Iran farming-nbcnews-2

Nidhi Subbaraman: Early humans in Iran were growing wheat 12,000 years ago

The article below by Nidhi Subbaraman first appeared in NBC News on July 4th 2013.


Among stone grinding tools, clay figures shaped like humans and animals and carved bone artifacts, archaeologists have harvested ancient grains from an early human settlement that are preserved 12,000 years. The finds suggest that generations of communities were earnestly experimenting with plant cultivation since the last Ice Age, and that agriculture, which laid the foundations for later civilizations, emerged concurrently in a number of locations that archaeologists recognize as the “Fertile Crescent” of the near east.

Iran farming-nbcnews-2Wild barley was found in the sediments of Chogha Golan (Source: NBC News).

Since the early 1960s, when the first signs of farming were discovered in parts of Israel, archeologists have uncovered scores of ancient farming communities in Turkey, Syria, Iraq dating a few thousand years older than the first evidence of farming found in Mexico and China. Whether they shared their ideas about farming or came to them independently has remained an open question.

Now, a detailed history of plant cultivation gleaned from sediments at the Chogha Golan site in Iran suggest that the eastern section of the Fertile Crescent was as active as better known sites in the west. A group of scientists present their findings of ancient lentils, wheat, barley and pea grass in the Thursday issue of Science.

The samples themselves aren’t remarkable to look at. “It’s very dried and cracked and looks like something you want to brush off your table unless you know it’s priceless remains,” Melinda Zeder, an archaeozoologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, who studies ancient domestication practices, told NBC News. “To look at them they’re not much but the stories that they tell are remarkable.”

Iran farming-nbcnews-3Clay figurines shaped like people and animals were unearthed found at Chogha Golan (Source: NBC News).

Scientists have already found a rich collection of stone tools, clay figurines in the shapes of people and animals, and carved bone artifacts. But the researchers at this site were struck by the abundance of plant material that they found with it.

Usually, “If you get a seed or two you’d be happy,” Nicholas Conard, an archaeologist at the University of Tubingen in Germany, and one member of the research team told NBC News. But at Chogha Golan, “With one bucket we’d get a handful of material,” he said. The researchers analyzed 21,500 plant samples collected from a small section of the site, which in some sections is 8 meters deep.

The new site also suggests why farming may have evolved. One line of reasoning suggests that it arose when early humans wanted to feed larger groups — when just hunting and gathering wouldn’t do.

Iran farming-nbcnews-4The site in the Zagros Mountains in Iran contained 8 meters worth of archaeological layers (Source: NBC News).

But Zeder believes the timing of the evidence from this site — in a warming phase after the Pleistocene ice age — shows “a whole other kind of image.” To her, it suggests that cultivation arose during a period of abundance and bounty, and early people took this opportunity to mess around with wild varieties of barley, wheat, lentils and pea grass.

At about the same time, in pockets of the populated world, human communities were beginning to perform burial rituals and start feasting, Zeder said. “All of this is directed at sustaining communities.”

Though earliest humans weren’t planning for it, agriculture set them on the path to a more settled, a more social life, and eventually more innovative life.

Iran farming-nbcnews-1Stone tools and clay artifacts were collected from a site in the Zagros Mountains in Iran, where humans were cultivating plants 12,000 years ago (Source: NBC News).

You do not get the cooperation and the time to make important new kinds of discoveries that require a more sedentary, more village kind of setting,” Hendrik Bruins, a researcher at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev told NBC News. “I think the article is an important new piece of information from the Eastern part of the near east.”

Plant samples were collected by floating small amounts of soil and burnt residue from the dig sites in water. The wheatey remnants of grains and cereals rise to the surface from which they can be scooped up.

Whether it’s a single person who had one “Aha moment,” or whether it evolved “democratically across the entire region,” Zeder said, “Being able to parse that out gives us a better idea of human history, of how people have faced challenges in the past, and how we as a species have got where we got today.”

Book Nik Spatari

Italian AGON Journal article: Ties of Greco-Roman civilization with ancient Iran

The AGON academic Journal of Italy (Università degli Studi di Messina; chief editors: Professor Massimo Lagana & Professor Salvatore Albanese) has published an article by Kaveh Farrokh which examines historical ties between Greco-Roman civilization and ancient Iran. The article can be downloaded in full from below:

Farrokh, K. (2016). 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.

