The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
(CAIS) -- During the eighth season of archaeological
research in Gohar Tappeh, in the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran,
archaeologists have discovered the remains of a horse identified as the Caspian
also known as the Māzandarān Horse, the oldest breed of horse in the world
still in existence.
The remains were discovered in a cemetery
dating back to the late Bronze and early Iron age, around 3400 BCE.
“Due to the form, figure and size of the
discovered remains of the horse, we now have the oldest evidence for Caspian
horse ancestry at hand”, said Ali Mahforuzi, the director of the
archaeological team in Gohar Tappeh.
He added: “We have to continue our
research until we reach the virgin soil in order to establish the oldest human
occupation of the site.”
“It seems the excavation is gradually
moving past the cemetery, and into an industrial level since we found a
clay-kiln in 2006. We are hoping that we will have more information about the
industrial section of the site too by next year”, said Mahforuzi.
Mahforuzi concluded: “obtaining
information from Gohar Tappeh helps us to understand the site’s cultural
settings and its link to other cultures in the region during pre-historic
The Gohar Tappeh historical site with a 50
hectare area is located in the eastern part of Mazandaran province between the
cities of Neka and Behshahr, north of Iran. It is one of the most important
archaeological sites in Iran located near the Caspian Sea, which carries the
secret of an ancient civilisation. It is also believed that Gohar Tappeh once
enjoyed a complicated urbanisation some 6,500 to 7,000 years ago.
Discovery of architectural structures as
well as a large number of graves with different burial methods observed in this
region all point to the existence of continual life in this region during
different periods of history till 1st millennium BCE.
The oldest stratum identified in this
season is of the chalcolithic age (3500 to 3400 BCE) and the oldest so far dates
to the Neolithic age, circa 14,000 years ago.
The Caspian Horse
The Caspian horse or the ‘Kings’
Horse’, was celebrated in ancient Iran as a chariot horse for racing and in
battle, and presented to kings and queens as a valuable gift and is known to be
favoured by Darius the Great.
The Caspian horse was thought to have
disappeared into antiquity, until 1965 when the American wife of an Iranian
aristocrat called Louise Firouz went on an expedition on horseback and
discovered small horses in the Iranian mountainous regions south of the Caspian
The number of surviving Caspian horses in
Iran is still quite small. In addition, there are only 1300 registered Persian
Caspians world-wide, mainly in the US, UK, Germany and Australia. The last
export of Caspian horses out of Iran occurred in the early '90s, with a small
shipment arriving in Great Britain.
The Caspians are smaller
than modern horses at around 11.3 hands compared with a modern racehorse at 16.
They have light frames, thin bones, short,
fine head with a pronounced forehead, large eyes, short ears and small muzzles.
They are very fast, and incredibly strong and
spirited, but also have good temperaments, and described by Louise Firouz as
“kind, intelligent and willing.”
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