World’s Earliest known Wine

The article below by Mark Berkowitz entitled World’s Earliest Wine” was printed in Archeology: A Publication of the Archaeological Institute of America (Volume 49 Number 5, September/October 1996).

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Residue on a potsherd dating to the time of the first permanent settlements in the Middle East suggests that wine-making began 2,000 years earlier than previously thought. The sherd, ca. 7,000 years old, came from one of six two-and-one-half-gallon jars excavated two decades ago from the kitchen area of a mud-brick building in Hajji Firuz Tepe, a Neolithic village in Iran’s northern Zagros Mountains. Using infrared spectrometry, liquid chromatography, and a wet chemical test, Patrick E. McGovern and a team from the University of Pennsylvania Museum found calcium salt from tartaric acid, which occurs naturally in large amounts only in grapes. Resin from the terebinth tree was also present, presumably used as a preservative, indicating that the wine was deliberately made and did not result from the unintentional fermentation of grape juice.

Originally discovered at a Neolithic village site in Iran, this jar was one of six vessels containing the remains of 7,000-year-old wine (Source: Archaeology.org and The University of Pennsylvania Museum). As noted by Amy Ellsworth of the University of Pennsylvania Museum page (July 18, 2012):

“The practice of wine-making or viniculture can be traced back to the Neolithic period, 7,000 years ago when the first Eurasian grape vines were domesticated for this purpose. This “Wine Jar” was found at Hasanlu in Hajji Firuz, Iran. It has been reconstructed from multiple fragments. The jar is one of a series of jars found sunken into the floor along an interior wall of a “kitchen” in a well-preserved Neolithic house at HF Tepe in North West Iran. The jar had a capacity of approximately 9 liters (2.5 gallons). It is the oldest known wine storage container in the world. Analyses of the two jars in the Penn Museum showed that they had contained a resinated wine or “retsina,” i.e., with terebinth tree or pine resin added as a preservative and medical agent. There was a red to go with the white wine, based on the colors of the residues.”

Analysis of the Hajji Firuz Tepe sherd comes in the wake of two other recent discoveries of early wine-making in this region where grapes grow in the wild. Residue from a jar from Godin Tepe, in the nearby middle Zagros Mountains, was dated to 5,100 years ago, until now the earliest evidence of wine-making. Grape presses dating to the late third millennium B.C. have been found at Titris Höyük in southeastern Turkey.

Maymand, an Exemplar Manmade-Cave dwelling

The article below Maymand, an exemplar manmade-cave dwelling” was originally published in the Tehran Times on October 23, 2016.

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Thousands of years before Persepolis – the magnificent Achaemenid ceremonial capital – was made in southern Iran in the fifth and fourth centuries BC, residents of its eastward village named Maymand carved out rocky hillsides to take refuge from harsh climate of the Iranian Plateau.

The cultural landscape of Maymand has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2015.  It is an exemplar system of manmade cave dwelling that is believed to be practiced in the region to cope with its harsh climate.

Maymand is situated near Shahr-e Babak in the southeastern Kerman Province. Its self-contained, semi-arid area is sprawled at the end of a south-facing valley at the southern extremity of Iran’s central mountains.

Sandwiched between a desert and a mountain, Maymand has cold winters and exceedingly hot summers yet abundant with mulberry and blackberry trees. Living conditions in the village are considered as severe due to the aridity of the land, high temperature in summertime and very cold winters.

The ancient Neolithic-era dwellings of Maymand village in Kerman, Iran (Source Tehran Times).

It is believed to be one of human’s primary residences in the country as its history stretches far back in time to about 10,000 years ago. Some of its natural and manmade caves are still used for housing and shelter.

The houses in the continually inhabited village are carved like caverns inside the mountain. The internal spaces have corridors and pillars featuring a rural architecture. The houses are situated in four or five stories, one on top of the other.

According to the narratives, the early residents did not use hammer and chisel, but rather a type of local, pointed stone which was hard enough to carve images onto the rocks. This method of carving is still practiced in the region. Some of stone engravings in the village date back to 10,000 years ago.

The majority of inhabitants are semi-nomadic shepherds. They raise their animals on mountain pastures, living in temporary settlements in spring and autumn.

The community has a strong bond with the natural environment that is expressed in social practices, cultural ceremonies and religious beliefs.

The local dialect contains words from the ancient Sassanid and Pahlavi languages. The dialect has been barely changed due to the remoteness of the village.

