Category Archives: IRAN

8,000 years old Stone Tools Found on Iran’s Gav-Bast Mountain

8,000 years old Stone Tools Found on Iran’s Gav-Bast Mountain

Archaeologists have found arrays of stone tools and relics on top of Gav-Bast Mountain, which is situated in southern Iran, north of the Persian Gulf.

Fereidoun Biglari, an archaeologist and cultural deputy of the National Museum of Iran, briefed attendees on the discovery during the 19th Annual Symposium on the Iranian Archaeology held in Tehran.

Gav-Bast Mountain is of great importance in Iranian rock art archaeology due to the existence of a prehistoric rock shelter that contains a hunting scene including archers, animal games, and a large carnivore.

In his lecture, Biglari first reviewed the history of archaeological research in Eshkat-e Ahou Rockshelter, which began with Khaled Sadeghi’s efforts in 2001 that later led to the registration of this prehistoric site in the National Monuments List in 2005 by the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage of Hormozgan.

Regarding his motivation for starting a new study in Gav-Bast Mountain, Biglari said that the focus of previous studies was more on the rock art panel in the shelter itself and the surrounding areas have not been surveyed by archaeologists.

As a result of several short field surveys in 2010 and 2021, which were carried out with the support of the municipality and Bastak Charity Association and the permission of the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research and the General Directorate of Hormozgan Cultural Heritage, new information about prehistoric settlements on these mountain highlands was obtained.

He added that this research proved that Neolithic human groups used natural resources of these highlands- between 1,100 and 1,800 meters above sea level – probably on a seasonal basis about 7,000 – 8,000 years before present.

8,000 years old Stone Tools Found on Iran’s Gav-Bast Mountain
Archaeologists have found arrays of stone tools and relics on top of Gav-Bast Mountain, which is situated in southern Iran, north of the Persian Gulf.

The researcher also spoke about the importance of preservation of the prehistoric motifs of Gav-Bast and the measures taken to document the art and its context, including drone mapping, 3D model of the shelter, and its panel using photogrammetry, and other related measures.

In conclusion, Biglari expressed hope that in the near future, the detailed 3D model of the shelter and its paintings will be displayed in the Bastak Museum and the National Museum of Iran would allow visitors to see this remote site and its painting panel in the museum.

Furthermore, he emphasized that this research would not have been possible without the help and support of the Bastak Municipality and Charity Association.

Gav-Bast Mountain is lined with the Zagros Mountains, extending northwest-southeast from the border areas of eastern Turkey and northern Iraq to the Strait of Hormuz. The Zagros range is about 1,600 km long and more than 240 km wide.

Situated mostly in what is now Iran, it forms the extreme western boundary of the Iranian plateau, though its foothills to the north and west extend into adjacent countries.

The first well-documented evidence of human habitation is in deposits from several excavated cave and rock-shelter sites, located mainly in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran and dated to Middle Paleolithic or Mousterian times (c. 100,000 BC).

From the Caspian in the northwest to Baluchistan in the south-east, the Iranian Plateau extends for close to 2,000 km. It encompasses the greater part of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan west of the Indus River containing some 3,700,000 square kilometres.

Despite being called a “plateau”, it is far from flat but contains several mountain ranges, the highest peak being Damavand in the Alborz mountain range at 5610 m, and the Dasht-e Loot east of Kerman in Central Iran falling below 300 m.

Breakthrough in Translating Proto-Elamite, World’s Oldest Undeciphered Writing

Breakthrough in Translating Proto-Elamite, World’s Oldest Undeciphered Writing

Specialists believe that the oldest undeciphered writing system will be decoding 5,000-year-old secrets.

“I hope we are actually about to make a breakthrough,” said Jacob Dahl, a fellow at Oxford Wolfson‘s College and Director of the Ancient World Research Cluster.

Live Science has confirmed that Dahl’s secret weapons can see this writing more clearly than ever.

In a room high up in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, above the Egyptian mummies and fragments of early civilizations, a big black dome is clicking away and flashing out the light.