The article in AGON (Rivista Internazionale di Studi Culturali) begins as thus:

Apharban, the Persian ambassador representing Sassanian king Narses (r. 293-302 CE) during negotiations with the Roman general Galerius1 in the aftermath of his victory over Sassanian forces in 291-293 CE stated the following to his Roman hosts:

It is clear to all mankind that the Roman and Persian empires are like two lights, and like (two) eyes, the brilliance of one should make the other more beautiful and not continuously rage for their mutual destruction” [Peter the Patrician, fragment 13; translation made by Canepa (2010, p. 133)].

The article examines the process and history of the long-standing relations between the Greco-Roman and ancient Iranian civilizations, notably during the during the Achaemenid (559 BCE-333 BCE), Parthian (250 BCE-224 CE) and Sassanian dynasties (224-651 CE). Works of researchers such as Professor Nik Spatari, whose works examining East-West ties in the context of ancient Calabria in southern Italy are also cited:


Professor Nik Sparati (Left) and his book “L’ enigma delle arti Asittite della Calabria Ultra-Mediterranea” (Published by: MuSaBa: Santa Barbera Art Foundation & Iiriti Editore, 2002). Note that the book jacket features the superimposed images of Darius the Great and Persephone (also known as Kore), the Mediterranean Goddess: Spatari has discovered Achaemenid-Persian artistic influences upon the Persephone (Kore) image. Among other ancient Iran-Italy ties, Spatari and his team have also discovered strong parallels between Sassanian architecture and the Basilica di Massenzio.

Architecture is one of the areas examined in detail from the time of the Achaemenids to the end of the Sassanian era. As noted by Professors Curatola and Scarcia a common theory postulates that:

“…domed spaces in Christian buildings in Europe derive from the Armenian model, which, in turn, comes from Sassanian Persia: This can be attributed to geographic proximity and also to the fact that for long periods Armenia was contained within Eranshahr. “ (Curatola & Scarcia, 2007, p. 92).


The Sarvistan palace built in the 300s AD [1], floor plan of Sarvistan by Nik Spatari [2] reconstruction of Sarvistan by Oscar Reuther, “Sasanian Architecture,” in Survey of Persian Art, Figure 152). [3] the Basilica di S. Marco in Veneziana built in the time period of 1100-1300 AD [4] and floor plan of the Basilica di S. Marco (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.

Sassanian Iran was to leave a profound legacy on Romano-Byzantine architecture during its tenure in 224-651 CE. As noted in the paper however, architectural influences from ancient Iran can be traced back to the earlier Parthian and Achaemenid eras.

Farrokh Lecture-UBC-Tirgan-YSU

A lecture slide used in instruction for Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division (this was also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006, the annual Tirgan event at Toronto (June, 2013) and at Yerevan State University’s Iranian Studies Department (November, 2013) (Slide is Copyright of University of British Columbia and Kaveh Farrokh). The above slide discusses the parallels discovered by Professor Nik Spatari with respect to the “tri-chamber” design at Firuzabad and the Basilica di Massenzio. The floor plan of Ardashir’s palace and the “tri-chamber” (note yellow arrows) have been outlined by the Calabria research teams who noted of the parallels with the Basilica in Rome.

The ties of the Greco-Romans and ancient Iran are examined in a variety of other contexts besides architecture, notably the arts (Darius-Persephone motif, silverware, motifs such the Senmurv, etc.) and technology (communications, Qanat aqueducts, windmills, etc.).


An example of technology exchanges: an old water wheel in Tehran (Image: Farda News) [at Left]; reconstructed water wheel based on the ancient Persian model from Cordoba, Spain (Image: Graham Beards in Public Domain). The Greco-Roman and ancient Iranian civilizations often engaged in the exchange of technologies in antiquity. The Persian water wheel spread from ancient Iran to Rome (which introduced this technology into Europe) as well as China in antiquity (Kurz, 1985, p.563)

The culinary arts (transmission of cooking styles, exchange of nuts, fruits, etc. ) are also examined. The pistachio plant for example, was first located in the Khorasan and Soghd regions; these were first cultivated in West Khorasan and were unknown by other peoples until the Achaemenid era.


