Elamite bull

Iran is one of the three oldest Asian civilizations that remains today (not including the Middle East). The other two are China and India. There is evidence of human habitation in the Zagros Mountains in Western Iran as far back as 100,000 years ago. About 15,000 years ago the inland sea of Iran began drying up. The earliest reports of human settlements go back to 10,000 years ago. By 6000 B.C. village farming was practiced among communities living on the Iranian plateau. At the beginning of the third millennium an important civilization appeared at Elam in the southwestern corner of the plateau. Gayomars is the mythical first ruler of Iran. The Kassites are an ancient people who lived on the Qazvin Plain west of present-day Tehran as far back as 2400 B.C. and ruled Mesopotamia (See the Kassites). The Elamites are another very ancient people from Iran that had a strong impact on Mesopotamia.

Many of the oldest sites in Iran are tappehs (ancient burial mounds). Among these are Tappeh Sialk, near Kashan, where 6,000-year-old pottery has been found; Tappeh Hesar, near Damghan, and Tappeh Turnag, near Astar Abad, both of which have been dated to be 7,500 years old; and Tappeh Median, which revealed silver bars, cut silver and silver ring money dated to 760 B.C. Among the other important pre-Persian sites are Shahr-e-Sukhteh, a 5000-year-old town with evidence of extensive trade; Tappeh Yahya, south of Kerman, a 5000-year-old sites with examples of early writing and trade between East and West; and Tall-e-Malyan, near Persepolis, believed to be the lost Elamite city of Anshan.

Iranian tribes entered the plateau which now bears their name in the middle around 2500 B.C. and reached the Zagros Mountains which border Mesopotamia to the east by about 2250 B.C.. Persia contained a number regions of high culture and ancient cities occupied by different ethnic groups that were divided by deserts, steppes and mountains and had no great rivers to link them. Potters in the Iron Age (1400-600 B.C.) in northern and western Iran produced ceramics that had an almost metallic sheen. Their black, red, brown and grey wares that had surfaces like silver, gold and bronze.

K.E. Edulje wrote in Zoroastrian Heritage: “Iran and its immediate surroundings are home to many ancient sites whose origins predate historical records. Some of the regions could very well have been a cradle, if not, the cradle of civilization. The prehistoric finds at archaeological sites are frequently categorized according to Ages. It is a very imprecise and sometime confusing method of categorization since the time at which these ages occurred is different in different regions. Development from the use of stone implements to metal implements did not occur at the same time in different regions. Nor did the transition from stone implements to metal implements take place at one point in time. While it is thought that copper was the first metal used for the making of tools, this author feels that may not apply to Central Asia, where gold was the more readily available metal.[Source: K.E. Edulje, Zoroastrian Heritage ]

“We find various prehistoric sites in Iran-Shahr, the greater Iran region called a tepe (also spelt depe, tape, tappeh, tappa, teppeh or tappe). The word means a mound or small (artificial) hill. The mound or hill is formed by soil covering an ancient settlement, or soil formed from mud-brick structures that later human occupation have compressed over time into artificial hills. In treeless areas, the presence of a tepe suddenly rising from an otherwise flat terrain, may indicate ancient settlement buried under the soil. The tepe sometimes consists of the different layers of construction, each with a different dating. The lower layers are therefore normally the older layers.”

Bronze Age and the World's First Known Shoes

world's oldest shoes from near Iran

The oldest known leather shoe — a 5,500-year-old leather moccasin — was found in was found in a cave near the village of Areni, Armenia. The 24.5-centimeter-long, 7.6- to-10-centimeter-wide covered piece of footwear was made of an old piece of leather. It had laces and was sawed to fit around the wearer's foot. Announced in June 2010, the discovery was made near the Armenian-Turkish-Iranian borders by a team from University College Cro in Vayotz Dzor province.

During the forth millennium in present-day Turkey, Iran and Thailand man learned that these metals could be melted and fashioned into a metal — bronze — that was stronger than copper, which had limited use in warfare because copper armor was easily penetrated and copper blades dulled quickly. Bronze shared these limitations to a lesser degree, a problem that was rectified until the utilization of iron which is stronger and keeps a sharp edge better than bronze, but has a much higher melting point. [Source: "History of Warfare" by John Keegan, Vintage Books]

The Bronze Age lasted from about 4,000 B.C. to 1,200 B.C. During this period everything from weapons to agricultural tools to hairpins was made with bronze (a copper-tin alloy). Weapons and tools made from bronze replaced crude implements of stone, wood, bone, and copper. Bronze knives are considerable sharper than copper ones. Bronze is much stronger than copper. It is credited with making war as we know it today possible. Bronze sword, bronze shield and bronze armored chariots gave those who had it a military advantage over those who didn't have it.

Copper tools had been around for long before bronze ones. Therefore the key ingredient that made the Bronze Age and innovation possible was tin. Copper was readily available over a large area. Much of it came from Cyprus. Tin was harder to find. It came mainly from mountains in Turkey and in Cornwall. Because tin was scarce and found in only localized regions, trade routes on which it was transported were set up. Tin itself became a highly profitable trade item. Taxes were placed on tin. Tolls were put in place on the trade routes.

First Domesticated Goats from Iran?

Goats first appeared around 5 million years ago. The lived primarily in mountainous habitats and spread out an inhabited other region. Modern goats can eat food that other animals can't partly because the originated from harsh, rocky mountain environments.

Goats rank with pigs and dogs as one of the earliest domesticated animals and rank with sheep as one of the first animals to be kept for milk. Modern goats are believed to have been domesticated from Markor goats or Bezoar goats from Western Asia about 9,000 to 10,000 years ago. Wild Markor goats can still be found in the dry mountains of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.


Bones from what appear to be domesticated goats have been found in Iraq and Iran dated to from 8,500 B.C. . Ganj Dareh, a 10,000-year-old site in the Fertile Crescent, yielded a number bones of many small goats. Archeologist believe that these goats were domesticated rather than wild based on the practice of hunter societies to kill the largest animals available while herders kill smaller animals and keep the large ones to breed.

People who lived in Iran 9,000 years ago kept a few males to breed and killed off the rest of the male goats at age two, about the time they reached sexual maturity, while females were allowed to grow older because they supplied milk and produced babies, a pattern that continues today.

The Mesopotamians wrote poems about goats, depicted them in golden sculptures, worshiped them as gods and made the goat-god Capricorn into a Zodiac sign. Goats were taken all over the world to trade as sources of meat, wool and milk. Goats are mentioned in the Bible as well as in Buddhist, Confucian and Zoroastrian texts. In Greek myths, the gods were nursed on goats milk.

