History Files


Ancient Mesopotamia

The Sumerian Effect in Iran

Edited from Mathaba News, 10 August 2007

Archaeologists worldwide were having fits in the first decade of the twenty-first century because numerous sites in modern Iran and the surrounding region were giving up evidence of once being home to a long-lived culture with a vast network of societies which constituted some of the first cities.

These cities were redefining the origins of modern civilisation.

Residents of the cities traded goods across distances of hundreds of kilometres 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 in the third millennium BC.

Archaeologists have always thought that modern civilisation began in Mesopotamia, where the large Tigris and Euphrates rivers bound a fertile valley which nurtured an increasingly complex society.

'People didn't think you could have large settlements this early in time without large rivers emptying into an ocean. No one knew of these sites,' reporter Andrew Lawler wrote in Science magazine when covering the key findings, which were discussed at a 2007 archaeological conference at Ravenna in 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 were 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 which may have rivalled contemporary Ur in Mesopotamia. 'These people were trading with the Indus, with Mesopotamia, to the north, and to the south,' Lawler explained.

General Map of Sumer
Some of the earliest cities, such as Sippar, Borsippa, and Kish in the north, and Ur, Uruk, and Eridu in the south, formed the endpoints of what became that complex network of cities and canals (click or tap on map to view full sized)

According to Carl Lamberg-Karlovsky of Harvard University the site dates back to 4000 BC, signifying that the Jiroft site and its environs were once home to a long-lived culture, one which evolved on parallel lines to that of Mesopotamia, and were therefore not a brief response to Mesopotamian wealth.

The entire area of interest spreads roughly from the eastern border of Iran to the Pakistani-Iranian border, and from the Russian steppes southwards through the Persian Gulf area and onto the Arabian peninsula and therefore encapsulating many city states which are already known, such as those of the Elamites on the Gulf.

The potential discovery of a new writing system was perhaps the largest controversy of the many which were discussed at the conference. Three tablets, the first discovered by a local farmer and the others subsequently unearthed by professional archaeologists, appear to contain a unique iconography which would have to be deciphered.



Text copyright © Mathaba News and contributors, which contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorised by the copyright owner, but which is made available for reproduction on a 'fair dealing' basis.