Kaldar cave in Iran estimated to date over 63,000 years

The report Kaldar cave in Iran estimated to date over 63,000 years” was originally published in the Tehran Times on June 23, 2020. The version below has been slightly edited from the original publication.

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Nearly one decade of archaeological surveys at Kaldar cave has concluded that parts of this western Iranian shelter date more than 63,000 years.

Archaeologists at the site of the Kaldar cave (Source: Tehran Times & CHTN).

In an interview with CHTN, Iranian archaeologist Behrouz Bazgir has stated:

After a decade of studying the cultural evidence yielded from the three seasons of archeological excavations at Kaldar Cave, the recent results show that a Paleolithic layer in the middle of this the cave is more than 63,000 years old …

Kaldar is a key archaeological site that provides evidence of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in Iran. The cave is situated in the northern Khorramabad valley of Lorestan province and at an elevation of 1,290 m above sea level. It measures 16 meters long, 17 meters wide, and seven meters high.

Last year, in one of the significant archaeological finds of Iranian history, the cave yielded fresh evidence for its Paleolithic residents; including traditions of making [stone] tools related to Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic eras.

Excavations at the site in 2014-2015 led to the discovery of cultural remains generally associated with anatomically modern humans (AMHs) and evidence of a probable Neanderthal-made industry in the basal layers. It also offers an opportunity to study the technological differences between the Mousterian and the first Upper Paleolithic technologies as well as the human behavior in the region.

Last year, archaeologists excavated stone tools and a fragment of a fossilized skull, attributed to Homo sapiens. The cave has also yielded weapon fragments crafted by Neanderthals.

A panoramic view of the Kaldar cave (Source: Tehran Times & ITTO).

In taxonomy, Homo sapiens is the only extant human species. The name is Latin for “wise man” and was introduced in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus (who is himself also the type specimen). Neanderthals are an extinct species or subspecies of archaic humans in the genus Homo, who lived within Eurasia from circa 400,000 until 40,000 years ago.

Petroglyphs hold clues to 14,000 years of human life in Iran

The report “Petroglyphs hold clues to 14,000 years of human life in Iran” first appeared in the Tehran Times on April 27, 2020. Kindly note that the version printed below has been edited in Kavehfarrokh.com. Readers may also be interested in the following resources (click link or image underneath the link):

Ancient Iran: Neolithic to Pre-Achaemenid eras

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As noted by the Natanz tourism chief Hossein Yazdanmehr in an interview with CHTN:

“A 14,000-year-old evidence of human social life has been identified by experts who examining rock carvings being found near Natanz, which is situated in the heart of the Iranian plateau … Undoubtedly, petroglyphs can be considered as one of the oldest-known surviving works of art from the beginning of human social life. Archaeologists believe that the custom of creating petroglyphs began at the end of the Paleolithic period, so the style of petroglyphs and symbols the bear, as well as the tools used to create them, along with influencing environmental factors, are valuable criteria for determining the historical background of these objects …”

Archaeologists have found prehistoric rock drawings near Natanz in central Iran which give clues about the rise of human presence that is rooted in 14,000 years of history (Source: Tehran Times).  Existing findings prove that human life goes back to 6,000 years in the region.

Yazdanmehr said the petroglyphs were previously discovered near Arisman, a village in Emamzadeh District of Natanz County, Isfahan province. He further avers:

“With the discovery of the ancient site of Arisman in previous years and the study of excavated works in it, the historical background of the civilized life of the people of this region reached six thousand years ago. Over the past years, various petroglyphs have been discovered in nearby plains of various townships such as Afushteh, Badrud, and Natanz, so research on the structure of these petroglyphs, as well as determining their historical values, began in the past. At the beginning of the current year, archaeologists found that the collection of petroglyphs, which are located open-air sites, dates from the late Paleolithic era onwards … With the completion of these studies, the history of human social life in the northern part of Isfahan province is spanned from six to fourteen thousand years ago …

Yazdanmehr expressed hope that this valuable collection of petroglyphs could be protected against atmospheric factors by allocating the necessary funds (from the government). Enigmatic evidence of human presence on the Iranian plateau as early as Lower Paleolithic times comes from a surface find in the Bakhtaran valley, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

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).

The ancient Neolithic-era dwellings of Maymand village in Kerman, Iran (Source: Tehran Times).for more on this topic click the following articleMaymand, an Exemplar Manmade-Cave dwelling” …

There is every reason to assume, however, that future excavations will reveal Lower Paleolithic habitation in Iran. The Mousterian flint tool industry found there is generally characterized by an absence of the Levalloisian technique of chipping flint and thus differs from the well-defined Middle Paleolithic industries known elsewhere in the Middle East. The economic and social level associated with this industry is that of fairly small, peripatetic hunting and gathering groups spread out over a thinly settled landscape.

By approximately 6000 BC patterns of village farming were widely spread over much of the Iranian plateau and in lowland Khuzestan. Though distinctly different, all show general cultural connections with the beginnings of settled village life in neighboring areas such as Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Central Asia, and Mesopotamia.