The Achaemenids were the first to commercially grow the pistachio in ancient Iran and export this to neighboring countries more than 2500 years ago (Image: Public Domain). By the Sassanian Era the pistachio was considered a delicatessen (mostly used in baking and in cookies). Pahlavi texts dating to the Sassanian era mention the Gorgani pistachio as especially famous at the time. The Roman world not only adopted the pistachio (already known by Greco-Iranian contacts) and spread this to the European peoples.


Farrokh article in New Book by Palgrave-Macmillan: “The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism”

Palgrave-Macmillan Publications in London and New York, which is a major international academic venue for scholarly works, has just published a seminal book entitled:

The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism, London & New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015

The book has been edited by Edited by Dr. Immanuel Ness, Dr. Zak Cope with the Senior Editorial Advising having been provided by Dr. Saër Maty Bâ.


Front cover of the 2015 text “The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism, London & New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015“. As noted in the Palgrave-Macmillan webpage: The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism is a brand new, two-volume publication which presents theoretical explanations and historical accounts of imperialism and anti-imperialism from the 16th Century to the present day. […] this work contains over 170 entries written by an international team of experts and scholars in the field of imperialism and anti-imperialism. This exciting title is the most comprehensive scholarly work of its kind to provide in-depth studies on imperialism’s roots, goals, tactics, influence, and outcomes. It also covers anti-imperialism, including the rich and ongoing tradition of its theories and practices.”

The textbook has also published an article by Kaveh Farrokh:

Farrokh, K. (2015). Pan-Arabism and Iran. In “The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism” (Immanuel Ness & Zak Cope, Eds., Saër Maty Bâ, Editorial Advisor), Palgrave-Macmillan, pp.915-923.


Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa (at left) and Sir Charles Belgrave (right) (Picture Source: Flicker) who was England’s Government Adviser to Bahrain. It was Belgrave who first pioneered the concept of changing the name of the Persian Gulf. The motives for such revisionist schemes are not clear, but it is possible that Belgrave was calculating that such actions would create frictions between the Iranians and the Arabs.


A statue of Arabo-Islamic historian, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) in Tunisia. Ibn Khaldun emphasized the crucial role of the Iranians in promoting learning, sciences, arts, architecture, and medicine in Islamic civilization.  It was pan-Arabists such as Sami Shawkat who insisted that history books such as those by Ibn Khaldun be destroyed or re-written to remove all references of Iranian contributions to Islamic civilization. The former Baathist regime in Iraq promoted such policies and even worked alongside numerous lobbies to promote historical revisionism at the international level.

A direct quote from Ibn Khaldun’s work, The Muqaddimah, states the following:

“…It is a remarkable fact that, with few exceptions, most Muslim scholars…in the intellectual sciences have been non-Arabs…thus the founders of grammar were Sibawaih and after him, al-Farisi and Az-Zajjaj. All of them were of Persian descent…they invented rules of (Arabic) grammar…great jurists were Persians… only the Persians engaged in the task of preserving knowledge and writing systematic scholarly works. Thus the truth of the statement of the prophet becomes apparent, ‘If learning were suspended in the highest parts of heaven the Persians would attain it”…The intellectual sciences were also the preserve of the Persians, left alone by the Arabs, who did not cultivate them…as was the case with all crafts…This situation continued in the cities as long as the Persians and Persian countries, Iraq, Khorasan and Transoxiana (modern Central Asia), retained their sedentary culture.” [The Muqaddimah Translated by F. Rosenthal (III, pp. 311-15, 271-4 [Arabic]; R.N. Frye (p.91)].

1-Andika-Karamian and Astaraki

Parthian site in Andika, Khuzestan discovered by Karamian Archaeological Team was informed on Friday November 27, 2015 of the discovery of a new Parthian site in Khuzestan in 2013 by the archaeological expedition of Dr. Gholamreza Karamian (Azad University, Tehran, Iran – Central Branch; University of Warsaw, Poland) and his graduate student Farzad Astaraki. Note that Dr. Karamian had also uncovered the Sassanian site of Ramavand in 2013.

