Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
Par: The First Evidence for Lower Paleolithic Occupation in the Southern Caspian
Fereidoun Biglari, Saman Heydari & Sonia Shidrang
the last two decades, there have been important Lower Palaeolithic
discoveries in western Asia in regions such as the Levant, the
Caucasus, and Pakistan pushing the evidence for the earliest
hominid occupation in the region back to about 1 to 2 million
years ago (Bar-Yosef 1998 and references therein).
terms of Lower Palaeolithic occupation, Iran is one of the
least-known regions in western Asia with only a handful of
evidence including some core-chopper assemblages from gravel
deposits along Ladiz, Mashkid, and Kashafrud rivers in eastern
Iran (Ariai & Thibault 1975; Hume 1976) and some surface
occurrences and isolated finds of both core-chopper and Acheulian
industries from the west and north-western parts of the Zagros
region (Braidwood 1960; Sadek-Kooros 1976; Singer & Wymer
1978; Mortensen 1993; Biglari et al. 2000).
Figure 1. Rostamabad plain and the
location of Ganj Par, looking north. Click to enlarge
Figure 2. A core-chopper from Ganj
evidence for the Acheulian industry in Iran consists of a few
examples of bifaces as isolated finds or in association with
chopping tool industries from the Zagros region. Two of these
bifaces are single finds from Quri Goll north-east of the Lake
Urmia, and Gakia in the Kermanshah region. Two other are surface
assemblages from Amar Merdeg in the Mehran Plain, and Pal Barik at
Holailan. Of these, Holailan bifaces are in doubt and seem to be
Levallois cores (Jacques Jaubert 2003 pers. comm.).
such limited background, a recent discovery of an Acheulian
occurrence with a rich lithic assemblage in northern Iran provides
us with an opportunity to examine the strongest evidence for Lower
Palaeolithic occupation so far discovered in Iran.
the second season of joint Iranian-Japanese archaeological
excavation in September 2002 at the historic site of Jalaliyeh in
the western edge of Rostamabad plain, two of the authors (Biglari
& Heydari) had the opportunity to carry out a brief survey of
the surrounding area. While examining the surface of the Jalaliyeh
mound, Biglari found a chert flake, prompting him to have a closer
examination of the area. In an almost flat open area located just
to the south of the mound a lithic scatter was found which yielded
a lower Palaeolithic assemblage characterised by the presence of
large cutting tools in association with cores and other debitage.
site, called Ganj Par, is located on the western edge of the
fluvial plain of Rostamabad at an elevation of about 235m asl and
at about 36° 53' 38" N, 49° 28' 57" E , commanding the
deep dissected valley of Kaluraz tributary river, where it opens
to the Sefidrud valley. The Sefidrud River, which in an almost
south-north direction flows into the Caspian Sea, is about 2km to
the east of the site.
geomorphology of the Rostamabad region has been briefly described
by Maeomoku (2003). He distinguished five terraces at the western
part of the plain. These terraces are between 150-800m asl. Ganj
Par lithic scatter is located at altitudes between 225-235m asl,
higher than terrace IV, and may have been reworked from deposits
of older terraces.
three visits to the site in 2002-2003 more than 100 artefacts were
collected in an area of about 0.5 hectare. Almost half of the
assemblage is made from limestone. Of other pieces, large
proportions are made from silicified sandstone and volcanic rocks
such as tuff, andesite and basalt. There are also some cherts and
other rock types.
Figure 3. Biface and proto biface
from Ganj Par
Figure 4. Location of Ganj Par and
some key Lower Palaeolithic sites in the Near East.
assemblage is composed of high frequencies of core-choppers, along
with heavy-duty scrapers, bifaces (handaxes, cleavers, and a
trihedral pick), cores, and flakes. Bifaces are generally thick
and crudely made and some of them have a form intermediate between
chopper and biface. The collection lacks spheroid and polyhedron.
assemblages similar to Ganj Par are unknown from Lower
Palaeolithic sites of Iran and its neighbouring regions. But there
are some similarities between Ganj Par and those known from the
early Acheulian assemblages from Ubeidiya in the Levant (Bar Yosef
and Goren-Inbar 1993) and East African sites such as Olduvai
Gorge, upper bed II (Leakey 1971) and Konso-Gardula (Asfaw et
Ganj Par evidence suggests that migrating Acheulian groups
probably made their way into the northern Alborz foothills from
the north-west along the ancient Caspian shores. However, the
possibility of a southern arrival from the Zagros range and the
Central Plateau of Iran can not be excluded as the narrow Sefid
Rud valley provides a major route from the north-western part of
the Iranian plateau to the western Caspian lowland.
We would like to thank J. Jaubert, M. Otte, J. M. Genest, H.
Maemoku, J. Nokandeh, K. Abdi, and R. Rahimi for their comments,
encouragement and help. Thanks also to M. Kargar, director of the
National Museum of Iran and M. Azarnoush, director of the Iranian
Center for Archaeological Research for all their help.
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for Paleolithic Research, National Museum of Iran
Fereidoun Biglari: email firstname.lastname@example.org
Vol 78 No 302 December 2004
is the Light on the Path to Future"
British Institute of Persian Studies