Category Archives: IRAN

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.


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.

Preserved by Nature: Studying the Spectacular Salt Mummies of Iran

Preserved by Nature: Studying the Spectacular Salt Mummies of Iran

In 1993, miners at the Chehrabad Salt Mine in the Zanjan province of Iran discovered a body. Clearly a man, the body had flowing white hair and a beard and was sporting a single gold earring. Though he didn’t initially appear that old, carbon dating showed he had died in 300 A.D.

The head of Salt Man 1, is on display at the National Museum of Iran.

The man had likely died from being crushed by a rock collapse, and his body had been effectively mummified by the dry salinity of the air. Unlike Egyptian mummification practices, where the body was wrapped in fabric and coated in preserving oils, the salt mummy was preserved naturally.

The salt from the mines leeched the moisture from his skin, leaving behind his dried remains. Due to the lack of fresh air, and the layers of salt in the mines, the body had gone undisturbed for centuries and was extremely well preserved.

He is now the first of a group of preserved bodies found in the mine, known as the Saltmen.

The body of Salt Man 3, is on display at the Archeology Museum in Zanjan.

Since the first salt mummy was discovered, five more have been found, all within the same area as the first. The second was discovered in 2004, only 50 feet from the first one. Two more were found in 2005, and two more in 2007 — one of them a woman.

In 2008, mining practices were halted, and the mine was declared an archaeological site, allowing researchers full access to the salt mummies.

The finds quickly became important ones for Iranian archaeologists, as they offered insight into historic mining practices, as well as natural mummification.

The find also offered new information on the ancient men’s diets. Because the bodies were so well preserved, some of their internal organs were still intact. Researchers were even able to find remnants in the 2200-year-old mummy’s stomach that contained tapeworm eggs, signalling that his diet was high in raw or undercooked meat.

It also provided the earliest evidence of intestinal parasites in Iran.

Along with the bodies, the salt also preserved the artefacts that were with them when they died. Researchers were able to recover a leather boot (with a foot still inside), iron knives, a woollen trouser leg, a silver needle, a sling, leather rope, a grindstone, a walnut, pottery shards and patterned textile fragments.

Of the six mummies discovered, four of them are currently on display. The Archeology Museum, in Zanjan, is home to three of the men and the woman, as well as some of the artefacts.

The original salt mummy’s head and left foot are on display at the National Museum of Iran, in Tehran.

Another salt mummy, on display at the Archeology Museum. The bodies are all displayed in the positions they were found.

The sixth salt mummy to be discovered remains in the mine, as he was too fragile to remove.

Researchers don’t believe the Saltmen all died together, though they do share some similarities. The first man found probably died around 300 A.D., while the oldest body found dated back to 9550 B.C.

They also believe that there could be more mummies in the mine. Though six whole bodies have been accounted for, detached body parts have also been found. Some of them were initially believed to be part of a single individual, however, they are actually from different bodies.

The number of potential Saltmen bodies is now believed to be eight or more.

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.“