Sassanian Inscription Unearthed in Ancient Iran Necropolis Being Deciphered

The article Sassanian Inscription Unearthed In Ancient Iran Necropolis Being Deciphered” was posted on Radio Farda (as reported by British-Iranian journalist Maryam Sinaiee) on March 28, 2020.

Kindly note that the version printed below has been edited with two of the images (and accompanying captions) not appearing in the original Radio Farda report.

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Experts are working to decipher a newly discovered inscription unearthed in an ancient necropolis near Persepolis, an official of the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran, said on Monday. The inscription which dates from the Sassanian period (224-651 CE) was found in Naqsh-e Rostam and is written in Pahlavi language (also known as Middle Persian) which was the official language of the Sassanian Empire.

Tomb of Darius the Great in Naqsh-e Rustam an ancient necropolis located about 12 km northwest of Persepolis, in Fars Province, Iran (Source: Radio Farda).

Naqsh-e Rostam, the site where the inscription was found, was a necropolis and religious center about 12 km northwest of Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (550-300 BCE). However, some of the relics on the cliffs may date as far back as the Pre-Iranian Elamite Period (2700-539 BCE).

Four huge tombs from the Achaemenid era (550-300 BCE), including the tomb of King Darius the Great (550-486 BCE) hewn into the cliff face and a square-shaped building made with stone blocks from the Sassanian which may also have had a significance in burial rites are among the most important relics of the necropolis.

Several inscriptions and reliefs of Sassanian kings including a rock relief showing the Sassanian king Shapur I on horseback, with the Roman Emperor Valerian bowing to him in submission, are among the other significant surviving relics of Naqsh-e Rostam.

Emperor Valerian surrenders to Shapur I (241-272 CE) and Sassanian nobility at Edessa in 260 CE (Source: Kaveh Farrokh, 2005, Elite Sassanian Cavalry).

Despite the huge importance of the ancient necropolis, unlike Persepolis and Pasargadae, the capital of the Achaemenid Empire (550-300 BCE) under Cyrus the Great (559-530 BCE), Iran has not been able to list it as a UNESCO Heritage Site due to the failure to meet the requirements of UNESCO as to measures taken for the preservation of the site and documentation.

Officials say the inscription is being deciphered. But reading Pahlavi language texts is no easy task.

Inscription in Pahlavi from Pāikūlī (Image Source: Shapour Suren-Pahlav). The above Pāikūlī block appears as D3 in the academic publication by Dr. Helmut Humbach and Dr. Prods O. Skjaervo (The Sassanian Inscription of Paikuli: Restored text and Translation. Reichert Verlag, 1983). Note that five of the above lines are intact with the sixth line damaged. ... For more on this Click Here …

An Aramaic-derived alphabet was used for writing in Pahlavi. The script is very difficult to read due to the use of heterograms. The heterograms were words written in Aramaic but read as their Middle Persian equivalent. It is similar to writing eg in English and reading it “for example”.

In addition to the use of heterograms, the variations of the alphabet between the ordinary script used on parchment and the version used in inscriptions make reading Pahlavi inscriptions which are often badly damaged by exposure to the elements even more complex.

In the past couple of decades, the decline of groundwater tables which has resulted in sinking ground has seriously damaged the relics in  Naqsh-e Rostam or put them in danger of further deterioration. Critics of the Islamic Republic say the government does not put enough effort into the preservation of pre-Islamic relics.

Shahr e Sokhta yields Rare 4000 year old Relics

The article “Shahr e Sokhta yields rare 4000 year old relics” was reported in Payvand News on December 28, 2018. Readers are also referred to the articles below (pertaining to Shahr e Sokhta or “Burnt City”) in Kavehfarrokh.com archived in the section entitled “The Pre-Achaemenid Era“:

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Iran’s UNESCO-registered Shahr-e Sokhta has yielded tens of rare relics which date back to over 4000 years ago, as reported by IRNA. Senior archaeologist Seyyed Mansour Seyyed Sajjadi who led the site’s 17th archaeological season, avers as follows:

“A total of 26 burial chambers have been unearthed recently that led to discovery of potteries, beads, small metal objects and a piece of marble torch … The excavated objects date from a time span between 4800 to 4200 years ago … Significant part of our research in Shahr-e Sokhta deals with studies in botanical archeology and anthropology …”

Shahr-e Sokhta, meaning ‘Burnt City’, is located at the junction of Bronze Age trade routes crossing the Iranian plateau. The remains of the mudbrick city represent the emergence of the first complex societies in eastern Iran.

Excavation of tiles at Shahr e Sokhta (Source: Payvand News).

Founded around 3200 BC, it was populated during four main periods up to 1800 BC, during which time there developed several distinct areas within the city: those where monuments were built, and separate quarters for housing, burial and manufacture.

Excavation of artifacts (small jars or vases) at Shahr e Sokhta (Source: Payvand News).

According to UNESCO, diversions in water courses and climate change led to the eventual abandonment of the city in the early second millennium. The structures, burial grounds and large number of significant artefacts unearthed there, and their well-preserved state due to the dry desert climate, make this site a rich source of information regarding the emergence of complex societies and contacts between them in the third millennium BC.

