Tag Archives: Archaeology

Post-Achaemenid Legacy of the Persian Gulf Hinterland

Askari Chaverdi, Alireza . 2017. Post-Achaemenid legacy of the Persian Gulf hinterland: Systematic survey of surface remains from Tomb-e Bot, Fars, Iran. Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia 23(1). 127–150.

The archaeological site of Tomb-e Bot, located in the Mohr County of southern Fars Province, is a major settlement of Arsacid and Sasanid date. The site was selected for detailed investigation from among the 76 sites recorded by the general survey of southern Fars region to provide answers to outstanding questions on ancient Iran, in particular during the period from the Achaemenids to the Sasanids. The survey team systematically collected all visible architectural remains, including capitals with volutes and addorsed animal protomes as well as surface ceramics and attempted to draw and register the whole assemblage of finds. Documenting and analyzing the assemblage revealed that centuries after the Achaemenid demise the Persepolis artistic legacy had run on at the site in religious beliefs and among the local groups, from the Seleucid and Arsacid periods up to the rise of the Sasanids.

The Elamite World

Álvarez-Mon, Javier, Gian Pietro Basello & Yasmina Wicks (eds.). 2018. The Elamite World (Routledge Worlds). London: Routledge.

Amongst the civilizations to participate in the dynamic processes of contact and interchange that gave rise to complex societies in the ancient Near East, Elam has remained one of the most obscure, at times languishing in the background of scholarly inquiry. In recent years, however, an increasing body of academic publications have suggested that the legacy of Elam was more considerable and long-lasting than previously estimated.

The Elamite World assembles a group of forty international scholars to contribute their expertise to the production of a solid, lavishly illustrated, English language treatment of Elamite civilization, covering topics such as its physical setting, historical development, languages and people, material culture, art, science, religion and society. Also treated are the legacy of Elam in the Persian empire and its presence in the modern world.

This comprehensive and ambitious survey seeks for Elam, hardly a household name, a noteworthy place in our shared cultural heritage. It will be both a valuable introductory text for a general audience and a definitive reference source for students and academics.

Continue reading The Elamite World

Tāq-e Kasrā: Wonder of Architecture

Kasra: Wonder of Architecture

Directed by Pejman Akbarzadeh

7.00pm, Thursday 1 February 2018

Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS University of London
Russell Square WC1H 0XG
Tāq-e Kasrā (Arch of Ctesiphon) in 2017. Photo © Pejman Akbarzadeh

Taq Kasra: Wonder of Architecture is the first-ever documentary film on the world’s largest brickwork vault. The palace was the symbol of the Persian Empire in the Sasanian era (224-651 AD), when a major part of Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) was part of Persia. Taq Kasra was in serious danger of ISIS attacks in 2015-2016 and this was the main motivation for documentary maker Pejman Akbarzadeh, based in Holland, to travel to Iraq twice and film the arch before it was potentially destroyed. (Read more)

Watch the trailer here.

The documentary is produced by the Persian Dutch Network, in association with Toos Foundation, and partially funded by the Soudavar Memorial Foundation.

Following the screening, a Q&A session will be held with the presence of the documentary director Pejman Akbarzadeh and Vesta Sarkhosh-Curis of the British Museum, a scholar of Persian art in Sasanian and Parthian eras.

Admission Free – All Welcome

Organised by: Centre for Iranian Studies

Information: E-mail vp6@soas.ac.uk

Sasanian Elements in Byzantine, Caucasian and Islamic Art and Culture

Sasanian Elements in Byzantine, Caucasian and Islamic Art and Culture

International Conference of the Leibniz-WissenschaftsCampus Mainz: Byzantium between Orient and Occident.