This device is providing the most detailed and high-quality images ever taken of these elusive symbols cut into clay tablets.

Breakthrough in Translating Proto-Elamite, World’s Oldest Undeciphered Writing
Experts working on proto-Elamite hope they are on the point of ‘a breakthrough’

It’s being used to help decode a writing system called proto-Elamite, used between around 3200 BC and 2900 BC in a region now in the southwest of modern Iran.

The Oxford team thinks that they could be on the brink of understanding this last great remaining cache of undeciphered texts from the ancient world.

Dahl, from the Oriental Studies Faculty, shipped his image-making device on the Eurostar to the Louvre Museum in Paris, which holds the most important collection of this writing.

The clay tablets were put inside this machine, the Reflectance Transformation Imaging System, which uses a combination of 76 separate photographic lights and computer processing to capture every groove and notch on the surface of the clay tablets.

It allows a virtual image to be turned around, as though being held up to the light at every possible angle.

So far Dahl has deciphered 1,200 separate signs, but he said that after more than 10 years study much remains unknown, even such basic words as “cow” or “cattle”.

Dahl believes that the writing has proved so hard to interpret because the original texts seem to contain many mistakes – and this makes it extremely tricky for anyone trying to find consistent patterns.

“The lack of a scholarly tradition meant that a lot of mistakes were made and the writing system may eventually have become useless,” Dahl said.

Unlike any other ancient writing style, there are no bi-lingual texts and few helpful overlaps to provide a key to these otherwise arbitrary looking dashes and circles and symbols.

Proto-Elamite writing is the first-ever recorded case of one society adopting writing from another neighbouring group.

However, when these proto-Elamites borrowed the concept of writing from the Mesopotamians, they made up an entirely different set of symbols. The writing was the first ever to use syllables, Dahl said.

Dahl added that with sufficient support within two years this last great lost writing could be fully understood.

Massive Ancient Wall Discovered in Iran Belongs to Unknown Ancient Civilization

Massive Ancient Wall Discovered in Iran Belongs to Unknown Ancient Civilization

Archaeologists have identified the remains of a stone wall in Iran about the length of the famous Hadrian’s Wall that was built across England by the Romans. 

The wall, which extends about 71 miles (115 kilometres), was found in Sar Pol-e Zahab County in western Iran.

“With an estimated volume of approximately one million cubic meters [35,314,667 cubic feet] of stone, it would have required significant resources in terms of workforce, materials and time,” wrote Sajjad Alibaigi, an assistant professor of Iranian Archaeology at Razi University in Kermanshah, Iran, in an article published online in the journal Antiquity.

This satellite image was taken on July 31, 2019, by the WorldView-2 satellite. The red arrows show a surviving section of the Gawri Wall.

The structure runs north-south from the Bamu Mountains in the north to an area near Zhaw Marg village in the south, Alibaigi wrote. 

Pottery found along the wall suggests that it was built sometime between the fourth century B.C. and sixth century A.D., Alibaigi wrote. “Remnants of structures, now destroyed, are visible in places along the wall.

These may have been associated turrets [small towers] or buildings,” wrote Alibaigi, noting that the wall itself is made from “natural local materials, such as cobbles and boulders, with gypsum mortar surviving in places.”

Though the wall’s existence was unknown to archaeologists, those living near it have long known about the wall, calling it the “Gawri Wall,” Alibaigi wrote. 

The Gawri Wall in the western mountains of Sar Pol-e Zahab; arrows indicate the wall’s line.

A spokesperson for Antiquity said that since Alibaigi’s paper was published, the journal has learned that another group of archaeologists carried out earlier research on the wall; that research was never published in a journal. 

Mysterious wall

Archaeologists are not certain who built the structure, and for what purpose. Because of the poor preservation of the barrier, the scientists aren’t even sure of its exact width and height. Their best estimates put it at 13 feet (4 meters) wide and about 10 feet (3 m) high, he said.

