Viking-era Sassanian and Arab-Sassanian Silver Coins Found in Sweden

The posting below “Discovery of Viking-Era Sasanian and Arab-Sasanian Coins in Sweden” was originally posted in the CAIS venue hosted by Shapour Suren-Pahlav.

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Swedish archaeologists say they have uncovered a horde of Viking-era silver coins near Stockholm’s Arlanda international airport in the country’s Uppland region.

Swedish National Heritage Board (SNHB), announced the find as about 450 silver coins — representing the largest collection of coins from the era found in the region during the modern age, Swedish news agency TT reported Friday.

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A handful of Sasanian and Arab-Sasanian silver coins found by brothers Arvid, left, and Edvin Sandborg, right, on the Swedish island of Gotland Oct. 30, 2006. The 1,100 coins, along with several silver bracelets, formed a three kilo (6.6 lbs) Viking treasure trove that the brothers found buried on a neighbor’s propertyAccording to SNHB the coins are dated between 500 CE to 840 CE. The earliest coins are of Sasanian-Iran and later ones are Islamic Arab-Sasanian coins which were minted in Baghdad, Damascus and North Africa. The hoard appear to have been buried around 850 CE near a grave that is thought to be about 1,000 years older than the finds and no human remains were found. According to Karin Beckman-Thoor, an archaeologist with SNHB, Vikings that buried the hoard thought they may be guarded by the ancestral souls (Source: CAIS). 

In  July 1999 and November 2006 over 1,100 similar coins belonging to Sasanian and Arab-Sasanian periods were discovered in Swedish island of Gotland.

A number of news agencies including the BBC have reported the find as 470 purely Arab coins dated between 7th and 9th century CE.

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Close-up of Sassanian coins discovered in Sweden (Source: CAIS).

 

2500-Year Old Achaemenid Persian Palace Found In Turkey

The article “2500-Year Old Achaemenid Persian Palace Possibly Found In Turkey” was originally posted on the Turkish Daily Sabah News Agency on September 6, 2018. The report published below is a subsequent version by Dattatreya Mandal on the Realm of History website on September 10, 2018.

Kindly note that the head of the excavations alluded to in the article is Dr. Şevket Dönmez who is an  Archaeology Professor at Istanbul University.

Professor Şevket Dönmez of Istanbul University in a news conference (November 6, 2017) attended by Turkish academics and reporters (Source: Ana Haber). Dönmez was presenting his 2017 findings of Zoroastrian religious and cultural artifacts at Oluz Höyük in Asmaya province, Turkey. Note the Zoroastrian artifacts also on display at the lower right side of the photo … for more click here

Dr. Dönmez’s discovery of the ancient Persian Oluz Höyük settlement in Toklucak village, Amasya province, Turkey in 2017 was reported in Kavehfarrokh.com (click this line for more information) and was also also published in the Winter 2017 edition of the FEZANA (Publication of the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America) journal.

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In one of our articles about the Achaemenid Persians, we talked about how their ancient empire (circa 6th century BC) stretched from Anatolia and Egypt across western Asia to the borders of northern India and Central Asia. And pertaining to their imperial presence in Anatolia, researchers from the Istanbul University Archaeology Department have excavated remains of a (probably) Persian palace at the Oluz Mound in the Göynücek district of Amasya province, northern Turkey. The site in itself boasts an expansive urbanized area of 920 ft x 850 ft and has been under excavation since its discovery in the years between 1997 and 99.

Turkish archaeologists and officials at the site of the excavated Achaemenid palace at the Oluz Mound in  northern Turkey’s Amasya province (Source: Daily Sabah).

According to Dr. Şevket Dönmez, the leader of the current excavation project, the site, during circa 450 BC, was probably governed by a branch of Achaemenid Persians. However, the incredible discovery of the palace itself, along with other significant structures, was made in this very year:

“New units of this city have been revealed. We now know about a path, a mansion and a fire temple. All these are firsts in world history. A reception chamber with columns and a throne chamber have also started to emerge for the first time this year. We are in the beginning phase of the excavation work for these chambers. This current phase and discoveries are very exciting. These belong to a very significant period of the Anatolian Iron Age, Anatolian Old Age, and Persian archaeology.”

Turkish archaeologists engaged in the excavation of Achaemenid columns in the Persian palace (Source: Daily Sabah).

