History of Iran
Neolithic to Chalcolithic
Broad Spectrum Revolution
Shir Ashian Tepe
Zayandeh River Culture
History of Iran
The history of Iran, which was commonly known until the mid-20th century as Persia in the Western world, is intertwined with the history of a larger region, also to an extent known as Greater Iran, refering to the regions of the Caucasus, West Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia where Iranian culture has had significant influence.
The region comprises the area from Anatolia, the Bosphorus, and Egypt in the west to the borders of Ancient India and the Syr Darya in the east, and from the Caucasus and the Eurasian Steppe in the north to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in the south.
The prehistory is conventinally divided into the Paleolithic, Epipaleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age periods, spanning the time from the first settlement by archaic humans about a million years ago until the beginning historical record during Neo-Assyrian Empire, in the 800 BC.
Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest continuous major civilizations, with historical and urban settlements dating back to 7000 BC. The south-western and western part of the Iranian Plateau participated in the traditional Ancient Near East with Elam, from the Early Bronze Age, and later with various other peoples, such as the Kassites, Mannaeans, and Gutians.
The Iranian Empire proper begins in the Iron Age, following the influx of Iranian peoples. Iranian people gave rise to the Medes, the Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sasanian Empires of classical antiquity. The Medes unified Iran as a nation and empire in 625 BC.
The Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC), founded by Cyrus the Great, was the first true global superpower state and it ruled from the Balkans to North Africa and also Central Asia, spanning three continents, from their seat of power in Persis (Persepolis).
It was the largest empire yet seen and the first world empire. The Achaemenid Empire was the only civilization in all of history to connect over 40% of the global population, accounting for approximately 49.4 million of the world’s 112.4 million people in around 480 BC.
They were succeeded by the Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian Empires, who successively governed Iran for almost 1,000 years and made Iran once again as a leading power in the world. Persia’s arch-rival was the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine Empire.
Once a major empire, Iran has endured invasions too, by the Macedonians, Arabs, Turks, and the Mongols. Iran has continually reasserted its national identity throughout the centuries and has developed as a distinct political and cultural entity.
Evidence for human occupation of the Zagros reaches back into the Lower Palaeolithic, as evidenced by the discovery of many cave-sites dating to that period in the Iranian part of the mountain range. Middle Palaeolithic stone tool assemblages are known from Barda Balka, a cave-site south of the Little Zab; and from the Iranian Zagros. A Mousterian stone tool assemblage – produced by either Neanderthals or anatomically modern humans – was recently excavated in Arbil.
Neanderthals also occupied the site of Shanidar. This cave-site, located in the Sapna Valley, has yielded a settlement sequence stretching from the Middle Palaeolithic up to the Epipalaeolithic period. The site is particularly well known for its Neanderthal burials.
The Mousterian culture is followed by the Baradostian culture, which is an early Upper Palaeolithic flint industry culture in Zagros region at the border of Iran and Iraq.
Radiocarbon dates suggest that this is one of the earliest Upper Palaeolithic complexes; it may have begun as early as 36000 BC. Its relationship to neighbouring industries however remains unclear. Shanidar Cave in Iraqi Kurdistan, Warwasi rockshelter and Yafteh cave at western Zagros and Eshkaft-e gavi Cave in southern Zagros are among the major sites to be excavated.
Perhaps caused by the maximum cold of the last phase of the most recent ice age or Wurm glaciation the Baradostian was replaced by a local Epi-Palaeolithic industry called the Zarzian culture. This tool tradition marks the end of the Zagros Palaeolithic sequence.
One of the potential routes for early human migrations toward southern and eastern Asia is Iran, a country characterized by a wide range of geographic variation and resources, which could support early groups of hominins who wandered into the region.
The earliest archaeological artifacts in Iran were found in the Kashafrud and Ganj Par sites that are thought to date back to 100,000 years ago in the Middle Paleolithic. Mousterian stone tools made by Neandertals have also been found.
There are more cultural remains of Neandertals dating back to the Middle Paleolithic period, which mainly have been found in the Zagros region and fewer in central Iran at sites such as Kobeh, Kunji, Bisitun Cave, Tamtama, Warwasi, and Yafteh Cave. In 1949, a Neanderthal radius was discovered by Carleton S. Coon in Bisitun Cave.
Evidence for the presence of these early populations in Iran includes some stone artifacts discovered from gravel deposits along the Kashafrud River Basin in eastern Iran, the Mashkid and Ladiz Rivers in the southeast, the Sefidrud River in the north, the Mahabad River in the northwest, and some surface occurrences and isolated finds from the west and northwestern parts of the country.
The main known early human occupation sites in Iran are: Kashafrud in Khorasan, Mashkid and Ladiz in Sistan, Shiwatoo in Kurdistan, Ganj Par in Gilan, Darband Cave in Gilan, Khaleseh in Zanjan, Tepe Gakia 14 km (8.7 mi) due east of Kermanshah, Pal Barik in Ilam. These sites fall between one million years ago to 200,000 years ago.
Mousterian Stone tools made by Neanderthal man have also been found in various parts of the country.There are more cultural remains of Neanderthal man dating back to the Middle Paleolithic period, which mainly have been found in the Zagros region and fewer in central Iran at sites such as Kobeh, Kaldar, Bisetun, Qaleh Bozi, Tamtama, Warwasi. In 1949 a Neanderthal radius was discovered by CS Coon in Bisitun Cave.
Evidence for Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic periods are known mainly from the Zagros region in the caves of Kermanshah, Piranshahr and Khoramabad such as Yafteh Cave and a few number of sites in the Alborz range and Central Iran. During this time, people began creating rock art.
In October 2018 a tooth belonging to a Neanderthal child has been discovered in Iran for the first time. The tooth belongs to a six-year-old child that was found along with some rocky tools of the middle Paleolithic period in the mountains of Kermanshah province.
Rock art in Iran includes archaeological petroglyphs, or carving in rock; pictographs, or painting on rock; and rock reliefs. Large numbers of prehistoric rock art, more than 50,000, have been discovered in Iran. The largest rock art panel in Iran, located near Golpayegan spans 12 meters and features more than 100 petroglyphs.
Dating back to 7000 years before present in Iran, rock art is the oldest surviving artwork. Prehistoric rock art provides insights into past eras and cultures. Archaeologists classify the tools for carving petroglyphs by their historical era. Incising tools include flint, metal, or thigh bones of hunted prey.
The earliest known petroglyphs are in Teimareh or Teymareh (near Golpayegan County) dating back to 7000 years ago. The earliest known pictographs in Iran are in Yafteh cave (near Sorkheh Lizeh in Lorestan Province) and date back 40,000 years. Golpayegan is the central region of Teimareh (Teymareh) petroglyphs. Ancient Iranian pottery and bronze sculpture continue designs found in the rock art.
This continuity suggests the impressiveness of petroglyphs of the facades of caves and rocks reflected to ancient Iranian artisans. This continuity can be traced from eighth millennium BC by the potteries in Ganj Darreh (near Qeysvand, Harsin in Kermanshah Province), to the third and first millennium BC, considering the bronze period in Lorestan.
Iran provides exclusive demonstrations of script formation from pictogram, ideogram, linear (2300 BC) or proto-Elamite, geometric old Elamite script, Pahlavi script, Arabic script (906 years ago), Kufi script, and Persian script back to at least 250 years ago.
The most recent chronology of petroglyphs in Iran was done employing the General Antiparticle Spectrometer in 2008 that helped gather data from random samples; though, this is a demanding job that needs a systematic and comprehensive supported effort.
Pictographs that contain pictures drawn by pigments like smut, crystallized blood, ochre, that were employed by binders like animal fats, blood, seed oil and organic compounds, or a mixture of all materials mentioned above. Lorestan has the most and oldest pictographs in Iran. Yafteh cave in Lorestan has pictographs dating back to 40,000 years ago.Compared to petroglyphs, pictographs in Iran are scarce and rare.
The ibex, a type of goat with prominent, curved horns, is the most common image depicted in rock art. Human figures are portrayed dressed and undressed, performing rituals, roping cattle, walking on foot,riding horses, and hunting.
The end of the Palaeolithic, called Epipalaeolithic, is in a period of about 7000 years from c. 18,000 to 11,000 BC. In those days groups of hunter-gatherers were mostly living in the caves of the Zagros Mountains.
Compared to earlier groups of game hunters, a tendency towards increasing the number of the kinds of plants and animals, which were collected and hunted, can be observed. Not only smaller vertebrates were hunted but also pistachios and wild fruit were collected. Finally, consuming snails and smaller aquatic animals like crabs is new.
Neolithic to Chalcolithic
Almost nothing is known about the 2500 years which followed the Epipalaeolithic after 11,000 BC. Only when discovering the place of Asiab (c. 8500-8000) in the Kermanshah area we are in better known periods.
Asiab was a small camp of hunter-gatherers, only seasonally inhabited. Besides the fact that wild goats and sheep were hunted, great numbers of snail shells were found. These finds were interpreted in the way that from time to time the hunting activities of the inhabitants of Asiab were unsuccessful and that then they were forced to consume food which they usually did not like.
Some nearby and more constantly occupied settlements in the Zagros date from a short time after Asiab, from the time between 8000 and 6800 BC. Still the material culture of Tappeh Ganj Dareh and Tappeh Abdul Hosein does not include any pottery. Thus this period is often called “aceramic Neolithic”. Subclade R2 was observed in the remains of a Neolithic human from western Iran in Tepe Abdul Hosein.
This is also true for the oldest levels of Tappeh Guran, located in Luristan, as well as for the sites of Ali Kosh and Chogha Sefid in the plain of Deh Luran, west of the Zagros Mountains. There, flocks of sheep and herds of goats were kept for the first time.
Managing animals meant a fundamentally new orientation of the Neolithic inhabitants of Iran and must be understood to be connected with a whole number of other innovations, particularly the architecture of houses. We do not definitely know if in those days there was any cultivation of cereals. Tools for harvesting and for making cereal products are there, but remnants of burned grain are extremely rare.
In the 8th millennium BC, agricultural communities such as Chogha Bonut (the earliest village in Susiana) started to form in western Iran, either as a result of indigenous development or of outside influences. Around about the same time the earliest known clay vessels and modeled human and animal terracotta figurines were produced at Ganj Dareh and Teppe Sarab, also in western Iran.
The south-western part of Iran was part of the Fertile Crescent. Some of the oldest agricultural ground has been discovered in Susa (now a city still existing since 7000 BC), and settlements such as Chogha Mish, dating back to 6800 BC; there are 7,000-year-old jars of wine excavated in the Zagros Mountains.
Ruins of 7,000-year-old settlements such as Sialk are further testament to that. The two main Neolithic Iranian settlements were the Zayandeh River Culture and Ganj Dareh. Originally, Donald E. McCown offered three successive painted pottery traditions for northern Iran: the Sialk horizon, the Cheshmeh Ali horizon, and the Hissar horizon.
Early agricultural communities such as Chogha Golan in 10,000 BC along with settlements such as Chogha Bonut (the earliest village in Elam) in 8000 BC, began to flourish in and around the Zagros Mountains region in western Iran.
Parts of what is modern-day northwestern Iran was part of the Kura–Araxes culture (circa 3400 BC—ca. 2000 BC), that stretched up into the neighboring regions of the Caucasus and Anatolia.
Susa is one of the oldest-known settlements of Iran and the world. Based on C14 dating, the time of foundation of the city is as early as 4395 BC, a time that goes beyond the age of civilization in Mesopotamia. The general perception among archeologists is that Susa was an extension of the Sumerian city state of Uruk. In its later history, Susa became the capital of Elam, which emerged as a state found 4000 BC.
There are also dozens of prehistoric sites across the Iranian plateau pointing to the existence of ancient cultures and urban settlements in the fourth millennium BC, One of the earliest civilizations in Iranian plateau was the Jiroft culture in southeastern Iran in the province of Kerman.
The Jiroft culture is one of the most artifact-rich archaeological sites in the Middle East. Archaeological excavations in Jiroft led to the discovery of several objects belonging to the 4th millennium BC. There is a large quantity of objects decorated with highly distinctive engravings of animals, mythological figures, and architectural motifs.
The objects and their iconography are unlike anything ever seen before by archeologists. Many are made from chlorite, a gray-green soft stone; others are in copper, bronze, terracotta, and even lapis lazuli. Recent excavations at the sites have produced the world’s earliest inscription which pre-dates Mesopotamian inscriptions.
The Early Bronze Age saw the rise of urbanization into organized city states and the invention of writing (the Uruk period) in the Near East. While Bronze Age Elam made use of writing from an early time, the Proto-Elamite script remains undeciphered, and records from Sumer pertaining to Elam are scarce.
There are records of numerous other ancient civilizations on the Iranian Plateau before the emergence of Iranian peoples during the Early Iron Age. According to Russian historian Igor M. Diakonoff the modern inhabitants of the Iranian Plateau are descendants of mainly non-Persian groups: “It is the autochthones of the Iranian plateau, and not the Proto-Indo-European tribes of Europe, which are, in the main, the ancestors, in the physical sense of the word, of the present-day Iranians.”
Records become more tangible with the rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and its records of incursions from the Iranian plateau. As early as the 20th century BC, tribes came to the Iranian Plateau from the Pontic–Caspian steppe.
The arrival of Iranians on the Iranian plateau forced the Elamites to relinquish one area of their empire after another and to take refuge in Elam, Khuzestan and the nearby area, which only then became coterminous with Elam. Bahman Firuzmandi say that the southern Iranians might be intermixed with the Elamite peoples living in the plateau.
By the mid-first millennium BC, Medes, Persians, and Parthians populated the Iranian plateau. Until the rise of the Medes, they all remained under Assyrian domination, like the rest of the Near East. In the first half of the first millennium BC, parts of what is now Iranian Azerbaijan were incorporated into Urartu.
The Baradostian culture was an Upper Paleolithic flint industry culture found in the Zagros region in the border-country between Iraq and Iran. It was preceded by the Middle Paleolithic Mousterian culture, directly overlying it without an intervening bladelet industry.
According to M. Otte, the Baradostian of the Zagros clearly belongs to Aurignacian traditions. This culture is known for the high percentage of burins and some of these were similar to the distinctive nosed profile of the Aurignacian burins.
Radiocarbon dates suggest that this was one of the earliest Upper Paleolithic complexes, beginning perhaps as early as 36,000 BC. Evidence found in the Yafteh cave assemblages, revealed that the early phase of this culture was not as sophisticated as the evolved middle phase, and it produced blades and bladelets using soft hammer from single platform prismatic cores with plain platforms.
The Baradostian’s relationship to neighbouring cultures remains unclear. This is also the case regarding the issue of whether this culture gradually evolved from the previous Zagros Mousterian cultural group, which is associated primarily with the Neanderthals, or whether early modern humans brought to the Zagros region the technologies linked to the Baradostian.
Shanidar Cave in Iraqi Kurdistan, Warwasi rock-shelter, Kaldar Cave and Yafteh Cave in the western Zagros, and Eshkaft-e Gavi Cave in the southern Zagros are among the major sites to have been excavated. Perhaps precipitated by the most recent cold phase (the Würm glaciation) of the current ice age, the Baradostian was replaced by a local Epipaleolithic industry called the Zarzian culture. The Baradostian tool tradition marks the end of the Zagros Paleolithic sequence.
Zarzian culture (18,000–8,000 BC) is an archaeological culture of late Paleolithic and Mesolithic found in the Zagros region in the border-country between Iraq and Iran. Their forms are short and asymmetric trapezoids, and triangles with hollows. It was preceded by the Baradostian culture in the same region and was related to the Imereti culture of the Caucasus.
The culture was named and recognised of the cave of Zarzi in northern Iraq. Here were found plenty of microliths (up to 20% finds). It was preceded by the Upper Paleolithic Baradostian flint industry culture in the same region and was related to the Imereti culture of the Caucasus.
Andy Burns states “The Zarzian of the Zagros region of Iran is contemporary with the Natufian but different from it. The only dates for the entire Zarzian come from Palegawra Cave, and date to 17,300-17,000BP, but it is clear that it is broadly contemporary with the Levantine Kebaran, with which it shares features. It seems to have evolved from the Upper Palaeolithic Baradostian.
There are only a few Zarzian sites and the area appears to have been quite sparsely populated during the Epipalaeolithic. Faunal remains from the Zarzian indicate that the temporary form of structures indicate a hunter-gatherer subsistence strategy, focused on onager, red deer and caprines. Better known sites include Palegawra Cave, Shanidar B2 and Zarzi.”
The Zarzian culture is found associated with remains of the domesticated dog and with the introduction of the bow and arrow. It seems to have extended north into the Gobustan region and into Eastern Iran as a forerunner of the Hissar, a prehistoric site located in the village Heydarabad just south of Damghan in Semnan Province in Northeastern Iran, and related cultures.
Zarzian culture of the Zagros mountains (12,400–8500 BC), stretching northwards into Kobistan in the Caucasus and eastwards into Iran, is an archaeological culture of late Paleolithic and Mesolithic in Iraq, Iran, Central Asia named and recognised of the cave of Zarzi in Iraqi Kurdistan. Here was found plenty of microliths (up to 20% finds). Their forms are short and asymmetric trapezoids, and triangles with hollows.
The Zarzian of the Zagros region of Iran is contemporary with the Natufian, but different from it. The period of the culture is estimated about 18,000-8,000 years BC. It was preceded by the Baradostian culture in the same region and was related to the Imereti culture of the Caucasus.
The only dates for the entire Zarzian come from Palegawra Cave, and date to 17,300-17,000BP, but it is clear that it is broadly contemporary with the Levantine Kebaran, with which it shares features. It seems to have evolved from the Upper Palaeolithic Baradostian.
There are only a few Zarzian sites and the area appears to have been quite sparsely populated during the Epipalaeolithic. Faunal remains from the Zarzian indicate that the temporary form of structures indicate a hunter-gatherer subsistence strategy, focused on onager, red deer and caprines. Better known sites include Palegawra Cave, Shanidar B2 and Zarzi.
The Zarzian culture is found associated with remains of the domesticated dog and with the introduction of the bow and arrow. It seems to have extended north into the Kobistan region and into Eastern Iran as a forerunner of the Hissar and related cultures.
The Zarzian culture seems to have participated in the early stages of what Kent Flannery has called the broad spectrum revolution (BSR). He suggested that the emergence of the Neolithic in southwest Asia was prefaced by increases in dietary breadth among foraging societies.
Broad Spectrum Revolution
The Zarzian culture seems to have participated in the early stages of what Kent Flannery has called the broad spectrum revolution (BSR). According to Flannery the emergence of the Neolithic in southwest Asia was prefaced by increases in dietary breadth among foraging societies. It followed the most recent ice age around 15,000 BP in the Middle East and 12,000 BP in Europe.
During this time, there was a transition from focusing on a few main food sources to gathering/hunting a “broad spectrum” of plants and animals.The Paleolithic people also had a broad spectrum diet. Thus, the broad spectrum revolution set the stage for domestication and rise of permanent agricultural settlement.
Flannery’s hypothesis was meant to help explain the adoption of agriculture in the Neolithic Revolution. Unpersuaded by “the facile explanation of prehistoric environmental change” Flannery suggested (following Lewis Binford’s equilibrium model) that population growth in optimal habitats led to demographic pressure within nearby marginal habitats as daughter groups migrated.
The search for more food within these marginal habitats forced foragers to diversify the types of food sources harvested, broadening the subsistence base outward to include more fish, small game, waterfowl, invertebrates (such as snails and shellfish), as well as previously ignored or marginal plant sources.
Most importantly, Flannery argues that the need for more food in these marginal environments led to the deliberate cultivation of certain plant species, especially cereals. In optimal habitats, these plants naturally grew in relatively dense stands, but required human intervention in order to be efficiently harvested in marginal zones.
A BSR is likely to manifest as both an increased spectrum of food resources and an evenness in the exploitation of high- and low-value prey. Under a broad spectrum economy a greater amount of low-value prey (i.e. high cost-to-benefit ratio) would be included because there are insufficient high-value prey to reliably satisfy a population’s needs.
In terms of plants, it would be expected that foodstuffs that had once been ignored because of difficulty of extraction were now included in a diet. In terms of fauna, animal prey which was previously considered an inefficient use of resources (particularly small, fast mammals or fish) could now also be worthwhile. In other words, increasing scarcity made the extra effort necessary for survival.
In the Middle East, the broad spectrum revolution led to an increase in the production of food. The growth and reproduction of certain plants and animals became vastly popular. Because large animals became quite scarce, people had to find new resources of food and tools elsewhere. Interests focused on smaller game like fish, rabbits, and shellfish because the reproduction rate of small animals is much greater than that of large animals.
The most commonly accepted stimulation for the BSR is demographic pressures on the landscape, under which over-exploitation of resources meant narrow diets restricted to high-value prey could no longer feed the expanding population. It has also been linked to climatic changes, including sea level rises during which conditions became more inviting to marine life offshore in shallow, warm waters.
