Structural analysis of earth construction's vaults: Case of underground tombs of Chogha Zanbil

Hosseini S., Niroumand H., GÜLTEKİN A. B. , Barcelo J. A. , Osmadi A., Mahdavi F.

REVISTA DE LA CONSTRUCCION, vol.19, no.3, pp.366-380, 2020 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 19 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.7764/rdlc.19.3.366
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, DIALNET
  • Page Numbers: pp.366-380
  • Gazi University Affiliated: Yes


The 3300-year-old Chogha Zanbil is the largest and best-preserved five levelled pyramidal earth ziggurat outside Mesopotamia, which was inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Underground tombs of Chogha Zanbil are accepted as outstanding instances in Iran and consist of vaults, which are built with special methods by Elamite architects. In this context, the main purpose of this paper is to contribute to sustain the outstanding universal value of the Chogha Zanbil. For that purpose, this paper puts forward a structural analyse of the vaults of five Chogha Zanbil underground tombs, which were built inside the ground by brick, lime mortar, plaster and bitumen materials. Data for underground tombs and vaults were collected upon field observations and literature study. Finite-element methodology was used for structural analysis and SAP software was utilized to determine the way the forces are transmitted through the vaults, the conditions of bending moments, the shear forces. As a result, it has been observed that the bending in the vaults turns into pressure force that is perfectly resisted by bricks. In conclusion, it was ascertained that the vaults of the Chogha Zanbil underground tombs were built with the right techniques at that time, so that the vaults still have solid behaviour after thousands of years and remained completely healthy to this day.