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Prehistoric Iran from Neanderthals to Jiroft

The Neanderthals from at least 100,000 years ago existed in Greater Iran during the Pleistocene and
Pliocene eras. Modern human artifacts were found to have existed at least from 9000 B.C.E. This
was before the civilizations of Elam and the migration of Indo-Iranians into the area in the 2nd
millennium B.C.E., giving Persia its history and character.
Greater Iran was continuously occupied by civilizations from at least the 9th or 10th millenium
B.C.E. Greater Iran is defined as spanning the lands from the Euphrates in the west to the Indus
River in the east. From the north it spans from the Caucasus, Caspian Sea, and Aral Sea to the
Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in the south.
Some of the most ancient civilizations of Greater Iran include the Jiroft culture in Kerman Province
of southeastern Iran (dating back to the 4th millennium B.C.E.). These civilizations are followed by
the non-Semitic, non-Aryan people of Elam who lived primarily in southeastern Iran from over 5000

years ago.
All of these civilizations existed prior to the migrations of the Indo-Aryans starting from the 2nd
millennia B.C.E. These migrations produced the Medes and the Achaemenid Persians and other
Aryan civilizations of Greater Iran.
Neanderthal Populations
The earliest archaeological artifacts in northwestern Iran, and some in central Iran, date to the
Lower Paleolithic and Middle Paleolithic (from somewhere around 100,000 years ago to 30,000
years ago, from Pleistocene to Pliocene eras). Neanderthal tools were found in caves of the Zagros
and Elborz Mountains as well as in central Iran.
The oldest evidence of Neanderthals was found at Kashafrud in Khorasan in the northeast of Greater
Iran. This site yielded stone tools, mainly simple core and flake tools made from quarts, that were
Olduwan-like in appearance and that the archaeologist, C. Thibault, dated to 800,000 B.C.E. The
discovered Mousterian stone tool artifacts which date to the Middle Pleistocene era match artifacts
also found in the Caucasus.
The most well-known of the Neanderthal discoveries in Greater Iran are the skeletons found at
Shanidar Cave in the Zagros Mountains in Kurdestan. The Shanidar Cave Neanderthals are dated to
about 60,000 years ago.
Ancient Modern Human Populations
The oldest Upper Paleolithic artifacts have been found mainly from the Zagros Mountains in the
caves of Kermanshah and Khoramabad. Other ancient artifacts have been found at Ganj Pars. Terra
Cotta artifacts and clay vessels were also found at Ganj Dareh in Western Iran. About 9000 years
ago Teppe Sarab in Kermanshah Province existed with animal and human figurines and other
artifacts being found.
Several artifacts have been found from the 8th millennium B.C.E. which demonstrate the beginning
of agriculture. 7000 year-old jars of wine were found in the Zagros Mountains, now on display at the
University of Pennsylvania.
Jiroft Civilization
Urban settlement has been found at several sites in Greater Iran dating to the 3rd or 4th millennium
B.C.E. One prime example is the Jiroft civilization discovered in southeastern Iran in Kerman
Province, in Sistan va Baluchistan Province and in Afghanistan. Some artifacts discovered at Jiroft
are thought to possibly predate Mesopotamian civilization.
Many artifacts have been found at Jiroft, some dating to the 4th millennium B.C.E. Many objects are
decorated with architectural motifs and animal figures and some are unlike any other items
previously found in the area. Some objects are made from chlorite, a gray-green soft stone; and
other objects are made in copper, bronze, terracotta, and lapis lazuli. What are thought to be the
earliest inscriptions pre-dating Mesopotamian inscriptions are said to be fakes.
Shahr-i Sukhtah (meaning Burnt City), also spelled Shahr-e Sokhte found in today's Sistan va
Baluchestan Province, is a part of the Jiroft Civilization. The settlement appeared around 3200
B.C.E. and was burned down at least three times before being abandoned about 2300 B.C.E.

Unusual artifacts have been found such as an artificial eyeball, a human skull which demonstrates
the use of brain surgery, and the first known backgammon set.
Jiroft Possible Aratti Civilization
Jiroft may have descended from the Aratti people, living in a land called Aratta by the Sumerians in
the 3rd millenium B.C.E.. The Aratti later moved further southwest on the Iranian Plateau. The
Aratti (Herodotus referred to the Parthians as the Artaioi) may have been ancestors of the Bactrians
and Parthians.

Due to extensive plundering of Jiroft cultural sites, Oscar White Muscarella, archaeologist and
former curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art concludes that little can be substantiated today
about Jiroft culture based on the archaeology of the past. Uncovered items have appeared on the
market along with copies made resembling the originals, all with undocumented origins.
Archaeological documentation of the original excavations has been lost, and grand speculation and
new claims are being made about the nature of the Jiroft culture, artifacts, dates and origins without
solid documentation and scientific analysis.
Sources:

Biglari, F. and S. Shidrang "The Lower Paleolithic Occupation of Iran," Near Eastern Archaeology
(2006, 69,3-4)
Frost, Martin "History of Iran," Frost's Meditations martinfrost.ws Accessed Feb 8 2010
Muscarella, Oscar White "Jiroft iii. General Survey of Excavations," Encyclopaedia Iranica Online
(March 2009) iranica.com Accessed Feb 9 2010
New World Encyclopedia. "Iran" newworldencyclopedia.org Accessed Feb 8 2010

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