Early History of Persia and Pre-Achaemenid Iran

The first Iranian empire state was the Achaemenian Empire, established by Cyrus the Great in about 550 B.C. Alexander the Great conquered the empire in 330 B.C. The Greeks were followed by the Parthians, who ruled from 247 B.C. until A.D. 224, and the Sassanians, who ruled from A.D. 224 until the Arabs conquered Iran in A.D. 642. The Arabs brought with them Islam, which eventually became the predominant religion. In the centuries that followed, Iran was ruled by a succession of Arab, Iranian, and Turkic dynasties. In the thirteenth century, the Mongol leader Genghis Khan invaded the disunified territory of Iran, and Mongol dynasties subsequently ruled Iran for nearly two centuries. In 1501 the Iranian Safavis created a strong centralized empire under Ismael I and also established Shiite Islam as the official religion. In the eighteenth century, Iran was weakened by civil wars, new dynasties came to rule, and a new regional rival, Russia, arose. [Source: Library of Congress, May 2008 **]

Iran's history as a nation of people speaking an Indo-European language did not begin until the middle of the second millennium B.C. Before then, Iran was occupied by peoples with a variety of cultures. There are numerous artifacts attesting to settled agriculture, permanent sun-dried- brick dwellings, and pottery-making from the sixth millennium B.C. The most advanced area technologically was ancient Susiana, present-day Khuzestan Province. By the fourth millennium, the inhabitants of Susiana, the Elamites, were using semipictographic writing, probably learned from the highly advanced civilization of Sumer in Mesopotamia (ancient name for much of the area now known as Iraq), to the west. [Source: Library of Congress, December 1987 *]

Sumerian influence in art, literature, and religion also became particularly strong when the Elamites were occupied by, or at least came under the domination of, two Mesopotamian cultures, those of Akkad and Ur, during the middle of the third millennium. By 2000 B.C. the Elamites had become sufficiently unified to destroy the city of Ur. Elamite civilization developed rapidly from that point, and, by the fourteenth century B.C., its art was at its most impressive. *

Raphael Pumpelly (1837-1923), Early Archaeologist of Iran

Raphael Pumpelly

K.E. Edulje wrote in Zoroastrian Heritage: “More than a century ago an unlikely geologist from New York put forth a proposition that "the fundamentals of civilization - organized village life, agriculture, the domestication of animals, weaving," (including mining and metal work) "originated in the oases of Central Asia long before the time of Babylon." [Source: K.E. Edulje, Zoroastrian Heritage ]

“Raphael Pumpelly arrived at this conclusion after visiting Central Asia as a geologist and observing the ruins of cities on the ancient shorelines of huge, dried inland seas. By studying the geology of the area, he became one of the first individuals to investigate how environmental conditions could influence human settlement and culture. Pumpelly speculated that a large inland sea in central Asia might have once supported a sizeable population. He knew from his travels and study that the climate in Central Asia had become drier and drier since the time of the last ice age. As the sea began to shrink, it could have forced these people to move west, bringing civilization to westward and to the rest of the world. He hypothesized that the ruins of cities he saw were evidence of a great ancient civilization that existed when Central Asia was more wet and fertile than it is now.

“Such assertions that civilization as we know it originated in Central Asia sounded radical at a time when the names of Egypt and Babylon, regions connected to the Bible, were considered to be the cradle of civilization. But Pumpelly was persistent. Forty years after his first trip to Central Asia, he convinced the newly established Andrew Carnegie Foundation to fund an expedition. Since the Russians controlled Central Asia, he charmed the authorities in Saint Petersburg into granting him permission for an archaeological excavation. The latter even provided Pumpelly with a private railcar. At the age of 65, Pumpelly was given the opportunity to prove his theory and he wasted no time in starting his work.”

“Pumpelly carefully excavated the north mound” of his first excavation site in Central Asia at Anau “by digging a series of eight terraces and shafts. He carefully labelled the position of each item he uncovered. He employed fine-scale archaeology methods (methods that are now utilized by modern archaeologists) by using sieves to capture seeds and tiny bones. Then he had specialists, such as botanists and anatomists, analyze his finds. These pioneering methods would only gradually be used by archaeologists over the next century. In the absence of modern methods like radiocarbon dating, Pumpelly used his training as a geologist, keeping careful stratigraphic records to date sites. His findings would come close to matching data collected years later using modern technology and at considerably greater cost.

“Pumpelly's early interest in how humans respond to environmental change is still a keynote feature of archaeology. The kurgan digs unearthed pottery, objects of stone and metal, hearths and cooking utensils - even the remains of skeletons of children found near hearths. He discovered evidence of domesticated animals and cultivated wheat - evidence of the civilization the sought.

“Later Pumpelly was to write in his memoirs, "A close watch was kept to save every object, large and small,... and to note its relation to its surroundings. I insisted that every shovelful contained a story if it could be interpreted." Indeed, every shovelful, even grain, and every shard had a story to tell.

First Wine in Iran

Zagros mountains

China and Iran both claim to have produced the world's first known wine. An archaeological site called Hajii Firuz (Firuz Tepe) in the Zagros mountains in Iran with mud brick-buildings dating to 5400-5000 B.C. yielded jars with traces of tartaric acid (a chemical indicator of grapes), calcium tartrate and terebinth resin, which are left behind by dried wine. There were also remains of stoppers which could have been placed in the jars to prevent wine from tuning into vinegar. Based on the colors of the residues, the Neolithic people that lived there enjoyed both red and white wine. The site was identified by a team lead by Patrick McGovern, an ancient-wine expert and a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, in 1996.

Ceramic remains unearthed at Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains suggest that wine was produced there about 3,500 B.C., pushing back the earliest documented evidence of wine making by about 500 years. The discovery was made by a graduate student at the Royal Ontario Museum who noticed a stain on a vessel she was assembling. When the stain was analyzed it revealed tartaric acid, a substance found abundantly in grapes. If the stain was indeed made from wine it shows that wine-making and writing evolved about the same time. [National Geographic Geographica, March 1992].

The first domesticated grapevines are believed to have been developed in the northern Near East, perhaps in Armenia or perhaps in the Zagros mountains of Iran, where wild grapes still grow today and pollen cores show they grew in Neolithic times. By 3000 B.C. domesticated grapes had been transplanted to the Jordan Valley, which became a major exporter of wine. It produced large amounts of wine that was traded to Egypt and elsewhere. An Egyptian King named Scorpion who was buried in 3150 B.C. with 700 jars of imported wine.

