Ancient Zoroastrian Temple discovered in Northern Turkey

The News report Ancient Persian temple discovered in northern Turkey could rewrite Religious History” was originally provided on November 6, 2017 by the Daily Sabah News outlet based in Istanbul, Turkey. The text of the Daily Sabah report has been reproduced below with a number of edits. Included in the text below are also translated portions of the Turkish language Ana Haber Gazete News outlet. Kindly note that excepting one photo, all other images and captions do not appear in the original Daily Sabah report.

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Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient Persian temple from the fifth century B.C. in Turkey’s northern Amasya province that could rewrite the history of the region. Istanbul University Archaeology Professor Şevket Dönmez has noted that the discoveries at the ancient Persian Oluz Höyük settlement in Toklucak village have the potential to change long-held notions of religion and culture in Anatolia.

Artifacts uncovered at the ancient Persian Oluz Höyük settlement in Toklucak village, Amasya province, Turkey (Daily Sabah & AA Photo).

As noted by Dönmez during a press conference regarding his excavations at Amasya (as cited/translated from the Turkish language Ana Haber News outlet):

“The excavations proceeded to explore the Persian (Achaemenid) time period (c. 425-300 BCE) at Asmaya… Oluz tumulus, where cella with sacred fire burned, living quarters, stone pavilions, and potholes where unusable temple goods were buried were discovered … the history of Anatolian religion now has to be revised … Portable fire burning vessels (fire) and skulls used in the temples were destroyed in the course of Alexander the Great’s Asian campaign (300 BCE). Shovels and pots pointing to Haoma (holy drink) were discovered. It is the first time that the ruins of Oluz mound, which reflects the formation and development periods of the Zoroastrian religion which are understood to have come to Anatolia with the Medes and the Persians. these finds are notably unique as he richness of these finds have yet to be found in Iran itself which is the Zoroastrian religion‘s  geographical source.”

 Professor Şevket Dönmez of istanbul University presents his findings at Asmaya, Turkey in a news conference followed by questions by Turkish academics and reporters (Source: Ana Haber). Note the Zoroastrian artifacts also on display at the lower right of the photo.

In 11 seasons of excavations, the team uncovered thousands of artifacts, as well as temple structure. In respone to questions by the Anadolu news agency Dönmez noted:

“In this settlement from the fifth century B.C., we discovered a temple complex which is related to a fire culture, more precisely to the early Zoroastrian religion, or to the very original religious life of Anatolian people … They built a massive religion system here [Asmaya]… No 2,500-year-old artifacts have been found in Iran, yet they appeared in Anatolia. [With this discovery] Anatolia has entered the sacred geography of today’s Zoroastrians” 

Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest extant religions, is believed to have originated from the prophet Zoroaster in present-day Iran. The discovery of a temple for fire worship suggests the religion may also have had roots in Anatolia, as well.

Professor Şevket Dönmez of Istanbul University provides the architectural layout of the Zoroastrian temple that he and his archaeological team have excavated at Asmaya (Source: Ana Haber),

Describing the temple, Dönmez said it includes a holy room for burning fires and other stone-paved areas with many goods used in worship practices. Dönmez also said Oluz Höyük is the only known Persian settlement in the region.

Excavations at Oluz Höyük started in 2007, after the site was first discovered during surface research near Tokluca village in 1999.

Dönmez and his team plan to continue research work at the site, possibly working on restoring the temple area in the future.

Remains of ancient Zoroastrian urns at Gonnur Tappeh which were once filled with the sacred drink known as “Soma/Haoma” (Source: Balkh and Shambhala). Gonnur Tappeh is situated  at approximately  sixty kilometers north of Mary in modern-day Turkmenistan.

Sassanian Loom discovered in Northern Iraq

The article below “Sassanian loom discovered in Northern Iraq” was published by Goethe University (November 6, 2017), the The Science Newsline Archaeology & Anthropology (November 6, 2017) and the World Cultural Heritage Voices (November 8, 2017).

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A team of Frankfurt-based archaeologists has returned from the Iraqi-Kurdish province of Sulaymaniyah with new findings. The discovery of a loom from the 5th to 6th century AD in particular caused a stir.

