Category Archives: IRAN

Red lipstick dating back 3,600 years was discovered in Iran -the oldest ever found

Red lipstick dating back 3,600 years was discovered in Iran -the oldest ever found

Archaeologists have discovered a small chlorite vial containing a deep red cosmetic preparation believed to be an ancient type of lipstick in the Jiroft region of southeastern Iran.

Red lipstick dating back 3,600 years was discovered in Iran -the oldest ever found

This relic, published in the journal Scientific Reports on February 1st, is the oldest known red lipstick from the Bronze Age (between 2000 and 1600 B.C.).

The carved tube came from an ancient graveyard that reemerged in 2001 after the nearby river flooded. According to the study, people plundered the cemetery and sold whatever they could find. Several of the artifacts were eventually found and given back to a nearby museum by officials.

The vial’s slender shape, reminiscent of contemporary lipstick tubes, suggests it was designed to be held in one hand along with a copper or bronze mirror, as depicted in an ancient Egyptian drawing.

The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, show that the reddish substance’s mineral components include hematite, which has been darkened by manganite and braunite, as well as traces of galena and anglesite.

These were combined with vegetal waxes and other organic ingredients, closely resembling the recipes for modern lipsticks. This composition bears a striking resemblance to modern lipstick recipes, indicating the sophistication of ancient Iranian makeup techniques.

The discovery, dated to the early 2nd millennium BCE, provides valuable insight into the ancient civilization of Marḫaši, mentioned in coeval cuneiform texts of Mesopotamia.

The Jiroft civilization, believed to be the ancient polity of Marḫaši, flourished in a valley rich with diverse lithic resources, providing favorable conditions for the development of advanced cosmetics.

Carved chlorite-schist vials found in the Jiroft region.

“So far, for the world of 5000-4000 years ago, we knew about makeup recipes, eyeliners, and eye shadows but not about lip paints.” Professor Massimo Vidale, one of the authors of the study and a professor of archaeology at the University of Padua in Italy, told Bored Panda in an email.

This discovery is consistent with the well-documented tradition of cosmetology in ancient Iran, which included using light-colored compounds for foundation or eyeshadow and black kohl for eyeliners. The sophistication of these makeup techniques suggests a complex society with clear social hierarchies and aesthetic standards.

The discovery of deep red lip pigments adds a new dimension to our understanding of ancient cosmetics, as previous archaeological evidence primarily focused on white or light-colored compounds.

Dr. Nasir Eskandari, a professor at the University of Tehran and one of the archaeologists who contributed to the discovery, stated to IRNA that the study aimed to uncover the pioneering role of ancient Iranians in chemical science.

He said that the discovered substance shows that the first inventors of lipstick may have been Iranians.

The finding raises the possibility that Iran is where lipstick originated, even though there are no historical documents or images from the Jiroft region.

However, Professor Vidale cautioned against definitive claims of “earliest evidence,” acknowledging the perpetual possibility of discoveries reshaping our understanding of ancient cultures.

Mysterious 18-Km-Long Underground City Found In Iran: Could be At Least 6000 Years Old

Mysterious 18-Km-Long Underground City Found In Iran: Could be At Least 6000 Years Old

In Bam village of Esfarayen county in northeast Iran, a routine road construction project has led to an exciting discovery of a vast network of underground corridors linked to the nearby fortress of Shahr-e Belqeys (City of Belqeys).

The discovery was made by workers laying a road in 2022, who stumbled upon this precious heritage from a different spot after access was blocked by the local cultural heritage directorate last year to protect it.

The expert at the Belqeys archaeological site confirmed that the total length of the corridors was 18 kilometers (11 miles), and that a bathroom and a mill were located along the extent. However, these have not been opened yet, and experts are yet to examine them.

