounted foot of Darius is supposed to be the imposter Guamata and the supreme god, Ahurzamazda is represented above all thirteen figures as a winged disk.

Unlike Assyrian reliefs which were very violent in nature, this is one of the only Achaemenid reliefs which depicts an act of violence. Figure 3 below is an example of a typical Assyrian relief found, while Figure 4 is an example of traditional Persian Art. Although the Persians were equally violent in conquest as the Assyrians, they chose not to highlight this element so not to scare the peoples of the empire. The Achaemenid rulers witnessed the fall of the Assyrian Empire and believed their use of fear was one reason why dissatisfaction arose. While a common Assyrian relief depicted battle scenes in which enemies were often beheaded, typical Achaemneid relief portrayed processional scenes that incorporated all peoples of the empire.

In the relief, Darius is shown with his arm raised towards Ahuramazda. This holy gesture is common in religious scenes of various cultures. As seen in Figure 6 below the Assyrians depicted subordination by portraying beings with one arm raised towards a God. This similarities between the Assyrian stance and that of Darius, in Figure 5, is obvious.

Scholars note that various aspects of the Behistun relief were influenced by other cultures in Mesopotamia. The relief is found to closely resemble a number of rock reliefs throughout Iran. Ancient Mesopotamia is known for such rock reliefs and archaeologists have found that the cultures of this area actually developed a method for creating such masterpieces. First, a rock or bolder was found which had a solid face and then a large section of it was smoothed out. According to Nielson Debevoise, in his essay on "Rock Reliefs in Ancient Iran" rock reliefs were erected in locations that were either frequented spots, such as alongside a trade route, or at sacred spring and grottos (77-78).

In comparing the Behistuin relief to others of Ancient Iran many similarities can be detected. For instance, Darius stance of worship in which he has one arm raised resembles an element of the rock relief at Kurangun. Although the Kurangun relief was carved many centuries prior a viewer can see that the worshipers shown in front of the snake god have their arms raised in honor (Figure 7) (Debevoise 78).

While the similarities discussed above are small, the likeness between the rock relief at Behistun and Zohab are great and plentiful. The Zohab relief is located near Sari-i-Pul and depicts almost an identical scene to that at Behistun. Carved in ca. 2500 BC, this victory seal shows the king of Lullubi, Annu-banini, with his foot upon the body of a captive and his attention toward the goddess Inanna (Debevoise 81). It is evident that the relief of Darius was partially inspired by this earlier one. Not only is the theme and mounted-foot-stance identical but the captives are shown in both pieces with their arms bound behind their backs.

The power stance in which a king has one foot upon an enemy occurs in a number of other reliefs including that of King Tar-dunni, that of King Naram Sin, and that at Darband-i-Gawr. In all reliefs, the king is shown climbing a slope with his foot atop an enemy (Debevoise 82). Figure 9 below is an image of the Victory Stele of Naram Sin. Similarities are seen in the stance and costume. Not only is the mounted foot concept taken from the Victory Seal, but the Greek inspired pleating is also identical (Farkas 138). The main differences lie in the position of characters. In the relief at Behistun, Darius is shown in full profile, as the Greek and Neo-Babylonians often did, while characters are shown in part profile in the Naram-Sin relief.

Watch the video: Darband - Tehran 4K دربند - تهران