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Prehistory of Iran

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Title: Prehistory of Iran  
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Prehistory of Iran

A reconstruction of Iranian Neanderthal based on Shanidar fossils Zagros Paleolithic Museum

The prehistory of Iran could be divided to Paleolithic, Epipaleolithic, Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods as follow:


One of the potential routes for early human migrations toward southern and eastern Asia is Iran, a country characterized by a wide range of geographic variation and resources, which could support early groups of hominins who wandered into the region. Evidence for the presence of these early populations in Iran includes sorne stone artifacts discovered From gravel deposits along the Kashafrud River Basin in eastern Iran, the Mashkid and Ladiz Rivers in the southeast, the Sefidrud River in the north, the Mahabad River in the northwest, and some surface occurrences and isolated finds From the west and northwestern parts of the country.

The main known early human occupation sites in Iran are: Kashafrud in Khorasan, Mashkid and Ladiz in Sistan, Shiwatoo in Kurdistan, Ganj Par in Gilan, Darband Cave in Gilan, Khaleseh in Zanjan, Gakia in Kermanshah, Pal Barik in Ilam. These sites fall between one million years ago to 200,000 years ago.

Mousterian Stone tools made by Neanderthal man have also been found in various parts of the country.There are more cultural remains of Neanderthal man dating back to the Middle Paleolithic period, which mainly have been found in the Zagros region and fewer in central Iran at sites such as Kobeh, Kunji, Bisetun, Qaleh Bozi, Tamtama, Warwasi. In 1949 a Neanderthal radius was discovered by CS Coon in Bisitun Cave.[1]

Evidence for Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic periods are known mainly from the Zagros region in the caves of Kermanshah and Khoramabad such as Yafteh Cave and a few number of sites in the Alborz range and Central Iran.


The end of the Palaeolithic, called “Epipalaeolithic”,is in a period of about 7000 years from c. 18,000 to 11,000 BC. In those days groups of hunter-gatherers were mostly living in the caves of the Zagros Mountains. Compared to earlier groups of game hunters, a tendency towards increasing the number of the kinds of plants and animals, which were collected and hunted, can be observed. Not only smaller vertebrates were hunted but also pistachios and wild fruit were collected. Finally, consuming snails and smaller aquatic animals like crabs is new (Flannery 1973).

Map showing location of Ganj Dareh and other early Neolithic sites in western Zagros.


Almost nothing is known about the 2500 years which followed the Epipalaeolithic after 11,000 BC. Only when discovering the place of Asiab (c. 8500-8000) in the Kermanshah area we are in better known periods. Asiab was a small camp of hunter-gatherers, only seasonally inhabited. Besides the fact that wild goats and sheep were hunted, great numbers of snail shells were found. These finds were interpreted in the way that from time to time the hunting activities of the inhabitants of Asiab were unsuccessful and that then they were forced to consume food which they usually did not like.

Some nearby and more constantly occupied settlements in the Zagros date from a short time after Asiab, from the time between 8,000 and 6,800 BCE. Still the material culture of Tappeh Ganj Dareh and Tappeh Abdul Hosein does not include any pottery. Thus this period is often called “aceramic Neolithic”. This is also true for the oldest levels of Tappeh Guran, located in Luristan, as well as for the sites of Ali Kosh and Chogha Sefid in the plain of Deh Luran, west of the Zagros Mountains. There, flocks of sheep and herds of goats were kept for the first time. Managing animals meant a fundamentally new orientation of the Neolithic inhabitants of Iran and must be understood to be connected with a whole number of other innovations, particularly the architecture of houses. We do not definitely know if in those days there was any cultivation of cereals. Tools for harvesting and for making cereal products are there, but remnants of burned grain are extremely rare.

Neolithic sites in Iran
Pottery vessel, fourth millennium B.C. Zagros National Museum of Iran.

In the eighth millennium BC, agricultural communities such as Chogha Bonut (the earliest village in Susiana)[2] started to form in western Iran, either as a result of indigenous development or of outside influences. Around about the same time the earliest known clay vessels and modeled human and animal terracotta figurines were produced at Ganj Dareh and Teppe Sarab, also in western Iran.[3][4] The south-western part of Iran was part of the Fertile Crescent. Some of the oldest agricultural ground has been discovered in Susa (now a city still existing since 7000 BC).[5][6] and settlements such as Chogha Mish, dating back to 6800 BC;[7][8] there are 7,000 year old jars of wine excavated in the Zagros Mountains[9] (now on display at The University of Pennsylvania) and ruins of 7,000 year old settlements such as Sialk are further testament to that.


Iranian Chalcolithic could be divided into three parts. "Early Chalcolithic" refer to occupations falling into the fifth millennium b.c., "Middle Chalcolithic" includes three successive phases (early Middle, Middle and late Middle Chalcolithic) dated to the fourth millennium B.C.E "Late Chalcolithic" indicates pre-Bronze Age occupations dating to the first half of the third millennium B.C.E.

See also


  1. ^ Trinkaus, E and Biglari, F. (2006). "Middle Paleolithic Human Remains from Bisitun Cave, Iran". Paleorient 32 (2): 105–111. 
  2. ^ EXCAVATIONS AT CHOGHA BONUT: THE EARLIEST VILLAGE IN SUSIANA, IRAN, by Abbas Alizadeh – The Oriental Institute and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations The University of Chicago
  3. ^ "Iran, 8000–2000 BC". The Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. October 2000. Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  5. ^ Iranian official urges approval of Susa demarcation. 2 September 2008
  6. ^ Ancient Near Eastern art by Dominique Collon
  7. ^ Xinhua, "New evidence: modern civilization began in Iran",, 10 August 2007
  8. ^ Hirst, K. Kris Chogha Mish (Iran).
  9. ^ Research.

Further reading

  • Bernbeck, R. (2004) Iran in the Neolithic, in T. Stöllner, R. Slotta and A. Vatandoust (eds) Persiens. Antike Pracht. Bochum: Bochum Museum, 140–147
  • Biglari, F. and S. Shidrang, 2006 "The Lower Paleolithic Occupation of Iran", Near Eastern Archaeology 69 (3–4): 160–168
  • Smith, P. E. L. (1986) – Paleolithic archaeology In Iran, Philadelphia (PA): University Museum, University of Pennsylvania.
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