Grave of Female Scythian Warrior Found in Ukraine

The article “Grave of Female Scythian Warrior Found in Ukraine” written by Ingvar Nord was first published in the Ancient Origins venue on September 1, 2018. Kindly note that article fails to mention the Iranian connection of the Amazons as well as the Scythians and Sarmatians/Alans in particular – instead the author makes reference to a vague characterization of these having been “Indo-European-speaking herders” which fails to distinguish between Celtic, Italic, Balto-Slavic, Germanic, Illyrian, Hellenic, Armenian, Dacian, Tocharian, and Indian (Bharat), and Iranian peoples. For the Iranian Iranian identity of the Scythians, Sarmatians and Alans readers are referred to the following sources:

The Amazons were essentially of Iranian stock as these were of the above noted Iranian peoples. Readers are referred to the following sources on the Amazons:

There are also archaeological reports pertaining to excavations of Amazon warrior women in Iran – see for example:

Kindly note that Ingvar Nord’s article has been slightly edited below – also: two images and accompanying captions inserted below do not appear in the original Ancient Origins posting.

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Ukrainian TV Channel, ZIK has reported the discovery of a burial of a female Scythian warrior – who is thought to have been part of the fierce all-female tribe of Amazons mentioned by the Greek epic writers and then the historian Herodotus. The find of a skeleton accompanied by grave goods and weapons associated with this noble fighting class has been found by a group of archaeologists, students and volunteers who conducted an archaeological expedition to Mamai Hill, Ukraine.

Findings at the grave

The burial of a female Scythian warrior is located in the Great Znamyanka, Kam’yansko-Dniprovskyi District, Zaporozhye region of Ukraine. The burial place that has been found is aged around 2400 years. Due to the location, age, and the grave goods that have been found, it has been assessed that this is likely to be the grave of a member of the Amazon warrior tribe , thought to be closely related to the Scythians, that legend claims lived and roamed in in various locations around the region.

A diminutive lekythos, a small jar for keeping aromatic oils and perfumes, was found in the grave (Image: Mamia Gora).

The excavators of the Scythian lady buried in Mamai Hill have also recovered a miniature jar – or lekythos to the Greeks, in which contemporary women of noble origin kept perfumes or aromatic oils. This was one of the indications that the grave was of a high-status woman. Other items found in the burial are exquisite bronze lanterns, bronze arrow heads and two lead spinners. The arrow heads are indicative that the woman was a warrior.

Arrow heads were found by the skeletal remains of the noblewoman (Image:Mamia Gora).

Warrior was Still a Lady

A well-preserved bronze mirror was also found. As well as serving the aesthetic purpose, mirrors also had a certain sacred function for the ancient peoples and were related to the ‘otherworld’ of the afterlife. That is why this item sometimes occurs, in particular in women’s Scythian burials.

Bronze mirror found in the Amazon burial site (Image:Mamia Gora).

The distinct outline of the funeral pit was noticed by archaeologists after the trench was removed by a bulldozer. From that moment on, the more delicate manual excavation and cleaning around the area of the grave took place.

Grave of a female Scythian warrior found in Ukraine (Source: Zik).

It remains for the anthropologists to determine just how old this Amazon was when she died and what was the cause of death. Whether this was a warrior that died in battle, from illness or even natural causes remains to be found out.

Other Amazon Warriors

These are not the first finds of warriors suspected to be Amazons. According to the New York Times , similar graves were found by Russian and American archaeologists among Sarmatian tribes at Pokrovka. The Sarmatians in Herodotus come from the union of Scythians with the Amazons. From the grave goods and other evidence, the first among this race were women warriors. The burials appeared to be associated first with the Sauromatians and then the early Sarmatians. These were Indo-European-speaking herders who lived on the steppes in the sixth to fourth century BC, and fourth to second centuries BC, respectively.

A reconstruction by Cernenko and Gorelik of the north-Iranian Saka or Scythians in battle (Cernenko & Gorelik, 1989, Plate F). The ancient Iranians (those in ancient Persia and the ones in ancient Eastern Europe) often had women warriors and chieftains, a practice not unlike those of the contemporary ancient Celts in ancient Central and Western Europe. What is also notable is the costume of the Iranian female warrior – this type of dress continues to appear in parts of Luristan in Western Iran. 

But the most striking discovery at Pokrovka has been the skeletons of women buried with swords and daggers . One young woman, bow-legged from a riding horseback, wore around her neck and amulet in the form of a leather bag containing a bronze arrowhead. At her right side was an iron dagger; at her left, a quiver holding more than 40 arrows tipped with bronze. As noted by Jeannine Davis-Kimball, a leader of the excavations:

“These women were warriors of some sort … They were not necessarily fighting battles all the time, like the Genghis Khan, but protecting their herds and grazing territory when they had to. If they had been fighting all the time, more of the skeletons would show signs of violent deaths.”

Iranian women from Malayer (near Hamedan in the northwest of Iran) engaged in target practice in the Malayer city limits in the late 1950s.  The association between weapons and women is nothing new in Iran; Roman references for example note of Iranian women armed as regular troops in the armies of the Sassanians (224-651 CE).