October 18–20, 2017, Mainz/Germany

Organized by Prof. Dr. Falko Daim (General Director, RGZM) and Prof. Dr. Neslihan Asutay-Effenberger (Johannes Gutenberg- Universität, Mainz)

Cultural exchanges between Christianity and Islam, especially between Byzantium and its Islamic Neighbours, but also in the Caucasian region, have been an attractive topic for historians, art historians and archaeologists in recent years. Scholarly interest focuses on diplomatic gift exchange, trade, the mobility of artists and the common motifs in both Christian and Islamic objects. The stage extends from Spain to Afghanistan and justifies the necessity of this debate. Yet, unfortunately, the role of one of the important protagonists of this exchange, namely the Persian Sasanians, is less well researched, although many important artistic and cultural phenomena in Byzantium, Armenia, and Georgia as well as in the Islamic countries can only be understood when this culture is included.

The Sasanian Empire (224-651 A.D.) extended over a large territory. In Late Antiquity and the early Medieval Era, it ruled the whole area of modern Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Caucasian region was exposed to its political influence. Until the middle of the 7th century, Sasanians were the major rival of the Late Roman and Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and exported art and culture into these civilizations through various means and on different levels. The cultural connections ended after the fall of the Sasanian Empire, which was replaced mainly by Arab Muslims, and a new era began: the new owners of the territory then adapted Sasanian elements into their own culture.

From the10th century onwards, the Turkish dynasties such as the Ghaznawids (963-1186) or the Great Seljuks (1019-1157 / de facto until the 13th century) settled in Persia and styled themselves as the successors of the Sasanians as well as as Turks; hence, they were called “Persians” in Byzantine sources. The Sasanian artistic and architectural tradition continued to exist in these cultures. The same phenomenon also applies to the Turkish Rum-Seljuks, who founded their empire in Anatolia: Persian was the court language, the sultans were named after Sassanian heroes from the Shahname (Keykubad, Keyhusrev, Keykavus), and despite the religious prohibition, drinking scenes were depicted in the artworks and wine played an important role at the ceremonies and celebrations according to the Sasanian model.

As can be clearly seen, the Sasanian Empire had not only ‘transfused’ its art and culture to its neighbourhood during its prime time, but also influenced the successor states after its decline. Just as Ancient Greek and Roman culture played an important role in the formation of Western Europe, the Sasanian Empire bequeathed, a remarkably rich cultural heritage to the Christian and Islamic East.

The conference “Sasanian Elements in Byzantine, Caucasian and Islamic Art and Culture” succeeds “Der Doppeladler. Byzanz und die Seldschuken in Anatolien vom späten 11. bis zum 13. Jahrhundert”, which was held at the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz in October 2010. The first event dealt with the cultural relations between Islam, particularly Turkish Islam, Byzantium and the Caucasus. At the forthcoming conference, we aim to discuss the role of the Sasanian Empire in the process of cultural exchange before and after its decline.

See here the Conference Programme

  • Khodadad Rezakhani: “The Roman Caesar and the Phrom Kesar: Hrōm, Eranshahr and Kushanshar in Interaction and Competition”
  • Johannes Preiser-Kapeller: “From one edge of the (post)Sasanian world to the other. Mobility and migration between the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Indian Ocean in the 4th to 9th centuries CE”
  • Rustam Shukurov: “The Image of Byzantium in Persian Epics: from Firdawsi to Nizami”
  • Matteo Compareti: “The Representation of Composite Creatures in Sasanian Art. From Early Coinage to Late Rock Reliefs”
  • Neslihan Asutay-Effenberger: “Senmurv – Beschützer von Konstantinopel?”
  • Thomas Dittelbach: “Kalīla wa-Dimna – Der Löwe als symbolische Form”
  • Rainer Warland: “Das Eigene und das Fremde. Hellenistische Selbstvergewisserung, sassanidische Konfrontation und apokalyptische Endzeit als Lesarten der frühbyzantinischen Kunst (500–630 n. Chr.)”
  • Arne Effenberger: “Sassanidischer Baudekor in Byzanz: der Fall der Polyeuktoskirche in Konstantinopel”
  • Nikolaus Schindel: “Sassanidische Münzprägung im Kaukasus”
  • Nina Iamanidze: “Georgian Reception of Sasanian Art”
  • Armen Azaryan: “Architectural Decorations of the Armenian Churches of the 7th and the 10th–11th Centuries, and their Presumably Sasanian Sources”
  • Shervin Farridnejad: “Continued Existence of the Imagery Repertoire of Sasanian Court Ceremonies and Rituals in the Islamic Art”
  • Markus Ritter: “Umayyadische Rezeption sasanidischer Architektur”
  • Osman Eravşar: “Sasanid Influence on Seljuk Art and Architecture”