“Last years, traces of this underground city had been discovered, but to protect it, these remains were blocked by the local cultural heritage directorate. Now we reached these ancient structures from another place, which confirms the statements of the local people,” the expert explained. “The ruins have yielded potteries estimated to belong to the Seljuk period, IlKhanid, and even earlier periods. However, an extensive archaeological excavation is needed to delve into its secrets.”

The ruined citadel of Shahr-e Belqeys is located in the northeastern part of North Khorasan province and is spread over 51,000 square meters (12.6 acres). It is the second-largest mud fortress in Iran after the UNESCO World Heritage Site Bam Citadel. Based on excavations at nearby hilltops and elevations, the citadel is believed to be at least 6,000 years old. 

Ruined citadel of Shahr-e Belqys, site of the underground corridor discovery.

The fortress is considered to have flourished from the late Sassanid era (224-661 AD) to the early Islamic period in the 7th century and had been active until Nader Shah Afshar assumed power in the early 18th century. Historical evidence suggests that Belqeys enjoyed the favor of Sassanid monarchs, leading to its prosperity.

Several excavations in Belqeys have revealed the remarkable remains of the citadel, houses, irrigation channels, a cistern, and a hypostyle hall. The expert at the Belqeys site stated that the ruins have yielded potteries estimated to belong to the Seljuk period, IlKhanid, and even earlier periods, and that an extensive archaeological excavation is needed to delve into its secrets.

Iran has several underground architectural sites, including the cone-shaped underground homes of Kandovan village in north-western Iran, which resemble the “fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia in Turkey, where Bronze Age cave dwellers built famous underground cities.

Mysterious 18-Km-Long Underground City Found In Iran: Could be At Least 6000 Years Old
The underground corridors found near Shahr-e Belqeys are similar to those built during the same period in Nushabad.

In 2018, the 3rd International Troglodytic Architecture Conference was held in Iran, bringing scores of experts and scholars to discuss subterranean architecture, technology, and culture. The discovery of the underground corridors in Shahr-e Belqeys is just one of the many exciting examples of Iran’s rich cultural heritage. It has again opened up new avenues for research and discovery in archaeology.

Another underground site in Iran is the fascinating city of Nushabad, also known as Ouyi, located in Isfahan province in central Iran. This entire city of passages and chambers is located at depths varying from 4 to 18 meters (13 to 59 feet) and dates back to Sassanid times.

Nushabad is a city named after the cold and refreshing water from a local well or spring. It was founded by a Sassanian king who passed through the area and was impressed by the water. The city was a place of refuge for people in the surrounding desert during the hot summer months.

As time passed, the underground city of Nushabad became more than just a source of fresh water and a place to escape the heat. It also served as a haven during times of war. Throughout the history of Iran, the city faced numerous invasions from attackers who would come to pillage and kill.

For example, during the Mongol invasion in the 13th century, when the invaders arrived at the above-ground city, they found it deserted as its residents had fled to the safety of Nushabad. This pattern continued until the Qajar period.

Nushabad was well equipped to serve as a refuge, with features that made it difficult for attackers to enter. For instance, the city had multiple entry points, but they were so narrow that only one person could go in at a time. This prevented an invading army from using their superior numbers to overpower those hiding in the underground city.

Additionally, there are ventilation shafts that allow airflow in and out of Nushabad, whilst fresh water is provided by the spring. This meant that refugees were able to stay in the underground city for long periods of time. It has also been suggested that there would have been some storage areas for food as well. Various rooms have also been found along the carved-out pathways of the city, and ledges have been dug out to serve as benches/beds for people.

The similarity in construction between the Shahr-e Belqeys underground corridors and Nushabad leads experts to believe that they served the same purpose. Further excavations, pending the approval of the Iranian government, will provide more insight into their architecture and use.

The discovery of the extensive network of underground corridors in Bam village is a significant finding that could shed light on the ancient history of Iran and its cultural heritage. The fact that it was discovered by accident during a routine road construction project makes it even more exciting. It will generate great interest among archaeologists and history buffs for sure.

