joint team of Iranian and American archeologists are set to
start the latest season of excavation in the historical city of
Enshan, left from the Elamite era.
It is one of the rare cities remained from the period and
already numerous seasons of excavations have yielded precious
Starting from next week, the experts hope to unravel some
questions about the Iranian civilization up to the second
millennium B.C., said Masoud Azarnoush, head of the research
center at Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (CHTO).
Five American archeologists, some from the Pennsylvania
University, would assist their Iranian counterparts in the
latest season of excavation.
The Iranian Plateau did not experience the rise of urban,
literate civilization in the late 4th and early 3rd millennia on
the Mesopotamian pattern but the lowland Khuzestan did. It was
the Elamite Civilization.
Geographically, Elam included more than Khuzestan; it was a
combination of the lowlands and the immediate highland areas to
the north and east. 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.
Closely related to that form of government was the Elamite
system of inheritance and power distribution. The normal pattern
of government was that of an overlord ruling over vassal
princes. In earliest times the overlord lived in Susa, which
functioned as a federal capital. With him ruled his brother
closest in age, the viceroy, who usually had his seat of
government in the native city of the currently ruling dynasty.
This viceroy was heir presumptive to the overlord. Yet a third
official, the regent or prince of Susa (the district), shared
power with the overlord and the viceroy. He was usually the
overlord's son or, if no son was available, his nephew. On the
death of the overlord, the viceroy became overlord. The prince
of Susa remained in office, and the brother of the old viceroy
nearest to him in age became the new viceroy. Only if all
brothers were dead was the prince of Susa promoted to viceroy,
thus enabling the overlord to name his own son (or nephew) as
the new prince of Susa.
a complicated system of governmental checks, balances, and power
inheritance often broke down despite bilateral descent and
levirate marriage (i.e., the compulsory marriage of a widow to
her deceased husband's brother). What is remarkable is how often
the system did work; it was only in the Middle and Neo-Elamite
periods that sons more often succeeded fathers to power.
Elamite history can be divided into three main phases: the Old,
Middle, and Late, or Neo-Elamite, periods. In all periods Elam
was closely involved with Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria,
sometimes through peaceful trade, more often through war. In
like manner, Elam was often a participant in events on the
Iranian Plateau. Both involvements were related to the combined
need of all the lowland civilizations to control the warlike
peoples to the east and to exploit the economic resources of the
In the Bronze Age, while cultural centers certainly existed in
various parts of Persia (e.g. Astrabad and Tappeh Hissar near
Damghan in the north-east), the kingdom of Elam in the
south-west, was the most important.
Metal-work and the art of glazing bricks particularly flourished
in Elam, and from inscribed tablets we can deduce that there was
a great industry in weaving, tapestry, and embroidery. Elamite
metal-work was particularly accomplished.