Sponsorship

Research Unit Historical Cultural Sciences

Organization

Prof. Dr. Falko Daim (Mainz)
Prof. Dr. Neslihan Asutay-Effenberger (Mainz)

Stone Vessels in the Near East during the Iron Age and the Persian Period

Squitieri, Andrea . 2017. Stone Vessels in the Near East during the Iron Age and the Persian Period. (Archaeopress Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology 2). Oxford: Archaeopress.

This book focuses on the characteristics and the development of the stone vessel industry in the Near East during the Iron Age and the Persian period (c. 1200 – 330 BCE). Three main aspects of this industry are investigated. First, the technology behind the manufacture of stone vessels, the tools and techniques, and how these changed across time. Second, the mechanisms of exchange of stone vessels and how these were affected by the changing political landscape through time. Third, the consumption patterns of stone vessels in both elite and non-elite contexts, and how these patterns changed through time. The aim is to evaluate how the formation of new regional states, occurred in the Iron Age I-II, and their subsequent inclusion within large-scale empires, in the Iron Age III and Persian period, transformed the Near Eastern societies by exploring how the stone vessel industry was affected by these transformations. For the period and area under analysis, such a comprehensive study of stone vessels, covering a wide area and connecting this industry to the broader socioeconomic and political landscapes, has never been attempted before.

Regional History and the Coin Finds from Assur: From the Achaemenids to the Nineteenth Century

Butcher, Kevin & Heidemann, Stefan. 2017. Regional History and the Coin Finds from Assur: From the Achaemenids to the Nineteenth Century. (Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft 148). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

In July 1914, the excavation of one of the most significant capitals in human history, Assur, ended successfully. After a division of finds, the objects were dispatched to Berlin on the eve of the First World War. Assur is currently the most important reference site for coin finds in northern Iraq. They constitute an independent source for the history of the settlement, the Tigris region, and for coin circulation after the fall of the Assyrian empire in 614 BC, from the Achaemenid to the late Ottoman empire. These coin finds fill an important gap in the history of Assur, whose name in the post-Assyrian period is hardly attested to. For the Arsacid period, the coin finds highlight the surprising permeability of the border from the Roman provinces to Arsacid north-eastern Mesopotamia.

With the Sasanian conquest in about 240/1, life in Assur apparently stopped. For the following 1,600 years we can distinguish at least three separate settlement phases, and almost each phase corresponds to changing names for the city. While we do not know what the settlement between the 7th and 8th century was called, in the 12th and 14th centuries it was referred to as al-‘Aqr. For this period, we have more literary references to its history, at least compared with the preceding 1,800 years. The coin finds, together with the textual references, allow for an insight into the political and economic development of “a large village”. For the 17th and 18th centuries, the coins point to a revived settlement, now under the name of Qal’at Shirqat.

 

Mountain Peoples in the Ancient Near East

Balatti, Silvia. 2017. Mountain Peoples in the Ancient Near East The Case of the Zagros in the First Millennium BC (Classica et Orientalia 18), Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.

Since Prehistory, communities principally engaged in herding activities have occupied the intermontane valleys and plains of the Zagros (Western Iran). Relations, tensions and cultural exchange between the inhabitants of the mountains and the Mesopotamian plains already occurred during the Bronze Age. These contacts increased in the course of the 1st millennium BCE, as is suggested by Near Eastern and subsequently by Greek and Latin sources which provide us with numerous new names of peoples living in the Zagros. The present volume investigates the social organisation and life style of the peoples of the Zagros Mountains in the 1st millennium BCE and deals with their relationships with the surrounding environment and with the political authorities on the plains.