Quantity and variety of marine life increased drastically as did the number of edible species. Because the rivers’ power weakened with rising waters, the currents flowing into the ocean were slow enough to allow salmon and other fish ascend upstream to spawn. Birds found refuge next to riverbeds in marsh grasses and then proceeded to migrate across Europe in the wintertime.
It has been proposed that the broad spectrum revolution (BSR) of Kent Flannery (1969), associated with microliths, the use of the bow and arrow, and the domestication of the dog, all of which are associated with these cultures, may have been the cultural “motor” that led to their expansion.
Certainly cultures which appeared at Franchthi Cave in the Aegean and Lepenski Vir in the Balkans, and the Murzak-Koba (9100–8000 BCE) and Grebenki (8500–7000 BCE) cultures of the Ukrainian steppe, all displayed these adaptations.
The broad spectrum revolution followed the ice age around 15,000 BP in the Middle East and 12,000 BP in Europe. During this time, there was a transition from focusing on a few main food sources to gathering/hunting a “broad spectrum” of plants and animals.
Flannery’s hypothesis was meant to help explain the adoption of agriculture. Unpersuaded by “the facile explanation of prehistoric environmental change,” he suggested (following Lewis Binford’s equilibrium model) that population growth in optimal habitats led to demographic pressure within nearby marginal habitats as daughter groups migrated.
The search for more food within these marginal habitats forced foragers to diversify the types of food sources harvested, broadening the subsistence base outward to include more fish, small game, water fowl, invertebrates likes snails and shellfish, as well as previously ignored or marginal plant sources.
Most importantly, Flannery argues that the need for more food in these marginal environments led to the delibrate cultivation of certain plants species, especially cereals. In optimal habitats, these plants naturally grew in relatively dense stands, but required human intervention in order to be efficiently harvested in marginal zones. Thus, the broad spectrum revolution set the stage for domestication and rise of permanent agricultural settlement.
A broad spectrum revolution is likely to manifest as both an increased spectrum of food resources and an evenness in the exploitation of high- and low-value prey. Under a broad spectrum economy a greater amount of low-value prey (i.e. high cost-to-benefit ratio) would be included because there are insufficient high-value prey to reliably satisfy a population’s needs.
In terms of plants, it would be expected that foodstuff previously ignored because of the difficult in their extraction are now included in a diet. Whereas, animal prey which was previously considered an inefficient use of resources (particularly small, fast mammals or fish) may also be included.
In the Middle East, the broad spectrum revolution led to an increase in the production of food. The growth and reproduction of certain plants and animals became vastly popular. Because large animals became quite scarce, people had to find new resources of food and tools elsewhere. Interests focused on smaller game like fish, rabbits, and shellfish because the reproduction rate on small animals is much greater than that of large animals.
The most commonly accepted stimulation for the BSR is demographic pressures on the landscape, under which over-exploitation of resources meant narrows diets restricted to high-value prey could no longer feed the expanding population.
The Broad Spectrum Revolution has also been linked to climatic changes, including sea level rises during which conditions became more inviting to marine life offshore in shallow, warm waters. Quantity and variety of marine life increased drastically as did the number of edible species.
Because the rivers’ power weakened with rising waters, the currents flowing into the ocean were slow enough to allow salmon and other fish ascend upstream to spawn. Birds found refuge next to riverbeds in marsh grasses and then proceeded to migrate across Europe in the wintertime.
There is archaeological evidence of settlement in the well-watered northern foothills of the Kopet Dag during the Neolithic period, in this region, at Jeitun (or Djeitun), mud brick houses were first occupied during Early Food Producing Era, also known as Jeitun Neolithic from c. 7200 to 4600 BC. The inhabitants were farmers who kept herds of goats and sheep and grew wheat and barley, with origins in southwest Asia.
Until about two decades ago, the Neolithic of north-east Iran was known only from a few brief excavation reports: the sites of Yarim Tappeh and Turang Tappeh on the Gorgan Plain, and preliminary reports of large-scale excavations at the twin mound of Sang-e Chakhmaq in the southern foothills of the eastern Alborz Mountains.
In the absence of absolute chronologies, these sites were dated by ceramic assemblages to the sixth millennium BC, and were considered to relate to the so-called ‘Jeitun Culture’ of southern Turkmenistan.
Jeitun has given its name to the whole Neolithic period in the northern foothills of the Kopet Dag. At the late Neolithic site of Chagylly Depe, farmers increasingly grew the kinds of crops that are typically associated with irrigation in an arid environment, such as hexaploid bread wheat, which became predominant during the Chalcolithic period.
This region is dotted with the multi-period hallmarks characteristic of the ancient Near East, similar to those southwest of the Kopet Dag in the Gorgan Plain in Iran. The Gorgan Plain, or Dasht-e Gorgan, is situated in northeastern Iran in Golestan Province.
It extends from the lower slopes of the Alborz and Kopet Dag mountain ranges to the steppes of Turkmenistan. The River Gorgan flows through the plain from east to west, emptying into the Caspian Sea.
The provincial capital Gorgan lies to the south of the plain, which covers an area of about 170 square kilometres (66 sq mi) and is situated between 37°00′ and 37°30′ north latitude, and between 54°00′ and 54°30′ east longitude.
The annual precipitation in the south of the plain is about 600 mm (24 in) which is much higher than the 200 mm (8 in) just 60 km (37 mi) to the north. The southern part is very fertile, being watered by the many streams that flow from the Alborz Mountains.
More than fifty Neolithic sites have been identified on the Gorgan Plain. Most are raised on mounds and many have seen more than one period of occupation. The sites are thought to relate to the Jeitun culture of southern Turkmenistan and may date to the sixth millennium BC, judging by the age of the artefacts found at Sang-i Chakmak. Other nearby sites include Yarim Tepe, and Tureng Tepe.
The Great Wall of Gorgan was built between about 420 AD and 530s AD by the Sasanian Empire on the northern edge of the plain between the Caspian Sea and the mountains. It stretched for nearly 200 km (124 mi) and protected the fertile plain from encroachment by White Huns from the north.
The wall and forts along it were built of red mudbrick and fired brick, and to provide the water necessary for the manufacture of the bricks, a system of canals was dug across the plain; one canal paralleled the wall, which had to follow the natural gradient, while others were fed from supplier canals, which bridged the Gorgan River with the help of qanats. A mile to the south of the wall lies Qaleh Kharabeh, a fort that may have housed a garrison serving on the wall. It contains the remains of roadways and rows of mud-brick huts.
Jeitun was occupied from about 7200 to 4500 BC possibly with short interruptions. Jeitun has given its name to the whole Neolithic period in the foothills of the Kopet Dag. More than fifty Neolithic sites have been identified on the Gorgan Plain. Most are raised on mounds and many have seen more than one period of occupation. The sites are thought to relate to the Jeitun culture of southern Turkmenistan.
The Gorgan Plain, which covers an area of about 170 square kilometres (66 sq mi), extends from the lower slopes of the Alborz and Kopet Dag mountain ranges to the steppes of Turkmenistan. The River Gorgan flows through the plain from east to west, emptying into the Caspian Sea.
The annual precipitation in the south of the plain is about 600 mm (24 in) which is much higher than the 200 mm (8 in) just 60 km (37 mi) to the north. The southern part is very fertile, being watered by the many streams that flow from the Alborz Mountains.
Traditionally, the early ceramic sequence of north-eastern Iran begins with Neolithic Soft Wares (6000 BC), then Djeitun wares (sixth millennium BC), Cheshmeh Ali “clinky” wares (5300–4300 BC), and finally Hissar IA wares.
They may date to the sixth millennium BC, judging by the age of the artefacts found at Sang-i Chakmak, the earliest settlement where such artefacts are found. In the same area of the Gorgan Plain, or Dasht-e Gorgan, situated in northeastern Iran in Golestan Province, other related sites are Yarim Tepe (Iran), and Tureng Tepe.
Various types of Jeitun artefacts, such as clay figurines, decorated ceramics, and small stone axes, show similarities with those of the Neolithic sites in the Zagros mountains, such as Jarmo (Iraq), Tepe Guran, Tepe Sarab, and Ganj Dareh (the latter three are all located nearby in Kermanshah Province). This may indicate the movements of the Neolithic people from the Levant to Central Asia, via the Zāgros mountains.
There are about twenty archaeological sites attributed to the Jeitun culture, and they are found on both sides of the Kopet Dag mountains. They are especially common in the south-west Turkestani foothills of the mountains. The sites extend west as far as Shahrud, Iran, and also east to the Tedjen river that flows north from Afghanistan.
The site covers an area of about 5,000 square meters. It consists of free-standing houses of a uniform ground plan. There were about 30 houses that could have accommodated about 150–200 persons. The houses were rectangular and had a large fireplace on one side and a niche facing it as well as adjacent yard areas. The floors were covered with lime plaster. The buildings were made of sun-dried cylindrical clay blocks about 70 cm long and 20 cm thick. The clay was mixed with finely chopped straw.
Clay figurines found in Mehrgarh (Pakistan), an important precursor to the Indus Valley Civilization, resemble those discovered at Teppe Zagheh, and at Jeitun. The people of the Jeitun culture were growing barley and two sorts of wheat, which were harvested with wooden or bone knives or sickles with stone blades. Stone handmills and other stone tools were found. The site seems to show the oldest evidence of arable farming in Central Asia.
Sheep and goats were already domesticated by the villagers; but they also engaged in hunting to supplement their diet. In this region there were none of the wild forms of einkorn or barley that could have been used for domestication; so these were brought from elsewhere already domesticated. The same applies to sheep. The wild goat Capra aegagrus, on the other hand, was widespread in Central Asia and could, therefore, have been domesticated in the area.
It is possible to follow the development of human habitats in southern Turkmenistan from Paleolithic times to the present. Some of the earliest traces of agriculture in Central Asia were discovered some 20 miles (32 km) north of Ashgabat in the Neolithic Jeitun civilization, which may be dated to the 5th millennium BC.
The Jeitun civilization was followed by a series of other Neolithic cultures, and a cultural unification of southern Turkmenistan occurred in the Early Bronze Age (2500–2000 BC). During the course of the following half millennium, some urban centres were created; the ruins of Namazga-Tepe cover approximately 145 acres (60 hectares).
From about the mid-3rd century bce to the Sāsānian conquest in the 4th century ce, Turkmenistan formed part of the Parthian empire. Into this land came, probably in the 11th century, the Turkmens, strangers, as it were, with no links to any previous civilization of the region.
Contemporary historians did not distinguish them from the Oghuz, a loose confederation of Turkic tribes present in the region since the 9th century. Turkmens came under the rule of the Seljuq dynasty (1038–1194) of Oghuz tribes, and they weathered the Mongol invasions (13th century) quite well; the southern tribes became part of the Il-Khanid empire, and the northern tribes belonged to the Golden Horde. One of the Turkmens’ principal occupations for centuries after the decline of Mongol rule was robbing passing caravans.
The Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (short BMAC), also known as the Oxus civilization, is the modern archaeological designation for a Bronze Age civilization of Central Asia, dated to c. 2400–1900 BC in its urban phase or Integration Era.
It was located in present-day northern Afghanistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan, centred on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus River) in Bactria, and at Murghab river delta in Margiana. Numerous monumental structures have been found in many sites, fortified by impressive walls and gates.
Bactria was the Greek name for the area of Bactra (modern Balkh), in what is now northern Afghanistan, and Margiana was the Greek name for the Persian satrapy of Marguš, the capital of which was Merv, in modern-day southeastern Turkmenistan.
In Bactria, Northern Afghanistan, the site Dashly 3 is regarded to be also from Middle Bronze Age period to Late Bronze Age (2300-1700 BCE), the old Dashly 3 complex, sometimes identified as a palace, is a fortified rectangular 88 m x 84 m compound. The square building had massive double outer walls and in the middle of each wall was a protruding salient composed of a T-shaped corridor flanked by two L-shaped corridors.
The inhabitants of the BMAC were sedentary people who practised irrigation farming of wheat and barley. With their impressive material culture including monumental architecture, bronze tools, ceramics, and jewellery of semiprecious stones, the complex exhibits many of the hallmarks of civilisation.
The complex can be compared to proto-urban settlements in the Helmand basin at Mundigak in western Afghanistan and Shahr-e Sukhteh in eastern Iran, or at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley.
Models of two-wheeled carts from c. 3000 BC found at Altyn-Depe are the earliest complete evidence of wheeled transport in Central Asia, though model wheels have come from contexts possibly somewhat earlier. Judging by the type of harness, carts were initially pulled by oxen, or a bull. However camels were domesticated within the BMAC. A model of a cart drawn by a camel of c. 2200 BC was found at Altyn-Depe.
Fertility goddesses, named “Bactrian princesses”, made from limestone, chlorite and clay reflect agrarian Bronze Age society, while the extensive corpus of metal objects point to a sophisticated tradition of metalworking.
Wearing large stylised dresses, as well as headdresses that merge with the hair, “Bactrian princesses” embody the ranking goddess, character of the central Asian mythology that plays a regulatory role, pacifying the untamed forces.
Gonur is regarded as the “capital” of the complex in Margiana throughout the Bronze Age. The palace of north Gonur measures 150 metres by 140 metres, the temple at Togolok 140 metres by 100 metres, the fort at Kelleli 3 125 metres by 125 metres, and the house of a local ruler at Adji Kui 25 metres by 25 metres.
Each of these formidable structures has been extensively excavated. While they all have impressive fortification walls, gates, and buttresses, it is not always clear why one structure is identified as a temple and another as a palace.
Mallory points out that the BMAC fortified settlements such as Gonur and Togolok resemble the qila, the type of fort known in this region in the historical period. They may be circular or rectangular and have up to three encircling walls. Within the forts are residential quarters, workshops and temples.
The people of the BMAC culture were very proficient at working in a variety of metals including bronze, copper, silver, and gold. This is attested through the many metal artefacts found throughout the sites. Extensive irrigation systems have been discovered at the Geoksiur Oasis.
The discovery of a single tiny stone seal (known as the “Anau seal”) with geometric markings from the BMAC site at Anau in Turkmenistan in 2000 led some to claim that the Bactria-Margiana complex had also developed writing, and thus may indeed be considered a literate civilisation.
It bears five markings which are similar to Chinese “small seal” characters. The only match to the Anau seal is a small jet seal of almost identical shape from Niyä (near modern Minfeng) along the southern Silk Road in Xinjiang, originally thought to be from the Western Han dynasty but now thought to date to 700 BC.
BMAC materials have been found in the Indus Valley Civilisation, on the Iranian Plateau, and in the Persian Gulf. Finds within BMAC sites provide further evidence of trade and cultural contacts. They include an Elamite-type cylinder seal and a Harappan seal stamped with an elephant and Indus script found at Gonur-depe.
The relationship between Altyn-Depe and the Indus Valley seems to have been particularly strong. Among the finds there were two Harappan seals and ivory objects. The Harappan settlement of Shortugai in Northern Afghanistan on the banks of the Amu Darya probably served as a trading station.
There is evidence of sustained contact between the BMAC and the Eurasian steppes to the north, intensifying c. 2000 BC. In the delta of the Amu Darya where it reaches the Aral Sea, its waters were channelled for irrigation agriculture by people whose remains resemble those of the nomads of the Andronovo culture. This is interpreted as nomads settling down to agriculture, after contact with the BMAC, known as the Tazabagyab culture.
About 1900 BC, the walled BMAC centres decreased sharply in size. Each oasis developed its own types of pottery and other objects. Also pottery of the Tazabagyab-Andronovo culture to the north appeared widely in the Bactrian and Margian countryside.
Many BMAC strongholds continued to be occupied and Tazabagyab-Andronovo coarse incised pottery occurs within them (along with the previous BMAC pottery) as well as in pastoral camps outside the mudbrick walls. In the highlands above the Bactrian oases in Tajikistan, kurgan cemeteries of the Vaksh and Bishkent type appeared with pottery that mixed elements of the late BMAC and Tazabagyab-Andronovo traditions.
In southern Bactrian sites like Sappali Tepe too, increasing links with the Andronovo culture are seen. During the period 1700 – 1500 BCE, metal artifacts from Sappali Tepe derive from the Tazabagyab-Andronovo culture.
The Bactria-Margiana complex has attracted attention as a candidate for those looking for the material counterparts to the Indo-Iranians (Aryans), a major linguistic branch that split off from the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Sarianidi himself advocates identifying the complex as Indo-Iranian, describing it as the result of a migration from southwestern Iran.
Bactria–Margiana material has been found at Susa, Shahdad, and Tepe Yahya in Iran, but Lamberg-Karlovsky does not see this as evidence that the complex originated in southeastern Iran. “The limited materials of this complex are intrusive in each of the sites on the Iranian Plateau as they are in sites of the Arabian peninsula.”
A significant section of the archaeologists are more inclined to see the culture as begun by farmers in the Near Eastern Neolithic tradition, but infiltrated by Indo-Iranian speakers from the Andronovo culture in its late phase, creating a hybrid. In this perspective, Proto-Indo-Aryan developed within the composite culture before moving south into the Indian subcontinent.
It has become increasingly clear that if one wishes to argue for Indo-Iranian migrations from the steppe lands south into the historical seats of the Iranians and Indo-Aryans that these steppe cultures were transformed as they passed through a membrane of Central Asian urbanism.
The fact that typical steppe wares are found on BMAC sites and that intrusive BMAC material is subsequently found further to the south in Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, India and Pakistan, may suggest then the subsequent movement of Indo-Iranian-speakers after they had adopted the culture of the BMAC. According to recent studies BMAC was not a primary contributor to later South-Asian genetics.
There is a proposed substratum in Proto-Indo-Iranian which can be plausibly identified with the original language of the BMAC. Moreover, a larger number of words apparently borrowed from the same language, which are only attested in Indo-Aryan and therefore evidence of a substratum in Vedic Sanskrit.
The Indo-Aryan speakers probably formed the vanguard of the movement into south-central Asia and many of the BMAC loanwords which entered Iranian may have been mediated through Indo-Aryan.
The borrowed vocabulary includes words from agriculture, village and town life, flora and fauna, ritual and religion, so providing evidence for the acculturation of Indo-Iranian speakers into the world of urban civilisation.
Narasimhan et al. 2018 analyzed BMAC skeletons from the Bronze Age sites of Bustan, Dzharkutan, Gonur Tepe, and Sapalli Tepe. The male specimens belonged to haplogroup E1b1a (1/18), E1b1b (1/18), G (2/18), J* (2/18), J1 (1/18), J2 (4/18), L (2/18), R* (1/18), R1b (1/18), R2 (2/18), and T (1/18).
A follow-up study suggested the primary BMAC population largely derived from preceding local Copper Age peoples who were in turn related to prehistoric farmers from the Iranian plateau and to a lesser extent early Anatolian farmers and hunter-gatherers from Western Siberia, and they did not contribute substantially to later populations further south in the Indus Valley.
Gonur Depe is an archaeological site located at the delta of Murghab river about 60 km north of Mary (ancient Merv) in southern Turkmenistan (Margiana region). It is the “capital” or major settlement of the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) dated from 2400-1600 BCE. It was inhabited by Indo-Iranian peoples.
An almost elliptical fortified complex, known as Gonur North includes the so-called “Monumental Palace”, other minor buildings, temples and ritual places, together with the “Royal Necropolis”, and water reservoirs, all dating from around 2400 to 1900 BC.
Gonur Depe is the largest of all settlements in this period consisting of a large early Bronze Age settlement. It is among the largest ruins in the Murghab river delta region. The northern part of the complex had a central citadel-like structure about 100 by 180 m (330 by 590 ft) in size. A southern complex is about 1.5 hectares in size.
over 150 ancient settlements have been found there, Gonur Depe on a total area of about 55 hectares was inhabited between 2400 and 1600 BC. The site was most likely abandoned after the course of the Murghab River shifted to the west.
A palace, a fortified mud-brick enclosure, and temples with fire altars was found. It is believed they were dedicated to early Zoroastrian religion. The BMAC fortified settlements such as Gonur and Togolok resemble the qila, the type of fort known in this region in the historical period. They may be circular or rectangular and have up to three encircling walls. Within the forts are residential quarters, workshops and temples.
Also found was what appears to be the boiler for the ritual drink soma, which is mentioned in the Rigveda and also in the Avesta as haoma. Dishes with traces of cannabis, poppy and ephedra was also found. This strengthens the theory that these were the ingredients of soma.
There were increasing incursions of nomadic encampments of the Andronovo culture at the site during the period 1800-1500 BCE. Presence of Andronovo pottery at Gonur, the characteristic ceramics of the Eurasian steppes where the modern horse was domesticated, certainly implies that the horse was known to the BMAC.