3,000-year-old skeletons of nine children were discovered in Qazvin province, Iran

3,000-year-old skeletons of nine children were discovered in Qazvin province, Iran

3,000-year-old skeletons of nine children were discovered in Qazvin province, Iran

Archaeologists from the University of Tehran have discovered the remains of children dating back 3,000 years during excavations in an ancient cemetery in the Segzabad region of Qazvin province in central-west Iran.

The excavations, conducted under the supervision of Dr. Mustafa Deh Pahlavan found the remains of some children along with babies and fetuses, also found the remains of two horses, two goats, and a sheep.

The discovery made by Iranian archaeologists was made in an area of five square meters.

“This complex with an area of five square meters and a height of 120 cm, weighing about 10 tons, includes the remains of nine children, a baby, and a fetus, the remains of two adult horses, two goats, and a sheep,” Dr. Mostafa Dehpahlavan said.

Dehpahlavan, who presides over the Institute of Archeology of the University of Tehran, stated that the foundation work has three parts, adding the first part contains the burial remains of a child along with the remains of an immature goat.

Dehpahlavan said: In the eastern cemetery of Qara Tepe, important evidence of five layers of burials and graves on top of each other was obtained on a wide scale.

In this cemetery, the graves do not have a specific direction. Their borders are surrounded by several clay ridges. Aborted fetuses and babies were buried in clay cooking pots. Without exception, the remains of animals such as goats, immature sheep, cows, camels, and horses were found in all the graves, which indicates that animals were buried next to the dead.

The discovered collection has been moved to Segzabad municipality for display and preservation in accordance with conservation and restoration standards due to the unfavorable conditions in the Qara Tepe cemetery.

Based on criteria such as the growth of teeth and the length of long bones, the child’s skeleton is estimated to be less than six years old.

In describing the second part, the archaeology said: “In this part, the burial remains of two adult horses of different breeds can be seen. First, the remains of an adult horse lying on its left side without a skull.

Another smaller adult horse (probably of the Caspian breed) was buried in a huddled form on its right side. Its skull is above the surface of the body in a semi-raised form. This horse has a necklace with bronze beads and a part of the iron bridle of this horse can be seen in the mouth area.”

In his explanation about the third part of this collection, Dehpahlavan stated: This part contains human and animal remains that are in a very chaotic state. Based on the number of visible skulls, a total of eight people were buried in this section. Next to a gray clay cave, the remains of a human fetus can be seen.

In addition, an adult sheep skull can be identified next to the skulls of human fetuses. Also, a container with a vertical handle and a small jug along with a part of the body of a pot with pea color and rope decoration constitute the pottery findings of this section.

The cemetery also found a child’s skeleton next to clay dishes, which can attest to his special social status, as well as burial ornaments like bronze bracelets, a ring, and the remnants of a necklace made of stone, bronze, and ivory beads.

The discovered collection has been moved to Segzabad municipality for display and preservation in accordance with conservation and restoration standards due to the unfavorable conditions in the Qara Tepe cemetery.

A 4,000-Year-Old Writing system that finally makes sense to Scholars

A 4,000-Year-Old Writing system that finally makes sense to Scholars

You could be forgiven for never having heard of the civilization of Elam. Elam flourished in southern Iran, in the modern state of Khuzestan, about four or five thousand years ago. The Elamites had close cultural ties to the Mesopotamian civilizations to the west, like the Babylonians; they built ziggurats, for instance (via Britannica).

They had a number of unique customs, though, including royal succession, and possibly property rights being passed down matrilinearly, from mothers to sons (instead of fathers to sons), which suggests that Elamite women enjoyed a degree of importance. The Elamites were eventually swallowed up by other cultures, and their capital, Susa, would become the home of the kings of Persia.

But what vexed archaeologists and philologists for centuries was the Elamite language. They simply couldn’t read it. According to Smithsonian, the earliest Elamite script looked like Mesopotamian cuneiform, but no one could quite decode it.