The group of Near Eastern archaeology undergraduates and doctoral students headed by Prof. Dirk Wicke of the Institute of Archaeology at Goethe University were in Northern Iraq for a total of six weeks. It was the second excavation campaign undertaken by the Frankfurt archaeologist to the approximately three-hectare site of Gird-î Qalrakh on the Shahrizor plain, where ruins from the Sassanian and Neo-Assyrian period had previously been uncovered. The region is still largely unexplored and has only gradually opened up for archaeological research since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

A view of the Sassanian site explored in northern Iraq (Source: World Cultural Heritage Voices).

The objective of the excavations on the top and slope sections of the settlement hill, some 26 meters high, was to provide as complete a sequence as possible for the region’s ceramic history. Understanding the progression in ceramics has long been a goal of research undertaken on the Shahrizor plain, a border plain of Mesopotamia with links to the ancient cultural regions of both Southern Iraq and Western Iran. These new insights will make it easier to categorize other archaeological finds chronologically. The excavation site is ideal for establishing the progression of ceramics, according to archaeology professor Dirk Wicke:

It is a small site but it features a relatively tall hill in which we have found a complete sequence of ceramic shards. It seems likely that the hill was continuously inhabited from the early 3rd millennium BC through to the Islamic period.”

Aerial view of the site from the south showing the excavation areas on the summit and south-western slope as well as the small test pit on the south-eastern slope (Photo: Philipp Serba & Goethe University).

However, the archaeologists had not expected to find a Sassanian loom (ca. 4th-6th century AD), whose burnt remnants, and clay loom weights in particular, were found and documented in-situ. In addition to the charred remains, there were numerous seals, probably from rolls of fabric, which indicate that large-scale textile production took place at the site. From the neo-Assyrian period (ca. 9th-7th century BC), by contrast, a solid, stone-built, terraced wall was discovered, which points to major construction work having taken place at the site. It is possible that the ancient settlement was refortified and continued to be used in the early 1st millennium BC.

Shireen T. Hunter: The New Geopolitics of the South Caucasus

Readers are introduced to the following comprehensive textbook edited by Dr. Shireen T. Hunter pertaining to the Southern Caucasus:

The New Geopolitics of the South Caucasus: Prospects for Regional Cooperation and Conflict Resolution

 

Publisher: Lexington Books

Series: Contemporary Central Asia: Societies, Politics, and Cultures

Hardcover: 304 pages

Release Date: September 22, 2017

ISBN-10: 1498564968

ISBN-13: 978-1498564960

Order textbook through Amazon.com or Lexington Books

The above volume features an impressive array of scholars and experts: Bulent Aras, Richard Giragosian, Mohammad Homayounvash, Shireen T. Hunter (also editor of the textbook), Richard Kauzlarich, Eldar Mamedov, Sergey Markedonov, Mohaiddin Mesbahi, Nona Mikhelidze, Ghia Nodia.

This textbook, which is essentially a collection of examinations of the three South Caucasian states’ economic, social and political evolution since their independence in 1991, is remarkable in its depth and breadth of examination of the geopolitical processes in the Southern Caucasus.

Shireen T. Hunter is a research professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. History , Culture and Politics of Iran and the Persian Gulf, Central Asia and the Caucasus, Culture and Politics of Sh’iism, Islam and Politics, Muslim Communities in Europe and Russia, Theory of International Relations, Foreign Policy Analysis, Religion and International Affairs. For a comprehensive overview of Dr. Hunter’s expertise and publications see her profile at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service …

The textbook assesses the successes and failures of the Southern Caucasian states in their economic, social and political domains, especially their attempts at construction wholly new national identities and value systems in the endeavor at replacing Soviet-era cultural constructs. Readers are also encouraged (as a preamble to reading the book) to read the following report submitted by Dr. Shireen Hunter in a conference sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, held at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service on October 28, 2016:

Shahram Akbarzadeh (Deakin University) provides the following assessment of Dr. Hunter’s text:

Shireen T. Hunter has brought together a truly international team of experts to examine the complex geopolitics of the South Caucasus. The breadth and depth of analysis of key questions such as state-building, democracy, and the US–Russian rivalry present the reader with a rich and textured account of the region. This volume is a tour de force on the interplay of global and regional dynamics that have made the geopolitics of the South Caucasus a continuing source of challenges and opportunities.”