The Yaz culture (named after the type site Yaz-depe, Yaz Depe, or Yaz Tepe, near Baýramaly, Turkmenistan) was an early Iron Age culture of Margiana, Bactria and Sogdia (ca. 1500–500 BC). It emerges at the top of late Bronze Age sites (BMAC), sometimes as stone towers and sizeable houses associated with irrigation systems.
Ceramics were mostly hand-made, but there was increasing use of wheel-thrown ware. There have been found bronze or iron arrowheads, also iron sickles or carpet knives among other artifacts.
With the farming citadels, steppe-derived metallurgy and ceramics, and absence of burials it has been regarded as a likely archaeological reflection of early East Iranian culture as described in the Avesta. So far, no burials related to the culture have been found, and this is taken as possible evidence of the Zoroastrian practice of exposure or sky burial.
In the region of Central Asia, the Bronze Age Oxus civilization (or BMAC) was characteristic for irrigation and proto-state society based on long distance trade of raw materials and goods.
However, it suddenly disappeared in the Late Bronze Age (c. 1900–1500 BCE), and in its place emerged the Early Iron Age (c. 1500/1300 – 1000 BCE) Yaz I culture with rural settlements based around fortified structures, control of irrigation systems, with specific hand-made ceramic type, as well as the almost complete disappearance of graves, compared to thousands of kurgans in the north.
Yaz I culture is argued to be related to the sedentarisation of the nomadic Indo-Iranians in the Eurasian Steppe, a synthesis with autochthonous traits. It extended from the central part of the Kopet Dag mountains to the fertile delta of the Murghab River.
It is characterised for total lack of necropolises and tombs, as well as painted ceramic with triangle and ladder patterns. Recent research shows four groups of patterns, the triangular (triangles and chevrons), lozenges, bands, and of additional elements.
The ceramics, and spherical stone maces, show continuity and contemporaneity between Yaz Depe and Ulug Depe of the Early Iron Age and Tekkem Depe among others of the Namazga-Tepe VI period. It seems to be connected to the Chust culture of Fergana Valley, Mundigak V-VI in Sistan, and Pirak I-III on the Kacchi Plain. Compared to the Chust culture, no tombs from the Yaz culture have been found.
Asko Parpola and Fred Hiebert argued that these cultures seemingly derived from the Haladun culture (1750–1200 BCE) of Xinjiang, and some Andronovo culture contacts, indicating a Europid upper strata who spoke East Aryan.
The introduction of the culture is seemingly related to the sound change *s > h when Iranian language came in the Indo-Iranian borderlands of Rgvedic tribes around 1500 BCE, seen in the change of the Vedic river Sindhu into Avestan Hindu (Indus River), Sarasvati into Haraxhvaiti.
Yaz II is dated circa 1100–700 or 1000–550 BCE in Middle Iron Age, however some recent research consider no accurate boundary between the Yaz I and Yaz II. It moved to the north and northeast. It is characterized by wheel-made pottery type (reappearance of the wheel like in Namazga-Tepe V), iron metallurgy, large fortified sites, as well as the occupation of previous sites and the continuation of the funerary practices.
The Yaz II complex seemingly correlates with the Airyanem Vaejah, homeland of those tribes who spoke Avestan language, different from both Western and Eastern Iranian languages, to be replaced in Bactria by the former at the end of the 1st millennium BC.
Asko Parpola associated the change from Yaz I to Yaz II around 1000 BCE with the migration of the Western Iranians (Medians, Persians). He considered that the Yaz I people spoke Proto-Eastern Iranian or Proto-Saka.
The ruins of the ancient city of Nad-i Ali (9th-8th century BCE) which has been identified with the capital of the Kayanian dynasty kingdom which coincides with the Yaz II/A (10th-8th century BCE), while date of the late Kayanian capital Balkh to Yaz II/B period (7th-6th century BCE).
At the end of Yaz II/B (8th-7th/6th century BCE) the Murghab oasis (Yaz Depe, Aravali Depe, Takhirbay Depe) became deserted. It is probably explained by the bloody revolt of Frada (521 BCE) mentioned in Behistun Inscription in which reportedly 55,243 Margians were killed and 6,972 taken as prisoners, and the conquest of Bactria.
It is dated circa 700–400 BCE or second half of the 6th and end of the 4th century BCE (c. 540–329 BCE) in the Late Iron Age, part of the Achaemenid Empire period, but is still characterized by the same cultural and funerary continuity. The beak-shaped rim is replaced in form of a flattened roller, vessels are cylindrical-conical, and were discovered bronze three-bladed arrow, iron axes and adzes.
The Yaz Tepe large settlement was the central district in the then metropolitan part of Margiana. It covered 16 ha, and stood on brick platform mound 8 m high, while the stratigraphic excavations in the area revealed Yaz I (900–650 BCE) complex (with bronze arrowheads and iron artefacts), Yaz II (650–450 BCE) and Yaz III (450–350 BCE) house remains.
The Yaz I complex was similar to those in northern Bactria, thus the culture was noted for the development of large settlements (sometime small) centred around fortified keeps built on massive platforms, but the excavations failed to locate the transition from the Late Bronze Age unlike other cultures. Other Margian well known sites with Yaz I ceramics are Gonur Tepe, Togoluk, Uch Tepe, Adam Basan, Taip, Garaoj Tepe, Takhirbaj Tepe.
Kuchuk Tepe settlement in Bactria (today Uzbekistan) is also related to the Yaz I culture. It looked like a flattened circular hill with an area of 0.5 hectares and height 8 m. The structures were built on a clay platform surrounded by a defensive wall.
At the end of the first period (10th to mid-8th centuries BCE) the building had twenty-five chambers; apparently it was a large fortified house, while towns start appearing in the region towards the end of that period. Other Bactrian well known sites with Yaz I ceramics are Tillya Tepe in northeastern Afghanistan, and Kyzyl Tepe, Dzharkutan, Kangurt-Tut, and Teguzak in Tajikistan.
The single purely Yaz I site in Tajikistan is Karim-berdy which measures 500 x 300 m. Along the Kunduz River are located oasis Naibabad and Farukabad. The settlements at Bandykhan, between Shirabad and Denov in Uzbekistan, show Yaz I (14th-11th century BCE), Yaz II/A (10th-9th/8th century BCE), Yaz II/B (8th-7th/6th century BCE), and Yaz III (6th-4th century BCE).
Some Yaz I hand-made decorated pottery sites were investigated in southern Turkmenistan (previously northern Parthia). Some Yaz I strata was found in Parthia at Elken Depe, Ulug Depe and the northern mound at Anau, and all complexes overlie Namazga-Tepe VI type of Late Bronze Age strata.
Unlike the Bronze Age centres, the Early Iron Age Yaz I settlements were much larger, in Elken Depe c. 12 ha, ringed with ramparts, while the citadel stood on a 6 m platform. At the site in Anau was found iron sickle from Yaz I period dated to the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. Askarov argued that it cannot be excluded that the Elken Depe was then the capital of northern Parthia.
There 20 Iron Age sites of Yaz I-III culture (1400–300 BCE) in Serakhs oasis, the sub delta of Tedjen River in southern Turkmenistan. The sites follow the irrigation system, with average distance of 123 m between sites and rivers, however there is some scientific uncertainty about the irrigations in the Iron Age.
The average distance between Yaz sites is 879 m. Most of them are dated to Yaz II-III periods, but once was found Yaz I decorated pottery. In the northern cluster of the sites mostly there is no trace of later occupation, indicating they were abandoned in the Iron Age.
At the village Anaw east of Ashgabat in Turkmenistan are two mounds (kurgans), of which the south kurgan’s Iron Age materials (Anaw IV) from ca. 900 to 650 BCE, like ceramics and metals, are related to those of Yaz I.
The Yaz ceramic assemblage is considered northern pastoralist influence, and is connected to the Namazga-Tepe VI, but with a break of 100–150 years in-between. It might have arrived from eastern Khorasan. There three groups of hand-made ware in shape, color of sherd, and the admixture of crushed ceramics into the body of vessels.
Recent research confirmed that the Yaz I type ceramics in the foothill of Kopet Dag mountain are a natural development of the Late Bronze Age assemblage from Namazga VI period, but without any time lapse and external influence.
Several recent 2008–2012 discoveries of Early Iron Age burials on the sites of Dzharkutan in Surxondaryo Region of Uzbekistan, and Ulug Depe in Turkmenistan shown diverse funerary practices of the Iron Age in Central Asia.
It shows burials still existed, but were not numerous. They were primary, secondary, multiple burials, and silo tombs, divided on seasonal and permanent dwellings. In the silos were buried mostly adult females, while in the others the head was mostly removed, indicating symbolic, cult or social reason.
A lack of graves and excarnations emerged in the Early Iron Age, especially in Yaz I and II cultures, the same period in which Zoroastrianism developed (works such as the Gathas often being dated to the second half or end of the 2nd millennium BC); the contemporary occurrence falls in line with certain traditions and cultural schools of thought, but there is ongoing scholarly debate surrounding such a connection.
There is evidence for excarnation in non-Zoroastrian cultures like those in Siberia and Mongolia, as well excarnation and dakhmas in some Bronze Age sites like Gonur Tepe and Altyndepe, thus in could have persisted into Early Iron Age as a notion for the long process of formation of the Proto-Zoroastrianism and Avesta.
Some sites which had Yaz culture layers like the Yaz Depe, Takhirbaj Depe, Taip, Gonur, Togoluk are on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List of the State Historical and Cultural Park “Ancient Merv” (1999).
Anau is a city in Turkmenistan. It is the capital of Ahal Province and is 8 km southeast of Ashgabat. The name Anau is from Persian Âbe nav (“New Water”). The Chalcolithic Anau culture dates back to 4500 BC, following the Neolithic Jeitun culture in the cultural sequence of southern Turkmenistan.
Anau was a stopping point along the famous ancient Silk Road. Fine painted potteries are found here. Pottery similar to that of Anau (the earliest Anau IA phase) has been found as far as Shir Ashian Tepe in the Semnan Province of Iran.
Remains of the domestic pig Sus vittatus have been found here in the first sedentary horizon seemingly having appeared suddenly which would indicate it having been imported. Sus vittatus was first domesticated in Southeast Asia.
Anau includes two mounds, north and south. The northern mound presents remains of the Chalcolithic and the Bronze Age, and the southern mound has the Iron Age remains.
The lowest layers of the north mound in Anau provide some good evidence for the transition from the Neolithic to the Chalcolithic in the area. The lowest layers were divided into two periods, Anau IA, and Anau IB. Some copper items, as well as imported Lapis lazuli have been found.
Although there are some similarities between the Anau IA and Jeitun ceramics, there are also many differences. Jeitun ceramics mostly use a plant-based temper, whereas those of Anau IA were tempered with a large amount of sand and bits of other ceramics.
Anau IA also has similarities to Tepe Sialk I and II layers. Ceramics similar to Anau IA are also found on the Iranian plateau, in northeastern Iran, and in southern Turkmenistan.
Regionalization Era begins in Anau IA with a pre-Chalcolithic phase also in Kopet Dag piedmont region from 4600 to 4000 BC, then Chalcolithic period developes from 4000 to 2800 BC in Namazga I-III, Ilgynly Depe, and Altyn Depe.
During this Copper Age, the population of the region grew. There are signs that people migrated to the region from central Iran at this time, bringing metallurgy and other innovations, but thinks that the newcomers soon blended with the Jeitun farmers.
By contrast a re-excavation of Monjukli Depe in 2010 have found a distinct break in settlement history between the late neolithic and early chalcolithic eras there.
Major chalcolithic settlements sprang up at Kara-Depe and Namazga-Depe. In addition, there were smaller settlements at Anau, Dashlyji, and Yassy-depe. Settlements similar to the early level at Anau also appeared further east– in the ancient delta of the river Tedzen, the site of the Geoksiur Oasis.
About 3500 BC, the cultural unity of the area split into two pottery styles: colourful in the west (Anau, Kara-Depe and Namazga-Depe) and more austere in the east at Altyn-Depe and the Geoksiur Oasis settlements.
This may reflect the formation of two tribal groups. It seems that around 3000 BC, people from Geoksiur migrated into the Murghab delta (where small, scattered settlements appeared) and reached further east into the Zerafshan Valley in Transoxiana.
In both areas pottery typical of Geoksiur was in use. In Transoxiana they settled at Sarazm near Pendjikent. To the south the foundation layers of Shahr-i Shōkhta on the bank of the Helmand river in south-eastern Iran contained pottery of the Altyn-Depe and Geoksiur type. Thus the farmers of Iran, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan were connected by a scattering of farming settlements.
In the Early Bronze Age, at the end of Late Regionalization Era (2800 to 2400 BC), the culture of the Kopet Dag oases and Altyn-Depe developed a proto-urban society. This corresponds to level IV at Namazga-Depe.
Altyn-Depe was a major centre even then. Pottery was wheel-turned. Grapes were grown. The height of this urban development was reached in the Middle Bronze Age also known as Integration Era, corresponding to Namazga-Depe level V (c. 2400-2000 BC).
Namazga Depe reaching c. 52 hectares and holding maybe 17–20,000 inhabitants, and Altyn Depe with its maximum size of c. 25 hectares and 7-10,000 inhabitants, were the two big cities in Kopet Dag piedmont. It is this Bronze Age culture which has been given the BMAC name.
An enigmatic stamp seal was found here, that may be the first evidence of an indigenous written language in Anau. The new find is dated to c. 2300 BC. Bronze Age seals from Altyndepe provide some parallels to the Anau seal.
Two similar stamp seals have been found at Altyndepe with the same dimensions as the Anau seal. These seals are also similar to the ones from Tepe Hissar and from Tepe Sialk in Iran, where such seals with geometric designs go back to the 5th millennium BC. Also, some Chinese parallels to the Anau seal are possible.
Namazga-Tepe or Namazga-depe, is a Bronze Age (BMAC) archaeological site in Turkmenistan, some 100 km from Aşgabat, near the border to Iran. Namazga culture also descended from Jeitun, but later. Anau IB2 period, starting in 3800 BC, is considered contemporary with Namazga I period. The site set the chronology for the Bronze Age sites in Turkmenistan (Namazga III-VI).
It is believed that Anau culture of Turkmenia considerably precedes the Namazga culture in the area. Namazga I period (c. 4000–3500 BC) is considered contemporary with Anau IB2 period. Namazga III (c. 3200-2800) is a village settlement in Late Chalcolithic phase and Namazga IV (c. 2800–2400 BC) is a proto-urban site.
Namazga V (c. 2400–2000 BC) is in the period of “urban revolution” following the Anatolian model with little or no irrigation. Namazga-Tepe emerges as the production and probable governmental center, covering some 60 hectares, with Altyndepe likely as a secondary capital.
Namazga V and Altyndepe were in contact with the Late Harappan culture (ca. 2000-1600 BC). It is identified with Proto-Dravidians or with Indo Iranians. In Altyn Tepe, many Indus Valley items were found, including objects made of ivory, and stamp seals of the Harappian type. At least one item contained Harappian writing.
Namazga VI in the Late Bronze Age (1800–1500 BC) is characterized by the incursion of nomadic pastoralists from the Alekseyevka culture and/or Srubna culture. Altyndepe is abandoned, and Namazga-Tepe shrinks to a fraction of its former size c. 1600 BC.
Altyndepe (Turkmen for “Golden Hill”) is a Bronze Age (BMAC) site in Turkmenistan, near Aşgabat, inhabited first from c. 3200 to 2400 BCE. It was a full urban site during the late chalcolithic period c. 2400 to 2000 BC. Altyn Tepe became a large-scale center with an area of 25 hectares before being abandoned around 1600 BC.
It was surrounded by an adobe wall with rectangular watch towers. The site is notable for the remains of its ziggurat. This was a monumental religious complex with a four-level tower of the Mesopotamian ziggurat type. This construction has also been described as “proto-Zoroastrian”.
There were also other Mesopotamian connections. The Altyn Tepe civilization was in close contact with neighboring cultures. Sulfur-glazed vessels (Tepe Hissar, Tureng Tepe) obviously brought in from northeastern Iran turned up during the excavations in the aristocratic sector.
Models of two-wheeled carts from c. 3000 BC found at Altyn-Depe are the earliest complete evidence of wheeled transport in Central Asia, though model wheels have come from contexts possibly somewhat earlier. Judging by the type of harness, carts were initially pulled by oxen, or a bull. However camels were domesticated within the BMAC. A model of a cart drawn by a camel of c. 2200 BC was found at Altyn-Depe.
Teppe Zagheh is an early urban settlement located near Qazvin, Iran. The settlement has been dated to have been built in 6500 BCE. After the re-excavation of Zagheh in 2001, new radiocarbon dates were obtained. They indicate that the site was settled c. 5370–5070 BC and abandoned c. 4460–4240 BC. Thus, it may belong to only a single historical period, Transitional Chalcolithic.
Yet there were also many small clay ‘tokens’, used as counting objects, that were found at Zagheh; these are variously-shaped, and are similar to such tokens at other Neolithic sites. These Zagheh tokens are dated typologically to 6500–5500 BC. Thus, there were probably two periods of occupation.
Zagheh archaic painted ware (ca. 6000-5500 BC) was found in Tepe Sialk I, sub-levels 1-2. This is the early painted ware, that was first excavated at Teppe Zagheh in the Qazvin plain. Clay figurines found in Mehrgarh (Pakistan), an important precursor to the Indus Valley Civilization, resemble those discovered at Teppe Zagheh, and at Jeitun in Turkmenistan (6th millennium BC).
Shir Ashian Tepe
Shir Ashian Tepe (Shir-e Shian, Šir-āšiān) is a prehistoric archaeological site in the Semnan Province of Iran, situated in Shir Ashian, about 15 kilometres southwest of Damghan. Occupation appears to have been restricted to a relatively short period during the mid-5th century BCE.
Despite the presence of pottery fragments, excavation failed to find any remains of buildings. Two explanations have been suggested. One posits that the site was merely a temporary encampment; the other suggests that the site has been eroded removing any constructions but leaving the surface pottery and shallow graves.
The sherds from Shir-e Shian are comparable to sherds found in north-central Iran (late Tepe Sialk II phase) and in southern Turkmenistan (Anau IA phase), dating to the mid-fifth millennium BCE.
Thus Shir-e Shian may represent the transitional period between Sialk II and Sialk III periods in north-central Iran, preceding the beginning of Tepe Hissar IA period. And also, it can be seen as transitional between the Cheshmeh-Ali and Hissar IA periods. Tepe Hissar is located about 20 km from Shir Ashian Tepe.
Tepe Hissar is a prehistoric site located in the village Heydarabad just south of Damghan in Semnan Province in Northeastern Iran. The site is notable for its uninterrupted occupational history from the 5th to the 2nd millennium BCE.
There is considerable cultural continuity from the early Cheshmeh Ali-period settlements in Iran, and into the later Hissar period. The quantity and elaborateness of its excavated artifacts and funerary customs position the site prominently as a cultural bridge between Mesopotamia and Central Asia.
The human occupation has been divided into three major periods (I, II and III). The earliest dating is uncertain but established as after 5000 BCE in the Chalcolithic period. This period (Hissar IA and IB) is characterized by mud-bricks buildings and hand-made (IA) and fine wheel-made (IB) ware, decorated with geometric, plant and animal patterns. The most widespread shapes are represented by small cups, bowls and vases.
In the second period (Hissar IIA and IIB), dated to the 4th millennium BC and the beginning of the 3rd, the burnished grey ware becomes predominant and the large number of lapis lazuli beads and alabaster finds, as well as the evidence of large-scale production of copper-based alloys and lead-silver, suggests that the site was playing a very important role in the trade and export of metal artifacts and semi-precious stones from the Middle Asia quarries to Mesopotamia and Egypt.
The third period of development (Hissar IIIA, IIIB and IIIC, chronologically attributed to the second half of the 3rd millennium BC and the beginning of the 2nd (Bronze Age), can be described as a proto-urban phase, mainly characterized by increased wealth, demographic concentration, mass production of plain ware and the construction of large public and ceremonial buildings.
In the Hissar IIIB period, the Burned Building is worth mentioning. It has been variously interpreted due to the richness of its contents and the presence of burned human bodies and flint arrowheads. Firstly interpreted as a fortification, the discovery of a small fire altar suggests that it may be a shrine.
Significant changes happened at the end of the 3rd millennium BC. The well-planned architecture of period Hissar IIIB was abandoned and replaced by the poorly organized structures of the Hissar IIIC period, laid out without regard to the plan of the earlier settlement.
Moreover, we can mention the first appearance of truly elite burials, such as those of the so-called “Warriors”, the “Priest” and the “Little Girl”, some of them contained BMAC items such as grooved stone columns.