“It is unclear whether it was defensive or symbolic,” wrote Alibaigi, noting that it might mark the border for an ancient empire, perhaps the Parthians (who flourished between 247 B.C. and A.D. 224) or the Sassanians (A.D. 224-651).

Both empires in western Iran built large castles, cities and irrigation systems, so it’s likely that both had the resources to build the Gawri Wall, wrote Alibaigi. 

The newly discovered Gawri Wall is not the only ancient long wall in Iran. Archaeologists have previously found similar structures in the north and northeastern parts of Iran. Those may have had a defensive purpose. 

Alibaigi hopes to carry out more research on the Gawri Wall in the future, he wrote. He did not respond to requests for comment. 

Neanderthal Tooth from Iran Dated to Middle Paleolithic Period

Neanderthal Tooth from Iran Dated to Middle Paleolithic Period

A new study conducted by a team of archaeologists and paleoanthropologists from Germany, Italy, Iran, and Britain delves into the discovery of an in-situ Neanderthal tooth, which was discovered in 2017 in a rock shelter, western Iran.

The research is described in a paper in the online journal PLOS ONE that was published last Thursday.

The tooth, which is a deciduous canine that belongs to a 6 years old child, was found at a depth of 2.5 m of the Baba Yawan shelter in association with animal bones and stone tools near Kermanshah.

Neanderthal Tooth from Iran Dated to Middle Paleolithic Period

The analysis that was performed by Stefano Benazzi, a physical anthropologist at the University of Bologna, Italy shows that the tooth has Neanderthal affinities. Stone tools discovered close to the teeth belong to the Middle Paleolithic period and a series of c14 dating suggests the tooth is between 41,000-43,000 years in an age which is close to the end of the Middle Paleolithic period when Neanderthal disappeared in the Zagros.

Fereidoun Biglari, a Paleolithic archaeologist at Iran National Museum, says “this recent discovery, along with other Neanderthal remains previously found in other parts of Zagros, including Shanidar Cave, Bisotun Cave, and Wezmeh Cave, indicate that Neanderthals were present in a wide geographical range of Zagros from northwest to west of this mountain range since at least 80,000 until about 40,000-45,000 years ago when they disappeared and Homo Sapiens populations spread into the region”.

He added that “Association of Yawan Neanderthal tooth with Middle Palaeolithic stone tools known as Zagros Mousterian is a further confirmation of association of this stone tool industry with Neanderthals.

Such associations have been observed in Wezmeh where a Neanderthal premolar tooth and Zagros Mousterian tools were found in the same cave, and also in the Bisotun cave that was excavated in 1949 by C. Coon.

Bisotun produced a human partial radius that most likely belongs to a Neanderthal along with Zagros Mousterian lithics in Middle Paleolithic layers of the site”.

Huw Groucutt, a Paleolithic archaeologist at Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, commented on the datings provided for the Yawan tooth in his Twitter post “Dating sites like this, with small fragments of charcoal which are highly susceptible to movement and contamination, using the only radiocarbon is challenging”. He added “Nearly half of the radiocarbon dates from the site failed. I am rather dubious about the available dates for ‘Zagros Mousterian’ sites based only on C14. But he added “this is a great work, thousands of lithics found and a nice Neanderthal tooth. It is crucial though to use other dating techniques where possible.

The frequent ca. 45 ka ages in many parts of the world may reflect samples beyond the range of C14 with a bit of contamination.”

According to the researchers, Neanderthal extinction has been a matter of debate for many years.

New discoveries, better chronologies, and genomic evidence have done much to clarify some of the issues. This evidence suggests that Neanderthals became extinct around 40,000–37,000 years before the present (BP), after a period of coexistence with Homo sapiens of several millennia, involving biological and cultural interactions between the two groups.

However, the bulk of this evidence relates to Western Eurasia, and recent work in Central Asia and Siberia has shown that there is considerable local variation. Southwestern Asia, despite having a number of significant Neanderthal remains, has not played a major part in the debate over extinction.

