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New Excavation Season Aims at Burnt City-Jiroft Relations


15 August 2005



 New excavation season in Espidej archaeological site is to focus on discovering evidence which may reveal the mysterious connections between Burnt City (Shahr-e-Soukhteh), the eastern most ancient civilization within Iranian borders, Jiroft civilization and those of western parts of Iran.

Situated in Sistan va Baluchestan province of southeast Iran, Espidej, a 5000-year-old cemetery, has been plundered so many times by unauthorized excavators that it is estimated over 5000 artifacts have so far been looted from the site.

Last week, Iran Archaeology Research Centre issued the permission for the third season of archaeological excavations at Espidej ancient site.

“Most of the civilizations of south and southeast Iran are located amid a gigantic and austere plain which is known as Jazmurian plain. The plain is mainly divided into two different parts called Delgan and Bazman, respectively accommodating the watersheds of Bampour and halilrood rivers, of which the first runs in Sistan va Baluchestan, and the latter flows through Jiroft,” said Mohammad Heidari, technical preservation deputy of Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism branch office at Sistan and Baluchestan, “Espidej is located between these two parts and possibly served as a connecting bridge for these regions.”

“Burnt City (Shahr-e-Soukhteh) was one of the most important centers in Bampur region and Jiroft is considered to be among the most prominent ancient civilizations discovered in Halilrood watershed,” added Heidari, who heads the excavation team at Espidej, “Preliminary archaeological studies show that thousands of years ago these two cities were connected somehow, however, the question that how they were connected has still remained unanswered.” He hopes that archaeologists find the answer in Espidej.

The geographical situation and vastness of Espidej indicate that possibly it once served as a connecting bridge between the easternmost city in Iranian plateau, which is Burnt City (Shahr-e-Soukhteh), and western civilizations.

Having been plundered by smugglers of ancient artifacts for numerous times, Espidej archaeological site is going to be put under 24-hour surveillance by setting up a guard station there.

Over 6000 potteries have been discovered at Espidej so far, including both patterned and plain earthenware; designs and patterns of 2000 of the items are already sketched by experts.
One of the major obstacles in protecting Espidej site is that most of unauthorized excavators looting the site are armed with firearms and weaponries, which in case of intervention of Cultural Heritage and Tourism task forces may cause the break out of violent and bloody clashes.

Once the guard station is set up, police forces are going to back the Cultural Heritage and Tourism task forces to protect the area against unauthorized excavations. However, right now vast lootings which are totally out of control have periled this 5000-year-old site and if the problem persists, the whole ancient site will be completely devastated in a few months time.



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