Map of Iran in 1805 before the invasions of Czarist Russia. Note the Caucasus, north of Iran and along the eastern Caspian littoral, which was Iranian territory. Note that the above map is one of many archival and cartographic sources demonstrating that there has been no “Greater Azerbaijan”  allegedly “divided” between Qajar Iran and Tsarist Russia. Russia invaded Iran and forced her to cede the Caucasus.  Iran also lost important eastern territories such as Herat, which broke away with British support (Source: CAIS).

The textbook clearly expostulates the complex interaction of domestic factors with international pressures and how these have impacted upon the new states. There is an exhaustive examination of regional forces neighboring the Southern Caucasus as well as international geopolitical forces (political, economic, etc.), especially with respect how the (often) divergent aims of these players (regional and international) are affecting the development trajectory of these states. The textbook also provides a comprehensive analysis for how the Southern Caucasian states can engage in resolving conflicts and to engage in constructive cooperation.

Greetings across the Araxes: Iranian Azeris greet the citizens of the ROA or Republic of Azerbaijan (known as Arran and the Khanates until 1918) in 1990. Interestingly many Western news reports at the time noted how many of the ROA were demanding re-unification with Iran, an ancient state with strong cultural and historical influences in the southern Caucasus.

Ronald Grigor (Suny, University of Michigan):

Shireen T. Hunter, herself an expert in Caucasian and Central Asian affairs, has gathered an exceptional team of specialists on the local histories, recent experiences, and geopolitics affecting the three South Caucasian republics—Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Geography may be destiny, but surviving and thriving in an area contested for centuries by Iran, Russia, and Turkey requires both diplomatic and political skills as well as good luck. In essays written with deep local knowledge and exceptional clarity, leading specialists guide the reader through the intricacies and complexities of the region. If you want to understand the past, present, and future of the South Caucasian peoples, this is the book with which to begin.”

Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) one of the ideological founders of the former Soviet Union. Trotsky who was finally deported from Russia in 1929, was highly critical of Joseph Stalin’s falsification of history to suit political purposes, a process which he characterized as “Stalin’s School of Falsification”. One of the results of “Stalin’s History School” was the rewriting of Iran’s cultural, linguistic and historical legacy in the Caucasus. As noted by Dr. Nazrin Mehdiyova (herself originating from the Republic of Azerbaijan) has noted thatAs a result [of Soviet manipulation of history], the myth [of a Greater Azerbaijan] became deeply ingrained in the population [of the Republic of Azerbaijan] …” (Mehdiyova, 2003, p.280; “Azerbaijan and its foreign policy dilemma”, Asian Affairs, 34, pages 271-285). To be clear: history books were actually falsified and re-written by the Soviet Union in large part to (literally) erase the legacy of Iranian history, culture and the Persian language in the Caucasus. The Soviets also invented terms such as “Persian chauvinism” and “pan-Iranism” and used these against any scholars daring to question the Soviet Union’s manufacturing of history. Unfortunately, despite Trotsky’s warnings, Soviet-era propaganda narratives are being promoted by various Western venues at present.  Trotsky paid a high price for questioning Stalin’s methods: he was finally brutally murdered by Stalin’s Soviet agents in Mexico on August 20, 1940.

John Evans (former US ambassador to Armenia):

This study puts today’s volatile South Caucasus in its proper historical and geopolitical context. Readers new to the subject will become conversant with the main issues; old hands will find much to ponder and discuss. Shireen T. Hunter’s own unique perspective is especially valuable.”

Remains of an “Atash-kade” (Zoroastrian fire-temple) undergoing repairs in Georgia. The cultural ties between Iran and the Caucasus  stretch back for thousands of years (Picture courtesy of Dr. David Khoupenia with caption from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division – also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006).

Finally readers are also encouraged to read the following selection of recent articles by Dr. Shireen T. Hunter: