Urartu (ōōrär´tōō), ancient kingdom of Armenia and N Mesopotamia, centered about Lake Van in present-day E Turkey. It was the biblical Ararat. Urartu flourished from the 13th cent. to the 7th cent. BC, but was most powerful in the 8th cent. BC, when it ruled over most of N Syria. The Urartians constantly fought with Assyria; Shalmaneser I, Shalmaneser III, and Sargon all attacked Urartu but never completely subdued it. In the 7th cent. BC repeated invasions by the Cimmerians, Scythians, and Medes finally brought about the downfall of the Urartian kingdom. Excavations, particularly at such sites as Toprakkale and Karmir Blur, have shown that Urartu had an advanced agricultural and commercial civilization, which was largely influenced by Assyria. Its language, written in cuneiform (also borrowed from the Assyrians), has no relation to any known language, except perhaps to the Horite. Urartian techniques of metalworking and stone masonry (especially in the construction of fortresses) was highly advanced.
See B. Piatrovski, Ancient Civilization of Urartu (1969).