LINEAR ELAMITE

Smithsonian notes that only 43 examples of this early script, called Linear Elamite, have ever been discovered. It had fallen out of use by about 1800 B.C., replaced by western forms of cuneiform and then by Greek. It wasn’t clear whether the words expressed or depicted by Linear Elamite were words of the same language as the later, readable texts. Perhaps it was a different language altogether.

In 2015 came a breakthrough. A certain François Desset, professor of archaeology at the University of Teheran, was curious about the inscriptions on a collection of silver beakers once thought to be a hoax to fleece collectors, but recently confirmed as genuine.

On many of them, he found two parallel inscriptions: one in the familiar Elamite language, and another in Linear Elamite. He had found the key to the puzzle.

The Linear characters were pictograms, rather than alphabetical letters, which made them hard to translate, but Desset guessed from the context that some of them stood for names. Slowly the language revealed its secrets. Desset would translate 72 Linear characters, leaving only a handful still unclear.

LIKE THE ROSETTA STONE

Desset’s work bears a remarkable resemblance to the translation of the Rosetta Stone.

The first archaeologists could not decipher Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, with their suns and birds and abstract shapes instead of letters. But when Napoleon invaded Egypt, his men found a tablet inscribed with three languages (shown above) in the Nile mud near the town of Rosetta. 

According to the British Museum, this was one of many “mass-produced” tablets from the year 196 B.C., a kind of public bulletin. It repeated the same message in three kinds of script: hieroglyphics, “demotic” Egyptian, and Greek.

A Frenchman named Champollion realized that the names of non-Egyptian people were recognizable in the jumble of hieroglyphics. Slowly, he began to pair Greek words and phrases with ancient Egyptian ones, eventually unravelling the code.

It is remarkable that another Frenchman, 200 years later, should use exactly the same method to decode Linear Elamite: recognizing names in the band of script and deducing the rest from there.

Medieval subterranean corridors were found by accident in northeast Iran

Medieval subterranean corridors were found by accident in northeast Iran

Medieval subterranean corridors were found by accident in northeast Iran

The workers working on a routine road construction project near Shahr-e Belqeys (City of Belqeys) in northeast Iran made an unexpected discovery.

Shahr-e Belqeys is a castle located in Esfarayen County in North Khorasan Province, Iran. The fortress dates back to the Sasanian Empire. It is the second largest adobe fort in Iran after the UNESCO-registered Bam Fortress. Belqeys archaeological site has an area of over 51,000 square.

“Remains of ancient underground corridors were discovered a few days ago during a road construction project in Bam village of Esfarayen county,” an expert with Belqeys archaeological site said on Monday.

“The total length of those corridors is 18 km, and there is a bathroom and a mill on the way, which has not been opened yet,” the expert said. “Last years, traces of this underground city had been discovered but to protect it, these remains were blocked by the local cultural heritage directorate.

Now we reached these ancient structures from another place, which confirms the statements of the local people,” the expert explained. “The ruins have yielded potteries estimated to belong to the Seljuk period, IlKhanid, and even earlier periods. However, an extensive archaeological excavation is needed to delve into its secrets.”

Belqeys Castle.

Shahr-e Belqeys was prosperous during a period from the late Sassanid era to early Islamic times. Historical evidence, including a book on the history of Nishabur (Middle Persian: Nev-Shapur), suggests that Shahr-e Belqeys won special attention from Sassanid monarchs of the time.

Archaeological excavations at nearby mounts and hilltops put the antiquity of Belqeys in some 6,000 years.

These Medieval subterranean corridors in Iran are not a first. Nooshabad, known as Ouyi to locals, is an underground city with many passages and chambers in Isfahan Province in central Iran.

Nushabad or Nooshabad Underground City.

Nooshabad, which was discovered by chance during a construction project, was initially built to protect city dwellers against invasion and plundering, particularly during the Mongol invasion of Iran.