The area is also home to various animals such as snakes, lizards, hedgehogs, deer, leopards, wolves, foxes and also birds of prey.

There are few seasonal springs around the village which contribute to the flourishing of agriculture in the area. In such an arid climate, residents have to collect every drop of water to make a living as their ancestors did.

The picture above shows a view of Maymand village in southern Iran. It embraces an exemplar system of manmade-cave dwelling, believed to cope with the harsh climate.

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.

Traces of Neolithic era uncovered in Iran’s Fars province

The article below “Traces of Neolithic era uncovered in Iran’s Fars province” was published Payvand News on March 25, 2016, based on an original report by the Mehr News Agency.

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The first season of archaeological excavations in Bavanat county in Fars province has led to the discovery of 200 objects with the oldest having traces back to the Neolithic era.

Morteza Khanipour, the leader of the archeological team, said the Hermangan site located west of Jashnian village in Bavanat county, Fars province, has been discovered in April 2015.

A number of objects discovered at Bavant county (Source: Payvand News).

According to him, over 50 per cent of the site has been completely demolished by farmers and only a few parts of it have remained. As noted by Khanipour:

The excavations have so far led to the discovery of two settlement phases … In the older phase, the lack of architecture and the existence of several hearths and scattered ash could be indicative of the nomadic lifestyle of the settlers … on the deposits we discovered stratigraphic architecture including rooms and several other spaces that were painted in white clay, and the walls of two rooms that were painted red by using ocher.”

Due to unauthorized excavation, most of the rooms have been destroyed, thus making it impossible to give an accurate and definite explanation of their functions, he added.

The archeologist noted the discovery of a thermal structure in the trenches that was most probably an open furnace used for clay firing. Khanipour further avers:

By comparing the potteries obtained from this site to the ones discovered in Mushaki Hill, Jeri Teppe, Bashi, and Kushk-e Hezar, one can say that the site dates back to the Neolithic era of Bashi archeological site and the TMB workshop of Mushaki.

He went on place Hermangan archeological site somewhere between 8100-7800 BC.

Other unearthed objects during the excavations include stone tools such as microliths which indicate harvesting and agriculture, as well as protoliths that indicate the production of tools inside the settlement.

Ancient Settlement Uncovered In West-Central Iran

The news item below was reported by the Archaeology News Network on September 18, 2016, based on a news release by Mehr News.

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Excavations at an ancient hill in Shazand in Iran’s Central Province have found evidence of a settlement which dates back 8,000 years.

Ghafour Kaka, head of excavation expedition in the site of Sarsakhti Castle Hill in an eponymous village in Shazand said that the evidence found at the site included simple and adorned pottery, bone and stone tools, counting tools and animal figurines, human skeletons, spindle whorls and casting moulds.

Our excavations reveal that the site had been settled at least 8,000 years ago (Neolithic Age). According to stratigraphic work carried out in 2012, the site was occupied in the Neolithic, Eneolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, as well as in the Parthian, Ilkhanid, and Qajar periods. In the spring of 2016, our excavations sought to delve deeper into the oldest human settlement in this area and revealed important Eneolithic and Neolithic remains in a small trench of 6.4 metres. The last archaeological excavations go back to before the Revolution of 1979 and the lack of systematic dating methods had given rise to considerable confusion in the archaeological examination of this part of Zagros massif…”

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The Sarsakhti Castle Hill in Shazand village, located in west-central Iran (Source:Mehr News).

Kaka further avers:

The 3 metre deep deposit teeming with artefacts of the Neolithic Age is invaluable. Among the finds is a human skeleton, buried in a crouching or squatting position, which gives us important information about the burial practices during this period. The early inhabitants of this region clearly believed in an afterlife as the items buried with the deceased, which included tortoiseshell, as well as stone and bone tools, suggest“.

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Excavation work at the site of Sarsakhti Castle Hill in Shazand (Source:Mehr News).
Kaka summarizes and concludes:
Numerous clay animal figurines, mostly broken and fragmented, were also been found at the site and may have functioned as objects in rituals. It seems probable that the hill had long been settled in the Neolithic Age and had been connected to Central Zagros especially in the east of the mountain chain. The geographical position of the hill bestows a central position to the site where Zagros and the eastern half of the Iranian plateau meet, thus harbouring elements of both cultures.”
Sarsakhti has located in a high plain and dominates the river Merchaleh, which has fresh water most time of the year.