Yawan is the second Neanderthal tooth that has been discovered in Iran. The first Neanderthal tooth was discovered in the Wezmeh cave near Kermanshah in 2001.

This cave is well-known for the discovery of a large number of animal fossils. A recent re-excavation of the cave by Fereidoun Biglari revealed stone tools made by Neanderthals, which shows that the cave was not just a den used by carnivores such as hyenas, lions, wolves, and leopards.

Moreover, the discovery of the third tooth of a 5-7 years old Neanderthal child was announced by a joint Iranian-French team that was discovered in Qal-e Kord near Qazvin in 2019.

These discoveries show that Iran has a rich paleoanthropological record and the country can produce important data in the future.

1,600-Year-Old Sheep Mummy from Iran Analyzed

1,600-Year-Old Sheep Mummy from Iran Analyzed

A team of geneticists and archaeologists from Ireland, France, Iran, Germany, and Austria has sequenced the DNA from a 1,600-year-old sheep mummy from an ancient Iranian salt mine, Chehrabad.

This remarkable specimen has revealed sheep husbandry practices of the ancient Near East and underlined how natural mummification can affect DNA degradation. The incredible findings have just been published in the international, peer-reviewed journal Biology Letters. 

The salt mine of Chehrabad is known to preserve biological material. Indeed, it is in this mine that human remains of the famed “Salt Men” were recovered, dessicated by the salt-rich environment.

The new research confirms that this natural mummification process – where water is removed from a corpse, preserving soft tissues that would otherwise be degraded – also conserved animal remains.

The research team, led by geneticists from Trinity, exploited this by extracting DNA from a small cutting of mummified skin from a leg recovered in the mine.

1,600-Year-Old Sheep Mummy from Iran Analyzed
The mummified sheep leg. Image courtesy of Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum and Zanjan Cultural Heritage Centre, Archaeological Museum of Zanjan.

While ancient DNA is usually damaged and fragmented, the team found that the sheep mummy DNA was extremely well-preserved; with longer fragment lengths and less damage that would usually be associated with such an ancient age.

The group attributes this to the mummification process, with the salt mine providing conditions ideal for preservation of animal tissues and DNA.

The salt mine’s influence was also seen in the  microorganisms present in the sheep leg skin. Salt-loving archaea and bacteria dominated the microbial profile – also known as the metagenome – and may have also contributed to the preservation of the tissue.

The mummified animal was genetically similar to modern sheep breeds from the region, which suggests that there has been a continuity of ancestry of sheep in Iran since at least 1,600 years ago.

The team also exploited the sheep’s DNA preservation to investigate genes associated with a woolly fleece and a fat-tail – two important economic traits in sheep. Some wild sheep – the asiatic mouflon – are characterised by a “hairy” coat, much different to the woolly coats seen in many domestic sheep today. Fat-tailed sheep are also common in Asia and Africa, where they are valued in cooking, and where they may be well-adapted to arid climates.

The team built a genetic impression of the sheep and discovered that the mummy lacked the gene variant associated with a woolly coat, while fibre analysis using Scanning Electron Microscopy found the microscopic details of the hair fibres consistent with hairy or mixed coat breeds.

Intriguingly, the mummy carried genetic variants associated with fat-tailed breeds, suggesting the sheep was similar to the hairy-coated, fat-tailed sheep seen in Iran today.

“Mummified remains are quite rare so little empirical evidence was known about the survival of ancient DNA in these tissues prior to this study,” says Conor Rossi, PhD candidate in Trinity’s School of Genetics and Microbiology, and the lead author of the paper.

“The astounding integrity of the DNA was not like anything we had encountered from ancient bones and teeth before.

This DNA preservation, coupled with the unique metagenomic profile, is an indication of how fundamental the environment is to tissue and DNA decay dynamics.

Dr Kevin G Daly, also from Trinity’s School of Genetics and Microbiology, supervised the study. He added:

“Using a combination of genetic and microscopic approaches, our team managed to create a genetic picture of what sheep breeds in Iran 1,600 years ago may have looked like and how they may have been used.