Dr. Dönmez further added how the site also harks back to older Iron Age cultures, like the powerful Hittites, thus alluding to its enigmatic status in the ancient world as a place of sacredness:

“They are very important discoveries which will add to their identity and uniqueness. We have found six column bases so far. A clear plan has not yet been revealed, but hopefully we will find it in one or two years of excavation works. We found a bull figurine belonging to the Hittite period this year during excavations. There is a very big Hittite city under the Persian city. We think that it is Shanovhitta. It shows us that this is a traditional sacred city and every new civilization built a temple here. We did not know that we would find such a Persian city. Neither such a temple nor such a reception chamber…we did not expect any of this.”

One of the Turkish archaeologists engaged in the excavation of the structures of the Achaemenid palace at the Oluz Mound (Source: Daily Sabah).

As further averred by Dr. Dönmez:

However, we came across an entirely different situation. The entire world has started to watch Oluz Mound on the basis of Mid-Anatolian and Anatolian archaeology. I believe that it has started to become a significant center in updating and changing Anatolia’s religious history after Göbeklitepe.”

Article on Persian Heritage journal publishes article on links between Germania and ancient Iranian Peoples

The Persian Heritage has published the following article by Kaveh Farrokh which can be downloaded in full, from Academia.edu:

Farrokh, K. (2018). Germania, Vikings, Saxons and Ancient Iran. Persian Heritage, 90, pp.28-30.

Below is a select excerpts from the above article:

“Professor Christopher I. Beckwith (Professor of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University): “The first-century AD Germania by the Roman historian Tacitus gives the earliest detailed description of the Germanic peoples…The account of Tacitus and other early records reveal very clearly that the early Germanic peoples, including the ancestors of the Franks, belonged to the Central Eurasian Culture complex which they had maintained since Proto-Indo-European times, just as the Alans and other Central Asian Iranians had done. This signifies in turn that ancient Germania was culturally a part of Central Eurasia and had been so ever since the Germanic migration there more than a millennium earlier” (Empires of the Silk Route, Princeton University Press, 2009, pages 80-81).”

The Iranian Kandys cape and its legacy in Europe (click to enlarge). (A) Medo-Persian nobleman from Persepolis wearing the Iranian Kandys cape of the nobility 2500 years past (B) figure of Paul dressed in North Iranian/Germanic dress from a 5th century ivory plaque depicting the life of Saint-Paul (C) reconstruction by Daniel Peterson (The Roman Legions, published by Windrow & Greene in 1992, p.84) of a 4th-5th century Germanic warrior wearing Iranian style dress and the Kandys. The Iranian Persepolis styles of arts and architecture continued to exert a profound influence far beyond its borders for centuries after its destruction by Alexander (Pictures used in Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division and Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006).

As noted further in the article (geopolitically rationalized) terms such as “Middle East”, “Islamic Civilization”, etc. have served to distort historical connections between not just Germanic and Iranian peoples but the broader links between Europa and Iranian peoples across the millennia (download the 2017 article Farrokh and Vasseqhi in the Persian Heritage journal). As noted Dr Sheda Vasseghi a document written by a well-informed CIA official (whose name has now been redacted from the original document):

“… the CIA tends to be “alert and responsive to official changes in the names of individual political entities.”  However, when it comes to geographic terms, the CIA adheres “to usages that are imprecise, egocentric, and anachronistic“. … According to the CIA Memo, terms such as “the Middle East” are, and always were, imprecise and egocentric given they reflect “the world as viewed from London and western Europe.”  The [CIA] author is alarmed at how widespread the usage of these imprecise terms among the intellectual circles were, including as part of titles for respected publications such as The Middle East Journal.”

To read more of the above article click here … As noted by Dr. Vasseghi in the abstract of her 2017 Dissertation (for more click here…):

“Western Civilization history marginalizes, misrepresents, misappropriates, and/or omits Iran’s positioning. Further, the mainstream approach to teaching Western Civilization history includes the Judeo-Christian-Greco-Roman narrative.”

A depiction of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae and Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d”Arthur. Note the windsock carried by the horseman (Farrokh, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War, 2007, pp.171) – this item was bought from the wider Iranian realm (Persia, Sarmatians, etc) into Europe by the Iranian-speaking Alans. The inset depicts a reconstruction of a 3rd century CE Partho-Sassanian banner by Peter Wilcox (1986).

As noted further in the Persian Heritage journal (links also inserted in below paragraph for further reference):

“The links between Europa and the ancient Iranians have been extensive in history. It was during the Partho-Sassanian era where Europe experienced direct interactions with Iran, a process in place since the Achaemenids (see for example Farrokh, K. An Overview of the Artistic, Architectural, Engineering and Culinary exchanges between Ancient Iran and the Greco-Roman World. AGON: Rivista Internazionale di Studi Culturali, Linguistici e Letterari, No.7, pp.64-124, 2016) [Download in full from Academia.edu]. It was also during the reign of the Parthian and Sassanian dynasties in Persia when several waves of Iranian speakers migrated into Europe. These are known variously in history as Sarmatians, Alans, Roxolani, Yas, etc. Put simply, the influence of ancient Iranian civilization came through two general channels: the Partho-Sassanian empires and fellow Iranian peoples who lived in Eurasia and Eastern Europe at the time. Many of these tribes were to successfully migrate into Central, Northern and Western Europe.”