Hajji Firuz and the World's Oldest Wine-Making

K.E. Edulje wrote in Zoroastrian Heritage: “Persians were known for their wine-making, and the site now called Hajji Firuz, just west of Hasanlu, is noted for the discovery of a jar containing the earliest known residue of wine in the world. The residue contained resin from the Terebinth tree that grew wild in the region, and was possibly used as a preservative indicating that the wine was deliberately made and was not result of the grape juice fermenting unintentionally. Terebinth resin was widely used as a preservative in ancient wine because it killed certain bacteria. Pine resin is currently used in Greek Retsina wine. [Source: K.E. Edulje, Zoroastrian Heritage ]

“The jar with the wine residue, had a volume of about 9 litres (2.5 gallons), and was found together with five similar jars embedded in the earthen floor along one kitchen wall of a Neolithic mud brick building, dated to c. 5400-5000 B.C.. Clay stoppers about the same size as the jars' mouths were located close by, suggesting that they could have been used keep out the air and prevent the wine

“The building in which the jars were found, consisted of a large room that may have doubled as a bedroom, a kitchen, and two storage rooms. The room thought to be a kitchen had a fireplace and numerous pottery vessels probably used to prepare and cook foods. It is unclear if the name of the site has any connection with the trickster who is supposed to make an appearance at Nowruz or New Year's day.

“At Godin Tepe, a 3500-3000 B.C. settlement six hundred km (400 miles) south along the Zagros mountains, additional jars containing wine residues have been found.

Also see Hajji Firuz Tepe, Iran by Mary M. Voigt, Richard H. Meadow


Elamite Gopat

Elam, adjacent to Sumer in southwestern Persia and frequently treated as an extension of Mesopotamia, reached literacy by 3000 B.C., around the same time as the Sumerians in Mesopotamia. Elam’s capital, Susa [Shushash], exercised considerable influence in Mesopotamia. This region and adjacent areas may have been the Anshan of the "Sumerian King List." [Source: Internet Archive, from UNT]

The Elamites (2400 B.C. 539 B.C.) were one of the great destroyers of Mesopotamian culture. They emerged in what is now southwestern Iran and established a capital named Susa. They periodically battled with the Sumerians and destroyed Ur in 2000 B.C. They remained on the scene long enough to sack Babylon in the 12th century B.C. and carry the slab with Hammurabi's legal code (See Babylonians) back to Susa.

At the high point of their power in the 13th century B.C. , the mighty Elamite ziggurat in the city of Dur Untash towered over the realm. Partly restored and found at a site called Choga Zanbil in Iran, it was one of the largest ziggurats in the world. The Elamites cultural influence continued after they were absorbed by Persia.

The Elamites were believed have grown rich from trade. Their kingdom were located between Mesopotamia and the eastern highlands that provided it with the minerals they craved: lapis lazuli, carnelian and soapstone.

The Elamites as a Middle East power lasted until 646 B.C. when the Assyrians stormed Elam and sacked Susa. They joined the Persian Empire in 539 B.C. when Cyrus the Great captured Susa.

Susa and Its Art

Susa was Elam's capital, although it changed hands so many times in its 3,000-year history that it became a kind of cultural melting pot, with its art showing traces of influences as far away as the Indus Valley. In 1992 the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted a exhibition called "The Royal City of Susa” that made this point. [Source: Holland Cotter, New York Times, November 27, 1992]

Perhaps the most outstanding works of art unearthed in Susa is the great limestone "Victory Stele of Naram-Sin," created in the third millennium B.C. near present-day Baghdad. It depicts a king crushing the bodies of his enemies underfoot as he strides up a mountain beneath wheel-shaped stars. The image is one of the oldest known of a conquering monarch, and its naturalistic carving, monumental size and fine state of preservation make it virtually unique.

Elaite worshipper

Holland Cotter wrote in the New York Times, “Mesopotamia often dominated Susa politically and artistically. In some cases, art was simply imported directly from Sumer or Akkad. The Naram-Sin stele, for example, was hauled to Susa after an Elamite victory as a war trophy. Other works, among them the "Statue of Eshpum," depicting a bearded man with inlaid shell eyes, were made locally, but in Mesopotamian style. While modern viewers may find that style, with its rigid figures and staring faces, a little hard to love, the peculiarly tense, muscular power its figures project continues to cast a spell today.

Yet "The Royal City of Susa" gives fascinating evidence of a different sensibility at work as well, one that can be identified with the Elamite people of Iran. In some cases it appears as a distinctive set of forms or materials, like a tarlike sculptural compound that was first molded, then carved to imitate black stone. More often it emerges in the subtle inflections made to existing models.

“One of the show's most extraordinary objects, the almost life-size, headless statue of Queen Napir-Asu, is based on a Mesopotamian royal image type. The cone-shaped figure, a technical marvel of metal casting with a copper skin over a bronze core, weighs two tons and looks rooted in the earth. But the impression of massiveness is broken up by surface details of the utmost delicacy. The queen's layered skirts are covered top to bottom with minute decorative patterns; a palmette clasp secures the shawl on her shoulder; tiny incised lines articulate the joints of her tapering fingers.

“The liveliness generated by this flair for decorative detail is everywhere in the art of Susa. One finds it in the chocolate-colored design on the neck of a beaker from around 4000 B.C., where an apparently abstract pattern turns out to be a continuous band of standing birds with long vertical necks as thin as pen strokes. And again in an eighth or seventh century B.C. frieze of a woman sitting cross-legged and spinning, her elaborate coiffure looking like a miniature masterpiece of the weaver's art.

The sense of expressive immediacy found in this figure is another Susian characteristic and is nowhere more evident than in the dozens of small terra-cotta sculptures displayed in a large vitrine at the end of the exhibition. Some have religious significance, like the nude goddesses whoseem to have been universal emblems of fertility in the ancient world from Asia to Europe. A few figures here are especially striking, as in the case of one whose thighs balloon outward like pantaloons and another who supports her breasts in her hands and stares intently downward. Other of these terra cottas probably had secular uses, like the bow-legged lute player with a child clambering over his head, or the tubby little hand-modeled sheep set atop four movable wheels.”


Arrata is a mysterious Bronze Age city that is said to have existed around 2700 B.C. French-Iranian archaeologist Yousef Madjidzadeh thinks he found it near the town Jiroft in a desolate corner of Iran and thinks it may predate Mesopotamia. Arrata was celebrated in one of the world's oldest stories: a 4,000 years old epic about a clash between Arrata and the Mesopotamian city of Uruk. Arrata is described as a city of colorful architecture and excellent craftsmanship. “Arrata's battlements are of green lapis lazuli, it walls and its towering brickwork are bright red, their brick clay is made of tinstone dug out in the mountains where the cypress grows." [Source: Andrew Lawler, Smithsonian magazine, May 2004]

The site near Jirof, known as Konar Sandal, was discovered in 2000. Thus far archaeologists have uncovered a huge temple or fort, that resembled a ziggurat, made of four million mud bricks. Impressions made by cylindrical seals shows the people that lived there were probably literate. The site first came to the attention of archeologists in 2001 when a flash flood on the Hali River exposed thousands of ancient graves that were quickly plundered by looters. Stone vessels, carved with images of animals and decorated with semi-precious stones confiscated from tomb looters also turned up vessels found as far west as Syria and as far east as the Indus valley that have been dated to be 4,500 years old. A bronze goat head has been dated to possibly be 5,000 years old. Among the more beautiful objects are vessels made from green chlorite carved with bulls.

