Is the Jiroft site in Iran a real cradle of civilization?


Archaeologists are preparing to launch the third major excavation of an important site in the Jiroft plain, in the valley of the Halil river in southeast Iran. Konar Sandal’s remains were on display after the 2001 floods near Jiroft in Iran. Sheltered by towering steep mountains on three sides, this hidden gem has proven to be a sprawling Bronze Age urban settlement, built by a magnificent kingdom whose existence had previously been excluded from the annals of history. The discovery has led some experts to hypothesize that the long-lost Jiroft culture was in fact the cradle of civilization, before the emergence of Sumer or Mesopotamia.

The Konar Sandal site near Jiroft in Iran has revealed the remains of an ancient culture, according to some experts, is the true cradle of civilization. ( Discover Kerman )

Early Bronze Age Konar Sandal Site Discovered Near Jiroft

The area excavated in the Iranian province of Kerman was named Konar Sandal. Its central feature is a pair of massive burial mounds separated by a distance of about a mile (1.6 km), which have been designated as Konar Sandal A (North) and Konar Sandal B (South). The site is located near Jiroft in southeastern Iran.

Under Mound A, archaeologists found a stone structure that they believed was used for religious purposes. Beneath Mound B, they found the remains of a two-story fortified citadel anchored to a base that spanned over 33 acres (13.5 hectares). At the foot of the mounds, deeper excavations have revealed the presence of many smaller buildings, and it is believed that similar structures will eventually be discovered in the space between the two mounds and elsewhere in the surrounding underground environment.

In addition to the excavated structures, Konar Sandal also delivered a plethora of incredibly attractive and finely crafted artifacts, revealing the existence of a culturally sophisticated people who created and resided in an unmistakably advanced society.

Unlike the first two explorations, which were carried out by international teams, this new excavation will be strictly an Iranian affair, sponsored by the country’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Research Institute. “The demarcation project aims to determine the legal limits of the prehistoric site,” said Fereidoun Fa’ali, the provincial tourism chief of Kerman, who called the Konar Sandal site “one of the towns of the age. most important bronze medals in Southwest Asia. “This is a strong statement. But in fact, this assessment may be unduly modest.

Work illustrating the appearance of Jiroft Ziggurat.  The ancient monument discovered near Jiroft in southeastern Iran is considered by some experts to be the original cradle of civilization.  Excavations have revealed a two-story citadel covering 33 acres (13.5 hectares).  (David Revoy - Blender Foundation / CC BY 3.0)

Work illustrating the appearance of Jiroft Ziggurat. The ancient monument discovered near Jiroft in southeastern Iran is considered by some experts to be the original cradle of civilization. Excavations have revealed a two-story citadel covering 33 acres (13.5 hectares). (David Revoy – Blender Foundation / CC BY 3.0 )

Could the Jiroft site be the true cradle of civilization?

The first section of the Jiroft Plains site (a necropolis) was discovered in 2001. Heavy flooding from the Halil River washed away tons of topsoil that had previously covered it, exposing a complex of ancient tombs that no one knows about. ‘waited to find. Impressive batches of Bronze Age jewelry, ceramics, tools, goblets, board games and a variety of decorative items encrusted with semi-precious stones have been recovered from the exhumed cemetery.

Unfortunately, the first discoverers were black looters and antique dealers, who stole and sold many valuables before law enforcement and the military finally managed to secure the site. After this first discovery, the first official excavation at Jiroft began in 2003, under the direction of Iranian archaeologist Dr Yousef Majidzadeh. It ended in 2007, and Dr Majidzadeh released his team’s findings shortly thereafter.

Based on the radiocarbon dating, archaeologists concluded that the Jiroft civilization that built the integrated urban complex reached the peak of its power and prosperity around the year 2500 BC. However, there were signs that the initial construction of the complex may have started as early as the fifth millennium BCE.

“The Jiroft area… was a major occupation of an urban character in the region during the third millennium BC,” said Dr Majidzadeh. “Its center was in the valley of the Halil River where large sites of monumental architecture, areas of important artisanal production, domestic quarters and vast extramural cemeteries dominated the landscape.”

During this excavation, and one that was launched in 2014, archaeologists continued to find many valuable and intriguing artifacts inside the mounds and under the surrounding landscape. Most notably, they also found four tablets inscribed in two different languages, one of which was made up entirely of geometric figures and could not be compared to anything that had been found before.

During past excavations at Konar Sandal, near Jiroft, archaeologists have found artifacts containing remains of ancient inscriptions believed to be remains of previously unknown languages.  (Uuyyyy / CC BY-SA 3.0)

During past excavations at Konar Sandal, near Jiroft, archaeologists have found artifacts containing remains of ancient inscriptions believed to be remains of previously unknown languages. (Uuyyyy / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

So how important was the discovery of this literate kingdom long lost in a dark and desolate region of the Iranian desert? Significant enough to call into question the identification of Mesopotamia as the cradle of civilization, according to some sources. Jean Perrot, a French archaeologist with previous excavation experience in Iran, was invited to inspect the site and its contents during the early stages of the first excavation. When asked to share his impressions, he said the following:

“A region that we once considered to be inhabited only by nomads and their cattle, was the heart of an incredibly advanced civilization. In this neighborhood, people lived with a social hierarchy. These people had an explicit worldview that distinguished them from the Sumerians. Now we have to consider Jiroft as the origin of civilizations and designate all other civilizations as pre or post-Jiroft civilization.

There may be a bit of hyperbole in this statement, since the Sumerian civilization can be traced at least as far if not further than the Jiroft civilization (in the fifth and sixth millennia BC). But given that Mesopotamia and southern Iran are only 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) apart, there is the possibility that the Jiroft civilization shared a common ancestor with the Sumerians, and that the two may have been. -to be separated as a result of the chaos, confusion and destruction caused by the great floods that occurred at the end of the last ice age.

At the very least, it is reasonable to assume that the peoples of Mesopotamia would have interacted with their Jiroftian neighbors to the east, perhaps to such an extent that each culture influenced the development of the other. In fact, many of the artifacts found in Konar Sandal are decorated with mythological images that seem to link its culture to that of Mesopotamia.

The Jiroft civilization specialized in creating pottery using a semi-precious mineral known as chlorite, and examples of this pottery containing surprisingly similar iconography have been found at various archaeological sites in the Middle East and Asia. , including sites identified with Bronze Age Mesopotamia.

The Jiroft Civilization: Sharing the Stage of History

Different interpretations of the exact identity of Jiroft’s lost civilization have been offered. Dr Majidzadeh believes that he and his colleagues may have discovered the site of the legendary land of Aratta, a glorious Atlantean-like kingdom of the Bronze Age that has mysteriously vanished from the pages of history in a distant past.

However, knowledge of Aratta comes mainly from Sumerian poems, which has led some to wonder if such a place ever existed. An alternative theory suggests that the recently discovered Iranian civilization could be the ancient kingdom of Marhasi, located in southern Iran and known to have been involved in conflicts with the Mesopotamian kingdom of Akkad in the third millennium BC.

A definitive answer to the riddle of Jiroft civilization might never be found. But the fact that it did exist forces archaeologists and historians to reassess everything they thought they knew about Mesopotamia’s primacy and importance in world history. Mesopotamia has not been diminished, but in the future it may have to share the title of “Cradle of Civilization” with its cousin in the East.

Top image: Aerial image of the Konar Sandal archaeological site south of the town of Jiroft, considered to be the remains of a long lost Jiroft culture. Source: Destination Iran

By Nathan Falde


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