head of excavation team in Shahr-e Sookhteh (Burnt City), Dr. Mansour Sajjadi said that this
southeastern town dates back to 3200 BC and was
destroyed in 2000 BC. Physicians in this town had
the ability to conduct brain surgery some 4800
years ago and the city was a bustling trade town
between the east and the west in its hay days.
Mansour Sajjadi the head of excavation team in
Shahr-e Sookhteh talks quite enthusiastically and
excitedly about his findings in that ancient city.
However, he does gripe and complain about severe
lack of funds for archeological excavations,
maintaining and safeguarding already discovered
archeological sites and artifacts as well as for
introducing these ancient remains to the rest of
Dr. Sajjadi has a bachelor's degree from Tehran
University and a Ph.D. from an Italian university.
His life is spent between Shahr-e Sookhteh where
he spends half of the year, and Italy where he
spends the other six months of the calendar year
with his children and Italian wife.
Q: First and foremost, please tell us where
exactly is Shahr-e Sookhteh located at? Kindly
give us some precise details of the city as well.
A: Shahr-e Sookhteh refers to the ancient
hills situated in the road between Zabol and
Zahedan. Any ancient hill usually has two names.
An original old name usually given to it in
ancient times and a new name given to it by us
today. The name Shahr-e Sookhteh is a designation
given to this place by the local people. The
reason being that people passed by this place and
saw the ruins of broken clay, destroyed walls and
demolished structures and since they figured there
once a city stood here and it was burned down and
destroyed, hence they called it Shahr-e Sookhteh (Burnt City).
Q: What do you mean by a new name? How long
A: Approximately 200 years ago.
Q: When you say new, nobody immediately
thinks of 200 years ago, what's new about 200
A: For us archeologists 200 years ago is
just a blink of an eye and is not old at all. In
fact, it is very new. In any event, there is a
writing dating back to 200 years ago from an
archeologist called Goldsmith in which he refers
to this area as Shahr-e Sookhteh.
Q: What was Shahr-e Sookhteh called before
A: We do not know yet. However, a British
archeologist had suggested that Shahr-e Sookhteh
is the ancient city of Arata, which the Sumers had
trade and other dealings with. There are some
written evidence from the Sumeri civilization that
refers to the city of Arata, which was located in
eastern Iran. However, a few years ago, one of my
professors, Dr. Majidzadeh proved beyond any
practical doubt that Shahr-e Sookhteh could not be
Arata and Arata is the archeological find of
Shahrdad City near Kerman.
Q: Is there any way to find out what the
original name of Shahr-e Sookhteh was?
A: There is only one way remaining and that
is to get access to the archives of Shahr-e
Sookhteh. Like any other ancient city Shahr-e
Sookhteh must have an archive where documents were
Q: How can you be so sure that this city
had an archive?
A: We have already found a tablet here as
an artifact, which was most probably a receipt or
evidence of a transaction that was recorded on
Q: What does the text say?
A: A "five" is written there
which is visible, but everything else is
unreadable. Nonetheless, five is a unit of grain.
It was probably either wheat or barley. There are
also other artifacts unearthed by us as well as
other archeologists that strongly suggest that an
archive did in fact exist in Shahr-e Sookhteh. All
we have to do now is to find it. However, the
truth is that finding an archive in a city as
large as Shahr-e Sookhteh (151 hectares) is not an
easy task at all.
Q: Shahr-e Sookhteh dates back to which
A: This city was established sometime in
3200 BC and was burned to the ground in circa 2000
BC. The city was a bustling town for a 1200-year
period. Back then, there were only 5 or 6 towns
like Shahr-e Sookhteh in the entire world.
When founded the city was only about 15-16
hectares, but it gradually developed and grew into
a larger town. By 2700 BC, Shahr-e Sookhteh was a
major city. Some 100-200 years after that, the
residents of the city began to migrate from the
city and the city became smaller and smaller. The
reason for the people leaving Shahr-e Sookhteh was
more due to political and governmental crisis than
geographical or climatic.
Q: Please elaborate on your claim that
Shahr-e Sookhteh was deserted because of political
and not geographical factors and kindly provide
A: It was definitely not a geographical
issue, because the region had sufficient water
during that era.
Q: Dr. Sajjadi, how can you tell a city
that stood thousands of years ago in this spot
faced a political-governmental crisis?
A: An archeologist looks at a number of
different factors and surrounds himself with
various possibilities and asks a number of
questions. By a process of elimination, we deduce
the likeliest scenario possible. This method is
utilized when we find an artifact such as a bowl
or saucer and we try to determine for what purpose
it was used for all the way to deducing why a city
such as Shahr-e Sookhteh was abandoned, deserted,
Q: Your response didn't completely convince
me. How on earth is it possible to speculate and
determine that 5000 years ago a political crisis
or a war took place.
A: When a city grows and develops like
Shahr-e Sookhteh did a long time ago, it is
evidence that the city had a strong central
administration. When you talk about an
administration the discussion naturally turns
political. This administration had an
administrator such as a king, mayor, etc. as well
as many advisers and aides who would be considered
his cabinet and government members.
This is not just guesswork. Hard evidence of such
administrations exists in similar archeological
finds and ancient cities previously dug up by
scientists. We still haven't found all the
relevant signs, signals and evidence in Shahr-e
Sookhteh, but indirect evidence bear witness to
the fact that Shahr-e Sookhteh had an
administration and a government. Various
industries, trade and other business thrived in