Shahr-e Sukhteh (Shahr-i Sokhta), meaning ‘Burned City’, is located at the junction of Bronze Age trade routes crossing the Iranian plateau. This ancient city is at a distance of 60 km. from Zabol and 6 km. from the Rostam Castle, and is comprised of hillocks with a maximum elevation of 50 m. This vicinity was one of the vital centers of Asian civilization in the bronze age, and dates to the 4th and 3rd millennium BC. Archaeological and scientific discoveries, have revealed a rectangular structure, with square chambers, a corridor, staircase and walls to the thickness of 3 m. to the rear of this archaic structure, that show the signs of a vast fire.
Another vestige of the Achaemenid period, discovered in the excavations in hillocks of this area, is a bronze statue of a woman carrying an urn on the head. Colored earthenware found in Shahr-e Sukhteh are related to the 4th, 3rd and 2nd millennium BC. and are similar to the civilizations of Mesopotamia and India.
There were four stages of civilization living there. Before it was abandoned, the city had been burned down three times. Therefore, many had lost their lives. As a result, there’s a sizable graveyard attached to this settlement that has accommodated from 25,000 to 40,000 ancient graves.
Archaeological Importance of Shahr-e Sukhteh
There’s no doubt that this ancient human settlement is indebted its significance to the interesting artifacts unearthed there. Several items have been discovered in relatively very good condition and unique objects have indicated a brilliant civilization at Eastern part of Iranian plateau.
The List of some of the most outstanding unearthed items:
- The skull of a 14-year old girl indicating traces of practicing brain surgery. She had eventually died as a result of the diagnosed illness,
- An earthen-made goblet depicting a goat in different running positions around it, which represents the first world’s animation example when turning,
- The oldest backgammon & dice ever discovered in the world indicating people used to play this game back then,
- An artificial eyeball, which is known as the earliest example of its kind, made of a thin layer of gold on a light material,
- A 10-cm ruler with high precision that indicates the mastery over mathematics by these people,
- Beautifully painted motifs on a piece of leather together with several other fabrics each one dyed in several colors,
- Unique marble vessel beautifully shaped unearthed from the grave of a young woman between 28 and 30 years of age,
- And hundreds of other fascinating objects like an incense burner mounted on a mirror, colorful jars, very delicate necklaces, charcoal holders, seals, pottery and jewelry workshops, etc.
Cultural Importance of Shahr-e Sukhteh
Culturally, it has been a rich city associated with Jiroft culture. In other words, this ancient site has been a human settlement independent of ancient Mesopotamia. Several discoveries have contributed to the fact that Shahr-e Sukhteh must have had a particularly remarkable culture. Here are some of them:
- According to some paleoanthropologists, women had a pivotal role in social aspects and financial fields of the families. Only inside some of women’s graves, particular type of insignias had been unearthed distinguishing prominent members of the society from the others.
- The skeleton of a professional camel rider suggests he had been a courier delivering parcels, messages over long distances.
- According to the excavations carried out at the Burnt City, there were farmers and craftsmen among various guilds working in this ancient settlement. Weavers who made carpets, baskets, etc, by teeth, were some of the main guilds who made several different items. Lots of teeth have been unearthed in Shahr-e Sukhteh.
In addition, the culture beyond some of the practices and discoveries mentioned above (like artificial eyeball, brain surgery, ruler, backgammon, etc) are all indicative of a rich culture prevailing in this human settlement of the Bronze Age in South East of Iran.
The Fall of Shahr-e Sukhteh
According to the researchers, what led to the end of the civilization at this human settlement was a consequence of diversion in the courses of water and climate change. This area used to be quite humid with abundant sources of water and lots of trees. The inhabitants used to burn wood for fuel. As a result of less sources of water and more heat, the inhabitants abandoned the city and things fell apart.
More Archaeological Exploration Underway
A lot of excavations are performed at all the historical mounds of Shahr-e Sukhteh. From time to time, there’s another news story about some new finding at this site. It should also be added that it’s not easy to carry out the archaeological excavation at this site due to the hostile climate of the region. Sand storm, high temperature of desert, etc are some of the difficulties the experts have to deal with.
However, some experts are working on the diet of people. They had found out that lentils and fish were some of the main foodstuff people used to eat there. More information will be coming out as more work is being done.