The Oseberg longship at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo (Picture source: Heritage Trust). Viking ships like these sailed to northern Persia in search of trade.

Another quote from the article is as follows (links also inserted in below paragraph for further reference):

“Contacts between the Germanic peoples and the Iranian world were especially among the North Germanic Nordic peoples and their Viking successors in the post-Islamic era of Persia. The famous Viking Ulfbehrt sword has in fact a Persian connection. Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist of Stockholm University has researched the Volga trade route of the Vikings and their ships between Lake Malaren in Sweden to the ports of Northern Iran between the early 800s to mid-1000s where: “…it is very likely that the steel that you find in the Ulfberht swords originated from Iran…I would guess that they bought it [Persian steel] from friendly trading connections in Iran paid with furs and other Nordic commodities and took it back on the small ships that they used on the rivers” [see full article here …]. While Sassanian Persia had fallen to the Arabo-Muslim invasions of the 7th century CE, Northern Persia remained defiant with its metallurgical technology continued persisting after the fall of the Sassanians, a factor that benefited Viking traders who sailed with ships to Northern Iran along the Volga trade route. The Vikings however, were already well already in contact with Iran during the Sassanian era.”

Viking Helmet (Right; Picture Source: English Monarchs) and reconstruction of earlier Sassanian helmet at Taghe Bostan, Kermanshah, Iran (Left; Picture Source: Close up of Angus Mcbride painting of Sassanian knight at Taghe Bostan, Wilcox, P. (1999). Rome’s Enemies: Parthians and Sasanid Persians. Osprey Publishing, p.47, Plate H1).

Two New courses for Fall 2018

Kaveh Farrokh is offering two new courses for the of Fall 2018 at the Paris-based Methodologica Universitas at the Départment de Méthodologie des Sciences Historiques.  See also the Institution’s Encyclopedic project:

Analytica Iranica: The Multidisciplinary Journal of Iranian Studies … Kaveh Farrokh is one of the Academic Advisors of this Encyclopedia project …

The first of these is the first course offered on the military history of ancient Iran or Persia:

Course HIS/CP/202: The Military History of Ancient Iran: 559 BCE-651 CE [Fall 2018, Methodologica Universitas, Départment de Méthodologie des Sciences Historiques]Click here for Registration Information

The course description for the above is as follows (HIS/SP/202):

This course examines Iran’s pre-Islamic military history with respect to political relations, wars, battles with Greece, Rome, Central Asia. These topics are examined in the Achaemenid (559-333 BCE), Parthian (250 BCE-224 CE) and Sassanian (224-651 CE) epochs. Methodology of the course utilizes scientific methodology in archival analysis (primary and secondary sources), numismatics (study of coins), archaeological analysis (analysis of equipment and technology), and statistical methodology (e.g. compiling data for analysis, factor analysis, etc.). The strengths and weaknesses (military, political and social) of each dynasty is examined up to the downfall of ancient Iran to the Arab conquests of Iran (637-651 CE). Detailed analysis is made of developments from the early Achaemenid era to the end of the Sassanian era with respect to equipment, technology, military architecture, military doctrine, and martial culture. Influences upon and from Greece, Rome, Central Asia and Eastern Europe are also examined. The course concludes with a survey of post-Islamic sources reporting of the extensive military literature pertaining to Sassanian weapons and tactics (battlefield tactics, siege craft, etc.) and its influence upon Islamic warfare.

Kaveh Farrokh meeting the late Professor Ehsan Yarshater (1920-2018) during the Honoring ceremony for the late Professor Emeritus Richard Nelson Frye (1920-2014) in the Greater San Francisco area in 2008.

The second is a comprehensive course on the History of ancient Iran or Persia, which will incorporate modern research and academic methodologies incorporating anthropology, archaeology, the study of sources, numismatics, etc:

Course HIS/CP/203: The History of Ancient Iran: 559 BCE-651 CE [Fall 2018, Methodologica Universitas, Départment de Méthodologie des Sciences Historiques]Click here for Registration Information

Three Books published in 2017-2018 on the military history of Ancient Iran or Persia (from left to right): The Armies of Ancient Persia: the Sassanians (2017; see book review by the Military History Journal in 2018); A Synopsis of Sassanian Military Organization and Combat Units (Kaveh Farrokh, Katarzyna Maksymiuk & Gholamreza Karamian, 2018); and The Siege of Amida (Kaveh Farrokh, Katarzyna Maksymiuk & Javier Sánchez-Gracia, 2018).

