The word ziggurat may be translated as ‘temple-tower’, and is a structure consisting of several levels, the topmost of which was probably a high temple. Ziggurats are most commonly associated with the Mesopotamian civilization, which today roughly corresponds to most of Iraq plus Kuwait, and the eastern parts of Syria. Nevertheless, some of these monumental structures have also been found in the western part of Iran. One of the ways of distinguishing between Mesopotamian and Iranian ziggurats is the way these buildings were accessed. It has been pointed out that in the former, the structures were accessed by an external flight of stairs. On the other hand, the ziggurats in Iran were accessed by ramps.
Two mounds have been excavated in Jiroft, a town 230 km to the south of Kermna, the capital of the Kerman province. These two mounds are separated by a couple of kilometres from each other, and have been designated as sites ‘A’ and ‘B’. The excavation of site B revealed a two-storey citadel with a base covering an area of 13.5 hectares. Surrounding this structure were the remains of a wall 10.5 m in thickness. These findings suggest that the structure had once been a fortified building.
At site ‘A’, on the other hand, a ziggurat-like structure, which consists of two levels, was unearthed. This structure has been measured to be 17m in height, 300m in both length and width at the base, and 150m on each side of the second level. This huge structure covered almost the whole of the mound. As this monument structurally resembles the ziggurats of Mesopotamia, it has been suggested that buried beneath the sand may be the oldest and largest ziggurat in the world.
Apart from the location of Aratta, the age of the ziggurat has also been questioned. So far, the dating of the monument has been based on two small fragments that may be written inscriptions. Undisturbed material for radiocarbon dating, however, has yet to be found. It appears that the great mound in Jiroft has many more secrets to reveal.