Archaeologists worldwide are having fits because numerous sites
in modern day Iran and the surrounding region are giving up evidence
of once being home to a long-lived culture with a vast network of
societies that constituted some of the first cities.
They are redefining the
origins of modern civilisation.
Residents of the cities traded goods across hundreds of miles
and forged parallel but strikingly independent cultures. The social
structures, wealth and technologies of this society slowly spread
along the Nile and then the Indus rivers in the third millennium BC.
Archaeologists have always thought modern civilisation began in
Mesopotamia, where the large Tigris and Euphrates rivers bounded a
fertile valley that nurtured an increasingly complex society.
"People didn't think you could have large settlements this early
without large rivers emptying into an ocean. No one knew of these
sites," reporter Andrew Lawler wrote in Science magazine on the key
findings, which were discussed at a recent archaeological conference
in Ravenna, Italy.
A rival for Ur?
One site proved particularly important for convincing some
scientists of the error of the accepted history. Locals had been
uncovering artefacts in an ancient cemetery near Jiroft and flooding
the art market with pottery and other goods. Researchers tracked
these curiously unique pieces back to their source, where, Lawler
said, they found "a vast moonscape of craters made by looters."
But further exploration of two nearby mounds found evidence of a
large city, one that may have rivalled contemporary Ur in
Mesopotamia. "These people were trading with the Indus, with
Mesopotamia, to the north and south," Lawler explained.