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Burnt City Mysterious Past Revealing One by One


02 January 2005


The Burnt City, located in the heart of Iran’s eastern desert and embracing hidden mysteries, attracts many archaeologists from across the globe every year.

The 5200-year-old Burnt City is located 57 kilometers from the city of Zabol in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan Province. It covers an area of 150 hectares and was one of the largest cities in the world at the dawn of the urban era.

The ruins of the ancient city include a graveyard, a residential area, a central “downtown”, and an industrial area.

Hungarian archaeologist Aurel Stein made the first discoveries in the region and introduced the ancient site to the world.

Later, a team of Italian archaeologists began an excavation project at the site in 1967, and the work has been continued by Iranian archaeologist Mansur Sajjadi since 1974.

Discoveries made in the region have shown that Sistan and particularly the Burnt City were long home to an advanced culture and civilization. Sistan is also believed to have been the meeting point of the great civilizations of Mesopotamia, India, and China in ancient times.

The Burnt City was built in 3200 B.C. and destroyed some time around 2100 B.C. The city had four stages of civilization and was burnt down three times. Since it was not rebuilt after the last time it was burnt down, it has been named the Burnt City.

Even before the excavations at the site, many archaeologists and historians were convinced that ancient cultural centers had been established in southwestern Iran.

But the new discoveries at the site shed light on the importance of the Burnt City and introduced it as one of the largest cities in the world at the time and a center of social, economic, and political affairs during the third and fourth millennia B.C.

Natural events such as the changes in the course of the Hirmand River and the size of the lakes of the region played a major role in the development of the city and probably even caused its decline.

It is said that the inhabitants of the ancient site earned a livelihood through occupations such as hunting, carpentry, weaving, and making pottery.

The ruins of various industrial workshops in the city and surrounding villages also show that the city was an economic center in ancient times.

The discovery of necklaces made of gold and lapis lazuli and beautiful beads indicate that the Burnt City’s inhabitants possessed high technology for producing jewelry.

The materials for the jewelry were brought in from distant places such as Badakhshan in Afghanistan and Khorasan in northeastern Iran, and the finished products were later exported to other places such as Oman and the Persian Gulf islands.

A comb decorated with intarsia work found at the site proves that the art of intarsia was first developed on the Iranian plateau and not in China as was previously believed.

In addition, the discovery of the earliest evidence of brain surgery in history indicates the high level of civilization attained by the residents of the Burnt City.

Even now, over 4000 years since the city was last inhabited, shards and stone dishes are still being unearthed at the site.

The ancient dishes, earthenware, and various pieces of cloth, matting, and wood prove that the Burnt City was one of the most important commercial centers of the fourth millennium B.C.



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