The construction of this man-made subterranean city, called Ouee (or Ouyi), dates back to the Sasanian (or Neo-Persian) Empire that ruled from 224 to 651. Inhabitants would dig underground chambers as hideout spots for women, children, and the elderly in the event of an attack by foreign invaders.

The fact that these newly found underground tunnels were built in the same way reveals their intended use. In the future, it will be possible to have more information about the tunnels if the Iranian government allows the excavation works.

Have Scholars Finally Deciphered a Mysterious Ancient Script?

Have Scholars Finally Deciphered a Mysterious Ancient Script?

A mysterious writing system that is nearly as old as cuneiform but used a different set of symbols and that has remained undeciphered for centuries may have finally been deciphered.

Have Scholars Finally Deciphered a Mysterious Ancient Script?
Over the past century, archaeologists have uncovered more than 1,600 Proto-Elamite inscriptions, but only about 43 in Linear Elamite, scattered widely across Iran.

Based on ancient silver vessels, the researchers propose a new method for decoding the Linear Elamite script, which contains 80 symbols written left to right in vertical columns.

Ancient writing systems are among the most difficult to crack.

The Rosetta Stone, which translated a Demotic decree (the language of everyday ancient Egyptians) into Greek and hieroglyphics, gave us an understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphics in 1799. Had a French soldier not stumbled across it by chance, we would have had a pretty difficult time understanding Egyptian writing. But even with the discovery of the precious stone, Jean-Francois Champollion spent over two decades trying to decipher the strange Egyptian symbols.

Among millennia-old scripts, only a few are unreadable. An obscure system used in what is now Iran might finally be deciphered thanks to a team of European scholars led by French archaeologist Francois Desset.

“This is one of the major archaeological discoveries of the last decades,” explains Massimo Vidale, an archaeologist at the University of Padua who was not involved in the research. “It was based on the same approach of Champollion’s breakthrough—identifying and reading phonetically the names of kings.”

Proto-Elamite, derived from Linear Elamite, was used between 2500 and 2220 BC and is named such because its registers are similar to Linear Cretan. Inscriptions on 40 documents from Susa, the ancient urban oasis and capital of Elam, a bustling society that was once one of the first to use written symbols, are the only indications of its existence. Only a partial decipherment of this writing had been accomplished.

Those circumstances have now changed, according to Desset, who gained access to an unusual collection of silver vases encircled with cuneiform and Linear Elamite script.

They were excavated in the 1920s and sold to Western merchants, so their authenticity and provenance have been questioned. Nevertheless, analysis of the vessels revealed that they were ancient rather than modern forgeries.

This image depicts the 72 deciphered alpha-syllabic signs used in Linear Elamite’s transliteration system.

It is thought that they were discovered in a royal cemetery hundreds of kilometres southeast of Susa, dating back to around 2000 BC, as for their origin. According to experts, Elamite linear script was in use around this time.

The silver vases, according to the study, contain the oldest and most complete examples of Royal Elamite inscriptions in cuneiform script. They belonged to two different dynasties.

According to Desset, the vessels were ‘the jackpot’ for deciphering Linear Elamite due to their juxtaposition of inscriptions.

Several cuneiform names, including those of well-known Elamite kings, could now be compared with symbols in Linear Elamite, including Šilhaha. The French professor used repeated symbols that are likely proper names to interpret the geometric shapes of the inscriptions. The verbs “made” and “gave” were also translated by him.

More than 96 per cent of known linear Elamite symbols were able to be read by Desset and his co-authors. “Even if a complete decipherment cannot yet be claimed, mainly due to the limited number of inscriptions, we are not far away,” the experts write in their study.

These findings may shed light on a previously unknown society that flourished between ancient Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley in the dawn of civilization if the researchers are right and their peers are debating the claim hotly.

The paper describing the discovery was published in the journal Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie.

As per experts, this analysis could also rewrite the evolution of writing itself.

