عنوان مقاله [English]
Sefid Chah Historical Cemetery is one of the largest and oldest cemeteries of the Islamic era, whose oldest tombs date back to the early Islamic centuries. Sefid Chah village is in the Yanehsar section of Behshahr city in Mazandaran province. This study aims to sondage and set the limit of this area, analyze the tombstone motifs, and compare it with other similar cemeteries in other parts of Iran. One of the questions of this research is the main reason for the burial sequence during different periods in this cemetery? Moreover, what was the reason for the importance of this cemetery for the people of this region? The present research hypothesis in answer to this question is that due to its mountainous and impassable Yaneh Sar, this region has been a haven and refuge for the opponents of the Bani Umayyad and Bani Abbas governments since the beginning of Islam. Therefore, this region is the burial place of many shrines. Also, the people from the distant past believe that due to this region’s high lime and soil type, their corpses decompose late and last longer, and for this reason, it sanctified from the distant past. In this research, using sondage, surface survey study, and objective observations, have been determined to set the limit of cemetery and analysis of the tombstones of this historic cemetery. The results show that most of the tombstones in this cemetery include Islamic, geometric, and symbolic motifs. Its monuments are very similar to the tombstones of Darul Salam Cemetery in Shiraz and Nahar Khoran Cemetery in Gorgan. Due to no discovery of cultural materials, this area has been used only as a cemetery since the early Islamic centuries.
Keywords: Altar Tombs, Coffin Tombs, Petroglyph, Sefid Chah, Symbolic Motifs.
Sefid Chah cemetery is the most prominent Islamic cemetery in Iran, which has many graves that date back to the early centuries of Islam and almost 1200 years ago. However, most of these graves either have been destroyed, or their tombstones damaged severely. Sefid Chah Cemetery consists of four parts, the most critical of which is related to the central region. The Central Cemetery is the largest and the oldest tombstone discovered in this part. Most parts of the main cemetery belong to the year 830 AH, the Timurid period. According to the tombstone of the eighth and ninth centuries AH, these graves belonged to Sadat Mir Emadi, Sadat Marashi, Rooz Afzooni, and other local kings in this region (Vafaei, 1381: 11). Historical records show that the area of Hezar Jerib has been significant since the Achaemenid period because the Mards and Tapurs, who were the first inhabitants of northern Iran, especially the Tabarestan region, were The local governor of this region in the Achaemenid period. During the Parthian period, the land of Tabarestan and Gorgan, especially the mountainous region of hezar jerib, was significant due to its proximity to the second Parthian capital (Sad darvazeh city- present-day Damghan) (Asgari, 1350: 120-118). The most important ruling dynasty of Hezar jerib in the Islamic period was the Bavandian or Al-Bavand dynasty, which ruled in Tabarestan from 94 BH until 750 AH. The main issue of this research is finding out that in the early centuries of Islam, the Sefid Chah region was the seat of the rulers of Hezar jerib or was used only as a cemetery. The necessity and lack of knowledge in this research are very little research done concerning Sefid Chah cemetery. This cemetery is the most prominent Islamic cemetery in Iran, which is very important in terms of the type and variety of graffiti designs. The tombstones of Sefid Chah are in the chest and altar form with masterpieces of various and unique designs, which originate from nature, the simple and unpretentious life of the people of this land.
Analysis of Tombstone Motifs in Sefid Chah Historical Cemetery
Tombstones in every region and every country were related to the architecture and culture of that region. For example, tombstones found during the Islamic period in Spain and Africa have crescent-shaped horseshoe arches, which were specific to the architecture of these regions. Horseshoe arches are found in many architectural monuments discovered in Spain and Africa, including palaces and mosques. In the Islamic world, tombstones have various shapes, representing each region’s architecture. In Sefid Chah cemetery, the tombstones are mostly altar and chest-shaped, both of which have an architectural background in Iran (author). Due to the high rainfall in this area, most houses have gabled roofs. The alter motif is A design belonging to Mithraism engraved on tombstones after Islam from the fourth century AH onwards (Razi, 1371: 103-90). The altar tombs of Sefid Chah cemetery, which constitute the maximum number of tombstones in this region, have been taken from Iranian architectural monuments. An altar is a sanctuary considered a window to God and the truth of existence before and after Islam. So, carving its image on tombstones has not been irrelevant (Author). The issue that distinguishes this cemetery from other Islamic cemeteries in different parts of Iran is the particular designs. However, Sefid Chah Cemetery is the only cemetery of the Islamic period with the most abstract plant motifs, geometric, symbolic motifs, altar motifs, and no human motif obtained from this area, which is unique in this regard. Another issue is the principle of symmetry between geometric and plant motifs, which is very significant.
The architecture and culture have influenced tombstones in every region and every country in that region. For example, tombstones found in Islamic Age in Spain and Africa have horseshoe crescent arches which were the architectural tradition of these regions. Because been found many horseshoe arches in Spain and Africa, in the Islamic world, tombstones have various shapes that are the architectural tradition in these regions. In Sefid Chah cemetery, tombstones are mostly altar and box-shaped, both of which have an architectural background in Iran. The more tombstones in Sefid Chah cemetery are altar tombstones. Among other cemeteries in Islamic Age similar to the Sefid Chah can be mentioned to Darolsalam cemetery in Shiraz, Onar cemetery in Ardabil, Eile Gouran cemetery in west Islamabad, and Nahar Khoran cemetery in Gorgan.
Based on seven boreholes excavated to set the cemetery’s limit, this area’s soil texture is very rocky and full of lime. In the past, the conditions of this soil were very unfavorable for agriculture. For this reason, artifacts representing human settlements have not have found. So, according to the excavation made around this cemetery, due to the religious monument (Imamzadeh seh tan), this area was used only as a cemetery from the early Islamic centuries. According to this cemetery’s historical background, since the Timurid period, this cemetery has expanded considerably. Another critical point shows that Sefid Chah Cemetery is the only cemetery from the early Islamic centuries to the present century because the people around this area believe that because the soil of this area has much lime, their corpses rot late. They bury their dead here due to the sanctity of this place, which caused the cemetery’s expansion. Therefore, today the cemetery is larger than the residential part of the village. Due to the uncontrolled growth of the cemetery and land scarcity, people bury their dead in old graves, which has caused many old tombstones to be broken and destroyed.