Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
& CULTURAL NEWS OF IRANIAN WORLD©
Greatest Treat to the Ancient Gohar Tepe
27 April 2006
(CAIS) -- The historical site of Gohar Tepe, the
remains of an ancient civilization is currently surrounding by agricultural
Evidence shows that from 7,000 years ago to the first millenniums BCE, a large
number of people lived in the region, which were enjoying an urban life. The
discovery of architectural structures and graves in this region are evidence of
continual life during the later centuries there.
Gohar Tepe historical site, with a 50 hectare area, is located in eastern parts
of Mazandaran province between the cities of Neka and Behshahr, north of Iran.
It is one of the most important historical sites of Mazandaran province located
near the Caspian Sea, which carries the secret of an ancient civilization. It is
also believed that Gohar Tepe once enjoyed a complicated urbanization with a
history that goes back to some 7,000 years ago.
on stratigraphical studies done over the past few decades on the site, the
existence of Gohar Tepe dates back to the middle Bronze Age and continued to the
Iron Age. However, the most ancient cultural layers found in the area belong to
the Neolithic period, some 14,000 years ago, which are very similar to those
found in neighbouring areas and Central Asia. To learn more about the situation
of Gohar Tepe, its background, its future programs, and the accomplishments in
the area so far, in an interview with archaeologist Ali Mahforouzi, the head of
excavation team at Gohar Tepe historical site, who has made extensive effort to
revive this historical site.
Mahforouzi believes that most of the archaeological excavations carried out in
Iran prior to the recent time were not based on scientific methods; however,
during the last decades we have got closer to following scientific methods in
our archaeological research and we had an astonishing progress in this
of our archaeological researches were focused on southern historical sites and
the northern parts of Iran were somehow neglected and abandoned by the archaeologists.
However, we are doing our best to introduce potential characteristics of this
part of our country such as its ancient civilization, its rich culture and art.
I believe holding the first International Seminar of the Common Cultural
Heritage of Caspian Sea and Central Asian Littoral States in Mazandaran
province, which was held from 15-19 of April this year, provided us with a good
opportunity not only to discuss our cultural heritage with former Iranian
provinces, but also considering our shared historical backgrounds, to confer
with the other newly formed states the ways through which we may cooperate in archaeological
activities. Establishment of an archaeological research centre for the regional
countries in the city of Sari, capital city of Mazandaran province, is one of
the major accomplishments of this festival. This way the regional countries will
have more cooperation in their archaeological studies,” said Mahforouzi.
According to Mahforouzi, considering the geographical similarities between
Mazandaran and newly formed regional states, many similar cultural evidence were
found in the Caspian Sea region including Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan,
etc. “The more we move to the west of Turkmenistan, the more we see ourselves
faced with a culture which does not belong to this country alone, and it becomes
obvious that it must have its roots in the land which lies just below it. Now we
are looking for the original source of this culture which most probably can be
traced in the Iranian Plateau, especially the Gohar Tepe historical site. In any
case, we are still studying on this subject. Although we were able to find a
large number of similar black and grey pottery dishes in the area, we don’t
know where they are centred at. We must work harder to put the pieces of the
puzzle together in order to identify the origin of this common heritage. This
way we can unveil the secrets behind the origin of the culture of the area which
lies southwest of what is today known as Turkmenistan,” said Mahforuzi.
excavations in Gohar Tepe started from the year 2000. More than 130 pre-historic
hills have been discovered in the area so far. Discovery of different burial
methods such as pithos
burial, squat burial, jar burial, fetal burial, etc., discovery of some
strange burials such as the skeleton of a child wearing a necklace with the
design of a cow horn, discovery of a skeleton with a bronze strap and a bronze
horseshoe, discovery of a man’s skeleton inside a jar, discovery of traces of
fabric on a plaster floor, discovery of big clay statuettes together with
hundreds of other astonishing discoveries all have given the archaeologists
loads of valuable information, yet rose new questions about the culture of
people who lived in this area and how it evolved over time.
Some evidence of existence of life can be traced in Ali Tepe Cave in the
vicinity of Gohar Tepe. Taking into account that the first villages were
established in this area, and urbanization has been formed in Gohar Tepe, for
sure this region can be considered as the origin of a magnificent cultural
development in the area. “I believe that it is not far from truth to trace the
origin of these changes in Gohar Tepe,” said Mahforouzi.
What happened to this area which resulted in the complete abandonment of the
city is not known yet. Maybe due to the geographical changes in the area and
when the Aral Lake was dried out at the beginning of the Iron Age, little by
little the people moved to other places. Anyway, archaeologists believe that the
people might have turned back to bury their dead in their motherland, which is
somewhat clear due to the existence of a cemetery which was recently unearthed
in the area. One theory that describes the reason behind this gradual
abandonment of Gohar Tepe says that since during the Achaemenid dynastic era
(550-333 BCE), Fars province became the main centre for the power, Iranians
moved to this province which resulted in the abandonment of most of the other
sites. Most probably, there must have been a power centre somewhere north of
Iran during the Achaemenid period, which is not found yet and needs more
excavations and studies to determine its exact place.
Anyway, the remains of industrial constructions such as clay ovens, and metal
workshops indicate that the area enjoyed a very rich economical situation during
the Iron Age.
“We have found a clay brick oven belonging to the Iron Age and we have
constructed another clay oven similar to the original one at a 200 meter
distance from the ancient oven. We are happy to announce that this year and on
April 17, we produced the first series of clays simulating the ancient models to
be presented to the tourists who visit the site,” said Mahforouzi.
What is obvious about Gohar Tepe historical site is that it is a mega project to
be completed. Regarding the difficulties which exist in conducting archaeological
studies on this site, Mahforouzi believes that there should be some supports
from the government so that the archaeologists and other research groups would
be able to preserve and revive this ancient area. Considering that Gohar Tepe is
located in an agricultural area buried under agricultural lands, it is clear
that the site is under a serious threat.
“We have bought three hectares of the area from their owners, but to tell you
the truth, maybe more than 50 percent of the area that goes back to the Iron Age
has been devastated under the weight of tractors. We did our best to protect it
from the harms caused by the people and farmers, but without the support of the
government and the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization, we won’t be
able to confront with all the problems that exist here. Recently, the farmers
and landowners are determined to change them into citrus fruit gardens, which
will be a disaster for Gohar Tepe historical site and will result in the
destruction of the remains of an ancient civilization completely. We have taken
the case to the court of Behshahr at least 15 times so far to prevent this
activity and to stop the locals from digging deep wells in the area, but as I
told you without direct support of the government and Cultural Heritage and
Tourism Organization, it will be a very difficult task to accomplish,”
Mahforouzi strongly believes that Gohar Tepe is worth receiving a special
attention by all authorities; and at the end he expressed hope that Gohar Tepe
historical site with its potential characteristics change into one of the most
attractive tourism destinations in the Caspian Sea region.
According to the public relations office of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism
Organization of Mazandaran province, Delavar Bozorgnia, director of this
organization with the cooperation of Mahforouzi are determined to change Gohar
Tepe historical site into a museum site, to give tourists the chance to observe
closely the remains of the skeletons with their burial gifts and other
historical remains and feel themselves in the atmosphere and historical context
these objects belonged to.
is the Light on the Path to Future"
British Institute of Persian Studies