One of the most interesting ancient sites at Khuzestan is the virtually forgotten city of Dastova. This ancient city is situated approximately 2 kilometers to the south of Shushtar in the province of Khuzestan along the Dariyoon stream.
The site has witnessed human construction activities since at least the Elamite period (3400-550 BC). One recent study undertaken in late 2004-mid 2005 was led by Dr. Mehdi Rahbar which investigated burial practices at the site dated to the Parthian era (250 BC-224 AD). A number of these findings were reported by the Payvand News of Iran (citing from original reports by the Cultural heritage News of Iran or CHN) in April 25, 2005. The Payvand News/CHN reports the following:
“Social class segregated even the dead of the ancient city of Dastova, near Shushtar: the rich were buried along their precious objects in beautiful caskets and the poor in dingy conditions somewhere far away from the rich.”
A skeleton at Dastova. The inhabitants of Dastova retained their social status even in the grave. The more affluent dead are seen with superior burial regalia and caskets in contrast to the more “humble” members of Dastovian society. The 2005 archaeological expeditions reveal that the rich and the poor were buried in different graveyards.
Dr. Mehdi Rahbar who led the 2005 expedition, noted that:
“…social class played an important role in the city formation, as much as separating the rich and poor even when dead and buried…“
Some sources suggest that construction at Dastova city during the Parthian era was mainly undertaken by a certain “Shilhak Inshushinak“.
A Parthian pillar in human form at the Shush Museum in Khuzestan, Iran.
More recent archaeological excavations at Dastova can be dated to late 2006 which led to the discovery of a raised platform of brocks and a large structure attributed to the Elamite era. Research continues at this site by a team of students who continue excavation work. Unfortunately, parts of that site have been destroyed by local farmers working on irrigation projects.
There is a general consensus among archaeologists that the Dastova structures may have been intended to accommodate religious ceremonies or possibly sacrificial rites. As noted by Professor Ali Heidari, an archaeologist at Azad University in the city of Shushtar:
“Regarding the size of the platform, it could not have been the base of a pillar or the pier of a wall. Most possibly, the place was used during religious rituals. 30 by 30 by 70 centimeter bricks and stucco were used in its construction…Since ordinary people used raw adobe to build their houses, the high quality bricks and materials which were used in the construction of this complex indicate that it must have belonged to people with high social classes. Nevertheless, more studies are still needed for clarifying the case.”
In practice, the real purpose of the structure remains conjectural. Professor Heidari notes:
“Our information about this historical site is not comprehensive, thus making us unable to carry out excavations in a specific area. We can only work on those hills which have not been leveled to the ground yet“.
The Elamites were to be eventually absorbed by the Indo-European Iranic arrivals, notably the ancient Persians who settled in the region. The Elamite language was respected by the Persians as indicated by archaeological discoveries revealing the existence of the Elamite language during the Achaemenid era.
An ancient casket at Shush Museum in Iran’s Khuzestan province.
Interestingly, Dastova continued to flourish long after the fall of Achaemenid Persia to the Greek invasions of Alexander, and their Seleucid successors. As noted by Professor Heidari:
“The inhabitants of Dastova city enjoyed a strong economy. They were mostly engaged in trade relations in 45 AD, and thus imposed a great influence on the economy and business of the region…”
By the early first century AD, the Iranian Parthian dynasty was ruling Iran having displaced the Seleucids from Iran and defeated the Roman invasions of Marcus Lucinius Crassus in 54 BC and Marc Antony in 37 BC.
By the early Islamic era, Dastova was gradually abandoned. The author of the text “Al Ansab” has cited Dastova as having been “A city in Khuzestan“. The same source mentions Dastova as the location from which its famed textiles came from.