Overall though the archaeology for the various claims is rather weak. Many scholars doubt whether Aratta even existed and those that do believe it existed place it in western Iran or Armenia. There are no definite links between Arrata and the site near Jiroft and it is difficult to date most of the objects found there because nearly all the graves in the where they were found have been looted. Madjidzadeh estimates that 10,000 holes were dug by looters over a 1½ -year period and 100,000 objects were taken. Looters continued to work at night while archaeologists worked during the day.


K.E. Edulje wrote in Zoroastrian Heritage: “Anau is a site eight kilometres southeast of Turkmenistan's Ashgabat modern-day capital, Ashgabat, and its name is derived from Abi-Nau, meaning new water. In earlier times, its name was Gathar.In the delta around Anau, there are three mounds or kurgans (also called tepe or depe), each containing ruins from a different period. The north mound has layers from the 5th millennium B.C. to the 3rd millennium B.C., at which time in history the river Keltechinar appears to have changed course causing a population shift to the south mound that has layers from the mid-3rd millennium B.C. to the 1st millennium B.C. (the Bronze Age). The east mound has the most recent (medieval to classical period) ruins. [Source: K.E. Edulje, Zoroastrian Heritage ]

In 1886, a Russian general A. V. Komarov who mistakenly thought the mound was an ancient burial site with treasure worth plundering, had his army brigade cut through the north mound, bisecting the mound. When Pumpelly visited the site in 1903, his training as a geologist enabled him to see twenty stratified occupational layers in this trench. Pumpelly returned to the site in 1904 to start excavations along the Russian trench using sophisticated methods - methods in stark contrast with the plundering dig of the Russians.

“The story of Anau that emerged was one of a planned walled city that was home to a community that farmed wheat, manufactured artefacts and traded with its neighbours. His work had barely begun, when in 1904 a plague of locusts "filled the trenches faster than they could be shovelled," and plunged the area into famine, forcing him to abandon the dig, never to return. This phenomenon should not go unnoticed since it might provide clues on the reasons why some settlements appear to have been abandoned in ancient times.

“Traveling eastward, he noted the mounds dotting the foothills of the Kopet-Dag, indicating that Anau was not an isolated town, but part of a community of settlements that stretched for a few hundred kilometres, settlements that based themselves on the waters and fertile soil brought down from the mountains. Leaving the mountains, Pumpelly followed the river Murgab north towards the Kara Kum desert. Extreme heat stopped him from exploring the upper reaches of the Murgab delta. Had he done so, he could surely have arrived on the unmistakeable depe mounds of Gonur. That discovery would have to wait for another seventy years and the efforts of a Russian archaeologist of Greek descent, Viktor Sarianidi.

ancient sites in Iran

Tepe Hissar

K.E. Edulje wrote in Zoroastrian Heritage: “Tepe Hissar, an archaeological site of largest known urban settlement in the northeast corner of present-day Iran, flourished from 4,500 to 1,900 B.C. (Metal Age). It is located ninety kilometres southeast of the Caspian Sea, near the modern city of Damghan, along the south slopes of the Alburz mountains, and south of Turkmenistan. Hissar was strategically and centrally located on the east-west trade route. Amongst the artefacts found at the site, were those made from lapis lazuli turquoise from Badakshan in the east. [Source: K.E. Edulje, Zoroastrian Heritage ]

According to The Shelby White-Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications, Harvard University: "Its strategic location along the major East-West trade route, between southern Mesopotamia, Iranian plateau and Central Asia, further heightens its presumed economic and political role in the region. The importation of lapis and turquoise implies connections with the east, and at the same time links with the west have been documented by blank clay tablets reminiscent of Proto-Elamite tablets, and a cylinder seal. Its importance, therefore, as a cornerstone of chronology, cannot be overemphasized."

“According to the British Museum in their description of a Bronze Age, c. 2400-2000 B.C., Lapis lazuli stamp seal from the Ancient Near East"... Behind the man are a long-horned goat above a zebu. This last animal is related in style to similar creatures depicted on seals from the Indus Valley civilization, which was thriving at this time. There were close connections between the Indus Valley civilization and eastern Iran. One of the prized materials that was traded across the region was lapis lazuli, the blue stone from which this seal is made."

Tureng Tepe

Tureng Tepe vase

K.E. Edulje wrote in Zoroastrian Heritage: “An archaeological site known locally as Tureng Tape (also spelt Torang/Turang/Turanga Depe/Tepe/Tappeh/Tapeh/Tappe/Tappa), the hill of the pheasants, is located 22 km (18 as the crow flies) northeast of Gorgan near Kuran Tappeh. Excavations in 1932 revealed five distinct layers, the earliest dating back to the sixth millennium B.C. (the Chalcolithic or Copper Age) and the latest to between 630-1050 CE. [Source: K.E. Edulje, Zoroastrian Heritage ]

“During the Bronze Age (second half of the third millennium and the early second millennium B.C.) Tureng Tepe was one of the largest centres of north-eastern Iran yet discovered. Gold, bronze, and stone objects, dating to this time, called the Astarabad Treasure, were found at the site. The culture of Tureng Tepe during the city's zenith closely parallels that of Tepe Hissar. Occupied until the medieval ages, Torang was also a caravanserai, a caravan station, along the Aryan trade roads until it was destroyed during The Mongol period (1220-1380).

“The appearance of a plain grey pottery dated to the third millennium B.C. has led to speculation that the change marks the entry of Aryan tribes into the region. This reasoning is highly speculative. Nevertheless, the site is evidence of an extremely old civilization that was advanced for its times, residing in the area. The tepe forms a natural link with the tepes along the northern slopes of the Kopet Dag and shares interesting connections with sites in Balkh and in the eastern Iranian plateau.”


K.E. Edulje wrote in Zoroastrian Heritage: “Hasanlu is an ancient settlement located close to the southern shore of Lake Urmia in the Solduz Valley of present-day province of West-Azerbaijan, in the northwest of Iran. Hasanlu sat on the cross roads of the trade routes that ran east-west and the route than went south along the Zagros mountains. Hasanlu dominated the small plain of Solduz in the Qadar River valley. [Source: K.E. Edulje, Zoroastrian Heritage ]

Naghade, Hasanlu

“Hasanlu dates from about 7,000 B.C., (the Neolithic era or New Stone Age). It was occupied continuously until its destruction around 825 B.C. following a devastating attack when it was burnt to the ground. During that surprise attack some 240 inhabitants were trapped and entombed in the collapsed ruins and fiery debris. The site was since reoccupied and abandoned until a final occupation during the Achaemenid and Early Parthian periods.

