Footprints of Prehistoric Industry around Persian Gulf

The report below was originally posted in the Iran Daily News and Payvand News outlets on January 6, 2017. Kindly note that none of the images and accompanying captions inserted below appear in the original Iran Daily and Payvand News reports.

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Objects unearthed in the historical site of Tom Maroon, in Hormuzgan Province on the Persian Gulf, indicate that the communities inhabiting the region during the Bronze Age were involved in industrial activities such as metalwork, glass-work and pottery.

Research Institute of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization quoted head of the excavation team Siamak Sarlak, as saying that that archaeologists came across two oval furnaces, welding parts, furnace slag iron and glass pieces during their excavations.

Remains of an ancient Kiln in southwest Iran [not Siamak Sarlak] (dated to the 5th millennium BCE), towards the northern shores of the Persian Gulf (Source: Pinterest). Kilns were essentially ovens or furnaces used for baking foods and also for non-food applications such as the baking of bricks, firing of pottery, limestone calcination, etc. As noted by David Voorhees who provided the above image in Pinterest: “The lake behind the newly constructed Sivand Dam in Fars province in South Iran will flood a section of the Polvar River where this and many other kiln sites have been located”.

He further noted that among the objects included a glass button-like seal which can be important in analyzing economic relations between Tom Maroon and other regions during that era.

He listed the aims of the current season of excavations as identifying the succeeding cultural eras of the region, drawing up a chronology of the area and defining the role and importance of the area in the shaping cultural relations of communities inhabiting the northern and southern shores of the Persian Gulf in the Bronze Age up to the Islamic era.

Sarlak cited other objectives of the excavations as understanding the instinctive features of the region in developing the cultural outlook of communities residing in the region, particularly in the Bronze Age, conducting research works in cultural-historical area of the Persian Gulf, and collecting fresh documents with the aim of clarifying the historical position and importance of the Persian Gulf.

Chlorite Stone Vase from southern Iran along the Persian Gulf region (dated to c. mid-late 3rd millennium BCE) (Source: Pinterest). Note the three bands of palm trees and the overlapping artwork pattern.

The third phase of the explorations were predicted to be launched by mid-March 2017 given the cultural features of the region and the coordination with the Archeology Institute and Hormuzgan Cultural Heritage Department, he added.

Sarlak pointed out that in the second season of the excavations approximately 7.5 meters of the accumulated layers and cultural objects of the area were surveyed. He added that nine main and two sub-phases of the architecture of the Parthian era were also identified.

Based on the documents obtained in the exploration of Tom Maroon, Sarlak noted that the most important construction material used in the architecture of the Parthian era is large-size adobes using clay mortar.

He said up to three decades ago, there were five satellite mounds around Tom Maroon which have now been completely leveled to the ground and transformed into citrus orchards and currently only a small portion of Tom Soltan Miran, 800 meters from Tom Maroon, remained intact.

Ancient bronze-age chlorite vase from southern Iran (Source: Fattaneh Wilcox in Pinterest).

The archaeologist stressed that based on the documents obtained in the excavations on the southern slopes of Tom Maroon, four cultural periods, including the ancient Bronze era, the Parthian era, the Sassanid era and the early centuries of the Islamic period have been identified.

He said the Persian Gulf is considered one of the important regions in archaeological studies of Iran and ancient Orient in view of its strategic location.

Archaeological studies conducted in Hormuzgan, the Old Stone Age, the ancient Bronze era, the Parthian, the Sassanid and the Islamic periods (especially the Safavid) show that thriving cultures and civilizations existed in the region.

Tom Maroon is located in Hormuzgan Province in a fertile alluvial plain, known as Komiz Plain, surrounded by low mountains.

The Ancient Civilization of Jiroft

The Cultural Organization of Iran has identified the remains of an ancient city buried close the modern city of Jiroft, located in Iran’s Kerman Province. Archaeologist Yusef Majidzadeh identifies the “Jiroft civilization” as having been a distinct culture during the early Bronze Age (late 3rd millennium BC). This civilization was located in modern-day Iran’s Sistan and Kerman Provinces.

Possible pieces of an ancient game at Jiroft (Source: Hamid Sadeghi – Mehr News Agency & Payvand News).

Yusef Majidzadeh, the head of the archaeological team that has explored the Jiroft site, has proposed that the area and its artifacts represent a bronze age civilization that featured its own language, culture and architecture.

A seal plaque from Jiroft (Source: Hamid Sadeghi – Mehr News Agency & Payvand News), suggestive that this civilization had developed a sophisticated legal and/or business system(s). The figures appear to possibly represent some type of “Trinity” symbol, possibly a reflection of some type of theological or religious system.

The assertions of Majidzadeh however have been challenged by several scholars as documented in the Encyclopedia Iranica:

“A number of scholars have indeed countered these unanchored pronouncements and firmly challenge them. They argue on the basis of objectively derived data surfacing from excavations that in reality the “Jiroft” artifacts reflect a thriving culture of the 2nd half of the third millennium B.C.E., one that flourished centuries later than the genesis of Sumerian culture. Therefore the “Jiroft” culture was contemporary with a much later phase of Sumerian cultural history”

Falcon figure from Jiroft (Source: Hamid Sadeghi – Mehr News Agency & Payvand News). This type of depiction has proven surprisingly resilient in the cultures of ancient Iran, as seen for example with the falcon image on a Sassanian metalwork plate housed at the Hermitage Museum at St. Petersburg, Russia (Inv. S-217). 

The Jiroft civilization of eastern Iran appears to be related to modern-day western Afghanistan’s “Helmand culture”. These may have been contemporary with each other or even part of the same cultural zone at one time.

Possible Candle holder or incense burner from Jiroft (Source: Hamid Sadeghi – Mehr News Agency & Payvand News).

According to the Archaeology News Network:

“For centuries, Mesopotamia was thought to be the world’s oldest civilization. This was generally accepted by most people until a 5,000-year old temple was discovered in Jiroft Historical Site in Iran’s southern Kerman province, prompting archaeologists to identify the region as the world’s oldest cradle of human civilization”.

Jiroft Figure on horseback (Source: Hamid Sadeghi – Mehr News Agency & Payvand News).

According to the University of Pennsylvania Museum (Penn Museum):

“The new excavations [at Jiroft] have produced an extensive ceramic assemblage, and monumental, domestic, and craft production areas. Most interesting among the finds are more than 400 seal impressions of cylinder and stamp seals used in economic administration.”

Oil Lamps and/or Pots from Jiroft (Source: Hamid Sadeghi – Mehr News Agency & Payvand News).

The Jiroft zone is indicative of an advanced civilization, even as much work remains to be done by researchers, archaeologists and anthropologists. The area has certainly yielded a large range of artifacts of which many raise questions as to their purpose and function.

Tablet with local script from Jiroft (Source: Hamid Sadeghi – Mehr News Agency & Payvand News).

The above tablet is a significant find as it demonstrates that the script of the Jiroft region is independetn and/or unique with respect to cuneiform and hieroglyphs. nevertheless the above artifact and other inscription finds need to be examined in more detail and by expert scholars, as information on samples such as the above piece have yet to analyzed in rigorous fashion (see Encyclopedia Iranica on this …)

Small statue with close up of face of a man from Jiroft (Source: Hamid Sadeghi – Mehr News Agency & Payvand News).