Hanni of Ayapir (c. 600 BC)

Kul-e Farah I relief commissioned by the Elamite local ruler Hanni of Ayapir in the valley of Izeh in the Zagros highlands of southwest Iran

By Macquarie University

Prof Javier Alvarez-Mon, Dr Yasmina Wicks, and Dr Brian Ballsun-Stanton

Kul-e Farah relief I, detail of Hanni of Ayapir's face (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University

I, Hanni, son of Tahhi, kutur of Ayapir
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Just over 2,500 years ago a local Elamite ruler, Hanni of Ayapir, was asserting his authority over the Izeh valley in the Zagros highlands of southwest Iran. As he tells us himself, Hanni was subject to another, far more powerful ruler, king Shutur-Nahhunte, son of Indada, named after the great Elamite god, Nahhunte.

Map of Southwest Iran showing locations of Elamite reliefs and other key Elamite sites (2018) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University

Elamite Civilization
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Southwest Iran

Home to the ancient civilization of Elam (c. 4200-525 BC)

Satellite view of the valley of Izeh showing locations of reliefs (17th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University

Izeh Valley, location of twelve Elamite rock reliefs

Hanni is the only known author of twelve Elamite reliefs carved on various rock surfaces around the highland Izeh valley from the 17th to the 6th century BC in open air sanctuaries that incorporated natural features such as caves, waterfalls, springs, and rivers. Sadly, the identities of the other rulers have faded into anonymity.

Kul-e Farah open-air sanctuary (9th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University

The Elamite open-air sanctuary of Kul-e Farah, Izeh Valley

Hanni had his relief carved in a gorge with a seasonal creek opening out into the lush Izeh valley. The gorge was already home to five other Elamite reliefs depicting hundreds of worshippers and served as the location for periodic pilgrimage.    

Kul-e Farah Relief V, Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina Wicks, 7th-6th century BC, From the collection of: Macquarie University
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Kul-e Farah Relief VI, Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina Wicks, 7th-6th century BC, From the collection of: Macquarie University
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Kul-e Farah relief I panel, Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina Wicks, 7th-6th century BC, From the collection of: Macquarie University
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Kul-e Farah relief III, southern and eastern faces, Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina Wicks, 8th-7th century BC, From the collection of: Macquarie University
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Kul-e Farah relief IV, Mr. Asadi, Bakhtiyari caretaker of Kul-e Farah reliefs with central panel A, Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina Wicks, 9th-8th century BC, From the collection of: Macquarie University
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Kul-e Farah Relief II, Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina Wicks, 7th-6th century BC, From the collection of: Macquarie University
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Six reliefs carved on cliffs and boulders around the gorge of Kul-e Farah

Kul-e Farah relief I (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University

Kul-e Farah relief I

Hanni’s image was carved up on a high, protected ledge looking out over the Izeh valley.

Kul-e Farah relief I, detail of Hanni of Ayapir with line drawing (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University

Hanni's ceremonial highland fashion
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Hanni, son of Tahhi, kutur of Ayapir

The large-scale figure of Hanni, kutur ("caretaker, protector, ruler") of Ayapir is the central character of the Kul-e Farah I relief. He is set apart from the other figures by his much larger scale and his richly ornamented garment.

Kul-e Farah relief I panel (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University

Hanni presiding over a ceremonial sacrifice
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Hanni presiding over a ceremonial sacrifice

Shutruru, Hanni's weapon-bearer
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Shutruru

Hanni's weapon-bearer and military commander

Hanni's nisikkir
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Hanni's nisikkir

A high official of Hanni's court

Hanni's Orchestra
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Hanni's orchestra

Trio of court musicians playing string and percussion instruments: a vertical harp, horizontal harp, and square drum

Animal sacrifice scene
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Animal sacrifice scene

Sacrifice of a mountain goat, three round-horned sheep (already decapitated), and a zebu

Hanni's 24-line Elamite cuneiform inscription
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Hanni's 24-line Elamite cuneiform inscription

In a long inscription covering the upper part of the relief, Hanni nominated himself as a vassal of the Elamite king Shutur-Nahhunte, son of Indada, and spoke of his achievements and piety towards the gods.

Kul-e Farah relief I panel overlaid by line drawing of the figures (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University

Hanni's artists: Theme and style

Hanni's artists borrowed core themes from earlier reliefs at the site, and despite erosion and vandalism, it is still possible to appreciate their “natural” plastic treatment of body parts. This was achieved by combining varying modelling depths and engraving of details. 

Shekaft-e Salman reliefs co-opted by Hanni six centuries after their manufacture (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University

Honouring the gods
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Hanni's inscriptions at Shekaft-e Salman cave sanctuary

On the southwest side of Izeh valley opposite Kul-e Farah is the majestic “romantic grotto” of Shekaft-e Salman (“Salomon’s Cave”) with a waterfall and creek. Here Hanni added his inscriptions to a series of four earlier Elamite reliefs inside and next to the mouth of the cave.

Mr. Asadi, Bakhtiyari caretaker of Kul-e Farah reliefs in front of relief I (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University

Hanni's Legacy
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Protecting Hanni's Elamite cultural legacy

Today the Kul-e Farah sanctuary is overseen by its self-appointed caretaker, Mr Asadi, who lives on-site and has dedicated his life to ensuring the safety of the reliefs. The imperative to preserve these reliefs, with their immense cultural value cannot be overstated.

Credits: Story

Prof Javier Alvarez-Mon
Dr Yasmina Wicks
Dr Brian Ballsun-Stanton

References:
Álvarez-Mon, J. 2019. The Monumental Reliefs of the Elamite Highlands: a Complete Inventory and Analysis (from the Seventeenth to the Sixth Century BC). Eisenbrauns and The University of Pennsylvania Press

Álvarez-Mon, J. 2020. The Art of Elam (ca. 4200-525 BC). Routledge

Álvarez-Mon, J., G.P. Basello, and Y. Wicks 2018. The Elamite World. Routledge

Wicks, Y. 2020. Kul-e Farah Reliefs (eahaa00251). The Encyclopedia of Ancient History: Asia and Africa. Wiley-Blackwell

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