“Artefacts have been found in most of Hasanlu's buildings, especially materials stored on their second floors, which were buried in the collapsed ruins. Over 7,000 artefacts have been identified including a wide range of utensils, weapons, jewellery, decorative wall tiles, metal and ceramic vessels, horse gears, and seals. The materials used to make these artefacts include iron, bronze, gold, silver, antimony, shell, ivory, bone, amber, glass, wood, and stone. No written tablets have been recovered.

“Hasanlu's site consists of a 25m high central artificial mound called the citadel, with massive fortifications and paved streets. The citadel is surrounded by a low outer town, 8m above the surrounding plain. The entire site, once much larger but reduced in size by local agricultural and building activities, now measures about 600m across. The citadel has a diameter of about 200 m. At the end of the second millennium B.C., the top of the citadel mound was occupied by monumental buildings, one of which had a columned hall measuring 18 by 24 meters with four rows of six columns each, a forerunner of later columned halls in Media and Achaemenid Anshan. Some writers and archaeologists have speculated that the hall is a fire temple.

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Sir Aurel Stein, a British archaeologist, first investigated Hasanlu with a few small, exploratory soundings in 1936. In 1956, the Hasanlu Project was launched under the joint sponsorship of the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Archaeological Service of Iran. Until 1977, the Hasanlu Project carried out its mission to investigate not only the site itself, but also the cultural and political developments in the surrounding region. While large-scale excavations of Hasanlu itself were ongoing, archaeological surveys and small-scale excavations were undertaken at a number of nearby settlements, such as the Neolithic sites of Pisdeli Tepe and Hajji Firuz, the Bronze Age and Iron Age sites of Ziwiye and Dinkha Tepe, and the Urartian sites of Qalatgah and Agrab Tepe. The findings have definitively shaped our understanding of cultural developments in northwest Iran from the Neolithic period through the Iron Age.” [Source: Tedesco, Laura Anne. "Hasanlu in the Iron Age", Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2004, \^/]

Books: Dyson, Robert H., Jr. "Hasanlu Teppe." In Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 12, fasc. 1, pp. 41–46.. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2004; Dyson, Robert H., Jr., and Mary Mathilda Voigt, eds. "East of Assyria: The Highland Settlement of Hasanlu." Expedition 31, no. 2–3 (1989).. n/a: n/a, n/a.

Hasanlu in the Iron Age

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Hasanlu is an ancient Near Eastern site of the late second to first millennium B.C. Situated on the southern shore of Lake Urmia in the Solduz Valley of northwest Iran, Hasanlu's strategic position along trade routes through the Zagros Mountains connected the region with Anatolia and Mesopotamia. The remains discovered at Hasanlu demonstrate that it was a major local center of commerce and artistic production with close ties to other political and creative centers of the Near East during the early first millennium B.C. Hasanlu's geographic location influenced its development, and may have been a factor in the site's destruction by an invading army around 800 B.C. [Source: Tedesco, Laura Anne. "Hasanlu in the Iron Age", Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2004,\^/]

Hasanly rhyton

“The earliest evidence for occupation at Hasanlu dates from the sixth millennium B.C., during the Neolithic era. The site was continuously occupied from the Bronze Age until around 800 B.C., when a devastating battle and fire destroyed its structures, burning abundant material wealth and hundreds of inhabitants. The attack that destroyed Hasanlu during the Iron Age is thought to have been perpetrated by Urartu, a powerful empire lying to the north. \^/

“The Assyrian empire, to the south of Hasanlu, influenced its political and artistic climate. We know from Assyrian royal annals that they conducted military and diplomatic campaigns in the Hasanlu area in the ninth to eight centuries B.C. Local styles of art manufactured at Hasanlu frequently emulated the motifs and figural representations of Assyrian art, perhaps as a way to co-opt the power and authority conveyed in Assyrian depictions of hunting, military conquests, and courtly processions. In particular, locally manufactured carved ivories excavated from Hasanlu frequently depict scenes incorporating Assyrian motifs. \^/

“The Iron Age levels have been the most thoroughly investigated at Hasanlu. The remnants of material culture recovered there, especially the artifacts found inside the burned citadel buildings of Hasanlu IVB, includes thousands of ceramic, iron, bronze, stone, glass, ivory, and gold artifacts. The cemetery to the north of the citadel used during periods IV and V yielded hundreds of artifacts as well. Furthermore, the nature of the site's destruction, in which buildings, artifacts, and some 240 inhabitants were entombed in the collapsed, fiery debris, has afforded a unique opportunity to excavate a particular moment in history, revealing valuable information about the everyday life and customs of the area. \^/

“Among the artifacts found in the destroyed buildings, one in particular is justly famous—the Hasanlu Gold Bowl (actually a beaker), now in the Bastam Museum in Iran. The bowl was discovered along with the remains of three men in Burned Building I. Whether these men, two of whom are armed, were rescuing the bowl from the invading army or stealing it is unknown. The bowl's repoussé and chased decoration depicts several complex figural scenes, mostly mythological. The origin and precise meaning of the pictorial scenes have been the subject of scholarly debate. No written language is preserved from Hasanlu and archaeologists have yet to identify the ethnic background of the site's inhabitants. Various interpretations of the mythological scenes place their origins in Urartian, Hurrian, and/or Indo-European traditions. But while its meaning remains elusive, the significance of the Hasanlu Gold Bowl cannot be overstated for elucidating the site's prominence in the region and the cultural richness of northwestern Iran in the Early Iron Age.” \^/

Sites in Eastern Iran

Cities like Shahr-i-Sokhta, Shahdad and Tepe Yahya in what are now the barren, inhospitable deserts in eastern Iran developed and thrived at the same time as the famous city states in Mesopotamia to the west and the Indus Valley to the east. The eastern Iran site, once home to some of the world's first urban societies, began to develop around 3000 B.C.

