This article was posted in the CAIS (Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies) venue hosted by Shapour Suren-Pahlav. The article has been slightly edited from its original version posted by CAIS on April 18, 2008.
Iran’s Academy of Arts is slated to hosted the International Jiroft Confab which discussed the early Bronze Age civilization of the Greater Sistan, as reported Iran’s Fars News agency o2008.
Researchers from Iran and other countries presented their historical and archeological findings about the Mesopotamia and Jiroft civilisations during the four-day event.
They also discussed the latest findings about the Halil Roud area, which has yielded vital information about the ancient site.
Archaeological artifacts discovered in Iran’s Sistan va Baluchestan and Kerman Provinces suggest that Jiroft civilisation may date back to the 26th century BCE.
Archaeologists believe the importance of understanding the civilisation could be as much as that of Mesopotamia.
The international confab was held on May 5, 2008 in the Iranian cities of Tehran and Jiroft.
The ancient Jiroft site situated between the Elamite civilisation to the west and the Indus Valley civilisation to the east.
Research into Jiroft civilisation is a relatively recent and ongoing multinational archaeological project that is uncovering a previously unknown “culture” in a series of newly discovered sites in Iran’s Sistan and Kerman Provinces, notably Konar Sandal near Jiroft in the Halil River area.
At least twelve sites are now under excavation in the area, the oldest thought to be more than 7,000 years old. The most significant of these sites are Shahr-e Sokhta (Burnt City), Tappeh Bampur, Espiedej, Shahdad, Iblis, and Tappeh Yahya. Some are in the neighbouring Sistan va Baluchestan province, once part of the Greater Sistan.
Many archaeologists believe that the Jiroft civilisation was as important as Sumer, while Majidzadeh believes the findings show that the Jiroft civilisation predates Sumerian civilisation, which is the world’s oldest known civilisation.
The recent accidental discoveries have led to a surge in illegal excavations and looting, mainly of ancient tombs. The number of smuggled artefacts discovered became so noticeable that police forces had to be dispatched to try stop the looting. Interpol has also been cooperating on stopping the trade sourcing from the area.
The recent findings that have uncovered an “independent, Bronze Age, civilisation with its own architecture and language” have led professor Yousef Majidzadeh, head of the archaeological excavation team in Jiroft, to speculate them to be the remains of the lost Aratta Kingdom, though others disagree.
Other conjectures eg. Daniel Potts, Piotr Steinkeller have connected the site with the obscure city-state of Marhashi, that apparently lay to the east of the Elam proper. But what is certain is that this kingdom had a large pottery industry, was a transit hub for trade merchants, and had active interactions with the Elamites and Mesopotamia.