The subsistence economy was based on agriculture. From Hissar II onward plant remains indicate “an agricultural system based on cereals [glume and free-threshing wheats, naked and hulled barley] and the utilization of local fruit [olive, grapevine] plant resources”. Lentil seeds, peas and legumes were also present. Animal (cattle, goat and sheep) figurines indicate herding activities.
In 1931-32 E.F. Schmidt recorded about eight hundred burials, of which only some have been fully described and published: 33 for the period Hissar I, 24 for Hissar II and 38 for Hissar III. Most of the graves are represented by individual burial in simple pits, with the skeleton laying on its side, in a flexed position and the skull oriented towards east and north-east. Some collective graves are attested and four rich graves of the Hissar IIIC period were found in 1931.
The presence of full-time specialists seems to be attested already in the first Chalcolithic period. Regarding the metal production, already in Hissar I period, both weapons (daggers, knife blades, arrowheads) and other tools (pins, tacks, points and needles) were made.
In Hissar II and III copper artifacts increase in quality and variety and include personal ornaments (earrings, pendants, bracelets, bands), tools and weapons (bidents, lances, mattocks, chisels, mace heads), and luxury items (vessels, mirrors, boxes and intricately cast pins and rods).
The important site of Tureng Tepe is located in the same area of Iran, and has some parallels to Hissar. A related site of Shir Ashian Tepe is located about 20 km southwest of Hissar; it helped to clarify the chronology of Hissar.
The Kelteminar culture (5500–3500 BC) was a Neolithic archaeological culture of sedentary fishermen occupying the semi-desert and desert areas of the Karakum and Kyzyl Kum deserts and the deltas of the Amu Darya and Zeravshan rivers in the territories of ancient Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, dated to the 6000-3000 BC.
The Kelteminar economy was based on sedentary fishing and hunting. The Kelteminar people practised a mobile hunting, gathering and fishing subsistence system. Scientists hold that Kelteminar culture is related to the Pit–Comb Ware culture and belongs to the Finno-Ugric peoples.
Over time, they adopted stockbreeding. With the Late Glacial warming, up to the Atlantic Phase of the Post-Glacial Optimum, Mesolithic groups moved north into this area from the Hissar (6000–4000 BCE). These groups brought with them the bow and arrow and the dog, elements of what Kent Flannery has called the “broad-spectrum revolution”.
The Kelteminar people lived in huge houses (size 24m x 17m and height 10m), which housed the whole tribal community of about 100-120 people. They adorned themselves with beads made of shells. They manufactured stone axes and miniature trapezoidal flint arrowheads. For cooking, they used clay vessels produced without the potter’s wheel.
The Kelteminar culture (1500 BC to 1100 BC) was replaced by the Tazabagyab culture, a late Bronze Age culture which flourished along the lower Amu Darya and on the south shore of the Aral Sea. It was a southern offshoot of the Andronovo culture, and was composed of Indo-Iranians.
Sang-i Chakmak (Tappeh Sang-e Chakhmaq, Sange Chaxmaq, Chakhmagh) is a Neolithic archaeological site located about 1 km north of the village of Bastam in the northern Semnan Province of Iran, on the southeastern flank of the Elburs Mountains.
The site represents quite well the transition from the aceramic Neolithic phase in the general area; this was taking place during the 7th millennium BC. Another related site is Deh Kheyr, Semnan, located only 4km away from Sang-i Chakmak.
The western settlement is an approximately 3 m high mound with a diameter of about 80 m, and contains five cultural layers. Levels 2-5 represent the aceramic Neolithic phase. There’s also some imported obsidian. There are many zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figurines.
Large mud-brick houses with plastered floors were built. Some of them are made of lime plaster. The buildings were rectangular and consisted of rooms with dimensions of 6×4 m. Two different types of buildings are found.
Some had a square hearth on the north side and partly blackened walls; others had no hearth and the rooms were comparatively small, but with carefully designed floors. In one of these small rooms without hearth in layer II some highly stylized clay figurines were found.
In addition, the excavations found small bone fibulae and bone needles, flint cuttings, microliths and cores and blades of obsidian. It is noteworthy that only three pottery shards were found. Two come from the surface and one from layer III, of which 300 m² are excavated. In the work of Akira Tsuneki, only four shards are shown.
The eastern settlement is located about 150 m from the west and has an extension of 100 m in the north-south direction and 150 m in east-west direction. Layers VI-III contained multi-dimensional rectangular dwellings with outbuildings, often with a small work area and an oven. The buildings have different sizes, have an average size of 5 x 8 meters and have an entrance hall or courtyard. They are made of clay blocks of 70 by 20 cm, in the same technique as the Jeitun culture in Turkmenistan.
Unlike the western settlement, no carefully executed floors were observed in the east. Characteristic is the use of cigar-shaped mud bricks. In layer III many kilns have been discovered. In the uppermost layers II and I, the building plans differ from the above-described lower ones. The rooms are square with a hearth on the northern side. In addition, the main rooms are not divided into smaller areas, instead small rectangular rooms have been added. In the top layer were three tombs containing the burials of women and children. A skull of a young woman was also found; it was covered with a decorated pot of a type known from the site of Tepe Sialk.
In contrast to the western settlement, a large amount of pottery has been found in the eastern one. Most of the decorated pottery displays geometric patterns such as crossed lines, and the horizontal and vertical parallel lines drawn in red or dark brown against a creamy or reddish background. The ceramics of the upper, younger layers show animal motifs. There are also conical clay objects, spindles, animal statuettes made of clay or stone, bone needles, polished stone axes, flint cuttings and microliths. Particularly interesting are wooden sickle handles with animal motifs from layers IV and V.
The objects found generally show similarities to the lowest layer of Yarim Tepe (Iran) and, above all, to the Jeitun culture. Cheshmeh-Ali ware appears here around 5000 BC, like in so many other northeastern Iranian sites. This seems to have created some cultural discontinuity. Also, around 4500, Anau IA ware appears at the site, with simpler geometric and linear designs, and less finely made ceramics.
The uppermost layer I of the western settlement is older than the lowest layer VI of the eastern settlement. The small amount of pottery shards at the western hill, in contrast to the large amount at the east, indicates a higher age of the western settlement. Thus the site represents a transitional cultural period to the ceramic phase.
These indications have been confirmed by the studies of Toshio Nakamura from the Center for Chronological Research of Nagoya University in 2014. In his study, 40 samples of charcoal taken during the 1970s excavations were tested using the AMS method. Of the 40 samples, 37 were usable. For the western settlement an occupancy period of 7200 to 6600 cal BC has been shown. For the eastern, the occupation period of 6300 to 5200 cal BC is indicated. There seems to be a hiatus of c. 300 years between the two settlements.
Tureng Tepe is a Neolithic and Chalcolithic archaeological site in northeastern Iran, in the Gorgan plain, approximately 17 km northeast of the town of Gorgan. Nearby is a village of Turang Tappeh.
Tureng Tepe consists of a group of mounds interspersed with ponds and water courses. The whole archaeological pattern is about 800 – 900 m in diameter. Most of the mounds rise between 11 and 15 m above the level of the surrounding plan, but the steep central mound, marked A on the Wulsin’s plan, is over 30 m high and dominated the entire site.
The oldest remains on the site date to the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. The Bronze Age settlement portion of the site dates from approximately 3100-2900 BC through 1900 BC. Grey ware pottery from the site have been found and studied. In the mid-20th century, the site (a hill) had a height of approximately 30m.
The figurines of Tureng Tepe have long been recognized as quite remarkable. They include both terracotta and stone figurines. As far as the stone figurines, there are many similarities between Tureng and the nearby sites of Shah Tepe, Tepe Hissār, and Gohar Tappeh.
Yet the terracotta figurines of Tureng Tepe are unparalleled at any other nearby site. These baked clay figurines find their parallels with sites further away, in Turkmenistan and the Indus valley. Some parallels as far as Mesopotamia have been suggested.
Based on the patterns that emerge from various excavated artefacts, it is clear that Tureng Tepe is a site of special importance in its immediate region. Tureng IA (Neolithic period), Tureng IB (Late Neolithic period) and Tureng IIA (Early Chalcolithic period).
The layers from Tureng IA and IB are assumed to lie below the water table. From Tureng IA occur Djeitun-like sherds, incorporated in bricks made in later periods. Jeitun (Djeitun) is an archaeological site of the Neolithic period in southern Turkmenistan, about 30 kilometers northwest of Ashgabat in the Kopet-Dag mountain range.
Yarim Tepe (Iran) is a Neolithic settlement in the eastern Gorgan plain, Golestan Province. It is located near Gonbad-e Kavus. This ancient settlement played a big role in establishing the cultural chronology of the neolithic period in Central Asia. There are many cultural similarities between Yarim and the nearby site of Tureng Tepe.
Just like at Tureng Tepe, in the earliest horizon, there occur Jeitun-like ceramics, that are found mostly in the Koppet Dag mountains area, but also at several other contemporary sites in the Gorgan plain, for example in the Hotu cave, and even further west near Behshahr. In Period I at Yarim Tepe, the Jeitun ware was identified as “Yarim Neolithic”.
The early stage of Yarim I is generally dated c. 5200 BC. In Southern Turkmenistan, this is also known as ‘Pessejik period’. In Northeastern Iran, along with Yarim I, to this period also belong Hotu cave, and Tureng ‘IA’.
In North-central Iran, this period is known as ‘Transitional Chalcolithic’, and it is parallel to Sialk II stratum. At Yarim Tepe there is a gap between the Djeitun-ware levels and the overlying gray-ware levels (Yarim II).
The Hotu and Kamarband Caves or Belt Caves are prehistoric, archaeological sites in Iran. They are located 100 m (330 ft) apart, in a cliff on the slopes of the Alborz mountains in the village of Tarujen (currently called Shahid Abad), 5 km (3.1 mi) south west of Behshahr. Hotu Cave has an approximate size of 30 m × 20 m (98.4 ft × 65.6 ft).
The site produced pottery shards, stone tools and material that could be radio-carbon dated. Twenty-two samples were dated and attributed to eight different cultures. At Hotu Cave dwellers were identified as having haplogroup J (xJ2a1b3, J2b2a1a1), with a more refined analysis putting it at J-PF5008*.
The 2 earliest cultures, present at around 9,910 to 7,240 years BCE are assumed to be seal hunters and vole eaters. The bones of a dog have been cited as an example of exceptionally early animal domestication. Pre-Neolithic finds date to around 6,120 years BCE.
Kamarband cave is notable for three human skeletons discovered there, dating to approximately 9,000 years BCE. Other finds include flint blades, walrus and deer bones, giving valuable information about human development from the ice age in the Mazandaran area.
Shah Tepe is a prehistoric archaeological site located in the Gorgan plain of Northeastern Iran, about 13 km north – northwest from the city of Gurgan and 20 km east of the Caspian Sea. Topographically, it is an oval mound with a longitudinal axis pointing north – south.
The eastern side is steeper and straighter, while the western is strongly rounded and more gently sloping. The length of the mound is about 165 meters and breadth 135 meters. The top of the mound forms a rather even plateau about 7 – 7.5 m in height. The highest point is 8.11 m.
The anthropic deposit of the site, excavated in 1933, found eight square shafts (10 x 10 m; square E was 10 x 15 m) and three main periods of development. The earliest (Shah III) is dated back to the Chalcolithic period and is represented by numerous graves containing black or grey ware and painted pottery decorated by black patterns on a reddish ground.
Shah IIB and IIA are both referred to the Bronze Age and contain burials characterized by black or grey pottery and alabaster vessels. The uppermost layer (Shah I) contained Muslim graves in association with other material of the same period.
As a rule, the graves seem to have been dug under the floor of the houses, perhaps also elsewhere but not in a special cemetery. About 260 skeletons graves were found, a small number of them disturbed. Of 257 skeletons, 176 were prehistoric and 81 belong to the muslim period.
With rare exception, the prehistoric skeletons lay contracted on their side in a simple, individual pit. Almost half of the skeletons were oriented in a more or less easterly direction.
In two cases mother and child had been buried together and in one case two adults, possibly man and wife. One collective burial has been identified: it contained five individuals, whose bodies were mutilated and accompanied by offerings of sheep and goats.
The corpses were usually accompanied by vessels of clay and alabaster in large and small numbers, ornaments of copper, beads of various kinds of stone, copper, faience and glass, occasional ornaments and implements of bone and stone. Very rare were the weapons.
At Tall-e Gap many ceramic items were found. The site was identified as an important settlement of the ancient Bakun culture in modern Fars Province, Iran, about 3 km south of Persepolis, belonging to the Middle Bakun sub-phase of the 5th millennium BCE Chalcolithic. It was inhabited around 4000-3500 BC.
The site consists of two mounds, A and B. The site was active from circa 6th millennium BC to circa 4th millennium BC. Tall-i Bakun phase A was inhabited c. 4000-3500 BCE. In the late fifth and early fourth millennia BC, Bakun A settlements were at once manufacturing sites and centres for the administration of production and trade.
The Bakun culture flourished in the Fars Province of Iran in the fifth and early fourth millenniums BC. It had a long duration and wide geographical distribution. Its pottery tradition was as sophisticated as that of Susa I. Nevertheless, it was mostly a nomadic culture, and its settlements were typically much smaller than those of Susa.
Bakun pottery is known in the Fars region in the form of bowls and jugs with green, reddish brown or deep brown bands and stripes. Outside Fars this pottery has been found in northern Khuzestan, in the Bakhtiari mountains, and in the Behbahan and Zuhreh regions.
Four layers can be distinguished. Richly painted pottery was produced. There were also ceramic female figurines and those of animals. There were also cylinder seals, which indicates some type of administrative activities. Artifactual remains from the site include objects made of copper, pottery and stone.
The wealth and variety of material items at Bakun and the evidence of large workshop areas point to the existence of local industry and connection/trade with distant regions such as the Persian Gulf, the central plateau, Kerman, and northeastern Iran whence goods like shells, copper, steatite, lapis, and turquoise were procured. If my inferences are correct, we have a settlement that is spatially arranged according to its functional needs and socio-economic organization.
Their painted pottery featured some unusual specific motifs, such as large-horned mountain sheep and goats, that were rare or unique elsewhere. After the decline of Bakun, Lapui period followed. In recent publications, Bakun period is dated 4800-4100 BC, and the Lapui period is dated to 4100-3500 BC.
Tepe Sialk is a large ancient archeological site (a tepe, “hill, tell”) in a suburb of the city of Kashan, Isfahan Province, in central Iran, close to Fin Garden. The culture that inhabited this area has been linked to the Zayandeh River Culture (lit. “Zāyandé-Rūd Civilization”), a hypothetical pre-historic culture that is theorized to have flourished around the Zayandeh River in Iran in the 6th millennium BC.
Sialk was the place where man first used a form of mortar in construction. It is also the first place where cloth-weaving, spooling and casting were invented. Settlers first inhabited the region somewhere drawn to the region due to the abundant water supply provided by what is known today as Cheshmeh ye Soleiman (or ‘Solomon’s Spring’) around 6000 BC.
Sialk, and the entire area around it, is thought to have originated as a result of the pristine large water sources nearby that still run today. The Cheshmeh ye Soleiman (“Solomon’s Spring”) has been bringing water to this area from nearby mountains for thousands of years.
The Fin garden, built in its present form in the 17th century, is a popular tourist attraction. It is here that the kings of the Safavid dynasty would spend their vacations away from their capital cities. It is also here that Piruz Nahavandi (Abu-Lu’lu’ah), the Persian assassin of Caliph Umar, is buried. All these remains are located in the same location where Sialk is.
Tepe Sialk was excavated for three seasons (1933, 1934, and 1937). Artifacts from the original dig ended up mostly at the Louvre, while some can be found at the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the National Museum of Iran and in the hands of private collectors. These artifacts consisted of some very fine painted potteries.
Excavation was resumed for several seasons between 1999 and 2004. Since 2008 a team have worked at the northern mound finding 6 Late Neolithic burials. The northern mound (tell) is the oldest; the occupation dates back to the end of the seventh millennium BC.
The mound is composed of two levels: Sialk I (the oldest), and Sialk II. Sialk I-level architecture is relatively rudimentary. Tombs containing pottery have been uncovered. The ceramic is initially rather rough, then becomes of better quality with the time.
Zagheh archaic painted ware is found in Tepe Sialk I, sub-levels 1–2. In sub-periods 3, 4 and 5, the pottery has a clear surface with painted decoration. Stone or bone tools were still used. The Sialk II level sees the first appearance of metallurgy. The archaeological material found in the buildings of this period testifies to increasing links with the outside world.
The southern mound (tell) includes the Sialk III and IV levels. The first, divided into seven sub-periods, corresponds to the fifth millennium and the beginning of the fourth (c. 4000 BC). This period is in continuity with the previous one, and sees the complexity of architecture (molded bricks, use of stone) and crafts, especially metallurgical.
Evidence demonstrates that Tepe Sialk was an important metal production center in central Iran during the Sialk III and Sialk IV periods. A significant amount of metallurgical remains were found during the excavations in the 1990s and later. This includes large amounts of slag pieces, litharge cakes, and crucibles and moulds.
Sialk IV level begins in the second half of the fourth millennium, and ends with the abandonment of the site at the beginning of the third millennium. For the oldest sub-periods of the Sialk IV, there are links with the Mesopotamian civilizations of Uruk and Jemdet Nasr.
Later on, the material is similar to that of Susa III (Proto-Elamite level), so this is where the Proto-Elamite horizon at Sialk is located, as is also evidenced by the discovery here of some Proto-Elamite clay tablets. The ruins of what would be the oldest Ziggurat in the world are found at this same Sialk IV level. The Sialk ziggurat was built around 3000 BC.
After an abandonment of more than a millennium, the Sialk site is reoccupied in the second half of the second millennium. This last phase of occupation of the site is divided into two periods: Sialk V and Sialk VI. The archaeological material of these two levels has been mostly found in the two necropolises, called necropolis A and necropolis B.
The first represents the Sialk V level. Here are found weapons and other objects in bronze, as well as jewelry, and some iron items. The ceramic is gray-black, or red, sometimes with some decorations that consist of geometric patterns.
It can be compared to items coming from the sites in Gorgan valley (formerly Esterabad; also romanized as Astarābād, Asterabad, and Esterābād), in Golestan Province, Iran, to the north east of Tehran and close to the Caspian Sea, in the later levels of Turengb Tepe (“Hill of the Pheasants”) and Tepe Hissar.
There are several archaeological sites near Gorgan, including Tureng Tepe and Shah Tepe, in which there are remains dating from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic eras. Some other important Neolithic sites in the area are Yarim Tepe, Iran, and Sange Chaxmaq. Also, the nearby Shahroud Plain has many such sites. The number of conﬁrmed Neolithic sites on the Gorgan Plain now totals more than fifty.
Zayandeh River Culture
Archaeologists speculate that a possible early civilization existed along the banks of the Zayandeh River, developing at the same time as other ancient civilizations appeared alongside rivers in the region, such as the Sumerian civilization in Iraq and the Indus Valley civilization in ancient India.
During the 2004 excavations within the perimeters of Isfahan city, it was determined that the city dates back to earlier than the 6th millennium BC. During the 2006 excavations, the Iranian archaeologists uncovered some artifacts that they linked to those from Sialk and Marvdasht (romanized as Marv Dasht), a city and the capital of Marvdasht County, Fars Province, Iran.
The Zayandeh River Culture is considered as a very important Neolithic Iranian settlement, along with Ganj Dareh (“Treasure Valley”, or “Treasure Valley Hill” if tepe/tappeh (hill) is appended to the name), a Neolithic settlement in the Iranian Kurdistan. It is located in the Harsin County in east of Kermanshah Province, in the central Zagros Mountains.
The oldest settlement remains on the site of Ganj Dareh date back to ca. 8000 BC, and have yielded the earliest evidence for goat domestication in the world. The only evidence for domesticated crops found at the site so far is the presence of two-row barley. The remains have been classified into five occupation levels, from A, at the top, to E.
Ganj Dareh is important in the study of Neolithic ceramics in Luristan and Kurdistan. This is a period beginning in the late 8th millennium, and continuing to the middle of the 6th millennium BC. Also, the evidence from two other excavated sites nearby is important, from Tepe Guran, and Tepe Sarab. They are all located southwest of Harsin, on the Mahidasht plain, and in the Hulailan valley.
At Ganj Dareh, two early ceramic traditions are evident. One is based on the use of clay for figurines and small geometric pieces like cones and disks. These are dated ca. 7300-6900 BC. The other ceramic tradition originated in the use of clay for mud-walled buildings (ca. 7300 BC).
These traditions are also shared by Tepe Guran, and Tepe Sarab. Tepe Asiab is also located near Tepe Sarab, and may be the earliest of all these sites. Both sites appear to have been seasonally occupied. Ali Kosh is also a related site of the Neolithic period.