Among these peoples, for example, were the ‘fierce’ Medes, breeders and purveyors of fine horses, the Manneans, who inhabited a large territory enclosed between the two contending powers of Assyria and Urartu, and the ‘warlike’ Cosseans, who bravely attempted to resist the attack of Alexander the Great’s army. The Southern Zagros Mountains, inhabited by mixed groups of Elamite and Iranian farmers and pastoralists, were also of key importance as the home of the Persians and the core area of their empire. Starting from Fārs, the Persians were able to build up the largest empire in the history of the ancient Near East before Alexander.

The interdisciplinary approach adopted in this study, which juxtaposes historical records with archaeological, zooarchaeological, palaeobotanical and ethnographic data, provides a new, holistic and multifaceted view on an otherwise little-known topic in ancient history.

 

The Persian Gulf: Khark

Floor, Willem, & D. T. Potts. 2017. The Persian Gulf: Khark: The Island’s Untold Story. Mage Publishers.

 

The island of Khark was an important link in Persian Gulf navigation, supplying passing ships with water, victuals, and pilots for ships sailing to and from Basra. This was why the Arabs called Khark the Mother of Skippers (Umm al-Rubbaniyan). Through the ages, Khark has also been a place of pilgrimage: in Sasanian times, due to the presence of an early Christian church and monastery, and in Islamic times, because of the presence of the tomb of Mohammad al-Hanafiyya. In the eighteenth century, the Dutch made the island their center of trade in the Persian Gulf, and by the nineteenth century the island was dubbed the most important strategic point in the Persian Gulf, reason why the British occupied it twice. Although by 1900 the island had lost its strategic importance, it acquired it again after the 1950s, when the National Iranian Oil Company decided to make Khark its main terminal for the export of crude oil. Later, chemical factories were added to the island’s economic make-up. As a result, Khark s name is now better known around the world than it was ever previously, but the history has remained untold. This book tells the whole story, from the early archeological evidence and the Islamic and Safavid periods, to the Dutch projects in the eighteenth century and the British in the nineteenth century. And in the end, how the traditional way of life ended and industrialization began.

Archaeological research at Tappeh Pahlavan

Thomalsky, Judith. 2016. “Archaeological research at Tappeh Pahlavan, North Khorasan Province (Northeastern Iran): Report on the 2014 season“, ANES 53, 59-79.

In the summer of 2014, an Iranian-German team carried out the first systematic excavations at Tappe Pahlavan. The site is located in the Jajarm plain, a corridor between the Alborz Mountains in the north and the vast Dasht-e Khavir in the south. The surface of the site itself is littered with ceramics and the remains of an intensive production of stone beads. All stages of production are represented: from coarsely shaped pieces to finished polished beads. The most recent 14 C datings place the upper settlement horizon in the early sixth millennium BC. The site thus provides the earliest dates for the ceramic Neolithic period in Northeast Iran. The finds display clear ties with the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods in Northeast Iran, and can be correlated with the cultural sphere of Kopet Dagh, located c. 200 km to the east. A large part of the retrieved ceramics can be described as a local Cheshmeh Ali variant. This ware would then be c. 500 years older than the hitherto known sequences, which as a rule begin after the mid-sixth millennium BC. Moreover, Djeitun ceramics, so characteristic for Northeast Iran and southern Turkmenistan and representative of the Late Neolithic in this region, are absent in Pahlavan. Hence, the question arises as to whether an early Chalcolithic must be postulated here, or an early manifestation of a local Cheshmeh Ali horizon.

Assyrianizing Contexts at Hasanlu Tepe IVb

Danti, M. D. and M. Cifarelli. 2016. “Assyrianizing Contexts at Hasanlu Tepe IVb?: Materiality and Identity in Northwest Iran,” In J. MacGinnis, D. Wicke & T. Greenfield (eds.), The Provincial Archaeology of the Assyrian Empire. (Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research), 357-370, The Provincial Archaeology of the Assyrian Empire.

In this paper, the author briefly surveys and reappraises some of the evidence for Neo-Assyrian contact at the Iron II (1050–800 BC) settlement of Hasanlu Tepe in the southern Lake Urmia Basin, located east of Assyria in the western Zagros Mountains of Iran