The course description for the above is as follows (HIS/CP/203):

Course begins with the pre Indo-European era of ancient Iran and the rise of proto-Iranian peoples and arrivals onto the Iranian plateau. Recent archaeological works and research of pre Indo-European Iran, such as the Burnt City and Elam are surveyed. This is followed by detailed historical surveys of the three epochs of ancient Iran: Achaemenids (559-333 BCE), Parthians (250 BCE-224 CE) and Sassanians (224-651 CE). Course material is integrated with methodology utilizing scientific methodology in archival analysis (primary and secondary sources), numismatics (study of coins), archaeological analysis (analysis of equipment and technology), and statistical methodology (e.g. compiling data for analysis, factor analysis, etc.). The political relations and cultural exchanges of the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanian dynasties with the Greco-Roman, Central Asian, Indian subcontinent, Caucasian, European and Chinese realms are examined. Each epoch is also examined with respect to developments in legal systems, societal development and the role of women, the arts, architecture, learning, medicine, technology, theology and religious philosophy, communications, shipping, commerce and the Silk Route.

[Above] Kaveh Farrokh’s second textShadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایه‌های صحرا-” cited by the BBC-Persian service as theBest History Book of 2007(November 5, 2008), as well as the by Kayhan News Service of London (November 12, 2008). The text was nominated by the Independent Book Publishers’ Association (Benjamin Franklin Award) among the top finalists for the Best textbooks of 2008. The book has been recognized by world-class scholars such as the late Professor Emeritus Richard Nelson Frye (1920-2014), Harvard University, Dr. Geoffrey Greatrex, Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa, Dr. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, School of HistoryUniversity of Edinburgh and Dr. Patrick Hunt. The book was reviewed in the world-class academic (peer-reviewed by top Iranian Studies scholars) Iranshenasi journal in 2010: Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War, by Dr. Kaveh Farrokh. Iranshenasi, Volume XXII, No.1, Spring 2010, pp.1-5 (see document in pdf). [Below] Translations of Shadows in the Desert [A] Persian translation by Taghe Bostan Publishers (2009) [B] Persian translation by Qoqnoos Publishers (2009) [C] the original textbook (2008) and [D] Russian translation by EXMO Publishers.

Theory of Iranian origin of Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table

The posting below is from a segment of the article by Mark Adderley entitled “Theories about the Origins of the Arthurian Legend” – this was originally posted in the Mark Adderley website (the link is no longer operational). Kindly note that the pictures and accompanying descriptions do not appear in the original article by Adderley.

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As proposed by Nickel, Littleton, and Malcor,  the inspiration for Arthur was Lucius Artorius Castus, the prefect of the 6th Legion, stationed in York.  Artorius led the 6th Legion overseas to Armorica (Brittany) on a successful punitive raid, and many of the soldiers he led were Sarmatians.

There are a number of striking resemblances between the Sarmatians and their beliefs and legends, and elements in the Arthurian legend.  The Sarmatians:

[1] were cavalry, unlike most Roman soldiers, protected by jointed armor, just like Arthur’s knights.

Russian reconstruction of King Arthur and his Sarmatian cavalry (Source: Our Russia); note Iranian dragon standards of the cavalrymen also seen in the armies of the Parthians and Sassanians.

[2] used a dragon standard in battle, as Arthur is in some medieval illustrations.

A depiction of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae and Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d”Arthur. Note the windsock carried by the horseman (Farrokh, page 171, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایه‌های صحرا) – this item was bought from the wider Iranian realm (Partho-Sassanian Persia, Sarmatians, etc.) into Europe by the Iranian-speaking Alans. The inset depicts a reconstruction of a 3rd century CE Partho-Sassanian banner by Peter Wilcox (1986).

[3] venerated a naked sword set in the ground or a platform, resembling the story of the sword in the stone.

A reconstruction by Brzezinski and Mielczarek (2002 ) of Iranian-speaking Sarmatian warriors paying their respects to a fallen comrade in Europe (circa 1st century CE) – note the ritual of thrusting the fallen comrade’s sword  into the earth. At right is a screenshot of the Excalibur sword of King Arthur thrust into the stone (Movie “Excalibur“, 1981, John Boorman). This is one of many parallels between the Arthurian legends and the mythologies of the ancient Iranians  (Pictures used in Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division).