Researchers sequenced the genome from the petrous bone of a 30-50 year old woman from Ganj Dareh, GD13a. mtDNA analysis shows that she belonged to Haplogroup X. She is phenotypically similar to the Anatolian early farmers and Caucasus Hunter-Gatherers.
Her DNA revealed that she had black hair, brown eyes and was lactose intolerant. The derived SLC45A2 variant associated with light skin was not observed in GD13a, but the derived SLC24A5 variant which is also associated with the same trait was observed.
GD13a is genetically closest to the ancient Caucasus Hunter-Gatherers identified from human remains from Georgia (Satsurblia Cave and Kotias Klde), while also sharing genetic affinities with the people of the Yamna culture and the Afanasevo culture. She belonged to a population that was genetically distinct from the Neolithic Anatolian farmers.
In terms of modern populations, she shows some genetic affinity with the Baloch people, Makrani caste and Brahui people due to Ancient Caucasus Hunter-Gatherer ancestry found in some indians , in actuality they are the closest to modern Zoroastrians in Iran. Her population did not contribute very much genetically to modern Europeans.
Before the publication of the 2005 Y-Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree, Haplogroup R-M124 was known as Haplogroup P1 and formerly thought to be a sister clade of Haplogroup R rather than derived from it. The oldest sample of haplogroup R2a was observed in the remains of a Neolithic human from Ganj Dareh in western Iran.
Haplogroup R2 (R-M479) is a haplogroup is one of two primary descendants of Haplogroup R (R-M207), the other being R1 (R-M173). R-M479 has been concentrated geographically in South Asia and Central Asia since prehistory.
It appears to reach its highest levels among the Burusho people in North Pakistan. However, it also appears to be present at low levels in the Caucasus, Iran, Anatolia and Europe. It has two primary branches: R2a (M124) and R2b (R-FGC21706).
Ancient samples of haplogroup R2a were observed in the remains of humans from Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age Iran and Turan; and Iron Age South Asia. R2a was also recovered from excavated remains in the South Asian sites of Saidu Sharif and Butkara from a later period.
Haplogroup R-M124, along with haplogroups H, L, R1a1, and J2, forms the majority of the South Asian male population. The frequency is around 10-15% in India and Sri Lanka and 7-8% in Pakistan. Its spread within South Asia is very extensive, ranging from Baluchistan in the west to Bengal in the east; Hunza in the north to Sri Lanka in the south.
The haplogroup R-M124 frequency of 6.1% (6/114) was found among overall Kurds while in one study which was done with 25 samples of Kurmanji Kurds from Georgia, R-M124 has been observed at 44% (11/25).
In Caucasus high frequency was observed in Armenians from Sason at 18% (18/104) while it was observed at %1 in Armenians from Van. R2 has been found in Chechens at 16%. R-M124 has been found in approximately 8% (2/24) of a sample of Ossetians from Alagir.
Uncertainty neutralizes previous conclusions that the intrusion of HGs R1a1 and R2 [Now R-M124] from the northwest in Dravidian-speaking southern tribes is attributable to a single recent event. An important feature in Indian population history was the occurrence of four separate or distinct waves of migration into the subcontinent:
An ancient Palaeolithic migration by modern humans, an early Neolithic migration, probably via Proto-Dravidian speakers from the eastern horn of the Fertile Crescent, an influx of Indo-European speakers, and a migration from East/Southeast Asians, i.e. Tibeto-Burman speakers.
Rather, these HGs contain considerable demographic complexity, as implied by their high haplotype diversity. Specifically, they could have actually arrived in southern India from a southwestern Asian source region multiple times, with some episodes considerably earlier than others.
Paragroup is a term used in population genetics to describe lineages within a haplogroup that are not defined by any additional unique markers. They are typically represented by an asterisk (*) placed after the main haplogroup. Y-chromosomes which are positive to the M124, P249, P267, and L266 SNPs and negative to the L295, L263, and L1069 SNPs, are categorized as belonging to Paragroup R-M124*. It is found in Iraq, so far.
Several studies have argued that, in contrast to the relative uniformity of mtDNA, the Y chromosomes of Indian populations display relatively small genetic distances to those of West Eurasians, linking this finding to hypothetical migrations by Indo-Aryan speakers.
M17 (R1a) is a potential marker for one such event, as it demonstrates decreasing frequencies from Central Asia toward South India. Departing from the “one haplogroup equals one migration” scenario, a package of haplogroups (J2, R1a, R2, and L) is defined to be associated with the migration of Indo-Eropean people and the introduction of the caste system to India.
This package comes from Central Asia, because they are observed at significantly lower proportions in South Indian tribal groups, with the high frequency of R1a among Chenchus of Andhra Pradesh considered as an aberrant phenomenon.
Conversely, haplogroups H, F*, and O2a, which were observed at significantly higher proportions among tribal groups of South India, led the same authors to single them out as having an indigenous Indian origin. Only O3e was envisaged as originating (recently) east of India, substantiating a linguistic correlation with the Tibeto-Burman speakers of Southeast Asia.
Together, haplogroups R1, R2, L, O, H, J2, and C characterize >90% of the Y-chromosomal variation in all socio-linguistic groups of India. Both Indo-European and Drad\vidian speaking populations show a high combined frequency of haplogroups C*, L1, H1, and R2. The total frequency of these four haplogroups outside of India is marginally low.
In turn, haplogroups E, I, G, J*, and R1* have a combined frequency of 53% in the Near East among the Turks and 24% in Central Asia, but they are rare or absent in India (0.86% in all populations and almost solely because of R1*).
Similarly, haplogroups C3, D, N, and O specific to Central Asian (36%) and Southeast Asian populations (subclades of haplogroup O; 85%) are virtually absent in India. The O2a and O3e subclades of haplogroup O in India have interregional distributions, overlapping with those of Southeast Asia and East Asia.
Only haplogroups J2 and R1a have interregional frequency patterns west of India with J2 being most common in Afro-Asiatic-speaking (and Indo-European speaking) populations of the Near East and Middle East, whereas R1a occurs at the highest frequencies in populations of India, East Europe, and Central Asia.
Principal component analysis investigates the phylogeography of the Y haplogroups with respect to each other, illustrating the associations of haplogroups, irrespective of regional or cultural categories.
The first two components account for 75% of the variation observed, and within India delineate R*, R2, F*, and H, within the sphere of L, K, P*, and R1a. Of all of the R lineages, only R1* is separated from this grouping, forming a cluster together with G, I, and J, consistent with their common and widespread distribution throughout (Western) Europe.
The O lineages fall out with C* and D (the latter tending to derive from Sino-Tibetan speakers). Once the third and fourth factors are considered, the ambiguity of A, B, and E (typically African in origin) is resolved, and the positions of C3 and N, also non-Indian in their distribution, are delineated to Central Asia.
By considering all haplogroup frequencies simultaneously, an indication of the relatedness between regions is obtained. Here, for the sake of comparison only, the categories used by a previous study are retained, but the tribal population is split into two because of the close association identified here between Hg O and tribal groups of the east and northeast of India (O2a represents 77% of AA speakers and 47% of Tibeto Burmesian speakers), which are combined to form the east and northeast tribes.
In contrast to the earlier study, the caste populations of “north” and “south” India are not particularly more closely related to each other (average Fst value = 0.07) than they are to the tribal groups.
The multidimensional scaling plot of these values demonstrates that the combined data set for the tribal peoples (derived from all regions of India, excluding those of the east and northeast) actually falls midway between those for northern and southern castes, whereas the tribal populations of the east and northeast are confirmed as a separate category.
The position of the reduced tribal category, comprising groups from Southern, Northern, and Western India, is suggestive of geographical structuring north to south. These clines display distinct regional concentrations of J2, H, R1a, R2, O3, and O2a, confirming the primarily geographic nature of Y-chromosome frequency distribution in India.
Haplogroup J2 reflects presence from pre-neolithic period in the Indian subcontinent. It is thought to have appeared somewhere in the Middle East towards the end of the last glaciation, between 15,000 and 22,000 years ago. Its present geographic distribution argue in favour of a Neolithic expansion from the Fertile Crescent.
This expansion probably correlated with the diffusion of domesticated of cattle and goats (starting c. 8000-9000 BCE) from the Zagros mountains and northern Mesopotamia, rather than with the development of agriculture in the Levant (which seems to have been linked to haplogroup G and perhaps also E1b1b).
J2a would have reached southern Central Asia with the expansion of Middle Eastern people during the Neolithic and mixed with the local hunter-gatherers belonging chiefly to R2 (and possibly some pre-Indo-European R1a).
J2 is almost absent from tribals, but occurs among some Austro-Asiatic tribals (11%). The frequency of J2 is higher in South Indian castes (19%) than in North Indian castes (11%) or Pakistan (12%). J2 appears at 20% among the Yadavas of South India while among the Lodhas of West Bengal it is 32%.
Within India, J2a is more common among the upper castes and decreases in frequency with the caste level. This can be explained by the assimilation of local J2a (and R2) people by the R1a Indo-European warriors who descended from modern Russia (Sintashta culture) and established themselves for a few centuries in southern Central Asia before moving on to conquer the Indian subcontinent.
J2b has a quite different distribution from J2a. J2b seems to have a stronger association with the Chalcolithic cultures of Southeast Europe, and is particularly common in the Balkans, Central Europe and Italy, which is roughly the extent of the European Copper Age culture. Its maximum frequency is achieved around Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Northwest Greece.
J2b is also found in the Pontic Steppe, the North Caucasus, Central Asia and in South Asia, particularly in India. Its very low frequency in the Middle East though suggests that, unlike for J2a, it was not spread a progresive and continuous diffusion of the Neolithic lifestyle.
For this reason, and because it is generally found among the upper castes of India, it is thought that some J2b lineages might have been part of the Indo-Aryan invasions of South Asia (3,500 years ago) alongside R1a1a.
It is conceivable that a minority of J2b, G2a3b1 and R1b1b from the Caucasus region migrated to the Volga-Ural region in the early Bronze Age, spreading with them the Proto-Indo-European language and bronze technology to the Caspian steppe before the expansion of this new culture to Central and South Asia.
Haplogroup G2a-P303 is also found in India, especially among the upper castes. The combined presence of G2a-P303 across Europe and India is a very strong argument in favour of an Indo-European origin. The coalescence age of G2a-P303 also matches the time of the Indo-European expansion during the Bronze Age.
Marvdasht is as ancient as the history of Iran and the Persian Empire. Marvdasht is one of the northern cities and also counties of Fars province. The city is located 45 km north of Shiraz and has an altitude of 1620 meters above the sea level.
Its former capital Persepolis is in the vicinity of the city, and few kilometers farther Naqsh-e-Rostam, Naqsh-e Rajab and the ruins of the ancient city of Estakhr are reminiscent of the region’s importance in historic times.
Archeological excavations have shown that civilized people had already been living in the Marvdasht Plains for millennia when Darius chose the plains of mount Rahmat for his royal residence.
The modern city of Marvdasht was constructed in the 20th century. The fertile lands around the city were cultivated to make Marvdasht into the major center of Iranian agriculture, producing more wheat, maize, tomato, cucumber and other agricultural products than any other region.
An archaeological expedition was carried out in the Marv Dasht plain from 1956 to 1965. It took place at the following prehistoric mounds situated in the vicinity of Marvdasht and Persepolis: Tall-i Bakun A and B, Tall-i Gap A, Tall-i Jari A and B and Tall-i Mushki.
Cheshmeh-Ali (“Spring of Ali”) is a small Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement located in the south of Tehran and north of Rey in Iran, south of the Elburz mountains. The spring is spot in the neighborhood of Ebn-e Babooyeh, Tughrul Tower, and below the Rashkan castle and next to Rey Castle and Fath Ali shah inscription.
The first signs of civilization in the Cheshmeh-Ali, including the ancient hills, towers and underground springs is related to the production of red terracotta with black-dark brown signs and shapes on them.
Cheshmeh Ali presents some typological parallels with the middle layers of Tepe Sialk. The Cheshmeh Ali cultural complex generally defines a Transitional Chalcolithic on the Iranian Central Plateau dating between 5500 and 4800 BC.
Cheshmeh Ali ware is dated ca. 5500 BC. This painted pottery, also known as “Ismailabad ware”, is found across northern Persia as far west as the area around Kashan, near Isfahan, and Qazvin to the north of there.
The ceramic sequence at Cheshmeh Ali shows two millennia of occupation from the Late Neolithic through the Late Chalcolithic. Yet recent reexcavation of Cheshmeh Ali has also documented an earlier occupational phase. Chaff-tempered Neolithic soft-ware ceramics are also found here. These are usually decorated with painted geometric designs, and also have parallels to the early Sialk I material.
Jiroft (also Romanized as Jīroft; formerly, Sabzāwārān, Sabzevārān, Sabzevārān-e Jiroft, and Sabzvārān) is a city and capital of Jiroft County, Kerman Province, Iran. It is located 230 kilometres (140 mi) south of the city of Kerman, and 1,375 kilometres (854 mi) south of Tehran along Road 91. In the past it was also called Sabzevaran, and on account of its being very fertile land it is famous as Hend-e-Koochak (the little India).
Jiroft is located in a vast plain, Halil River, on the southern outskirts of the Jebal Barez mountain chain, surrounded by two rivers. The mean elevation of the city is about 650-metres above sea level. The weather of the city is very warm in summer and temperatures are moderate in winter. It is one of the hottest places in Iran.
The history of human settlements in the territory of Kerman dates back to the 4th millennium BC. This area is considered as one of the ancient regions of Iran and valuable historical vestiges have been discovered here.
Kerman has an abundance of historical sites and landmarks, 283 in total, according to Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization. Ancient abandoned citadels such as Arg-e Bam and Rayen Castle have been preserved in the desert for 2,000 years.
Historical documents refer to Kerman as “Karmania” (in Ancient Greek Καρμανία), “Kermania”, “Germania”, “Carmonia”, and “Žermanya”, which means bravery and combat. Geographers have recorded Kerman’s ancient name as “Go’asheer” (Bardesheer).
Jiroft is an example, where a previously unknown settlement dating back to around 2500 BC has been established by archeologists. The Jiroft culture, with the type site Konar Sandal, has been postulated to be an independent early Bronze Age civilization with its own architecture and language, located in the territory of present-day Balochistan and Kermān Provinces of Iran, from late 3rd millennium BC.
The hypothesis is based on a collection of artifacts that were confiscated in Iran, criticized for conjecture about material not found in secure archaeological contexts and probably including forgeries, but accepted by many to have derived from the Jiroft area in south central Iran, reported by online Iranian news services, beginning in 2001.
The proposed type site is Konar Sandal, a Bronze Age archaeological site, situated in the Halil River area just south of Jiroft, Kermān Province, Iran. Other significant sites associated with the culture include; Shahr-e Sukhteh (Burnt City), Tepe Bampur, Espiedej, Shahdad, Tal-i-Iblis and Tepe Yahya.
The proposition of grouping these sites as an “independent Bronze Age civilization with its own architecture and language”, intermediate between Elam to the west and the Indus Valley Civilization to the east, is due to Yusef Majidzadeh, head of the archaeological excavation team in Jiroft.
He speculates they may be the remains of the lost Aratta Kingdom, but his conclusions have met with skepticism from some reviewers. Other conjectures (e.g. Daniel T. Potts, Piotr Steinkeller) have connected Konar Sandal with the obscure city-state of Marhashi, that apparently lay to the east of Elam proper.
The primary Jiroft site consists of two mounds a few kilometers apart, called Konar Sandal A and B with a height of 13 and 21 meters, respectively. At Konar Sandal B, a two-story, windowed citadel with a base of close to 13.5 hectares was found. Also found in Konar Sandal were tablets with scripts of unknown nature.
An inscription, discovered in a palace, was carved on a brick whose lower left corner only has remained, explained Yusef Majidzadeh, head of the Jiroft excavation team. “The two remaining lines are enough to recognize the Elamite script,” he added.
“The only ancient inscriptions known to experts before the Jiroft discovery were cuneiform and hieroglyph,” said Majidzadeh, adding that” The new-found inscription is formed by geometric shapes and no linguist around the world has been able to decipher it yet.”
Archeologists believe the discovered inscription is the most ancient script found so far and that the Elamite written language originated in Jiroft, where the writing system developed first and was then spread across the country. Other scholars have called the authenticity of the cyphers into question, suggesting they may be examples of several modern forgeries in circulation since the earlier looting at the site.
Majidzadeh suggests they may be the remains of the lost Aratta Kingdom. Other conjectures have connected the site with the obscure city-state of Marhashi (Mar-ḫa-šiKI, Marhashi, Marhasi, Parhasi, Barhasi; in earlier sources Waraḫše), a 3rd millennium BC polity situated east of Elam, on the Iranian plateau.
It is known from Mesopotamian sources, but its precise location has not been identified, though some scholars link it with Jiroft. On the basis of the Akkadian textual and archaeological evidence it has been proposed to identify the kingdom of Marhashi and Ancient Margiana, also known as the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (short BMAC), also known as the Oxus civilization.
BMAC is the modern archaeological designation for a Bronze Age civilization of Central Asia, dated to c. 2400–1900 BC in its urban phase or Integration Era, located in present-day northern Afghanistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan, centred on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus River) in Bactria, and at Murghab river delta in Margiana.
Its sites were discovered and named by the Soviet archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi (1976). Bactria was the Greek name for the area of Bactra (modern Balkh), in what is now northern Afghanistan, and Margiana was the Greek name for the Persian satrapy of Marguš, the capital of which was Merv, in modern-day southeastern Turkmenistan.
Excavations from the late 1970s onward have revealed numerous monumental structures in many sites, fortified by impressive walls and gates. Reports on the BMAC were mostly confined to Soviet journals until the last years of the Soviet Union, so the findings were largely unknown to the West until Sarianidi’s work began to be translated in the 1990s.
An inscription attributed to Lugal-Anne-Mundu of Adab (albeit in much later copies) mentions it among the seven provinces of his empire, between the names of Elam and Gutium. This inscription also recorded that he confronted their governor (ensi), Migir-Enlil of Marhashi, who had led a coalition of 13 rebel chiefs against him.
The Awan kings of Elam were in conflict with a Sumerian ruler’s attempt to seize the market at Warakshe, a kingdom apparently near Elam on the Iranian plateau, rich in luxury products of all types, especially precious stones.
During the Akkadian Empire, Warakshe was conquered by Sargon the Great, and king Abalgamash of Warakshe and his general Sidgau, along with Luh-ishan of Awan, rebelled unsuccessfully against Rimush, while Hishep-ratep of Awan in alliance with Warakshe was defeated by Naram-Sin.
King Shulgi of the Ur-III dynasty gave his daughter Nialimmidashu in marriage to king Libanukshabash of Marhashi in his 18th year, in an attempt to forge an alliance, but this proved short-lived, for Shulgi’s successor Amar-Sin records having to campaign against their new king, Arwilukpi.
Hammurabi of Babylonia’s 30th year name was “Year Hammurabi the king, the mighty, the beloved of Marduk, drove away with the supreme power of the great gods the army of Elam who had gathered from the border of Marhashi, Subartu, Gutium, Tupliash (Eshnunna) and Malgium who had come up in multitudes, and having defeated them in one campaign, he (Hammurabi) secured the foundations of Sumer and Akkad.”
Many artifacts associated with Jiroft were recovered from looters described as “destitute villagers” who had scavenged the area south of Jiroft before 2001, when a team led by Yusef Majidzadeh began excavations. The team uncovered more than two square kilometers of remains from a city dating back to at least the late 3rd millennium BC. The data Madjidzadeh’s team has gathered demonstrates that Jiroft’s heyday was from 2500 BC to 2200 BC.
The looted artifacts and some vessels recovered by the excavators were of the so-called “intercultural style” type of pottery known from Mesopotamia and the Iranian Plateau, and since the 1960s from nearby Tepe Yahya in Baft. The “Jiroft civilization” hypothesis proposes that this “intercultural style” is in fact the distinctive style of a previously unknown, long-lived civilization.
This is not universally accepted. Archaeologist Oscar Muscarella of the Metropolitan Museum of Art criticizes that the excavators resorted to sensationalist announcements while being more slow in publishing scholarly reports, and their claims that the site’s stratigraphy shows continuity into the 4th millennium as overly optimistic. Muscarella does nevertheless acknowledge the importance of the site.
Archeological excavations in Jiroft led to the discovery of several objects belonging to the fourth millennium BC. According to Majidzadeh, geophysical operations by French experts in the region indicate the existence at least 10 historical and archaeological periods in the region belonging to different civilizations who lived in this area during different periods of time in history.
According to the French experts who studied this area, the evidence remained from these civilizations may be traced up to 11 meters under the ground. “What is obvious is that the evidence of Tal-i-Iblis culture in Bardsir can be traced in all parts of the region. Tal-i-Iblis culture, known as Ali Abad period (fourth millennium BC) was revealed by Joseph R. Caldwell, American archaeologist,” said Majidzadeh.
