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Unusual Iron Age Steles Discovered in Ardebil Province


19 July 2005



Over 500 stone steles bearing images of faces of men and women with no mouths were recently discovered at Shahr Yeri in Ardebil Province (Avestan Artâvillâ), the director of the team of archaeologists working at the site announced on Tuesday.


Alireza Hojabri Nuri added that the steles are arranged one after another in the form of a wall and date back to the Iron Age.


Shahr Yeri is located near Pirazmeyan village, 32 kilometers off of Meshkin Shahr in Ardebil Province.


“The discovered steles enjoy unique characteristics, and the remains of earthenware and rare stones on the stone platforms beneath the steles indicate that the place used to be a temple where the inhabitants made offerings.


“The temple floor was made of stone, although no sign of its ceiling has been found yet. The steles vary in height from 35 centimeters to 230 centimeters.


“It seems that the temple was very important in the time before the Urartians invaded the region, but then the temple lost its prominence. The Urartians were famous for attacking the beliefs of the inhabitants of every region they occupied in their invasions,” he explained.


He also mentioned that the discovery of several other inscriptions on the wall of a castle, which was discovered by archaeologist Charles Burney in 1978 at the site, show that the steles later lost their appeal and were no longer important for the people.  


Hojabri Nuri pointed out that the remains of the earthenware found at both the temple and the castle indicate that the temple was constructed before the castle.


The steles are made of tuff, which is not heavy and are covered with many details such as weapons, he added. The weapons on the steles are extremely varied and are similar to those found in the graves of Iron Age I in Shahr Yeri, he said.


All the details of each face are engraved on the steles except for the mouth, which seems to have a religious meaning, he added. 


According to the first theory, the steles were made by the inhabitants and were placed in the temple as offerings to their gods, but the second theory says that the steles were their gods themselves, he explained, adding that both theories state that a face with no mouth means silence.  




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