The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
By Soudabeh Sadigh
LONDON, (CAIS) -- With discovering and documenting some 130 historical sites including satellite villages in the archeological site of Burnt City within only 6 months, archeologists of the Cultural Heritage Center of Burnt City have surpassed all the previous records in identifying and registering archeological sites in Iran.
“Discovery and registration of 130 historical sites within 6 months of archeological excavations in Burnt City indicates that almost every day one discovery has been made and announced to be registered in the list of Iran’s National Heritage, something which is absolutely unprecedented in the history of archeological excavations in Iran and should be registered as a successful record for Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO),” said Alireza Khosravi, head of Cultural Heritage Center of Burnt City.
Khosravi also announced that experts are currently working on preparing a map on which distribution of archeological sites in Sistan Plain is pinned down as well as a digital map from the area.
According to Khosravi, this project aims to highlight the tourism potentials of the region through identifying and documenting the historical sites that exist in the area. It also intends to introduce the unique archeological features of the Sistan Plain and the rich civilization and cultural values of Burnt City, southeast Iran, and to reveal some unknown aspects of this historical site.
Prior to this, some 137 historical hills had been identified by this Center in the vicinity of Burnt City historical site. Archeologists believed that most probably these hills were settled by the Burnt City inhabitants during the ancient times. The discovered historical sites are located 6-8 kilometers from the Burnt City and some cultural evidence such as broken clays similar to those discovered in Burnt City have been unearthed in these hills.
Located 57 kilometers from the city of Zabol in Sistan va Baluchestan province, southeast Iran, the Burnt City covers an area of 150 hectares and was one of the world’s largest cities at the dawn of the urban era. It was built around 3200 BCE and was destroyed some time around 2100 BCE. The city had four stages of civilization and was burnt down three times, which is why it is called Burnt City (Shahr-e Sukhteh in Persian).
Toward the end of the second millennium BCE, Burnt City came to a cultural standstill; and archeological evidence shows that this ancient civilization of the eastern plateau of Iran somehow vanished from the face of the earth at the beginning of the first millennium BCE.
According to Khosravi, archeologists are determined to trace the settlement area of human beings during the latest periods of settlement in Burnt City which coincided with the dawn of civilization in eastern half of the Iranian Plateau. Comparing and studying the discovered cultural evidence such as earthenware remains scattered in the region in different areas from the basin of Hirmand River to the satellite villages as well as identifying the location of the settlement areas in other parts of Sistan Plain where life existed at a time Burnt City was still alive and discovering the process of development of the art of pottery-making in Sistan Plain and finding the trend of civilization in the region are the other objectives behind this year’s archeological excavations in the vicinity of Burnt City.
Although 9 seasons of archeological excavations have been carried out on the Burnt City so far, there are still many questions remained unanswered about the ethnicity and language of its inhabitants. Moreover, archeologists have not yet figured out what happened to the people of the region and where they migrated to after they abandoned their city.
Excavation on the Burnt City was initiated in 1967 when Professor Maurizzio Tosi, Italian archeologists and his colleagues joined Iranian archeologists. Later, in 1988-89, excavations were resumed by Dr. Sajjadi under the auspices of Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization. The outcome of the research has been published in 170 books and papers so far in Persian, English, Italian, Japanese, German, and Spanish languages.
According to excavations and researches, the Burnt City has come to be known as one of the most important proofs for the independence of the eastern part of Iran from Mesopotamia. Based on the discovered historical relics such as rope, basket, cloth, wooden objects, fingernail and hair, weaving equipment such as hooks, shoe lace, human and animal statuettes seldom unearthed in other archeological sites so far, archeologists have concluded that Burnt City was the most significant center of settlement and in fact the whole region’s social, economic, political and cultural center during the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE.
One of the prominent ancient relics found in the Burnt City is a skull that anthropologists believe might have been the first evidence of brain surgeries in prehistoric Iran. The skull was found in a mass grave in 1978 during excavations by the Italian team, lead by Maurizzio Tosi.
Results of 10 years of excavations in the historical site of Burnt City are to be published in a book in which major archeological findings in this historical site will be documented.
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