The Jiroft culture is closely related to the Helmand culture. The Jiroft culture flourished in the eastern Iran, and the Helmand culture in western Afghanistan at the same time. In fact, they may represent the same cultural area. The Mehrgarh culture, on the other hand, is far earlier.
Shahr-e Sukhteh (Lit. “[The] Burnt City”), also spelled as Shahr-e Sūkhté and Shahr-i Shōkhta, is an archaeological site of a sizable Bronze Age urban settlement, associated with the Jiroft culture. It is located in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, the southeastern part of Iran, on the bank of the Helmand River, near the Zahedan-Zabol road. It was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in June 2014.
The reasons for the unexpected rise and fall of the city are still wrapped in mystery. Artifacts recovered from the city demonstrate a peculiar incongruity with nearby civilizations of the time and it has been speculated that Shahr-e-Sukhteh might ultimately provide concrete evidence of a civilization east of prehistoric Persia that was independent of ancient Mesopotamia.
Covering an area of 151 hectares, Shahr-e Sukhteh was one of the world’s largest cities at the dawn of the urban era. In the western part of the site is a vast graveyard, measuring 25 ha. It contains between 25,000 and 40,000 ancient graves.
The settlement appeared around 3200 BCE. The city had four stages of civilization and was burnt down three times before being abandoned in 1800 BCE. Most of the material discovered is dated to the period of c. 2700-2300 BCE. The discoveries indicate that the city was a hub of trading routes that connected Mesopotamia and Iran with the Central Asian and Indian civilizations, and as far away as China.
During the Period I, Shahr-e Sukhteh already shows close connections with the sites in southern Turkmenistan, with the Kandahar region of Afghanistan, the Quetta valley, and the Bampur valley in Iran.
Also, there are the connections with the Proto-Elamite cities of Ḵuzestān and Fārs. During Period II, Shahr-e Sukhteh was also in contact with the pre-Harappan centers of the Indus valley, and the contacts with the Bampur valley continued.
Shahdad is another related big site that is being excavated. Some 900 Bronze Age sites have been documented in the Sistan Basin, the desert area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Helmand culture of western Afghanistan was a Bronze Age culture of the 3rd millennium BCE. Scholars link it with the Shahr-i Sokhta, Mundigak, and Bampur sites.
This civilization flourished between 2500 and 1900 BCE, and may have coincided with the great flourishing of the Indus Valley Civilization. This was also the final phase of Periods III and IV of Shahr-i Sokhta, and the last part of Mundigak Period IV.
Thus, the Jiroft and Helmand cultures are closely related. The Jiroft culture flourished in the eastern Iran, and the Helmand culture in western Afghanistan at the same time. In fact, they may represent the same cultural area. The Mehrgarh culture, on the other hand, is far earlier.
Helmand, also known as Hillmand or Helman and, in ancient times, as Hermand and Hethumand, is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, in the south of the country. It is the largest province by area, covering 58,584 square kilometres (20,000 sq mi) area.
Helmand culture of western Afghanistan was a Bronze Age culture of the 3rd millennium BC. This civilization flourished between 2500 and 1900 BC, and may have coincided with the great flourishing of the Indus Valley Civilization. This was also the final phase of Periods III and IV of Shahr-i Sokhta, and the last part of Mundigak Period IV. Some scholars link it with Shahr-i Sokhta, Mundigak, and Bampur.
The pottery of Mundigak I, the earliest occupation of the “Helmand” cultural complex, corresponds to the Mehrgarh III pottery, in technique — quality of the paste and manufacture — as well as in the shapes and decoration, probably within a phase dated to the end of the 5th millennium BC.
There were also links between Shahr-i Sokhta I, II and III periods, and Mundigak III and IV periods, and between the sites of Balochistan and the Indus valley at the end of the 4th millennium, as well as in the first half of the 3rd millennium BC.
Thus, Jiroft culture is closely related to Helmand culture. Jiroft culture flourished in the eastern Iran, and the Helmand culture in western Afghanistan at the same time. In fact, they may represent the same cultural area. Mehrgarh culture, on the other hand, is far earlier.
Helmand was inhabited by ancient peoples and governed by the Medes before falling to the Achaemenids. Later, the area was part of the ancient Arachosia polity, and a frequent target for conquest because of its strategic location in Asia, which connects Southern, Central and Southwest Asia.
The Helmand river valley is mentioned by name in the Avesta (Fargard 1:13) as Haetumant, one of the early centers or origins of the Zoroastrian faith, in pre-Islamic Afghan history. However, owing to the presence of non-Zoroastrians even though Zoroastrians being dominant before the Islamization of Afghanistan – particularly Hindus and Buddhists – the Helmand and Kabul regions were also known as “White India” in those days.
Some Vedic scholars also believe the Helmand valley corresponds to the Sarasvati area mentioned in the Rig Veda as the homeland for the Indo-Aryan migrations into the Indian Subcontinent, ca. 1500 BCE.
Mundigak is an archaeological site in Kandahar province in Afghanistan. It is situated approximately 55 km northwest of Kandahar near Shāh Maqsūd, on the upper drainage of the Kushk-i Nakhud River.
Mundigak was a large prehistoric town with an important cultural sequence from the 5th–2nd millennia BC. It was excavated by the French scholar Jean Marie Casal in the 1950s. The mound was nine meters tall at the time of excavation.
Pottery and other artifacts of the later 3rd millennium BC, when this became a major urban center, indicate interaction with Turkmenistan, Baluchistan, and the Early Harappan Indus region.
Mundigak flourished during the culture of Helmand Basin (Seistan), also known as Helmand Culture (Helmand Province). With an area of 21 hectares, this was the second largest centre of Helmand Culture, the first being Shahr-i-Sokhta which was as large as 150 acres, by 2400 BCE. Bampur, in Iran, is a closely related site. Around 2200 BCE, both Shahr-i-Sokhta and Mundigak started declining, with considerable shrinkage in area and with brief occupation at later dates.
Mundigak has some material related to the Indus Valley Civilization. This material consists in part of ceramic figurines of snakes and humped bulls, and other items, similar to those found at other Indus valley sites. Pottery found at Mundigak had number of similarities with such material found at Kot Diji. This material shows up at the earliest layer of Kot Diji. Remains of a “palace” is found in one mound. Another mound revealed a large “temple”, indicating urban life.
An extensive series of mounds marks the site of a town. The chronology is still uncertain, but it has tentatively been divided into seven main periods with many subdivisions. The main period seems to be Period IV, which saw a massive rebuilding after an earlier destruction. Both the “palace” and the “temple” and possibly the city walls as well date from this period.
Another destruction layer and a marked ceramic change indicate a period of abandonment between IV and V Periods, followed by a period of further building and construction of new monuments, including the “massive monument”. Periods VI and VII saw only periodic occupation on a small scale.
Mundigak and Deh Morasi provide early developments in what may be now called religious activities. A white-washed, pillared large building with its door way outlined with red, dating around 3,000 BC is related to religious activities.
Early houses were constructed at Mundigak (during period I 4) in the form of tiny oblong cells with pressed earth walls. In the following layer (I 5) larger houses with square and oblong houses with sun dried bricks were found. Ovens for cooking and wells for water storage were found during later phases.
Apart from pottery and painted pottery, other artifacts found include crude humped bulls, human figures, shaft hole axes, adzes of bronze and terracotta drains. Painting on pots include pictures of sacred fig leaves (ficus religiosa) and a tiger-like animal. Several stone button seals were also found at Mundigak. Disk Beads and faience barrel beads, copper stamp seals, copper pins with spiral loops were also found.
The female looking human figurines (5 cm height) found at Mundigak are very similar to such figurines found at another archeological site in Afghanistan, Deh Morasi Ghundai (cicra 3000 BC).
Tepe Yahya is an archaeological site in Kermān Province, Iran, some 220 kilometres (140 mi) south of Kerman city, 90 kilometres (56 mi) south of Baft city and 90 km south-west of Jiroft. Habitation spans the 6th to 2nd millennia BCE and the 10th to 4th centuries BCE. In the 3rd millennium BCE, the city was a production center of chlorite stone ware; these carved dark stone vessels have been found in ancient Mesopotamian temples.
Periodization is as follows: Period VI in Yahya (4500-3800 BC, or perhaps 5000-4700 BC) is contemporary with the early Bakun culture in Fars Province. Period VII (5500-4500 BC). Period VI Coarse Ware-Neolithic (4500-3800 BC). Period V Yahya Culture (3800-3400 BC).
The period of Proto-Elamite influence lasted from about 3400 to 2500 BC. Period IV A Elamite (2500-2200 BC). Period III Iron Age (1000-500 BC). Period II Achaemenian (500-275 BC). Period I pre Sasanian (200 BC-400 AD).
Elaborate stone vessels carved with repeating designs, both geometric and naturalistic, in an easily recognizable “intercultural style”, were made primarily of chlorite; a number were produced at the important site of Tepe Yahya (Yaḥyā) southeast of Kermān in the middle and late 3rd millennium BC.
Some of these vessels were painted natural color (dark green) and inlaid with pastes and shell, and some have even been found with cuneiform inscriptions referring to rulers and known Sumerian deities.
More than 500 vessels and vessel fragments carved in this style have been recovered from sites ranging from Uzbekistan and the Indus Valley (e.g., Mohenjo-daro) in the east to Susa and all the major Sumerian sites in Mesopotamia, including Mari, in the west and to the Persian Gulf, particularly Tarut and the Failaka Islands, in the south.”
Steatite was also very common at this site. Nearby, a steatite mine has been discovered. Over a thousand steatite pieces belonging to Period IVB were found, indicating local manufacturing.
The distribution of these vessels was very wide. They were found not only in Mesopotamia, but also in Bampur IV, and in Shahr-i Sokhta. They were also found in the lower levels at Mohenjodaro. Steatite bowls with similar motifs are also found on Tarut island, and copies have been found at Umm-an Nar in the Persian Gulf.
The site is a circular mound, around 20 meters in height and around 187 meters in diameter. It was excavated in six seasons from 1967 to 1975 by the American School of Prehistoric Research of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology of Harvard University in a joint operation with what is now the Shiraz University. The expedition was under the direction of C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky.
In Period IVB (3100-2700 B.C.), a copper-bronze dagger was found which contained 3.0% tin, seemingly representing an alloy of tin. This is a very early evidence for copper-tin alloying in southwestern Asia. A related site is Tal-i Iblis, where early metallurgy has also been attested.
To Period IVC belong six proto-Elamite tablets that have been recovered. Also, eighty-four tablet blanks indicate that writing was being practised at Yahya. These finds are similar to the discoveries at Susa Cb and Sialk IV. Also, an object was found similar to a writing stylus.
Konar Sandal is located 55 miles north of Yahya and is culturally similar. Both cities traded with Mesopotamia. According to archaeologist Massimo Vidale, Indus civilization weights, seals, and etched carnelian beads were found in the area, demonstrating the connections between these two cultures.
Shahdad is a city and capital of Shahdad District, in Kerman County, Kerman Province, Iran. Shahdad was a major Bronze Age centre. North of town, a Jiroft Civilization village is said to have existed around 6,000 BC.
The legendary Aratta of the Sumerian sources may have been located in this area. By the early third millennium BC., Shahdad began to grow quickly as international trade with Mesopotamia expanded. The oldest metal flag in human history was found in this city.
Tomb excavations revealed spectacular artifacts amid stone blocks once painted in vibrant colors. These include several extraordinary, nearly life-size clay statues placed with the dead. The city’s artisans worked lapis lazuli, silver, lead, turquoise, and other materials imported from as far away as eastern Afghanistan, as well as shells from the distant Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. Evidence shows that ancient Shahdad had a large metalworking industry by this time.
Shahdad shares many parallels with Shahr-i-Sokhta. Many other ancient settlements are found in what is now empty desert. According to Iranian archaeologist Hassan Fazeli Nashli, some 900 Bronze Age sites have been documented in the Sistan Basin between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Sistan Basin is an inland endorheic basin encompassing large parts of southwestern Afghanistan and minor parts of southeastern Iran, one of the driest regions in the world and an area subjected to prolonged droughts.
Its watershed is a system of rivers flowing from the highlands of Afghanistan into freshwater lakes and marshes and then to its ultimate destination: Afghanistan’s saline Godzareh depression, part of the extensive Sistan terminal basin. The Helmand River drains the basin’s largest watershed, fed mainly by snowmelt from the mountains of Hindu Kush, but other rivers contribute also.
The lowest part of the Sistan Basin contains a series of shallow lakes, known as hamuns. It appears that in the past there was a single Hamun Lake, but there are now three separate lakes. A basalt hill, known as Mount Khajeh, rises beside the lakes and marshes of the basin.
For more than 5,000 years the Sistan basin has been inhabited by sophisticated cultures and thus contains some key archaeological sites. The Shahr-i Sokhta, or “Burnt City”, in Iran, built in 3100 B.C. near a currently dried-up branch of the Helmand River, was abandoned one thousand years later, most likely due climate changes that altered the river course. Also, Shahdad is a related site from the Bronze Age.
Kang and Zaranj in Afghanistan were major medieval cultural hubs, now covered by sand. Here, signs of historical irrigation systems, including canals, are still visible in the Dasht-e-Margo and Chakhansur areas while elsewhere canals are filled with silt and agricultural fields buried by shifting sand. Today the area is sparsely populated.
Excavations have also revealed a citadel complex, and the remains of a Zoroastrian fire temple, on Mount Khajeh. There are other important sites in this area. Dahan-e Gholaman is a major Achaemenid archaeological site. It is believed to be the capital of the ancient satrapy of Zranka/Drangiana.
Bampur (Balochi: Bonpur) (also Romanized as Bampūr and Bampoor) is a city in and capital of Bampur County, Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 9,073, in 1,664 families.
It is located 330 miles (530 km) south-east of Kerman at an elevation of 1,720 feet (520 m) In 1911 its population was about 2,000 and it was the capital of the province. It is situated on the banks of the Bampur river which flows from east to west and empties itself about 70 miles (110 km) west into a hamun, or depression, 50 miles (80 km) in length, and called Jaz Murian.
The old citadel of Bampur, on a hill about 100 feet (30 m) high 3 miles (4.8 km) north of the river, fell into ruins. A new fort called Kalah Nasseri, was built at Pahrah, which is known as Iranshahr, 15 miles (24 km) further east, in the 1880s.
Fahraj, which in 1911 had a population of about 2,500, has become more important than Bampur. Fahraj, which is also known as Pahura (or Paharu or Puhra), is by some identified as the Poura where Alexander the Great halted on his march from India. The majority of the population are ethnic Baloch, who speak the Balochi language.
Bampur is an important site in relation to the ancient Helmand culture of western Afghanistan, and to the closely related Jiroft culture of eastern Iran. The position of Bampur is near a river and major routes.
Thus, prehistoric and later settlements were founded in the area. Sir Aurel Stein carried out reconnaissance here in 1932. In 1966, Beatrice de Cardi excavated next, and she established that there were six successive occupational phases (Periods I-VI) at the site.
There were links with major sites such as Shahr-i Sokhta in Iran, and Mundigak. During the Period I of Shahr-e Sukhteh (3200–2800 BCE), there were already close connections between that city and the Bampur valley. These contacts also continued in the Period II of Shahr-e Sukhteh.
New ceramics appeared at the end of Period IV, suggesting contact with Iran, Makran, and Oman. Ceramics similar to Shahr-i Sokhta IV (ca. 2200-1800 b.c.) style were introduced in Periods V-VI.
There are also links with Umm an-Nar culture of Oman, dating possibly to the last quarter of the 3rd millennium. Tepe Yahya in Kerman Province, Iran, is another important site that may be related.
Balochistan (also Baluchistan or Baluchestan, meaning the “Land of the Baloch”) is an arid desert and mountainous region in south-western Asia. It comprises the Pakistani province of Balochistan, the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan, and the southern areas of Afghanistan, including Nimruz, Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
Balochistan borders the Pashtunistan region to the north, Sindh and Punjab to the east, and Persian regions to the west. South of its southern coastline, including the Makran Coast, are the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman.
The name “Balochistan” is generally believed to derive from the name of the Baloch people. The Baloch people are not mentioned in pre-Islamic sources. It is likely that the Baloch were known by some other name in their place of origin and that they acquired the name “Baloch” after arriving in Balochistan sometime in the 10th century.
Johan Hansman relates the term “Baloch” to Meluḫḫa, the name by which the Indus Valley Civilisation is believed to have been known to the Sumerians (2900–2350 BC) and Akkadians (2334–2154 BC) in Mesopotamia. Meluḫḫa disappears from the Mesopotamian records at the beginning of the second millennium BC.
However, Hansman states that a trace of it in a modified form, as Baluḫḫu, was retained in the names of products imported by the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC). Al-Muqaddasī, who visited the capital of Makran – Bannajbur, wrote c. 985 AD that it was populated by people called Balūṣī (Baluchi), leading Hansman to postulate “Baluch” as a modification of Meluḫḫa and Baluḫḫu.
Asko Parpola relates the name Meluḫḫa to Indo-Aryan words mleccha (Sanskrit) and milakkha/milakkhu (Pali) etc., which do not have an Indo-European etymology even though they were used to refer to non-Aryan people.
Taking them to be proto-Dravidian in origin, he interprets the term as meaning either a proper name milu-akam (from which tamilakam was derived when the Indus people migrated south) or melu-akam, meaning “high country”, a possible reference to Balochistani high lands.
Historian Romila Thapar also interprets Meluḫḫa as a proto-Dravidian term, possibly mēlukku, and suggests the meaning “western extremity” (of the Dravidian-speaking regions in the Indian subcontinent). A literal translation into Sanskrit, aparānta, was later used to describe the region by the Indo-Aryans.
During the time of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC), the Greeks called the land Gedrosia and its people Gedrosoi, terms of unknown origin. Using etymological reasoning, H. W. Bailey reconstructs a possible Iranian name, uadravati, meaning “the land of underground channels”, which could have been transformed to badlaut in the 9th century and further to balōč in later times. This reasoning remains speculative.
The earliest evidence of human occupation in what is now Balochistan is dated to the Paleolithic era, represented by hunting camps and lithic scatter, chipped and flaked stone tools. The earliest settled villages in the region date to the ceramic Neolithic (c. 7000–6000 BCE) and included the site of Mehrgarh in the Kachi Plain.
These villages expanded in size during the subsequent Chalcolithic, when interaction was amplified. This involved the movement of finished goods and raw materials, including chank shell, lapis lazuli, turquoise, and ceramics.
By 2500 BCE (the Bronze Age), the region now known as Pakistani Balochistan had become part of the Harappan cultural orbit, providing key resources to the expansive settlements of the Indus river basin to the east.
From the 1st century to the 3rd century CE, the region was ruled by the Pāratarājas (lit. “Pārata Kings”), a dynasty of Indo-Scythian or Indo-Parthian kings. The dynasty of the Pāratas is thought to be identical with the Pāradas of the Mahabharata, the Puranas and other Vedic and Iranian sources.
The Parata kings are primarily known through their coins, which typically exhibit the bust of the ruler (with long hair in a headband) on the obverse, and a swastika within a circular legend on the reverse, written in Brahmi (usually silver coins) or Kharoshthi (copper coins). These coins are mainly found in Loralai in today’s western Pakistan.
Khuzestan Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It is in the southwest of the country, bordering Iraq and the Persian Gulf. Its capital is Ahvaz and it covers an area of 63,238 km2. As the Iranian province with the oldest history, it is often referred to as the “birthplace of the nation”, as this is where the history of the Elamites begins.
The seat of the province has for the most of its history been in the northern reaches of the land, first at Susa (Shush) and then at Shushtar. During a short spell in the Sasanian era, the capital of the province was moved to its geographical center, where the river town of Hormuz-Ardasher, founded over the foundation of the ancient Hoorpahir by Ardashir I, the founder of the Sasanian Dynasty in the 3rd century CE.
This town is now known as Ahvaz. However, later in the Sasanian time and throughout the Islamic era, the provincial seat returned and stayed at Shushtar, until the late Qajar period. With the increase in the international sea commerce arriving on the shores of Khuzistan, Ahvaz became a more suitable location for the provincial capital.
The River Karun is navigable all the way to Ahvaz (above which, it flows through rapids). The town was thus refurbished by the order of the Qajar king, Naser al-Din Shah and renamed after him, Nâseri. Shushtar quickly declined, while Ahvaz/Nâseri prospered to the present day.
Khuzestan is known for its ethnic diversity; the population of Khuzestan consists of Lurs, Iranian Arabs, Qashqai people, Afshars, indigenous Persians, and Iranian Armenians. Khuzestan’s population is predominantly Shia Muslim, but there are small Christian, Jewish, Sunni and Mandean minorities. Half of Khuzestan’s population is Bakhtiari.