The Parthian relief was discovered in the western part of Andika located in the northern section of Masjid Suleyman, Khuzestan Province in Iran. The Andika relief shows a Parthian man (most likely a warrior and/or Azat nobleman) leaning on his left hand and holding a branch of plan (see below).

1-Andika-Karamian and AstarakiThe Parthian relief at Andika discovered by Dr. Gholamreza Karamian and Farzad Astaraki. The specific location of this relief is in the northern village of Darvish Ahmad that is 50 kilometers from western Andika in Khuzestan Province. The GPS position of the site is: N 32 23 32/3 and E 49 30 21/5. The dimensions of the Andika relief are 2 meters (length) by 1.20 meters (width) (Courtesy of Dr. Gholamreza Karamian and Farzad Astaraki). 

As noted by Dr. Karamian to on November 27, 2015:

There are other Parthian sites in Khuzestan that are similar to the one we uncovered in Andika. The most similar motif is Block II in Tang e Sarvak, an archaeological site in eastern Khuzestan province,  located in the mountainous area, approximately 50 km north of Behbahan. The other Parthian site is located near Masjid Suleiman and was discovered by the Vanden Berghe team in 1965.”

2-Andika-Sketch-KaramianSketch by Dr. Gholareza Karamian of the Parthian relief at Andika (Courtesy of Dr. Gholamreza Karamian).

The full report for these findings will be published in academic journal format for publication in 2016.


University of Cambridge: The 11th Islamic Manuscript Conference (2016)

The following academic event news has been forwarded by Armin Yavari to



Hosted by the University of Cambridge, UK, 13–15 September 2016

***CFP Deadline: 23 November 2015***

Sufis have written litanies, panegyrics, didactic works in verse and prose, hagiographies, discourses, exegetical works, and metaphysical treatises made into manuscripts both humble and lavish. Sufi lodges have housed libraries and manuscript ateliers, and Sufi networks have disseminated manuscripts across the Muslim World. This conference seeks to present current international research trends on the relationship between Sufism and Islamic manuscript culture and generate discussion and study in this field. Possible topics for papers include but are not limited to:

Apotropaic uses of Sufi and non-Sufi manuscripts by Sufis
The arts of the book and Sufi artists and patrons
Bibliophilia and bibliophobia in Sufism
Cataloguing manuscripts on Sufism
Collection care programmes for collections of Sufi manuscripts
Conservation treatments on Sufi manuscripts
Diagrams and illustrations in manuscripts on Sufism
Digital humanities and the study of manuscripts on Sufism
The effects of recent conflicts in the Muslim World on collections of Sufi manuscripts
The history of Sufi libraries
Paratexts in manuscripts on Sufism
Preparing printed and digital editions of manuscripts on Sufism
The production of manuscripts by Sufi lodge ateliers
Publication programmes or series of editions or facsimiles of manuscripts on Sufism
Dissemination of texts and manuscripts through Sufi networks
The use of manuscripts in Sufi rituals

This call for papers is open to members and non-members of the Association. The languages of the Conference will be Arabic and English, and submissions will be accepted in both languages. The duration of each conference paper will be 20 minutes, followed by ten minutes of questions and answers. The Association will pay for round-trip economy-class travel to Cambridge, accommodation, and meals for individuals whose papers are accepted. All abstracts will be peer-reviewed.

The deadline for submission of abstracts is 10.00 GMT on Monday, 23 November 2015. For further guidance, see our website.

The Islamic Manuscript Association is an international non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting Islamic manuscript collections and supporting those who work with them. Our conferences have been held at the University of Cambridge every summer since 2005 and themes have included topics as diverse as ‘Manuscripts and Conflict’ (2014), ‘The Science of Manuscripts’ (2012), ‘Central Asian Islamic Manuscripts’ (2010), ‘West African Islamic Manuscripts’ (2008), and ‘Conservation, Cataloguing, Accessibility, Copyright and Digitisation’ (2005).

For the call for papers in full, see our website:

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation and the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge.

Armin Yavari
Assistant Director
The Islamic Manuscript Association
℅ 33 Trumpington Street
Cambridge CB2 1QY
United Kingdom
T: +44 (0)1223 303 177
F: +44 (0)1223 302 218