Andrew Lawler wrote in Archaeology magazine: “Even local archaeologists with the benefit of air-conditioned cars and paved roads think twice about crossing eastern Iran's rugged terrain. "It's a tough place," says Mehdi Mortazavi from the University of Sistan-Baluchistan in the far eastern end of Iran, near the Afghan border. At the center of this region is the Dasht-e Lut, Persian for the "Empty Desert." This treacherous landscape, 300 miles long and 200 miles wide, is covered with sinkholes, steep ravines, and sand dunes, some topping 1,000 feet. It also has the hottest average surface temperature of any place on Earth. The forbidding territory in and around this desert seems like the last place to seek clues to the emergence of the first cities and states 5,000 years ago. [Source: Andrew Lawler, Archaeology, Volume 64 Number 6, November/December 2011 |~|]

“Yet archaeologists are finding an impressive array of ancient settlements on the edges of the Dasht-e Lut dating back to the period when urban civilization was emerging in Egypt, Iraq, and the Indus River Valley in Pakistan and India. In the 1960s and 1970s, they found the great centers of Shahr-i-Sokhta and Shahdad on the desert's fringes and another, Tepe Yahya, far to the south. More recent surveys, excavations, and remote sensing work reveal that all of eastern Iran, from near the Persian Gulf in the south to the northern edge of the Iranian plateau, was peppered with hundreds and possibly thousands of small to large settlements. Detailed laboratory analyses of artifacts and human remains from these sites are providing an intimate look at the lives of an enterprising people who helped create the world's first global trade network. |~|


“Far from living in a cultural backwater, eastern Iranians from this period built large cities with palaces, used one of the first writing systems, and created sophisticated metal, pottery, and textile industries. They also appear to have shared both administrative and religious ideas as they did business with distant lands. "They connected the great corridors between Mesopotamia and the east," says Maurizio Tosi, a University of Bologna archaeologist who did pioneering work at Shahr-i-Sokhta. "They were the world in between." |~|

“By 2000 B.C. these settlements were abandoned. The reasons for this remain unclear and are the source of much scholarly controversy, but urban life didn't return to eastern Iran for more than 1,500 years. The very existence of this civilization was long forgotten. Recovering its past has not been easy. Parts of the area are close to the Afghan border, long rife with armed smugglers. Revolution and politics have frequently interrupted excavations. And the immensity of the region and its harsh climate make it one of the most challenging places in the world to conduct archaeology.

“Other sites in eastern Iran are only now being investigated. For the past two years, Iranian archaeologists Hassan Fazeli Nashli and Hassain Ali Kavosh from the University of Tehran have been digging in a small settlement a few miles east of Shahdad called Tepe Graziani, named for the Italian archaeologist who first surveyed the site. They are trying to understand the role of the city's outer settlements by examining this ancient mound, which is 30 feet high, 525 feet wide, and 720 feet long. Excavators have uncovered a wealth of artifacts including a variety of small sculptures depicting crude human figures, humped bulls, and a Bactrian camel dating to approximately 2900 B.C. A bronze mirror, fishhooks, daggers, and pins are among the metal finds. There are also wooden combs that survived in the arid climate. "The site is small but very rich," says Fazeli, adding that it may have been a prosperous suburban production center for Shahdad. |~|

“Sites such as Shahdad and Shahr-i-Sokhta and their suburbs were not simply islands of settlements in what otherwise was empty desert. Fazeli adds that some 900 Bronze Age sites have been found on the Sistan plain, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mortazavi, meanwhile, has been examining the area around the Bampur Valley, in Iran's extreme southeast. This area was a corridor between the Iranian plateau and the Indus Valley, as well as between Shahr-i-Sokhta to the north and the Persian Gulf to the south. A 2006 survey along the Damin River identified 19 Bronze Age sites in an area of less than 20 square miles. That river periodically vanishes, and farmers depend on underground channels called qanats to transport water. |~|

“Despite the lack of large rivers, ancient eastern Iranians were very savvy in marshaling their few water resources. Using satellite remote sensing data, Vidale has found remains of what might be ancient canals or qanats around Shahdad, but more work is necessary to understand how inhabitants supported themselves in this harsh climate 5,000 years ago, as they still do today. |~|

Vase animation
animation of the Shahr-i-Sokhta animated vase


Shahr-i Sokhta is an ancient Bronze Age town situated in the Sistan region of southeast Iran near the Afghan-Iranian border. It flourished for more than a thousand years between the end of the fourth and the beginning of the second millennium B.C., reaching the peak of its prosperity as a center of trade and raw materials around 2700-2600 B.C. Its decline was a consequence of localized environmental changes which began at the beginning of the second millennium B.C. with the drying up of the Hilmand River delta upon which the town rose. Indeed, not just the town by the entire southern portion of the Sistan region was gradually abandoned, and today Shahr-i Sokhta comprises the largest group of ruins in a territory measuring some 1,200 square kilometers along the course of the ancient delta between Chagar Burjak and Hauzdar. [Source: Marcello Piperno and Maurizio Tosi, Archaeology, Volume 28 Number 3, July 1975]

Andrew Lawler wrote in Archaeology magazine:“The peripatetic English explorer Sir Aurel Stein, famous for his archaeological work surveying large swaths of Central Asia and the Middle East, slipped into Persia at the end of 1915 and found the first hints of eastern Iran's lost cities. Stein traversed what he described as "a big stretch of gravel and sandy desert" and encountered "the usual...robber bands from across the Afghan border, without any exciting incident." What did excite Stein was the discovery of what he called "the most surprising prehistoric site" on the eastern edge of the Dasht-e Lut. Locals called it Shahr-i-Sokhta("Burnt City") because of signs of ancient destruction. [Source: Andrew Lawler, Archaeology, Volume 64 Number 6, November/December 2011 |~|]

“It wasn't until a half-century later that Tosi and his team hacked their way through the thick salt crust and discovered a metropolis rivaling those of the first great urban centers in Mesopotamia and the Indus. Radiocarbon data showed that the site was founded around 3200 B.C., just as the first substantial cities in Mesopotamia were being built, and flourished for more than a thousand years. During its heyday in the middle of the third millennium B.C., the city covered more than 150 hectares and may have been home to more than 20,000 people, perhaps as populous as the large cities of Umma in Mesopotamia and Mohenjo-Daro on the Indus River. A vast shallow lake and wells likely provided the necessary water, allowing for cultivated fields and grazing for animals. |~|

“Built of mudbrick, the city boasted a large palace, separate neighborhoods for pottery-making, metalworking, and other industrial activities, and distinct areas for the production of local goods. Most residents lived in modest one-room houses, though some were larger compounds with six to eight rooms. Bags of goods and storerooms were often "locked" with stamp seals, a procedure common in Mesopotamia in the era. |~|

“Shahr-i-Sokhta boomed as the demand for precious goods among elites in the region and elsewhere grew. Though situated in inhospitable terrain, the city was close to tin, copper, and turquoise mines, and lay on the route bringing lapis lazuli from Afghanistan to the west. Craftsmen worked shells from the Persian Gulf, carnelian from India, and local metals such as tin and copper. Some they made into finished products, and others were exported in unfinished form. Lapis blocks brought from the Hindu Kush mountains, for example, were cut into smaller chunks and sent on to Mesopotamia and as far west as Syria. Unworked blocks of lapis weighing more than 100 pounds in total were unearthed in the ruined palace of Ebla, close to the Mediterranean Sea. Archaeologist Massimo Vidale of the University of Padua says that the elites in eastern Iranian cities like Shahr-i-Sokhta were not simply slaves to Mesopotamian markets. They apparently kept the best-quality lapis for themselves, and sent west what they did not want. Lapis beads found in the royal tombs of Ur, for example, are intricately carved, but of generally low-quality stone compared to those of Shahr-i-Sokhta. |~|