5000-Year-Old Water System Discovered In Western Iran

5000-Year-Old Water System Discovered In Western Iran

Ancient Water System in Iran

Archaeologists in Iran made an unexpected discovery during excavations at the Farash ancient historical site at the Seimareh Dam reservoir – a 5,000-year-old water system.

The research team is working hard to recover the water pipes, along with hundreds of other artefacts, before they are submerged by the new dam.

The Persians are one of the earliest cultures to implement advanced systems of water distribution and are among the greatest aqueduct builders of the ancient world.

They are particularly well-known for their construction of qanāts, a series of well-like vertical shafts, connected by gently sloping tunnels, which were used to create a reliable supply of water for human settlements and for irrigation.

The water system comprises a small pool and a long earthenware pipeline. Each earthenware conduit measures about one metre in length and the team leader Leili Niaken said it is likely that the structure was made and baked in the region.

The newly discovered water system.

In addition to the ancient water pipes, the team of archaeologists from the Iranian Centre for Archaeological Research (ICAR) have also uncovered more than 100 sites dating back to the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Copper Age, Stone Age, Parthian, Sassanid and early Islamic periods. Signs of the Mesopotamians’ influence in the region were identified by studies carried out on the ancient strata at the reservoir.

The archaeological team is now working hard to unearth the rest of the pipeline, which may lead archaeologists to its source. 

The aim is to recover as much as possible before it all goes underwater when the filling of the dam is complete.

Archaeologists unearth ‘great’ Sassanid fire temple in northeast Iran

Archaeologists unearth ‘great’ Sassanid fire temple in northeast Iran

Archaeologists have unearthed the ruins of what they believe was one of the greatest fire temples in Iran during the Sassanid age.

“We have probably discovered the third greatest fire temple that existed in ancient Iran,” ILNA quoted archaeologist Meysam Labbaf-Khaniki as saying on Wednesday.

Labbaf-Khaniki leads the fifth season of an areological survey, which is currently underway in a valley near the village of Robat-e Sefid/Bazeh Hur, northeast Iran.

“During this archaeological season, we have gathered considerable evidence such as engraved plasterwork and inscriptions that suggest the ruins are related to an important fire temple.”

Inscriptions and their fragments that bear Pahlavi scripts should first be arranged and categorized till they could be read (and deciphered) by linguists and cultural heritage experts, he explained.

These fresh discoveries are expected to open a new chapter in the history of Iranian arts during the Sassanid epoch, the archaeologist said.

Exquisite stuccoworks embellish capital columns that support the main hall of the fire temple, he said.

Since 2014, Labbaf-Khaniki has taken part in previous excavations conducted at the ancient site. In 2018, a joint Franco-Iranian mission was tasked to study the whole valley, its human occupations, its geomorphology, and its implication in the large territory of Khorasan Razavi province.

The Sassanid age is of very high importance in the history of Iran. Under Sassanids, Persian architecture in addition to arts experienced a general renaissance.

Architecture often took grandiose proportions such as palaces at Ctesiphon, Firuzabad, and Sarvestan which are amongst the highlights of the ensemble.

Sassanid archaeological designs typically represent a highly efficient system of land use and strategic utilization of natural topography in the creation of the earliest cultural centres of the Sassanid civilization.

READ ALSO: PRESERVED BY NATURE: STUDYING THE SPECTACULAR SALT MUMMIES OF IRAN

In 2018, an ensemble of Sassanian historical cities in southern Iran, titled “Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region”, was named a UNESCO site. The ensemble is comprised of eight archaeological sites situated in three geographical parts of Firuzabad, Bishapur, and Sarvestan.

The World Heritage reflects the optimized utilization of natural topography and bears witness to the influence of Achaemenid and Parthian cultural traditions and of Roman art, which later had a significant impact on the architecture and artistic styles of the Islamic era.

Aside from architecture, crafts such as metalwork and gem-engraving grew highly sophisticated, yet scholarship was encouraged by the state. In those years, works from both the East and West were translated into Pahlavi, the language of the Sassanians.