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Tappeh Siyalk



January 2007


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Tappeh Siyalk also Sialk, is a large ancient structure in Kashan, Iran. It is believed to contain the world's oldest ziggurat[2], dating to the 3rd millennium BCE, tucked away in the suburbs of the city of Kashan, in Esfahan Province. The culture that inhabited this area has been linked to the Zayandeh Rud Civilization.[3]


What remains of this 5000-year-old ziggurat is not in a favourable condition like many other ancient ruins in Iran.[4] At the site, there are actually two structures at Siyalk situated several hundred feet from each other. The three platforms of the larger ziggurat however still remain in place. Not much remains of the smaller structure. The Louvre Museum has also excavated a cemetery near the structures that have been dated as far back as 7500 years.[5]


Siyalk is one of four ziggurats built by the Elamites. The other three are Chogha Zanbil (1250 BCE), Susa ziggurat (1800 BCE), and Haft Teppeh (1375 BCE), all in Khuzestan Province. Siyalk is the 32nd and most recent ziggurat of Mesopotamia to be discovered.


Teppeh Siyalk was first excavated by a team of European archaeologists headed by Roman Ghirshman in the1930s. His extensive studies were followed by D. E. McCown, Yousef Majidzadeh, P. Amieh, until 1970s, and recently reviewed by Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation (ICHTO) in 2002 headed by Sadeq Shahmirzadi Malek. But like the thousands of other Iranian historical sites, the treasures of Silak eventually found their way to museums such as the Louvre, the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and private collectors.


The Siyalk ziggurat has 3 platforms, and although the ziggurat itself was built in 2900 BCE which predates Urnamu's Ziggurat at Ur, dated to 2100 BCE. However, the earliest archaeological remains of the northern mound date back to the middle of the 6000 BCE.


Siyalk, and the entire area around it, is thought to have first originated as a result of the pristine large water sources nearby that still run today. The Cheshme-ye Soleimān (Solomon's Spring) has been bringing water to this area from nearby mountains for thousands of years. The Fin garden, built to its present form in the 1600s is a popular tourist attraction today. It is here where Persian Kings of the Safavid dynasty would spend their vacations away from their capital cities. It is also houses mausoleum of Pirūzān (Firūzān), known to Islamic and Arab sources as Abu Lu Lu, an Iranian patriot who assassinated the second Muslim Caliph Umar ibn al-Khatab in 644 CE in retaliation for treatment of Iranians by occupying Muslim forces. All these remains are located in the same location where the ancient Siyalk lies.


What little is left of the two crumbling Siyalk ziggurats is now threatened by the encroaching suburbs of the expanding city of Kashan.[4] It is not uncommon to see kids playing soccer amid the ruins, while only several meters away lie the supposedly "off limit" 5,500 year old skeletons unearthed at the foot of the ziggurat. 



[1] CAIS, New Findings in Siyalk Prehistoric Area, January 24, 2004.


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