[4] used a cauldron full of hashish in their religious ceremonies, a bit like the Grail.

[5] told the story of Batradz, a hero whose life was bound up in his sword.  Dying, he asked his last companion to cast it into the sea.  The companion’s failure to report the sign demanded by Batradz indicates that he has not done so.  When he finally throws the sword in, the sea turns blood red.  This story certainly resembles the story of Arthur, Excalibur, and Bedivere.

Roman tombstone from Chester (housed at Grosvenor Museum, item #: 8394907246), UK depicting Sarmatian horseman attired like other kindred Iranian  peoples such as the Parthians and Sassanians  (Source: Carole Raddato, uploaded by Marcus Cyron in Public Domain).

The tombstone fragments of a Sarmatian/Alanian standard bearer were found at Chester (Deva) in 1890. This is unique evidence of the presence of heavily armoured Sarmatian cavalry from the earliest third century A.D. The two fragments of the tombstone (now in the Grosvenor Museum in Chester) show a horseman wearing a cloak and turning to the right. He holds aloft, with both hands, a dragon standard of the Sarmatian/Alanian type, and his conical helmet, with a vertical metal frame, is of the same pattern. A sword hangs at his right. Both man and horse are shown clad in tightly fitting scale armour. This attire for man and mount was characteristic of Sarmatian/Alanian heavy cavalry.

Sarmatian armour discovered near Hadrian’s Wall in England (Source: Periklisdeligiannis); this most likely belonged to an Iranian-speaking Alan or related Ia-zyges cavalrymen serving as mercenaries in the Roman army in Britain. 

References

Note: Many of the extracts from chronicles cited above can be found in Chambers’ Arthur of Britain.

Alcock, Leslie.  Arthur’s Britain.  Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971.
Ashe, Geoffrey.  “The Arthurian Fact.”  The Quest for Arthur’s Britain.  Ed. Geoffrey Ashe.  London: Paladin, 1968.  27-57.
– – – .  “A Certain Very Ancient Book: Traces of an Arthurian Source in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History.” Speculum 56 (1981): 301-23.
– – – .  The Discovery of King Arthur.  New York: Henry Holt, 1985.
– – – .  “The Origins of the Arthurian Legend.”  Arthuriana 5.3 (1995): 1-23.
Chambers, E. K.  Arthur of Britain. London: Sidgewick and Jackson, 1927.
Charles-Edwards, Thomas.  “The Arthur of History.”  The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature.  Ed. Rachel Bromwich, A. O. H. Jarman, and Brynley F. Roberts.  Cardiff: U of Wales P, 1991.  15-32.
Dumville, David N.  “Sub-Roman Britain: History and Legend.”  History 62 (1977): 173-92.
Gildas.  The Ruin of Britain and Other Works.  Ed. and trans. Michael Winterbottom.  Chichester: Phillimore, 1978.
Green, Thomas.  Concepts of Arthur: Early Arthurian Tradition and the Origins of the Legend.  Stroud: Tempus, 2007.
Jackson, Kenneth Hurlstone. “The Arthur of History.” Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages: A Collaborative History. Ed. Roger Sherman Loomis.  Oxford: Clarendon, 1959. 1-11.
– – – .  “Gildas and the Names of the British Princes.”  Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 3 (1982): 30-40.
Jordanes.  The Gothic History.  Trans. C. C. Mierow.  Princeton: Princeton UP, 1915.
Littleton, C. Scott, and Ann C. Thomas.  “The Sarmatian Connection: New Light on the Origin of the Arthurian and Holy Grail legends.”  Journal of American Folklore 91 (1978): 513-27.
– – – , and Linda A. Malcor.  From Scythia to Camelot: A Radical Reassessment of the Legends of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and the Holy Grail.  2nd ed.  London: Routledge, 2000.
Morris, John.  The Age of Arthur: A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650.  Vol. 1.  Roman Britain and the Empire of Arthur.  Chichester: Phillimore, 1973.
Nennius.  British History and The Welsh Annals.  Ed. and trans. John Morris.  London: Phillimore, 1980.
Nickel, Helmut.  “The Dawn of Chivalry.”  From the Lands of the Scythians.  New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975.  150-52.
Padel, O. J.  Arthur in Medieval Welsh Literature.  Cardiff: U of Wales P, 2000.
– – – .  “Recent Work on the Origins of the Arthurian Legend: A Comment.”  Arthuriana 5.3 (1995): 103-14.
Sidonius Apollinaris.  The Letters.  Trans. O. M. Dalton.  Oxford: Clarendon, 1915.