Historically, one of the most important regions of the Ancient Near East, Khuzestan is what historians refer to as ancient Elam, whose capital was in Susa. The name Khuzestan means “The Land of the Khuzi”, and refers to the original inhabitants of this province, the “Susian” people (Old Persian “Huza”, Middle Persian “Khuzi” or “Husa” (the Shushan of the Hebrew sources).
The Achaemenid Old Persian term for Elam was Hujiyā when they conquered it from the Elamites, which is present in the modern name. Khuzestan, meaning “the Land of the Khuz”, refers to the original inhabitants of this province, the “Susian” people (Old Persian “Huza” or Huja, as in the inscription at the tomb of Darius the Great at Naqsh-e Rostam).
They are the Shushan of the Hebrew sources where they are recorded as “Hauja” or “Huja”. In Middle Persian, the term evolves into “Khuz” and “Kuzi”. The pre-Islamic Partho-Sasanian inscriptions gives the name of the province as Khwuzestan.
The name of the city of Ahvaz also has the same origin as the name Khuzestan, being an Arabic broken plural from the compound name, “Suq al-Ahvaz” (Market of the Huzis)–the medieval name of the town, that replaced the Sasanian Persian name of the pre-Islamic times.
In 538 BCE Cyrus the Great conquers the Median Empire, then Susiana, then Assyria. The city of Susa is rebuilt as an Achaemenid capital. Over the succeeding two centuries, Persian civilization established itself in Khuzestan, though the Elamite language is said to have survived for another thousand years, until the 5th century CE.
The entire province was still known as “the Khudhi” or “the Khooji” until the reign of the Safavid king Tahmasp I (r. 1524–1576) and in general the course of the 16th century. The southern half of the province—south, southwest of the Ahwaz Ridge, had come by the 17th century to be known—at least to the imperial Safavid chancery as Arabistan.
The contemporaneous history, the Alamara-i Abbasi by Iskandar Beg Munshi, written during the reign of king Abbas I (r. 1588–1629), regularly refers to the southern part of Khuzestan as “Arabistan”. The northern half continued to be called Khuzestan. Since 2014 it has been part of Iran’s Region 4. In 1925, the entire province regained the old name and the term Arabistan was dropped.
There is also a very old folk etymology which maintains the word “khouz” stands for sugar and “Khouzi” for people who make raw sugar. The province has been a cane sugar-producing area since the late Sassanian times, such as the sugar cane fields of the Dez River side in Dezful. Khouzhestan has been the land of Khouzhies who cultivate sugar cane even today in Haft Tepe.
There have been many attempts at finding other sources for the name, but none have proved tenable. The history of Khuzestan Province, a province in southwestern Iran, extends from the ancient pre-Aryan Elamite civilization to the modern day Islamic Republic.
Khuzestan was once inhabited by a people known as the Elamites, who spoke neither Indo-European languages (like the Medes and Persians of the Iranian plateau) nor Semitic languages (like the peoples of the Mesopotamian city-states).
The Elamite language was not related to any Iranian languages, but may have been part of a larger group known as Elamo-Dravidian. Archaeologists and historians have documented various Elamite dynasties ranging from approximately 2700 BCE to 644 BCE. However, various early proto-Elamite ruins such as Sialk exist in central Iran.
The boundaries of Elam shifted throughout history, but Elam usually included present-day Khuzestan and areas of the Iranian plateau now part of the Iranian province of Fars. Elamite kings sometimes ruled as far afield as Babylon; sometimes they were completely subjugated by the Babylonians and Assyrians, and vice versa, as was the case for numerous dynasties that ruled Iran.
Historians differ as to whether the Elamites could be considered “Iranian”. On the one hand, the Elamites spoke a non-Iranian language and were culturally closer to the established civilizations of Sumer and Akkad than they were to the tribes of the Iranian plateau.
On the other hand, the Elamites linked the old civilizations of Mesopotamia and the new peoples of the plateau, and their version of Mesopotamian civilization was a formative influence on the first indisputably Persian empire of the Achaemenids.
Elam was one of the first conquests of the new Persian empire; Elamite scribes kept the Persians’ records, writing them down in Elamite cuneiform. Hence one contemporary historian, Elton Daniel, states that the Elamites are “the founders of the first Iranian empire in the geographic sense”.
If the Elamites are considered proto-Persians, then Khuzestan would have been one of the cradles of Persian civilization. Many experts such as Sir Percy Sykes in fact called the Elamites “the earliest civilization of Persia”, and Ibn Nadeem mentions that all the Median and Persian lands of antiquity spoke one language.
In his book, which is the most accredited account of spoken languages of Iran during the early Islamic era, Ibn Nadeem quotes the 8th century scholar Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa as having counted Khuzi among the Iranian languages and for having identified it as the unofficial language of the royalty of Iran.
In 644 BCE, the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal conquered Elam and destroyed their capital at Susa. For a time, the area was ruled from northern Mesopotamia. The area then seems to have re-established its independence. It was known as Susiana and ruled from Susa. It managed to remain independent of the burgeoning Median Empire.
Elam was an ancient civilization centered in the far west and southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of what is now Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq.
The modern name Elam is a transcription from Biblical Hebrew, corresponding to the Sumerian elam(a), the Akkadian elamtu, and the Elamite haltamti. Elamite states were among the leading political forces of the ancient near east. In classical literature, Elam was more often referred to as Susiana, a name derived from its capital, Susa.
Situated just to the east of Mesopotamia, Elam was part of the early urbanization during the Chalcolithic period (Copper Age). The emergence of written records from around 3000 BC also parallels Mesopotamian history, where slightly earlier records have been found.
In the Old Elamite period (Middle Bronze Age), Elam consisted of kingdoms on the Iranian plateau, centered in Anshan, and from the mid-2nd millennium BC, it was centered in Susa in the Khuzestan lowlands. Its culture played a crucial role in the short lived Gutian Empire of the 22nd century BC, and from the 6th century BC, during the Persian Achaemenid dynasty that succeeded Elam, when the Elamite language remained among those in official use. Elamite is generally accepted to be a language isolate.
The Elamites called their country Haltamti, Sumerian ELAM, Akkadian Elamû, female Elamītu “resident of Susiana, Elamite”. Additionally, it is known as Elam in the Hebrew Bible, where they are called the offspring of Elam, eldest son of Shem (see Elam in the Bible; Genesis 10:22, Ezra 4:9), although in actuality the Elamites spoke a non-Semitic language isolate.
The high country of Elam was increasingly identified by its low-lying later capital, Susa. Geographers after Ptolemy called it Susiana. The Elamite civilization was primarily centered in the province of what is modern-day Khuzestān and Ilam in prehistoric times. The modern provincial name Khuzestān is derived from the Persian name for Susa: Old Persian Hūjiya “Elam”, in Middle Persian Huź “Susiana”, which gave modern Persian Xuz, compounded with -stån “place” (cf. Sistan “Saka-land”).
Knowledge of Elamite history remains largely fragmentary, reconstruction being based on mainly Mesopotamian (Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian) sources. The history of Elam is conventionally divided into three periods, spanning more than two millennia. The period before the first Elamite period is known as the proto-Elamite period:
- Proto-Elamite: c. 3200 BC – 2700 BC (Proto-Elamite script in Susa)
- Old Elamite period: c. 2700 BC – 1600 BC (earliest documents until the Eparti dynasty)
- Middle Elamite period: c. 1500 BC – 1100 BC (Anzanite dynasty until the Babylonian invasion of Susa)
- Neo-Elamite period: c. 1100 BC – 539 BC (characterized Assyrian and Median influence. 539 BC marks the beginning of the Achaemenid period)
Proto-Elamite civilization grew up east of the Tigris and Euphrates alluvial plains; it was a combination of the lowlands and the immediate highland areas to the north and east. At least three proto-Elamite states merged to form Elam: Anshan (modern Fars), Awan (probably modern Luristan), and Shimashki (modern Kerman).
References to Awan are generally older than those to Anshan, and some scholars suggest that both states encompassed the same territory, in different eras. To this core Shushiana (modern Khuzestan) was periodically annexed and broken off. In addition, some Proto-Elamite sites are found well outside this area, spread out on the Iranian plateau; such as Warakshe, Sialk (now a suburb of the modern city of Kashan) and Jiroft in Kerman Province.
The state of Elam was formed from these lesser states as a response to invasion from Sumer during the Old Elamite period. Elamite strength was based on an ability to hold these various areas together under a coordinated government that permitted the maximum interchange of the natural resources unique to each region. Traditionally, this was done through a federated governmental structure.
The Proto-Elamite city of Susa was founded around 4000 BC in the watershed of the river Karun. It is considered to be the site of Proto-Elamite cultural formation. During its early history, it fluctuated between submission to Mesopotamian and Elamite power.
The earliest levels (22–17 in the excavations conducted by Le Brun, 1978) exhibit pottery that has no equivalent in Mesopotamia, but for the succeeding period, the excavated material allows identification with the culture of Sumer of the Uruk period.
Proto-Elamite influence from the Persian plateau in Susa becomes visible from about 3200 BC, and texts in the still undeciphered Proto-Elamite writing system continue to be present until about 2700 BC. The Proto-Elamite period ends with the establishment of the Awan dynasty.
The earliest known historical figure connected with Elam is the king Enmebaragesi of Kish (c. 2650 BC?), who subdued it, according to the Sumerian king list. Elamite history can only be traced from records dating to beginning of the Akkadian Empire in around 2300 BC onwards.
The Proto-Elamite states in Jiroft and Zabol, present a special case because of their great antiquity. Archaeologists have suggested that a close relationship between the Jiroft civilisation and the Elamite civilisation is evidenced by striking similarities in art and culture, as well as by Elamite language writings found in Jiroft—possibly extending the Elamite presence to as early as 7000 BC.
The Old Elamite period began around 2700 BC. Historical records mention the conquest of Elam by Enmebaragesi the Sumerian king of Kish in Mesopotamia. Three dynasties ruled during this period. We know of twelve kings of each of the first two dynasties, those of Awan (or Avan; c. 2400–2100 BC) and Simash (c. 2100–1970 BC), from a list from Susa dating to the Old Babylonian period. Two Elamite dynasties said to have exercised brief control over parts of Sumer in very early times include Awan and Hamazi; and likewise, several of the stronger Sumerian rulers, such as Eannatum of Lagash and Lugal-anne-mundu of Adab, are recorded as temporarily dominating Elam.
The Avan dynasty was partly contemporary with that of the Mesopotamian emperor Sargon of Akkad, who not only defeated the Awan king Luhi-ishan and subjected Susa, but attempted to make Akkadian the official language there. From this time, Mesopotamian sources concerning Elam become more frequent, since the Mesopotamians had developed an interest in resources (such as wood, stone, and metal) from the Iranian plateau, and military expeditions to the area became more common. With the collapse of Akkad under Sargon’s great great-grandson, Shar-kali-sharri, Elam declared independence under the last Avan king, Kutik-Inshushinak (c. 2240–2220 BC), and threw off the Akkadian language, promoting in its place the brief Linear Elamite script. Kutik-Inshushinnak conquered Susa and Anshan, and seems to have achieved some sort of political unity. Following his reign, the Awan dynasty collapsed as Elam was temporarily overrun by the Guti, a people speaking a Language Isolate, from what is now north west Iran.
About a century later, the Sumerian king, Shulgi of Ur retook the city of Susa and the surrounding region. During the first part of the rule of the Simashki dynasty, Elam was under intermittent attack from Mesopotamians and Gutians, alternating with periods of peace and diplomatic approaches. Shu-Sin of Ur, for example, gave one of his daughters in marriage to a prince of Anshan. But the power of the Sumerians was waning; Ibbi-Sin in the 21st century did not manage to penetrate far into Elam, and in 2004 BC, the Elamites, allied with the people of Susa and led by king Kindattu, the sixth king of Simashk, managed to sack Ur and lead Ibbi-Sin into captivity—thus ending the third dynasty of Ur. The Akkadian kings of Isin, successor state to Ur, did manage to drive the Elamites out of Ur, rebuild the city, and to return the statue of Nanna that the Elamites had plundered. The succeeding dynasty, the Eparti (c. 1970–1770 BC), also called “of the sukkalmahs” because of the title borne by its members, was contemporary with the Old Babylonian period in Mesopotamia. This period is confusing and difficult to reconstruct. It was apparently founded by Eparti I. During this time, Susa was under Elamite control, but Mesopotamian states such as Larsa continually tried to retake the city. Around 1850 BC Kudur-mabug, apparently king of another Akkadian state to the north of Larsa, managed to install his son, Warad-Sin, on the throne of Larsa, and Warad-Sin’s brother, Rim-Sin, succeeded him and conquered much of southern Mesopotamia for Larsa.
Notable Eparti dynasty rulers in Elam during this time include Sirukdukh (c. 1850 BC), who entered various military coalitions to contain the power of the Mesopotamian states; Siwe-Palar-Khuppak, who for some time was the most powerful person in the area, respectfully addressed as “Father” by Mesopotamian kings such as Zimrilim of Mari, and even Hammurabi of Babylon, and Kudur-Nahhunte, who plundered the temples of Akkad. But Elamite influence in Mesopotamia did not last. Around 1760 BC, Hammurabi drove out the Elamites, overthrew Rim-Sin of Larsa, and established Babylonian dominance in Mesopotamia. Little is known about the latter part of this dynasty, since sources again become sparse with the Kassite rule of Babylon (from c. 1595 BC).
The Middle Elamite period began with the rise of the Anshanite dynasties around 1500 BC. Their rule was characterized by an “Elamisation” of Susa, and the kings took the title “king of Anshan and Susa”. While the first of these dynasties, the Kidinuids continued to use the Akkadian language frequently in their inscriptions, the succeeding Igihalkids and Shutrukids used Elamite with increasing regularity. Likewise, Elamite language and culture grew in importance in Susiana. The Kidinuids (c. 1500–1400) are a group of five rulers of uncertain affiliation. They are identified by their use of the older title, “king of Susa and of Anshan”, and by calling themselves “servant of Kirwashir”, an Elamite deity, thereby introducing the pantheon of the highlands to Susiana.
Elamite is traditionally thought to be a language isolate, and completely unrelated to the neighbouring Semitic, Sumerian (also an Isolate), and the later Indo-European Iranian languages that came to dominate the region. It was written in a cuneiform adapted from the Semitic Akkadian script of Assyria and Babylonia, although the very earliest documents were written in the quite different “Linear Elamite” script.
In 2006, two even older inscriptions in a similar script were discovered at Jiroft to the east of Elam, leading archaeologists to speculate that Linear Elamite had originally spread from further east to Susa. It seems to have developed from an even earlier writing known as “proto-Elamite”, but scholars are not unanimous on whether or not this script was used to write Elamite or another language, and it has not yet been deciphered. Several stages of the language are attested; the earliest date back to the third millennium BC, the latest to the Achaemenid Empire.
Proto-Elamite is the oldest known writing system from Iran. It was used during a brief period of time (ca. 3100 – 2900 BC); clay tablets with Proto-Elamite writing have been found at different sites across Iran. The Proto-Elamite script is thought to have developed from early cuneiform (proto-cuneiform). The Proto-Elamite script consists of more than 1,000 signs and is thought to be partly logographic. Since it has not yet been deciphered, it is not known whether the language it represents is Elamite or another language. It has been suggested[who?] that some early writing systems, including Proto-Elamite, may not relate to spoken languages in the way that modern writing systems do.
Linear Elamite is a writing system from Iran attested in a few monumental inscriptions only. It is often claimed that Linear Elamite is a syllabic writing system derived from Proto-Elamite, although this cannot be proven. Linear Elamite was used for a very brief period of time during the last quarter of the third millennium BC. Linear-Elamite has not been deciphered. Several scholars have attempted to decipher Linear Elamite, most notably Walther Hinz and Piero Meriggi.
The Elamite Cuneiform script was used from about 2500 to 331 BC, and was adapted from the Akkadian Cuneiform. The Elamite Cuneiform script consisted of about 130 symbols, far fewer than most other cuneiform scripts.
The Elamites practised polytheism. Knowledge about their religion is scant, but at one point they had a pantheon of gods headed by the sky god Khumban. Other deities included the goddess Kiririsha and the gods Inshushinak and Jabru. Inshushinak (In-shushi-nak – An-Susa-Nakh) was one of the major gods of the Elamites and the protector deity of Susa. The ziggurat at Choqa Zanbil is dedicated to him.
Khumban is the Elamite god of the sky. His sumerian equivalent is Anu. Several Elamite kings, mostly from the Neo-Elamite period, were named in honour of Khumban. Kumarbi is the chief god of the Hurrians. He is the son of Anu (the sky), and father of the storm-god Teshub. He was identified by the Hurrians with Sumerian Enlil, and by the Ugaritians with El.
In Sumerian mythology, Anu (also An; (from Sumerian *An ? = sky, heaven) was a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, spirits and demons, and dwelt in the highest heavenly regions. It was believed that he had the power to judge those who had committed crimes, and that he had created the stars as soldiers to destroy the wicked. His attribute was the royal tiara. His attendant and minister of state was the god Ilabrat.
In Akkadian mythology Humbaba (Assyrian spelling) or Huwawa (Sumerian spelling), also Humbaba the Terrible, was a monstrous giant of immemorial age raised by Utu, the Sun. Humbaba was the guardian of the Cedar Forest, where the gods lived, by the will of the god Enlil, who “assigned [Humbaba] as a terror to human beings.” He is the brother of Pazuzu and Enki and son of Hanbi.
Elymais or Elamais (Graecized form of the more ancient name, Elam) was a semi-independent state of the 2nd century BC to the early 3rd century AD, frequently a vassalary under Parthian control, and located at the head of the Persian Gulf in the present-day region of Khuzestan, Iran (Susiana). It was reportedly these people were great archers and natives of Susa, which lies to the east of Elymais territory. Most of the Elymais were probably descendants of the ancient Elamites, who once had control of that area in the past. The provinces of Elymais were Massabatice (later Masabadhan), Corbiane and Gabiane.
Nothing is known of their language, even though “Elamite” was still used by the Achaemenid Empire 250 years before the Elymais came into existence. A number of Aramaic inscriptions are found in Elymais. The kingdom of Elymais survived until its extinction by Sassanid invasion in early 3rd century AD.
A “Jiroft culture” has been postulated as an early Bronze Age (late 3rd millennium BC) archaeological culture, located in what is now Iran’s Sistan and Kermān Provinces. The hypothesis is based on a collection of artifacts that were confiscated in Iran and accepted by many to have derived from the Jiroft area in south central Iran, reported by online Iranian news services, beginning in 2001.
The proposed type site is Konar Sandal, near Jiroft in the Halil River area. Other significant sites associated with the culture include; Shahr-e Sukhteh (Burnt City), Tepe Bampur, Espiedej, Shahdad, Tal-i-Iblis and Tepe Yahya.
The proposition of grouping these sites as an “independent Bronze Age civilization with its own architecture and language”, intermediate between Elam to the west and the Indus Valley Civilization to the east, is due to Yousef Majidzadeh, head of the archaeological excavation team in Jiroft.
He speculates they may be the remains of the lost Aratta Kingdom, but his conclusions have met with skepticism from some reviewers. Other conjectures (e.g. Daniel T. Potts, Piotr Steinkeller) have connected the Konar Sandal with the obscure city-state of Marhashi, that apparently lay to the east of Elam proper.
Many artifacts associated with Jiroft were recovered from looters described as “destitute villagers” who had scavenged the area south of Jiroft before 2001, when a team led by Yousef Majidzadeh began excavations. The team uncovered more than two square kilometers of remains from a city dating back to at least the late 3rd millennium BC.
The looted artifacts and some vessels recovered by the excavators were of the so-called “intercultural style” type of pottery known from Mesopotamia and the Iranian Plateau, and since the 1960s from nearby Tepe Yahya in Baft. The “Jiroft civilization” hypothesis proposes that this “intercultural style” is in fact the distinctive style of a previously unknown, long-lived civilization.
This is not universally accepted. Archaeologist Oscar Muscarella of the Metropolitan Museum of Art criticizes that the excavators resorted to sensationalist announcements while being more slow in publishing scholarly reports, and their claims that the site’s stratigraphy shows continuity into the 4th millennium as overly optimistic. Muscarella does nevertheless acknowledge the importance of the site.
One of the most notable archaeological excavations done in Kerman Province was one done by a group led by Professor Joseph Caldwell from Illinois State Museum in 1966 (Tal-i-Iblis) and Lamberg-Karlovsky from Harvard University in 1967 (Tepe Yahya Sogan Valley, Dolatabad). Archeological excavations in Jiroft led to the discovery of several objects belonging to the fourth millennium BC.
