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Discovery of a Sassanid City in Dasht-e Moghan


News Category: Sasanian Dynasty (224-651 CE)

 23 December 2005



The recent archeological excavations in the historical site of Oltan Qalasi (Oltan Fort), resulted in the discovery of a large city dates back to the Sassanid dynastic era. The wall and one of the gates of the fort Citadel were discovered during the excavations, while prior to this archeologists were expecting to find a city fortress on the plain.

There is a historical fortress in the city historical site, located in the southern shore of Aras river which contains of some valuable architectural evidence such as a tower and earthen shell keeps. The fortress was completely unearthed during two seasons of excavations.

"The new archaeological studies indicate that Oltan Qalasi should have been a very big city at the end of the Sassanid dynasty and the beginning of Islamic period. This city consists of two parts: citadel and rabat or residential area. The citadel is a 400 x 800 meter rectangle. Archaeologists believe that it must have been the Sassanid Orsân city," said Karim Alizadeh, head of excavation team of Oltan Qalasi.

A trench with a variable width up to 10 meters was found surrounding the citadel. All of these characteristics prove the existence of a large city on the plain, which, including its surroundings, is estimated to have covered a 70 hectare area.

"The aerial and satellite photographs indicate that the city is much bigger than previously thought. Its scatterdness is a proof to this claim as well. The satellite photographs show that the citadel was situated in the center of the city and two irrigation channels were connected to the citadel from two sides," added Alizadeh.

Based on archaeological studies conducted in the site, the city was constructed according to the models of Iranian city planning before and during the Islamic period. During the ancient times, citadel was always considered as the residential place of the governing body of the city and rabat was the residential area of the ordinary people. Prior to this, the archaeologists believed that they will face a city fortress which is consisted of a citadel with a trench around it.

"Historical and geographical studies indicate the existence of another city in Dasht-e Moghan (Moghan Plain). According to the studies, the characteristics are similar to those of Orsan city belonging to the Sassanid dynastic era. However, we can not say for sure that it is the same city. Based on the historical evidence, Orsan city was located 12 kilometers south of Arash River, while the excavations have been carried out very close to the Aras River," explained Alizadeh.

It is likely that Aras River originally had a 12 kilometer distance from this city and the basin of this river has changed in the past 2000 years. Aras river historically has been a dividing line between two Iranian provinces of Atropâtekân (Azerbaijan) and Arrân (nowa days known as the republic of Azerbaijan).

"More studies are needed to find out where the basin of Aras River was at the end of Sassanid dynasty. Then we can determine the history of the city for sure," explains Alizadeh. 

Archaeological excavations led to the discovery of one of citadel's gates with 4 meters in width. The gate was restored and reconstructed later, especially during the post-Sasanid era. No post-Sasanid architectural remains have been found in the area so far. However, the discovered relics, most of which are clays, and post-Sasanid coins found during the previous excavations indicate that the city should have been active during the Islamic period.

Oltan Qalasi historical city dates back to the Sassanid dynastic era. It is situated in a large village, 15 kilometer from the southeast of Pârsâbâd and in Dasht-e Moghan area. Oltan Citadel is located at a distance of 500 meters from the village and very close to the Aras River.

Source: CHN




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