Shahr-i-Sokhta animated vase

“Pottery was produced on a massive scale. Nearly 100 kilns were clustered in one part of town and the craftspeople also had a thriving textile industry. Hundreds of wooden spindle whorls and combs were uncovered, as were well-preserved textile fragments made of goat hair and wool that show a wide variation in their weave. According to Irene Good, a specialist in ancient textiles at Oxford University, this group of textile fragments constitutes one of the most important in the world, given their great antiquity and the insight they provide into an early stage of the evolution of wool production. Textiles were big business in the third millennium B.C., according to Mesopotamian texts, but actual textiles from this era had never before been found. |~|

“The artifacts also show the breadth of Shahr-i-Sokhta's connections. Some excavated red-and-black ceramics share traits with those found in the hills and steppes of distant Turkmenistan to the north, while others are similar to pots made in Pakistan to the east, then home to the Indus civilization. Tosi's team found a clay tablet written in a script called Proto-Elamite, which emerged at the end of the fourth millennium B.C., just after the advent of the first known writing system, cuneiform, which evolved in Mesopotamia. Other such tablets and sealings with Proto-Elamite signs have also been found in eastern Iran, such as at Tepe Yahya. This script was used for only a few centuries starting around 3200 B.C. and may have emerged in Susa, just east of Mesopotamia. By the middle of the third millennium B.C., however, it was no longer in use. Most of the eastern Iranian tablets record simple transactions involving sheep, goats, and grain and could have been used to keep track of goods in large households.

Burial Goods and Women from Shahr-i-Sokhta

Andrew Lawler wrote in Archaeology magazine:“If there were any doubts that eastern Iran was a sophisticated and populous region in the third millennium B.C., the vast cemetery at Shahr-i-Sokhtahas put them to rest. Over the past two decades, a team led by Iranian archaeologist Mansour Sajjadi has been working in a 100-acre area that includes an estimated 40,000 graves—and possibly as many as 200,000—dug over a period of many centuries, only 100 of which have thus far been excavated. According to archaeologist Kirsi Lorentz at the University of Newcastle, who is working on the finds from the site, the cemetery offers "a unique record with which to study the development of urban civilization in the third millennium B.C." [Source: Andrew Lawler, Archaeology, Volume 64 Number 6, November/December 2011 |~|]

from Tepe Hissar

“One of the most intriguing finds is the well-preserved remains of a woman in her late 20s who died between 2900 and 2800 B.C. She was buried with an ornate bronze mirror and what Sajjadi and Italian excavators believe is an artificial eyeball made of bitumen paste and gold that was once held in place with fine thread. Microscopic examination showed that the artificial eyeball left an imprint in her eye socket, a sign that it was there for a long period of time before her death. Other archaeologists insist that the object is more likely an eyepatch held in place by string threaded through holes on each side. |~|

“Another important find was an intricate rectangular wooden board with 60 small, round pieces made from wood inlaid with bone and limestone, likely an early form of backgammon. Similar sets have been found in the Indus far to the east, as well as in the tomb of Queen Puabi in the Royal Graves of Ur. The board in Shahr-i-Sokhta is approximately the same date as the Indus and Mesopotamian artifacts, and suggests that the people of eastern Iran traded not only goods, but ideas for entertainment as well. |~|

“Lorentz says that the cemetery's large numbers will allow for statistical analysis of health, diet, and mobility among the ancient residents. And though the bones are often in poor condition, she adds that there is "exceptional preservation" of human hair, nails, and skin. Grooves found in the teeth of many individuals may be a sign that weavers used their teeth as third hands. Short hair found on the skulls may show that crew cuts were the fashion—at least in death if not in life. |~|


“Situated at the end of a small delta on a dry plain, Shahdad was excavated by an Iranian team in the 1970s. Andrew Lawler wrote in Archaeology magazine: “While Tosi's team was digging at Shahr-i-Sokhta, Iranian archaeologist Ali Hakemi was working at another site, Shahdad, on the western side of the Dasht-e Lut. This settlement emerged as early as the fifth millennium B.C. on a delta at the edge of the desert. By the early third millennium B.C., Shahdad began to grow quickly as international trade with Mesopotamia expanded. 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. [Source: Andrew Lawler, Archaeology, Volume 64 Number 6, November/December 2011 |~|]

bronze flag from Shahdad

“Evidence shows that ancient Shahdad had a large metalworking industry by this time. During a recent survey, a new generation of archaeologists found a vast hill—nearly 300 feet by 300 feet—covered with slag from smelting copper. Vidale says that analysis of the copper ore suggests that the smiths were savvy enough to add a small amount of arsenic in the later stages of the process to strengthen the final product. Shahdad's metalworkers also created such remarkable artifacts as a metal flag dating to about 2400 B.C. Mounted on a copper pole topped with a bird, perhaps an eagle, the squared flag depicts two figures facing one another on a rich background of animals, plants, and goddesses. The flag has no parallels and its use is unknown. |~|

“Vidale has also found evidence of a sweet-smelling nature. During a spring 2009 visit to Shahdad, he discovered a small stone container lying on the ground. The vessel, which appears to date to the late fourth millennium B.C., was made of chlorite, a dark soft stone favored by ancient artisans in southeast Iran. Using X-ray diffraction at an Iranian lab, he discovered lead carbonate—used as a white cosmetic—sealed in the bottom of the jar. He identified fatty material that likely was added as a binder, as well as traces of coumarin, a fragrant chemical compound found in plants and used in some perfumes. Further analysis showed small traces of copper, possibly the result of a user dipping a small metal applicator into the container. |~|

“A metal flag found at Shahdaddates to around 2400 B.C. The flag depicts a man and woman facing each other, one of the recurrent themes in the region's art at this time. Ceramic jar found at Shahdad. A plain ceramic jar from Shahdad, contains residue of a white cosmetic whose complex formula is evidence for an extensive knowledge of chemistry among the city's ancient inhabitants.