“Using cross-disciplinary approaches we can learn about what ancient cultures valued in animals, and this study shows us that the people of Sasanian-era Iran may have managed flocks of sheep specialised for meat consumption, suggesting well developed husbandry practices.“

Babylon knew secrets of the solar system 1,500 years before Europe

Babylon knew secrets of the solar system 1,500 years before Europe

One of the clay cuneiform tablets found in Babylonia and Uruk, showing geometrical calculations for planetary trajectories.

The ancient Babylonians were known to have been advanced in arithmetic. Now analysis of clay cuneiform tablets found in Babylonia and Uruk shows they could predict the position of celestial bodies using advanced geometric techniques thought to have been invented in 14th-century Europe.

Specifically, the tablets show the ancient Babylonians were evidently intrigued by the position of the planet Jupiter, writes Mathieu Ossendrijver of Humboldt University, Berlin, in his paper “Ancient Babylonian astronomers calculated Jupiter’s position from the area under a time-velocity graph”.

The tablets he describes are the earliest known examples of using geometry to calculate the future position of an object in space-time.

Discover the secrets of the Middle East

It is possible that the same techniques were discovered in Oxford, Cambridge, come the 14th century, in a geometric equivalent of convergent evolution (like wings in insects and in birds, which do not have the same origin but look similar and serve the same function). Or, the West may have learned the techniques somehow from the ancient Babylonian astronomers.

The clay tablets, which are practically intact, seem to date between 350 and 50 BCE. There are issues about provenance – Ossendrijver notes that they were “excavated unscientifically” and discuss general methodology, not mentioning specific astronomical phenomena that could be datable.

The writings describe two intervals after Jupiter appears along the horizon, projecting the planet’s position at 60 and 120 days.

The Babylonians had been thought to know only arithmetic concepts, yet these texts contain advanced geometrical calculations.

Babylon knew secrets of the solar system 1,500 years before Europe
A cuneiform tablet with calculations involving a trapezoid.

Geometry began to develop far back in man’s history.

The eminently practical ancient Greeks used geometry to describe configurations in physical space, though it bears saying that the early history of ancient Greek geometry is unknown because no records remain.

Ancient Egyptians also had geometric knowledge, and had command of trigonometry, but were also believed to have confined their use of the science to workday problem-solving, such as calculating the area of a pyramid.

The ancient Babylonians on the other hand left ample records – over 450 relevant tablets, of which some 340 are tables with computations of planetary or lunar data. Another 110 tablets have computational instructions.

We now know they were using geometry in an abstract sense, to define time and velocity, Ossendrijver explains: “In all of these texts, the zodiac, invented in Babylonia near the end of the 5th century BCE, is used as a coordinate system for computing celestian positions.”

So, he concludes, the 14th-century European scholars in Oxford and Paris who had been credited with developing time-velocity geometric predictions were over a thousand years behind their ancient Babylonian peers.

Why would the Babylonians want to calculate the position of Jupiter, anyway? Probably because their priests used astrology to interpret the will of the gods (an alternative method was to “read” the livers of sacrificed animals): Not only time-velocity geometry but celestial divination as an orderly religious practice is believed to have begun with Babylonian culture.

Sassanid-Era Tables and Chairs Unearthed in Iran

Sassanid-Era Tables and Chairs Unearthed in Iran

According to a Tehran Times report, tables and chairs carved from gypsum have been unearthed at the site of a Zoroastrian fire temple in central Iran by a team of researchers from the University of Isfahan and the University of Tehran. 

Available evidence suggests the furniture was once used for traditional rituals during the Sassanid era (224-651), according to the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage & Tourism.

A joint team of archaeologists from the universities of Isfahan, Tehran discovered the objects at a fire temple in Vigol, which is located approximately 10 km north of Aran-Bidgol near Kashan.

In many ways, Iran under Sassanian rule witnessed tremendous achievements of Persian civilization. Experts say that during the Sassanid era, the art and architecture of the nation experienced a general renaissance.

