Excavation at Qaleh Tepe:New Evidences on the Early Trans Caucasian Culture in North-Western Iran


Assistance Professor, Shahid Beheshti University


One of the large mounds in the east of Zanjan Province, in northwestern Iran, is Qaleh Tepe. This mound is located on the vicinity of the modern city of Abhar and, due to urban development associated with construction of the city, has been severely damaged so that only a small fragment from its central area has remained.  Qaleh Tepe is situated on a natural low-rise hill on the south bank of Abhar Roud River, the most important river in region. This river flows along the length of an elongated plain, which as a natural corridor forms a route to connect the Northwest to the North Central Plateau of Iran. Because of its geographic location and circumstance, Qale Tepe constitutes an important site investigating the cultural relationship between given regions. Three seasons of excavation have carried out at the site: in 1993 directed by Dr. A. Mirfatah, in 2001 directed by M. Askariyan, and in 2011 directed by this author. In these excavations, remains from Bronze Age, Iron Age, Parthian Period, and Islamic Period were uncovered. The last of these excavations revealed that the first occupation in Qaleh Tepe is related to an Early Bronze Age settlement; some remains from this settlement, including architecture, ceramic and small finds, were found in a 3×4 meters trench, in the northeast of the mound. Due to destruction and the disappearance of upper stratums in the trench, only one phase of the settlement was uncovered upon virgin soil; however, it seems the occupation had been short-term. The architectural remains showing a rectangular room with pies (Chineh) walls and connected clay benches and a floor, which all were frequently plastered with clay. There are traces of black painting on the surface of the walls, the benches, and the floor. The distinctive ceramic related to the settlement is characterized by a grit temper, a surface color that ranges from dark red to gray-black, with gray common, usually burnished, and hand-made. Most of the shreds are simple without any decoration, but some samples have simple geomorphic incised or excised patterns, which in a few cases are filled with a white paste. The most common pattern is an incised zigzag line under the rim or on the shoulder of vessels. These characteristic are well known from the Early Trans-Caucasian Culture II settlements in Iran, as found in Godin Tepe in period IV and lower levels. Early Bronze Age of Yanik Tepe. The small finds are miscellaneous, including three bone awls, one sickle-like bone object, one partway broken bone spindle whorl with incised patterns, one antler haft, four stone beads, two quadruped figurines and one broken bird-like head from fired clay, two unknown fired clay objects in the shape of a trefoil star, and some stone tools. These findings have parallels in other ETC settlements in Iran, but similarities with those settlements located in the Central Zagros and the North Central Plateau are stronger than in the Northwest. On the basis of these similarities, the Early Bronze Age settlement in Qaleh Tepe is pertains to the ETC IIA and therefore can be dated to the first half of the 3rd millennium B.C. On the other hand, the situation of Qaleh Tepe in the eastern part of the natural corridor connecting the Northwest to the North Central Plateau reveals the route of extension of the Early Trans-Caucasian Culture to the East, as well as to the eastern Zagros.


Main Subjects

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