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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


5000-Year-Old Face of the Lady of Burnt City Reconstructed


20 November 2010



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Dr Mansur Sayyed Sajadi with the artificial eyeball 

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LONDON, (CAIS) -- Rome National Museum of Oriental Art has displayed the reconstructed face of a female skeleton which was found in Iran's Burnt City wearing an artificial eyeball.

The reconstructed version of the 5,000-year-old skeleton was unveiled during a ceremony attended by head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation (ICHHTO) Hamid Baqaei and the Islamic Republic’s ambassador to Italy Mohammad-Ali Hosseini.

The woman, whose face has been reconstructed by a group of Iranian and Italian researchers, is famous for carrying the first prosthesis to have been used by man.

This is a great scientific achievement which shows that ancient Iranians used innovative medical equipment 5,000 years ago, Baqaei said during the opening ceremony of the exhibition.

The unique discovery was the result of excavations in the Burnt City in 2006, when archaeologists found an artificial eyeball on a 1.82-meter- tall female skeleton, much taller than ordinary women of her time, and dated back to between 2900 and 2800 BCE. The news was distributed internationally by CAIS on December 2006.

The eyeball had a hemispherical form with a diameter of just over 2.5 cm and was made of very light material. The surface was covered with a thin golden layer, engraved with a central circle to represent the iris.

The eye was held in place with a golden thread, which went through tiny holes drilled on both sides of the eye.

Microscopic studies showed that the eye socket bore imprints of the golden thread, which suggest that the eyeball had been worn during its owner’s lifetime.

Italian bioarchaeologist Professor Lorenzo Costantini a researcher with Museo Nazionale d'Arte Orientale (Rome National Museum of Oriental Art) said that the face of the artificial eyeball’s owner has been reconstructed using computer programs and criminology science (see the note).

"Head of the Burnt City archaeology team Mansour Seyyed Sajjadi greatly contributed to the joint Iranian-Italian project" he added.

The Burnt City is located near the city of Zabol, in the southeastern province of Sistan-va-Baluchestan and is considered Iran’s largest prehistoric site.

Spanning more than 300,000 hectares, the site dates back to 5,200 years ago. Four Iranian civilisations have lived in the city which was burnt down three times and not rebuilt after the last fire.

The world’s oldest animated picture, a dice and backgammon set, and the earliest known caraway are among the most significant discoveries at the site.



- Roma, Ministero degli Affari Esteri: manifestazione "Porte Aperte alla Farnesina" presentazione della ricerca " La sciamana dall'occhio d'oro - una protesi oculare di 5000 anni fa - Progetto congiunto di ricerca Italo-Iraniano a Shahr-i Sokhta, Sistan-Baluchistan, Iran", 19 maggio 2007.

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