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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World

Esfahan reveals her Parthian past  

28 October 2010



Tappeh Ashraf Parthian Stratum.jpg (77911 bytes)

 Uncovering the first Parthian stratum at Tappeh Ashraf - Image courtesy of the Persian Service of ISNA  (Click to enlarge)


LONDON, (CAIS) -- During the second season of archaeological research in Tappeh Ashraf, east of Esfahan, archaeologists have discovered Parthian strata and recovered a number of artefacts from the same period, reported the Persian service of ISNA on Tuesday.


Tappeh Ashraf is located in the east of Esfahan, near the bank of the Zayandeh-Rud River, adjacent to the Sasanian bridge of Sharestan (Šahrəstān). The Tappeh is currently considered to be the oldest archaeological mound in the city of Esfahan.


“During the excavation we discovered three highly decorated potteries dating to the early Parthian dynasty”, said Alireza Jafari-Zand, the director of the archaeological team at Tappeh Ashraf.


It seems the Iranian artisans of the Parthian dynasty had chosen the local nature as the theme to decorate their potteries.


“The potteries design depicts swans in a repetitive order which is interesting as Tappeh Ashraf is adjacent to Zayandeh Rud and the river is the host to migratory swans every year”, said Jafari-Zand.


Jafari-Zand dates the potteries to the early Parthian dynastic era (248 BCE – 224 CE), and emphasised the importance of this discovery, as the Parthians can now be placed firmly on the archaeological map of Esfahan for the first time.


“The Parthian dynasty was missing from the historical map of Esfahan, as we had no archaeological evidence for their presence. Fortunately with this discovery and the recovery of the artefacts, the city of Esfahan found her missing Parthian past”, said Jafari-Zand.


Jafari-Zand is hoping the future archaeological research in the area will shed further light on Esfahan during the Parthian dynasty.



Ancient Esfahan

The Esfahan Province (also Isfahan) has a varied landscape of plains and hills, and in the west and southwest it is bordered by the high ranges of the Zagros mountains and her provincial capital, also called Esfahan (sfahān ), is Iran's second largest city, located about 340 km south of Tehran.


The history of Esfahan Province can be traced back to the Palaeolithic period. In recent years Iranian archaeologists uncovered her prehistoric past ranging from Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze to Iron age.


In the historical period, E. Herzfeld suggested that the Esfahan region is to be equated with the ancient Elamite province of Siamshki, a district attested from the late 3rd millennium BCE. During the 2nd millennium it was administered, together with the district of Elam, by a viceroy accountable to the Elamite king, who resided at Susa in Khuzestan.


During the 8th century BCE, the province became one of the principal districts of the first Iranian dynastic Empire, the Medes (728-550 BCE). The name of the province under the Median dynasty is unknown; however, the modern city of Esfahan was called Gaba, where Tappeh Ashraf is located.


After the collapse of the Median dynasty and uniting Iranians under one single political umbrella by Cyrus the Great in 550 BCE, the province become part of the Achaemenid dynastic Empire (550-330 BCE). During this period a new city was constructed (west of modern Esfahan) named Aspāndānā (from the Old-Persian spādānām, meaning ‘of the armies’) to serve as a garrison city. The new city together with the Median ‘Gaba’ (today’s Jay), forms the modern city of Esfahan.


Esfahan like the rest of Iran was occupied by Macedonians in 4th century BCE, and after its liberation by the Arsacid kings, it became part of the third Iranian dynastic empire, the Parthians. Esfahan was the centre and the capital city of a large province, which was administered by Arsacid governors.


During the succeeding dynasty, the Sasanians (224-651 CE), Esfahan Province (Mid. Pers. Spahān) was governed by the members of the imperial family and served as the residence of the crown prince. There were seven major towns of the province during the early Sasanian period, including Kaha, Gār, Mihrbon, Darrām, Gay, Jāvarsān (Qoh), and Sārūye. By the end of Sasanian dynasty first four towns were abounded and fell into ruins.


After the invasion of Iran by Arabs in 7th century, the province was faced with an exacerbated phase of intense de-urbanisation. The invading army wiped out Jāvarsān and Sārūye and the majority of its inhabitants were massacred. The population of Gay (including Spahān) who also didn’t accept Islam were either killed or captured and sold into slavery.





Portions of this news have been excerpted from Persian service of ISNA - translated and rectified by CAIS. [*]




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