Seals from Ancient Iran and Trade with Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley

Andrew Lawler wrote in Archaeology magazine: “They are tiny and often faded and fragmented. But one abundant source of evidence for both international trade and the role of women in eastern Iran during the third millennium B.C. are the tiny images found on seals and sealings throughout this area. The small impressions were designed to mark ownership and control of goods, from bags of barley to a storeroom filled with oil jugs. [Source: Andrew Lawler, Archaeology, Volume 64 Number 6, November/December 2011 |~|]

“Holly Pittman, an art historian at the University of Pennsylvania who has worked throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, is examining the fragile impressions. She is attempting to build a clearer picture of the lives of ancient inhabitants in large centers such as Shahr-i-Sokhta, Shahdad, and Konar Sandal, near today's modern city of Jiroft. Pittman now believes these people of eastern Iran shared common ideas and beliefs while also participating in the first age of long-distance exchange. |~|

“Female deities with vegetation growing out of their bodies are one common element on the seals found in eastern Iran and, as on the Shahdad flag, figures confronting one another also appear Lasting Impression frequently. A distinctive type of white stone seals that have been found in Central Asia and the Indus appear to have been made in a similar style by eastern Iranians. "There are relationships between sites, and certainly this part of eastern Iran is participating in a global network," she says. "This is a world of merchants and traders." |~|

“Pittman believes that by early in the third millennium B.C., the network linking Mesopotamia and southeastern Iran resulted in a mixing of cultures across this enormous area. Seals that were used to close storage rooms in Konar Sandal, for example, are of a specific Mesopotamian type common in the major Iraqi port of Ur. That hints strongly at the presence of Mesopotamian inhabitants in Konar Sandal who had almost certainly come from Ur. She also suggests that Mesopotamian artifacts absorbed style elements from southeastern Iran. Another example is the famous inlaid lyre found at Ur, which has the face of a bearded bull typical of eastern Iran. Other seals found in ruins such as Konar Sandal are Proto-Elamite in style, showing strong connections with western and central Iran, where the Proto-Elamite writing system is believed to have originated at the same time that Mesopotamian urban life began to flourish in the late fourth millennium B.C. |~|

“Seals were powerful markers of economic, political, and social clout. At some eastern Iranian sites such as Shahr-i-Sokhta, they appear to have been largely in the hands of women. Marta Ameri, an archaeologist at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, notes that two-thirds of the seals found in Shahr-i-Sokhta's graves are found in female burials. While the grander bronze seals are uncovered mostly in male tombs, the more common bone seals are more often associated with women. Based on remains of sealings made to doors, vases, bags, and other objects, the bone seals were in more frequent use than the bronze. This suggests, Ameri says, that women were in control of food storage and possibly trade goods as well. Until more intact graves are found at other sites such as Shahdad, "we at least have a tantalizing look at the roles women may have played," says Ameri. |~|

Tepe Yahya

Tepe Yahya is a large settlement in eastern Iran. K.E. Edulje wrote in Zoroastrian Heritage: “Tepe Yahya is a modern name given to an historical site in Kerman Province, Iran, some 220 km south of Kerman city and about 90 km south-west of Jiroft, and 90 km south-southeast of Baft in the Sogun valley of the river Kish-e Shur near Dowlatabad (there are several towns by this name in Kerman and Iran) and the Hormozgan Province border. [Source: K.E. Edulje, Zoroastrian Heritage ]

“The site's archaeological levels ranging from the Chalcolithic (sixth millennium B.C. - the transition age between Stone and Copper) to the Bronze Age (fourth millennium B.C.). The site appears to have been continuously occupied from the 5th to 3rd millennia B.C., during which time it flourished as a centre for the production and distribution of soapstone products before being abandoned during the 2nd millennium. It was reoccupied from c 1000 B.C. to c 400 CE.

“Archaeologists have divided the site into the following levels (of occupation): Period VII 5500-4500 B.C.; Period VI-VC 4500-3600 B.C.; Period VA-B 3600-3200 B.C.; Period IVC2 3100-2800 B.C.; Period IVB6-1 2400-2000 B.C.; Period IVA 1800-1400 B.C.; Period III 800-500 B.C.; Period II 500-275 B.C.; Period I 200 B.C. - 300 CE

“Artefacts discovered at the site include inscribed cuneiform (so-called Proto-Elamite style) tablets and chlorite and steatite (soapstone) ware (also see our page on Jiroft). Tepe Yahya was a centre for the production and distribution of soapstone articles found at the site and which date from the 5th to 3rd millennia B.C.. The Yahya soapstone articles include vessels carved of the gray-green stone.

“An examination of the site has revealed that the ruins are that of an ancient manufacturing and trading centre. At the site, workshops were found with vessels and the chlorite or steatite raw materials for their manufacture. The stones were available in the nearby hills. Vessels decorated in the Yahya style have been found across the ancient Near East from Syria and Sumer (Early Dynastic) in Mesopotamia to the Indus Valley, lending credence and evidence of the flourishing long-distance trade of the times. The Yahya artefacts have been found in palaces and temples or in graves of the wealthy in major urban centers.”

from Shahdad

Tepe Yahya and Trade with Mesopotamia

Tepe Yahya produced clear evidence for the manufacture of a type of black stone jar for export that has been found as far away as Mesopotamia. Andrew Lawler wrote in Archaeology magazine: ““Meanwhile, archaeologists also hope to soon continue work that began a decade ago at Konar Sandal, 55 miles north of Yahya near the modern city of Jiroft in southeastern Iran. France-based archaeologist Yusef Madjizadeh has spent six seasons working at the site, which revealed a large city centered on a high citadel with massive walls beside the Halil River. That city and neighboring settlements like Yahya produced artfully carved dark stone vessels that have been found in Mesopotamian temples. Vidale notes that Indus weights, seals, and etched carnelian beads found at Konar Sandal demonstrate connections with that civilization as well. [Source: Andrew Lawler, Archaeology, Volume 64 Number 6, November/December 2011 |~|]

“Many of these settlements were abandoned in the latter half of the third millennium B.C., and, by 2000 B.C., the vibrant urban life of eastern Iran was history. Barbara Helwig of Berlin's German Archaeological Institute suspects a radical shift in trade patterns precipitated the decline. Instead of moving in caravans across the deserts and plateau of Iran, Indus traders began sailing directly to Arabia and then on to Mesopotamia, while to the north, the growing power of the Oxus civilization in today's Turkmenistan may have further weakened the role of cities such as Shahdad. Others blame climate change. The lagoons, marshes, and streams may have dried up, since even small shifts in rainfall canB.C. have a dramatic effect on water sources in the area. Here, there is no Nile, Tigris and Euphrates, or Indus to provide agricultural bounty through a drought, and even the most sophisticated water systems may have failed during a prolonged dry spell. |~|

“It is also possible that an international economic downturn played a role. The destruction of the Mesopotamian city of Ur around 2000 B.C. and the later decline of Indus metropolises such as Mohenjo-Daro might have spelled doom for a trading people. The market for precious goods such as lapis collapsed. There is no clear evidence of widespread warfare, though Shahr-i-Sokhta appears to have been destroyed by fire several times. But a combination of drought, changes in trade routes, and economic trouble might have led people to abandon their cities to return to a simpler existence of herding and small-scale farming. Not until the Persian Empire rose 1,500 years later did people again live in any large numbers in eastern Iran, and not until modern times did cities again emerge. This also means that countless ancient sites are still awaiting exploration on the plains, in the deserts, and among the rocky valleys of the region.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia , National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, especially Merle Severy, National Geographic, May 1991 and Marion Steinmann, Smithsonian, December 1988, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, the BBC and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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