A Reappraisal of Shahdad:Cemetery, Pottery and Stone Objects


Assistant Professor, Department of Archaeology, University of Jiroft


Archaeologically, South East of Iran is one of the most important regions of the Near East in the Bronze Age. The site of Shahdad, as one of the major urban centers of Southeastern Iran, plays an important role in the Near Eastern archaeological studies. After half a century of the Shahdad excavations, it is time to have a new look at the Shahdad and its objects in light of our present knowledge from the archeology of southeast Iran. Here is an assessment of the results of Shahdad and especially on graves, pottery and stone objects. The main objectives of this study were to determine the exact position of all graves, their chronology and the relation between graves of different parts of the cemetery. Indeed, the internal chronology of Shahdad should be specified in order to determine the syntax of the various parts of the excavated areas. In addition, to study the regional and cross-regional interactions of Shahdad in the context of the Bronze Age archeology of Southwest Asia. The similarity and harmony between the cultural materials of Shahdad and different parts of the Southwest Asia, from Mesopotamia and Southwest Iran to Central Asia, the Indus valley and the south of the Persian Gulf indicate the existence of a cultural interaction sphere in the west of Asia during the early and middle Bronze Age.
Keywords: Southeastern Iran, Shahdad, Cemetery, Pottery, Stone Objects.
The site of Shahdad is located at the base of an alluvial fan where it was in antiquity surrounded by the Shahdad River and a number of streams flowing east from their origin in the western mountains. In 1968, during a general geographical reconnaissance of the Lut depression, the Early Bronze Age site of Shahdad was identified. Excavations lead by Ali Hakemi of the Archaeological Service of Iran began in the following year and continued until 1978. The work concentered on a necropolis in which 383 graves were cleared including many with spectacular grave goods, including impressive human statuettes, elaborate metal objects such as a bronze standard, numerous stone and ceramic containers and ornamental finds. Hakemi also did some excavations in the east of the site, Operation D, which he identified as an industrial area of the urban center of Shahdad. In 1978, archaeological research program of Shahdad was suspended for a decade and a half. Excavations at Shahdad site resumed under direction of Mr. Kaboli for four seasons in 1990s. The work of Kaboli was concentrated in the residential areas of the site. His work in the northern part of the site uncovered two architectural complexes. As a result of the twelve seasons of archaeological fieldwork at the Shahdad site by Ali Hakimi and Mir-Abedin Kaboli, it is delineated that Shahdad has been a major and important urban center of the Bronze Age on the Iranian plateau. This article reevaluates the results of Shahdad excavations conducted by Hakemi.
Cemetery, Pottery and Stone Objects
As a result of the excavations, a total of 383 graves were uncovered which were labeled from 1 to 383. In the excavation reports of Shahdad, the distribution of graves are not clear enough especially the graves which situated outside of the main trench are not fully documented. We tried to relocate the graves based on the given information in the catalogues to bring to the light the distribution pattern of burials. Two of the burials (39 and 104) were described in the catalogues but they don’t exist on the map of the burial pattern. Two kilns were also labeled as graves 173 and 383 by mistake. Burials 187 and 188, represent 2 graves each on the map. Except the 16 graves which were found from trench B and C, the others are from the cemetery A. In other words, 367 graves were uncovered from the cemetery A. This cemetery also includes several trenches and a number of graves outside the trenches. Trench A, which is known as the main trench of the cemetery A, includes 289 graves. Five small trenches in the north and the east of the trench A cover 62 graves. The distribution of graves in these trenches is mentioned above: 19 in the eastern cemetery, 25 in trench I, 11 in trench II, 4 in trench III, 3 in northern trench or trench IV and finally 16 from the outside of trenches. According to Shahdad excavator, all the burials do not belong to the same period and he believed in a horizontal chronology for trench A graves while he applied a vertical chronology for the trench A burials. He considers the graves of the east of the cemetery A as the oldest ones, which have simple or incised buff wares. He also divided the burials with red wares (the graves of trench A of Cemetery A) into two different periods. These graves are found in two levels. Upper-level graves were found at depth of 10 to 60 cm, and low-level had reached at the depth of 60 cm downward (some graves were also up to 240 cm deep). The authors disagree with the horizontal chronology of cemetery A and also the chronology given based on the depth of the graves.
Comparative analysis on the potteries of Shahdad reveals similarities with other southeastern Iran Bronze Age sites and neighboring areas such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. The study of Shahdad potteries is important for two reasons; the intra-site and ultra-site analyses. The intra-site studies help us to identify the connections between the excavated areas in the site of Shahdad and also the chronology of different excavated parts of this site. Ultra-site studies will reveal the connection and the regional and interregional interactions of this urban center over time. The comparative studies on the potteries of the cemetery and the residential area of Shahdad with the other regions suggest the dating of mid third millennium BC to the early second millennium BC.
About two hundred chlorite objects have so far yielded from Shahdad excavations while only less than half of them have been published and introduced. Chlorite vessels have been found in a wide geographical range from Mesopotamia to the central Asia and Pakistan. Most scholars consider the southeastern Iran as one of the main chlorite production centers during the Bronze Age. Based on the variability in the quality and color of Shahdad chlorite vessels, it can be said that various chlorite mines were used during the Bronze Age in southeastern Iran. Although there has not yet found any chlorite production workshop in Shahdad, but due to the discovery of these vessels in a very large number in Shahdad, as well as their variety in colors and quality, and also the presence of some forms such as compartmented boxes and house models in abundance unlike the other areas, it can be said that at least some of these vessels had been produced in Shahdad.
Overall 112 calcite objects have been found in Shahdad including bowls, goblets, pins, canes and miniature pillars which are not fully and thoroughly described and published. These calcite objects have only uncovered from areas A and B. Most of them are found from area A graves along with red wares.
The revision of Shahdad data yielded some new information. Shahdad had been inhabited for a long period from the middle third millennium BC to the early second millennium BC and it was flourished during the second half of the third millennium BC. By studying cultural materials found from Shahdad area, one can find cultural interactions of Shahdad with other regions. Despite all the cultural interactions with other regions of SW Asia, the local and regional cultural traditions dominated in Shahdad and it has all the characteristics of a city with local cultural character in 3rd millennium BC.


Main Subjects

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