In that era, crafts such as metalwork and gem-engraving grew highly sophisticated, as scholarship was encouraged by the state; many works from both the East and West were translated into Pahlavi, the official language of the Sassanians.

Encyclopedia Britannica states that a revival of Iranian nationalism took place under the Sassanid rule.

Zoroastrianism became the state religion, and at various times followers of other faiths suffered official persecution.

The government was centralized, with provincial officials directly responsible to the throne, and roads, city building, and even agriculture were financed by the government.

The dynasty was destroyed by Arab invaders during a span from 637 to 651.

Aran-Bidgol is the gateway to the Maranjab desert and caravansary, which also draws thousands of domestic travellers each year.

The desert, which is a top destination for off-roaders, lead to salt lake from the north, Band-e Rig and Desert National Park from the east, Masileh Desert, Hoz-e sultan and Moreh Lakes from the west and eventually Aran and Bidgol from the south.

Situated in Isfahan province, the town is surrounded by desert from the north and east, and thus it has a typical climate of hot and dry in summer, cold and dry in winter, and very little rainfall during the year.

Massive Ancient Wall Discovered in Iran Belongs to Unknown Ancient Civilization

Massive Ancient Wall Discovered in Iran Belongs to Unknown Ancient Civilization

Archaeologists also uncovered the remnants of a stone wall in Iran that is roughly the same length as the famous Hadrian’s Wall, which was constructed by the Romans across England.

This satellite image was taken on July 31, 2019, by the WorldView-2 satellite. The red arrows show a surviving section of the Gawri Wall.

The wall, which extends about 71 miles (115 kilometres), was found in Sar Pol-e Zahab County in western Iran.

“With an estimated volume of approximately one million cubic meters [35,314,667 cubic feet] of stone, it would have required significant resources in terms of workforce, materials and time,” wrote Sajjad Alibaigi, an assistant professor of Iranian Archaeology at Razi University in Kermanshah, Iran, in an article published online in the journal Antiquity.

The structure runs north-south from the Bamu Mountains in the north to an area near Shaw Marg village in the south, Alibaigi wrote. 

Pottery found along the wall suggests that it was built sometime between the fourth century B.C. and sixth century A.D., Alibaigi wrote. “Remnants of structures, now destroyed, are visible in places along the wall.

Massive Ancient Wall Discovered in Iran Belongs to Unknown Ancient Civilization
Location of the ancient wall in Salmaneh Mount, south-east of Bamu mount.

These may have been associated turrets [small towers] or buildings,” wrote Alibaigi, noting that the wall itself is made from “natural local materials, such as cobbles and boulders, with gypsum mortar surviving in places.”

Though the wall’s existence was unknown to archaeologists, those living near it have long known about the wall, calling it the “Gawri Wall,” Alibaigi wrote. 

The Gawri Wall in the western mountains of Sar Pol-e Zahab; arrows indicate the wall’s line.

A spokesperson for Antiquity said that since Alibaigi’s paper was published, the journal has learned that another group of archaeologists carried out earlier research on the wall; that research was never published in a journal. 

Mysterious wall

Archaeologists are not certain who built the structure, and for what purpose. Because of the poor preservation of the barrier, the scientists aren’t even sure of its exact width and height. He said their best estimates put it at 13 feet (4 meters) wide and about 10 feet (3 m) high.

“It is unclear whether it was defensive or symbolic,” wrote Alibaigi, noting that it might mark the border for an ancient empire, perhaps the Parthians (who flourished between 247 B.C. and A.D. 224) or the Sassanians (A.D. 224-651).

Both empires in western Iran built large castles, cities and irrigation systems, so it’s likely that both had the resources to build the Gawri Wall, wrote Alibaigi.

The newly discovered Gawri Wall is not the only ancient long wall in Iran. Archaeologists have previously found similar structures in the north and northeastern parts of Iran. Those may have had a defensive purpose. 

Alibaigi hopes to carry out more research on the Gawri Wall in the future, he wrote. He did not respond to requests for comment.