Chogha Zanbil is an ancient Elamite complex in the Khuzestan province of Iran. It is one of the few existent ziggurats outside of Mesopotamia. The ruins of the holy city of the Kingdom of Elam, surrounded by three huge concentric walls, founded by the Elamite king Untash-Napirisha (1275-1240 BCE) as the religious center of Elam. The complex was protected by three concentric enclosure walls: an outer wall about 4 km in circumference enclosing a vast complex of residences and the royal quarter, where three monumental palaces have been unearthed (one is considered a tomb-palace that covers the remains of underground baked-brick structures containing the burials of the royal family); a second wall protecting the temples (Temenus); and the innermost wall enclosing the focal point of the ensemble, the ziggurat. The city remained unfinished after it was invaded by Ashurbanipal, as shown by the thousands of unused bricks left at the site. It lies approximately 30 km (19 mi) south-east of Susa and 80 km (50 mi) north of Ahvaz.
The main building materials in Chogha Zanbil were mud bricks and occasionally baked bricks. The monuments were decorated with glazed baked bricks, gypsum and ornaments of faïence and glass. Ornamenting the most important buildings were thousands of baked bricks bearing inscriptions with Elamite cuneiform characters were all inscribed by hand. Glazed terracotta statues such as bulls and winged griffins guarded the entrances to the ziggurat. Near the temples of Kiririsha and Hishmitik-Ruhuratir, kilns were found that were probably used for the production of baked bricks and decorative materials. It is believed that the ziggurat was built in two stages.
The archaeological site of chogha Zanbil is an exceptional expression of the culture, beliefs, and ritual traditions of one of the oldest indigenous peoples of Iran. The ziggurat is considered to be the best preserved example of the stepped pyramidal monument by UNESCO. In 1979, Chogha Zanbil became the first Iranian site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.