عنوان مقاله [English]
Our information about Epipaleolithic and Neolithic period of the central Zagros has still mostly been limited to those fieldworks undertaken in the 1960-70 and that most of recent investigations in the region, specifically in Kermanshah, have not yet been fully published. Moreover, spatial distributions of the sites and their natural settings as well as their settlement patterns in the intermountain plains of the central Zagros are not well-known. This highlights significance and publication of any associated fieldwork in the region. Employing a descriptive-analytical approach, this article presents preliminary results of a recent pedestrian survey of the Epipaleolithic and Neolithic sites in the Razavar valley to the north of Kermanshah. The survey was undertaken as a part of a Joint Iranian-Danish Project entitled “Tracking Cultural and Environmental Change: Epipaleolithic and Neolithic in Central Zagros”. In this regard, the survey was concentrated on Pleistocene traces of the Razavar stream, some mountainous barren lands, rocky slopes, southern flanks of the valley, and agricultural lands above the old terraces. As a result, a total of 6 Neolithic sites were identified. Of these, the most spectacular one is Tappeh Salar Abad which sat on top of an old terrace of the stream and with a roughly 7m of deposit contains rich in stone artifacts, oysters, snails, charcoal, and ash. Natural setting, presence of thick archeological deposits, size, and the topography of the site all indicate that Salar Abad should have been an important settlement, similar to Sheikhi Abad in the nearby valley. Generally speaking, it seems that such key early Neolithic sites had commonly stablished in the niches of the intermountain valleys and plains Ganj Dareh, Sheikhi Abad, Ghazanchi, Chia Jani, and recently Salar Abad. Late Neolithic materials were also found in the valley which are reminiscent of the so-called Sarab and Siabid traditions and thereby show a regional cultural homogeneity.
Keywords: Neolithic, Central Zagros, Kermanshah, Razravar Valley, Salar Abad.
The Central Zagros, which covers parts of western Iran including provinces of Kermanshah, Ilam, Lorestan, and partially Hamedan, is of great importance in the Middle Eastern archeological, particularly prehistoric, studies. It is known as one of the early centers of the initial domestication during Neolithic period (Matthews et al. 2010; Darabi 2015). The pioneering research by Birdwood and his students in the 1960s (Braidwood et al. 1961; Hole et al., 1969; Flannery 1969) formed the basis of explanatory models of Neolithisation in Southwest Asia. Since then, much research has been done in the Levant and Turkey that has marginalized the role of the eastern Fertile Crescent, including the Central Zagros (Zeder 2011).
Due to a small number of oriented studies the distribution of the Epi-Paleolithic and Neolithic sites is unbalanced in the central Zagros in the way that large parts of the region are still faced with a lack of the remains of these periods. It is not even possible to speak clearly about the settlement patterns of this this time span in the region. The present research, which was conducted in July and August 2018 by a team of Iranian and Danish archaeologists, aimed to create a more accurate picture of the past landscape of the Razavar Valley and to present new evidence dated to late Pleistocene and early Holocene period for further research. Our initial focus was on a systematic survey to create a basic and conductive database. This paved the ground for better modeling the cultural and natural processes that had shaped the distribution of sites and also for purposeful investigating other specific areas of the Central Zagros in the future. Our aims were (a) to investigate the function of settlements and sites in the Epipaleolithic and Neolithic periods, (b) to recognize the settlement patterns of the time and their relationships with the geomorphology and geography of the region, (c) to identify the characteristics of cultural materials of Neolithic sites and (d) to find out regional connections and possible impacts of other cultural and geographical areas.
Research method, sampling strategy and the identified sites: As noted above, the survey of the Razavar valley was carried out with the main aim of identifying the Epipaleolithic and Neolithic sites to understand their settlement patterns and also to conduct further systematic studies in the future. In this regard, due to the variable environmental capability of the valley to attract the societies, a combination of intensive pedestrian survey in more favorable areas and also a less accurate method by using car in flooded areas or new alluvial fans was employed. Field recording was performed using two tablets and the data recording of each transect was based on a standard form (Mortimer computer program). Portable GPS devices were used to track the movements of each team member throughout the day, providing a precise record of which paths were walked and a means of verifying that transect intervals were maintained. The analysis of the findings including primary and secondary classification of the stone tools and photography and drawing of the samples was during the field season.
As a result, six Neolithic sites were identified. They are located in different locations with variable distance from water sources? And show different amount of surface materials. This could indicate their different functions. The sites can be classified into mounds and open air sites. However, the sites labeled Tappeh Qeysavand, Tappeh Salar Abad, smaller mound of Salar Abad (Tappeh Kouchak Salar Abad), 50 meters to the north of the early Neolithic site of Salar Abad, Ban Ghawrestan, Tappeh Gholam1 and Gholam2. The these Neolithic sites are all close to water sources and, due to the topography of the valley, are located inside the most fertile agricultural lands of the valley floor. Moreover, the narrow width of the valley provided the sites with an easy access to the surrounding mountainous areas. As seen in case of other Neolithic settlements in the central Zagros, the largest site of the valley (Salar Abad) has a maximum area of one hectare while others suggest smaller dimensions. With regard to the late Neolithic, presence of ceramics similar to Sarab and Siahbid styles in this valley shows a clear incorporation into wider cultural traditions of the region.
The entire valley floor which lies between 1330-1650 meters above sea level and in some limited cases higher altitude as well as all accessible locations was surveyed. It’s noteworthy that the area had been surveyed in 2007 which only one early Neolithic site (called Tappeh Qeysavand 5 and previously tested by Aurel Stein in the 1930s) was reported (Rezvani & Roustaei 2007; see: Stein, 1940: 413). Due to the intense development of agricultural lands, the rocky foothills and the existence of large Holocene terraces in parts of the valley floor, only 6 Neolithic sites were located, of which Tappeh Salar Abad is the most important one. Also findings of the late Neolithic period in this area indicate the prevalence of Sarab and Siahbid ceramic traditions in this valley showing a clear engagement to the cultural interactions of the central Zagros during the 7-6th millennia BC. Investigation and identification of a number of caves and rock shelters in the northern slopes of the southern heights of the valley were inconclusive as they all have visible bed rock and did not contain any archeological remains. The lack of any reliable sites from the Epi-Paleolithic period is somehow consistent with other areas of the Central Zagros where the number of sites of this period is reportedly rare.