According to Majidzadeh, geophysical operations by French experts in the region indicate the existence at least 10 historical and archaeological periods in the region belonging to different civilizations who lived in this area during different periods of time in history. According to the French experts who studied this area, the evidence remained from these civilizations may be traced up to 11 metres under the ground. “What is obvious is that the evidence of Tal-i-Iblis culture in Bardsir can be traced in all parts of the region. Tal-i-Iblis culture, known as Ali Abad period (fourth millennium BC) was revealed by Joseph R. Caldwell, American archaeologist,” said Majidzadeh.
Shahr-e Sūkhté, meaning “[The] Burnt City”), also spelled as Shahr-e Sukhteh and Shahr-i Shōkhta, is an archaeological site of a sizable Bronze Age urban settlement, associated with the Jiroft culture. It is located in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, the southeastern part of Iran, on the bank of the Helmand River, near the Zahedan-Zabol road. A proposal is submitted to include it in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
The reasons for the unexpected rise and fall of the Burnt City are still wrapped in mystery. Artifacts recovered from the city demonstrate a peculiar incongruity with nearby civilizations of the time and it has been speculated that Shahr-e-Sookhteh might ultimately provide concrete evidence of a civilization east of prehistoric Persia that was independent of ancient Mesopotamia.
Konar Sandal is a Bronze Age archaeological site, situated just south of Jiroft, Kermān Province, Iran. It consists of two mounds a few kilometers apart, called Konar Sandal A and B with a height of 13 and 21 meters, respectively. At Konar Sandal B, a two-story, windowed citadel with a base of close to 13.5 hectares was found.
The site is associated with the hypothesized “Jiroft culture”, a 3rd millennium BC culture postulated on the basis of a collection of artifacts confiscated in 2001.
Marhaši (Mar-ḫa-ši) in earlier sources Waraḫše) was a 3rd millennium BC polity situated east of Elam, on the Iranian plateau. It is known from Mesopotamian sources, and its precise location has not been identified. An inscription attributed to Lugal-Anne-Mundu of Adab (albeit in much later copies) mentions it among the seven provinces of his empire, between the names of Elam and Gutium. This inscription also recorded that he confronted their governor (ensi), Migir-Enlil of Marhashi, who had led a coalition of 13 rebel chiefs against him.
Proto-Dravidian is the proto-language of the Dravidian languages. It is thought to have differentiated into Proto-North Dravidian, Proto-Central Dravidian and Proto-South Dravidian around 1500 BC, although some linguists have argued that the degree of differentiation between the sub-families points to an earlier split.
As a proto-language, Proto-Dravidian has been reconstructed and is not itself found in the historical record. Due to a dearth of comparative linguistic research in Dravidian studies, not many details as to the grammar, epoch, or location of Proto-Dravidian are known.
Quite a few ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilisations flourished in territories where J2 lineages were preponderant. This is the case of the Hattians, the Hurrians, the Etruscans, the Minoans, the Greeks, the Phoenicians (and their Carthaginian offshoot), the Israelites, and to a lower extent also the Romans, the Assyrians and the Persians. All the great seafaring civilisations from the middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age were dominated by J2 men.
There is a distinct association of ancient J2 civilisations with bull worship. The oldest evidence of a cult of the bull can be traced back to Neolithic central Anatolia, notably at the sites of Çatalhöyük and Alaca Höyük. Bull depictions are omnipresent in Minoan frescos and ceramics in Crete. Bull-masked terracotta figurines and bull-horned stone altars have been found in Cyprus (dating back as far as the Neolithic, the first presumed expansion of J2 from West Asia). The Hattians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaaites, and Carthaginians all had bull deities (in contrast with Indo-European or East Asian religions).
The presence of Haplogroup J2 in India, including the subclades M410 and M241 has been an often overlooked clue to the origins of M172. Sengupta et al, in 2005 worked to explain the presence of M172 in India. Their paper provides an immediate acknowledgement of the proposed spread of proto-Elamo-Dravidian speaking peoples into India originating from the Indus Valley and southwest Persia.
The idea that M172 may have been carried into India with proto-Elamo-Dravidian groups is supported by the frequencies of Haplogroup J in one of the only remaining Dravidian Speaking ethnic groups in the Iranian Plateau, the Brahui. 28% of the Brahui, an ethnic Dravidian speaking group from Western Pakistan were found to carry the mutation defining Haplogroup J. Overall Haplogroup J2 in India represented 9.1% of this very populous nation.
In Pakistan, M172 accounted for 11.9% of the Y-Chromosomes typed. Sengupta’s paper broke down the frequencies of Haplogroup J2 into various caste and language groups. J2 was found to be significantly higher among Dravidian castes at 19% than among Indo-European castes at 11%.
J2a-M410 in particular may be a strong candidate for a proposed migration of proto-Dravidian peoples from the Iranian Plateau or the Indus Valley since J2a M410 is a very high component of the haplogroup J2 chromosomes found in Pakistan. Over 71% of the M172 found in Pakistan was M410+.
Another interesting characteristic in the distribution of M172 and more specifically, M410, in India was its higher frequencies in Upper Caste Dravidians. M410+ chromosomes were found in 13% of Upper Caste Dravidians. Sengupta goes on to suggest an Indian origin of Dravidian speakers but from a Y chromosome perspective, the paper seems to acknowledge M172 arriving in India from Middle Eastern and Indus Valley Civilizations.
Despite an apparent exogenous frequency spread pattern of J2a toward North and Central India from the west, it is premature to attribute the spread to a simplistic demic expansion of early agriculturists from the Middle East….it may also reflect subsequent Bronze Age Harappans of uncertain provenance.
Subclades of M172 such as M67 and M92 were not found in either Indian or Pakistani samples which also might hint at a partial common origin. And while there may be multiple events and origins for M172 lineages in India, it does seem likely that the Indus Valley and Elamo-Dravidian speaking groups may be the origin of some of the M172 found in India today.
The sacred bull of Hinduism, Nandi, present in all temples dedicated to Shiva or Parvati, does not have an Indo-European origin, but can be traced back to Indus Valley civilisation. Minoan Crete, Hittite Anatolia, the Levant, Bactria and the Indus Valley also shared a tradition of bull leaping, the ritual of dodging the charge of a bull. It survives today in the traditional bullfighting of Andalusia in Spain and Provence in France, two regions with a high percentage of J2 lineages.
Susa (Persian: Šuš; Hebrew: Šušān; Syriac: Šuš; Middle Persian: Sūš; Old Persian: Çūšā) was an ancient city of the Proto-Elamite, Elamite, First Persian Empire, Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian empires of Iran, and one of the most important cities of the Ancient Near East.
In Elamite, the name of the city was written variously Ŝuŝan, Ŝuŝun, etc. The origin of the word Susa is from the local city deity Inshushinak, one of the major gods of the Elamites and the protector deity of Susa.
It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about 250 km (160 mi) east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers. The site now “consists of three gigantic mounds, occupying an area of about one square kilometer, known as the Apadana mound, the Acropolis mound, and the Ville Royale (royal town) mound.”
The modern Iranian town of Shush is located on the site of ancient Susa. Shush is identified as Shushan, mentioned in the Book of Esther and other Biblical books. The ziggurat at Choqa Zanbil is dedicated to him.
Susa was one of the most important cities of the Ancient Near East. In historic literature, Susa appears in the very earliest Sumerian records: for example, it is described as one of the places obedient to Inanna, patron deity of Uruk, in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta.
In urban history, Susa is one of the oldest-known settlements of the region. Based on C14 dating, the foundation of a settlement there occurred as early as 4395 BCE (a calibrated radio-carbon date). At this stage it was already very large for the time about 15 hectares.
The founding of Susa corresponded with the abandonment of nearby villages. Potts suggests that the settlement may have been founded to try to reestablish the previously destroyed settlement at Chogha Mish, dating back to 6800 BC. Previously, Chogha Mish was also a very large settlement, and it featured a similar massive platform that was later built at Susa. Another important settlement in the area is Chogha Bonut.
Shortly after Susa was first settled over 6000 years ago, its inhabitants erected a monumental platform that rose over the flat surrounding landscape. The nature of the site is still recognizable today in the artistry of the ceramic vessels that were placed as offerings in a thousand or more graves near the base of the temple platform.
Susa’s earliest settlement is known as Susa I period (c. 4200–3900 BCE). Two settlements named by archaeologists Acropolis (7 ha) and Apadana (6.3 ha), would later merge to form Susa proper (18 ha). The Apadana was enclosed by 6m thick walls of rammed earth (this particular place is named Apadana because it also contains a late Achaemenid structure of this type).
Nearly two thousand pots of Susa I style were recovered from the cemetery, most of them now in the Louvre. The vessels found are eloquent testimony to the artistic and technical achievements of their makers, and they hold clues about the organization of the society that commissioned them.
Painted ceramic vessels from Susa in the earliest first style are a late, regional version of the Mesopotamian Ubaid ceramic tradition that spread across the Near East during the fifth millennium BC. Susa I style was very much a product of the past and of influences from contemporary ceramic industries in the mountains of western Iran.
The recurrence in close association of vessels of three types—a drinking goblet or beaker, a serving dish, and a small jar—implies the consumption of three types of food, apparently thought to be as necessary for life in the afterworld as it is in this one.
Ceramics of these shapes, which were painted, constitute a large proportion of the vessels from the cemetery. Others are coarse cooking-type jars and bowls with simple bands painted on them and were probably the grave goods of the sites of humbler citizens as well as adolescents and, perhaps, children.
The pottery is carefully made by hand. Although a slow wheel may have been employed, the asymmetry of the vessels and the irregularity of the drawing of encircling lines and bands indicate that most of the work was done freehand. Copper metallurgy is also attested during this period, which was contemporary with metalwork at some highland Iranian sites such as Tepe Sialk.
Susa came within the Uruk cultural sphere during the Uruk period. An imitation of the entire state apparatus of Uruk, proto-writing, cylinder seals with Sumerian motifs, and monumental architecture is found at Susa. According to some scholars, Susa may have been a colony of Uruk.
There is some dispute about the comparative periodization of Susa and Uruk at this time, as well as about the extent of Uruk influence in Susa. Recent research indicates that Early Uruk period corresponds to Susa II period.
D. T. Potts, argue that the influence from the highland Iranian Khuzestan area in Susa was more significant at the early period, and also continued later on. Thus, Susa combined the influence of two cultures, from the highland area and from the alluvial plains.
Also, Potts stresses the fact that the writing and numerical systems of Uruk were not simply borrowed in Susa wholesale. Rather, only partial and selective borrowing took place, that was adapted to Susa’s needs.
Despite the fact that Uruk was far larger than Susa at the time, Susa was not its colony, but still maintained some independence for a long time, according to Potts. An architectural link has also been suggested between Susa, Tal-i Malyan, and Godin Tepe at this time, in support of the idea of the parallel development of the protocuneiform and protoelamite scripts.
Some scholars believe that Susa was part of the greater Uruk culture. Holly Pittman, an art historian at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia says, “they [Susanians] are participating entirely in an Uruk way of life. They are not culturally distinct; the material culture of Susa is a regional variation of that on the Mesopotamian plain”.
Gilbert Stein, director of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, says that “An expansion once thought to have lasted less than 200 years now apparently went on for 700 years. It is hard to think of any colonial system lasting that long. The spread of Uruk material is not evidence of Uruk domination; it could be local choice”.
Susa III (3100–2700 BCE) is also known as the ‘Proto-Elamite’ period. At this time, Banesh period pottery is predominant. This is also when the Proto-Elamite tablets first appear in the record. Subsequently, Susa became the centre of Elam civilization.
Ambiguous reference to Elam (Cuneiform; NIM) appear also in this period in Sumerian records. Susa enters history during the Early Dynastic period of Sumer. A battle between Kish and Susa is recorded in 2700 BCE.
In the Sumerian period, Susa was the capital of a state called Susiana (Šušan), which occupied approximately the same territory of modern Khūzestān Province centered on the Karun River. Control of Susiana shifted between Elam, Sumer, and Akkad. Susiana is sometimes mistaken as synonymous with Elam but, according to F. Vallat, it was a distinct cultural and political entity.
During the Elamite monarch, many riches and materials were brought to Susa from the plundering of other cities. This was mainly due to the fact of Susa’s location on Iran’s South Eastern region, closer to the city of Babylon and cities in Mesopotamia.
The use of the Elamite language as an administrative language was first attested in texts of ancient Ansan, Tall-e Mal-yan, dated 1000 BCE. Previous to the era of Elamites, the Akkadian language was responsible for most or all of the text used in ancient documents.
Susiana was incorporated by Sargon the Great into his Akkadian Empire in approximately 2330 BCE. The main goddess of the city was Nanaya, who had a significant temple in Susa.
Susa was the capital of an Akkadian province until ca. 2100 BCE, when its governor, Kutik-Inshushinak, rebelled and made it an independent state and a literary center. Also, he was the last from the Awan dynasty according to the Susa kinglist. He unified the neighbouring territories and became the king of Elam. He encouraged the use of the Linear Elamite script, that remains undeciphered.
The city was subsequently conquered by the neo-Sumerian Third Dynasty of Ur and held until Ur finally collapsed at the hands of the Elamites under Kindattu in ca. 2004 BCE. At this time, Susa became an Elamite capital under the Epartid dynasty.
Around 1500 BCE, the Middle Elamite period began with the rise of the Anshanite dynasties. Their rule was characterized by an “Elamisation” of Susa, and the kings took the title “king of Anshan and Susa”.
While, previously, the Akkadian language was frequently used in inscriptions, the succeeding kings, such as the Igihalkid dynasty of c. 1400 BCE, tried to use Elamite. Thus, Elamite language and culture grew in importance in Susiana.
This was also the period when the Elamite pantheon was being imposed in Susiana. This policy reached its height with the construction of the political and religious complex at Chogha Zanbil, 30 km (19 mi) south-east of Susa.
In ca. 1175 BCE, the Elamites under Shutruk-Nahhunte plundered the original stele bearing the Code of Hammurabi and took it to Susa. Archeologists found it in 1901. Nebuchadnezzar I of the Babylonian empire plundered Susa around fifty years later.
Ashurbanipal’s brutal campaign against Susa in 647 BCE is recorded in this relief. Flames rise from the city as Assyrian soldiers topple it with pickaxes and crowbars and carry off the spoils. In 647 BCE, Neo-Assyrian king Ashurbanipal leveled the city during a war in which the people of Susa participated on the other side. Assyrian rule of Susa began in 647 BCE and lasted till Median capture of Susa in 617 BCE.
Chogha Bonut (Persian Choghā bonut) is an archaeological site in south-western Iran, located in the Khuzistan Province. It is believed that the site was settled as early as 7200 BCE, making it the oldest lowland village in south-western Iran.
This settlement on the Susiana Plain played a big role in the early Elam civilization. Later, this area became dominated by Susa. The site is important because it preserves a record of preceramic period settlement in Iran.
The site now “consists of three gigantic mounds, occupying an area of about one square kilometer, known as the Apadana mound, the Acropolis mound, and the Ville Royale (royal town) mound.”
Five phases of occupation are documented at the site: the Aceramic phase, the Formative Ceramic phase, the Archaic Susiana 0 phase (includes the Early Susiana period, ca. 5900 BCE), the Late Middle Susiana phase (ca. 5200 BCE) and the Late Susiana 2 phase. (ca. 4400-4000 BCE).
Tappeh-ye Choghā Mīsh dating back to 6800 BC, is the site of a Chalcolithic settlement in Western Iran, located in the Khuzistan Province on the Susiana Plain. It was occupied at the beginning of 6800 BC and continuously from the Neolithic up to the Proto-Literate period. Later, the nearby Susa became culturally dominant in this area.’
Chogha Mish, with about 17 ha of occupation area, was the largest population center prior to the fifth millennium BC. Oriental Institute archaeological investigations at the site from 1969 to 1979 also showed increasing social and economic complexity until it was temporarily abandoned sometime in the early fifth millennium B.C., perhaps ca. 4800 BC.
Nevertheless, a transitional settlement continued on a smaller scale. Around 4400 B.C., the nearby Susa was probably established, and became the largest settlement dominating the area. Chogha Mish was a regional center during the late Uruk period of Mesopotamia.
The city is important today for information about the development of writing. At Chogha Mish and Susa, evidence begins with an accounting system using clay tokens, over time changing to clay tablets with marks, finally to the cuneiform writing system.
Chogha Mish provides important evidence for early connections between Susiana and Mesopotamia. The discoveries at Chogha Mish show that the Early Susiana period was contemporary with the Ubaid 1 period of southern Mesopotamia and the Samarra period of central Mesopotamia.
The Close-Line ware of Archaic Susiana 3 phase was contemporary with the Ubaid O phase, which antedates the previously known Ubaid sequence of southern Mesopotamia. The painted pottery of the Samarra period in central Mesopotamia came later.
Chogha Zanbil (Elamite: Dur Untash) is an ancient Elamite complex in the Khuzestan province of Iran. It is one of the few existing ziggurats outside Mesopotamia. It lies approximately 30 km (19 mi) southeast of Susa and 80 km (50 mi) north of Ahvaz.
The Elamite language is a language isolate Choga Zanbil is typically translated as ‘basket mound.’ It was built about 1250 BC by the king Untash-Napirisha, mainly to honor the great god Inshushinak. Its original name was Dur Untash, which means ‘town of Untash’ in Assyrian, but it is unlikely that many people, besides priests and servants, ever lived there.
The complex is protected by three concentric walls which define the main areas of the ‘town’. The inner area is wholly taken up with a great ziggurat dedicated to the main god, which was built over an earlier square temple with storage rooms also built by Untash-Napirisha.
The middle area holds eleven temples for lesser gods. It is believed that twenty-two temples were originally planned, but the king died before they could be finished, and his successors discontinued the building work. In the outer area are royal palaces, a funerary palace containing five subterranean royal tombs.
Although construction in the city abruptly ended after Untash-Napirisha’s death, the site was not abandoned, but continued to be occupied until it was destroyed by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in 640 BC.
Some scholars speculate, based on the large number of temples and sanctuaries at Chogha Zanbil, that Untash-Napirisha attempted to create a new religious center (possibly intended to replace Susa) which would unite the gods of both highland and lowland Elam at one site.
The ziggurat originally measured 105.2 metres (345 ft) on each side and about 53 metres (174 ft) in height, in five levels, and was crowned with a temple. Mud brick was the basic material of the whole ensemble.
The ziggurat was given a facing of baked bricks, a number of which have cuneiform characters giving the names of deities in the Elamite and Akkadian languages. Though the ziggurat now stands only 24.75 metres (81.2 ft) high, less than half its estimated original height, its state of preservation is unsurpassed.
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. It took its multi-layered form in the second phase.
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.
Chogha Golan is an aceramic Neolithic archaeological site in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains in Iran, about 200 m (656 ft) from the right bank of the Konjan Cham River. Located in a semi-arid region about 30 km (19 mi) north of Mehran, Chogha Golan is one of the earliest aceramic Neolithic site found in Iran. The people of Chogha Golan relied primarily on the cultivation of wild plants and hunting. Chogha Golan is notable for the early presence of domesticated emmer wheat, dating to around 9,800 BP.
Chogha Golan was jointly excavated by archaeologists from the University of Tübingen and the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research [da] in 2009 and 2010. The site consists of a tell with a height of about 7–8 m (23–26 ft). Chogha Golan contains 8 m (26 ft) of cultural deposits.
Archaeologists have divided the site into 11 layers, Archaeological Horizons I-XI. Excavations have unveiled red-painted plaster floors and mudbrick walls. 10 clay animal figurines were excavated at the site.
With almost 32,000 charred seed and chaff remains, the high density of seed and chaff remains at Chogha Golan is notable when compared to contemporary sites and even later, Bronze Age sites. 110 different species of plants have been discovered at Chogha Golan.
The plant assemblage is dominated by specimens from the Poaceae and Fabaceae families: wild barley, Aegilops, lentil, Lathyrus, Pisum and Vicia. The wild varieties of several Neolithic founder crops were discovered at the site: barley, wheat, lentil and grass pea.
Wild barley was found at every layer at Chogha Golan, starting with Archaeological Horizon XI. Before the appearance of domesticated emmer wheat, wild barley was the predominate cereal crop found at Chogha Golan, while wheat was rarely found.
After around 2000 years, domesticated emmer first appears at Archaeological Horizon II and is also found in Archaeological Horizon I. After the initial appearance of domesticated emmer wheat, emmer wheat became the predominate cereal grain found at the site.
The faunal assemblage at Chogha Golan is dominated by ungulates (sheep/goat, gazelle, red deer, pig, and cattle), followed by fish. The remains of tortoise, hedgehog, red fox, and Eurasian lynx are also found.
Around about the same time, the earliest-known clay vessels and modeled human and animal terracotta figurines were produced at Ganj Dareh, also in western Iran. There are also 10,000-year-old human and animal figurines from Tepe Sarab in Kermanshah Province among many other ancient artifacts.
Shushinak, Susas gud: