The northern plains of the Alvand mountain range in Hamedan are known as part of the Median land and the capital of this period. Research and study on Iron Age III settlements with the aim of identifying and drawing an accurate pattern of the sites of this period was one of the goals of the writers in this region, which was carried out in recent years. Qale-dagh Tepe is one of the areas that have been reviewed and studied in this research. Qale-dagh or Aghdash area is located at an altitude of 2009 meters above sea level in the foothills of Arjanī mountain overlooking the Hamedan plain. The height of the area is 41 meters above the level of surrounding rangelands. The site was first identified and registered in 1381 AH and in 1385 AH in the comprehensive plan of archaeological survey of Hamedan city was reviewed. Despite much destruction, the site has not yet been studied and archaeologically excavated. Qale-dagh is a single period from the Iron Age III. It consists of single and dense brick building that can be seen in parts of the main walls and its gates. There is evidence of filling in the gaps between the back and the outside of the walls at an unspecified time. The pottery obtained from the study is small and contains non-significant samples of this period. There are questions about the condition of the area and its function in the heights of the Hamedan plain that this study has addressed. The research method in this paper is based on archaeological studies and comparative studies. Preliminary results show that Qale-dagh area is located in specific geographical location, architectural style, pottery data and compared with other sites of Median period such as Nush-I-Jan Tepe, Moush Tepe and Haji Khan is a religious place overlooking the capital of Med (Hegmataneh).
Keywords: Hamedan, Qale-dagh Tepe, Iron Age III, Median Period.
In a series of surveys conducted from 2017 to 2018 regarding the spatial association of Iron Age III settlements in the Hamedan plain (Almasi, 2020), which is mentioned in historical sources as the first seat and political and governing center of the Median period, the known relics from the past years to the present, particularly the new relics in the last decade, were studied, and a question was raised. The question was “What were the function and nature of a group of monuments with characteristics such as individuality, being located outside the scope of settlement, similar style and method in architecture, especially in components such as the type of bricks, and finally their intentional filling at some points in time?”
One of these newly discovered monuments is a brick fortress named Qale-dagh Tepe located in the northern highlands of the Hamedan plain. The site is located in the foothills of the Arjanī Mountain with a height of 2130 meters above sea level. Aghdash Village is the closest modern village to it, which is located at a distance of 3.5 kilometers from it. The site does not have an access road from the village, so that one can only reach the site on foot by crossing some agricultural fields and barren lands.
The Qale-dagh site with coordinates Y:3869857.31-X:290962.58 is the only brick structure that is located on a natural bed among the hills of the Arjanī Mountain. The current size of the site is 1 hectare. However, the Qale-dagh site has suffered massive destruction over time, much of which is related to human destruction. The site was discovered in 2002 (Pazuki & Shadmhr, 2005) and surveyed in 2006 (Mohammadifar & Motarjem, 2006), and then the authors resurveyed it in 2017.
The Qale-dagh site in appearance is divided into two sections: the northern section, which is a brick structure and remains up to a height of 3 meters, and the southern section, which is large and has a lower height (Map 3). The architecture of the northern section includes a thick wall with an approximate height of 3 meters and a diameter of 1.5 meters in the east-west direction. It appears that the wall has a buttress, since in the two sections of the wall, the remains of a brick pier with 1 meter in width and 2.5meter distance from each other can be observed. The distance between the two brick piers is filled with layers of pebbles and mud mortar (Image 2), Causing the wall to remain intact up to a height of 3 meters. On the northeastern side, several holes have been dug by unauthorized excavators, in one of which, the remains of more than 2 gates covered with a lancet arch can be observed from the outside (Image 4). From the inside of the gates, a corridor-like space with another lancet arch can be observed (Image 5). The width of the two gates is approximately 70 cm and lower than the height of 3 meters of the wall. The lancet covering of the arches is formed by laying bricks diagonally to each other. The materials used in the monument are bricks with dimensions of 42×23×11 cm and mud mortar with a thickness of 10 to 12 cm.
The pieces of pottery obtained from the surface survey include a bowl with an inverted rim, a simple bowl, a bowl handle, a base of a dish, and two pieces of a dish body (Image 7).
Analysis of Finding
In the survey of the architectural features and pottery pieces collected from the site, the history of settlement in the site appears to be related only to the Iron III period, as it was built on virgin soil. Such a procedure was used in some significant Median sites such as Nush-I-Jan (Stronach & Ruf, 2011), Moush Tepe (Mohammadifar et al., 2015: 236), ZarBolagh (Malekzadeh et al., 2014), Yalfan (Almasi et al., 2017: 70), Haji Khan (Hemmati Azandriani et al., 2019: 35) and Pishee (Almasi, 2020: 115).
In the northern wall, the remains of two brick piers are visible (Image 2), revealing the use of buttress in the construction of the main wall of the monument. The use of buttress, which is generally used on the outer front of the main walls of the monument, can also be observed in the sites of Nush-I-Jan (Stronach & Ruf, 2011: 16), Godin (Young & Levine, 1974: 116-pl.37), Baba Jan (Goff, 1977: 104-Fig.1) and Ozbeki (Majidzadeh, 2009: 343).
The gate with a lancet arch created in the Qale-dagh site is also similar to the ones in the sites of Nush-I-Jan (Stronakh & Ruf, 2011: 81), Godin (Gopnik, 2016: 293), Moush Tepe (Mohammadifar et al., 2015: 235) and Gunespan (Naseri et al., 2016: 131) (Table 1). The dimensions and sizes of the bricks used in the monument of the Qale-dagh site are similar to the dimensions of the bricks used in the monuments of sites of the same period (Table 2). Another characteristic of the site is the intentional filling of the monument (Images 2 and 3), so that this method of abandonment has been reported in the excavations of the sites of Nush-I-Jan (ibid: 163), Moush Tepe (Mohammadifar et al., 2015: 235), ZarBolagh (Malekzadeh et al., 2014), and Haji Khan (Hemmati Azandriani et al., 2019: 106).
Owing to the geographical feature of the site, which is located in the foothills of the Arjanī Mountain overlooking the Hamedan plain and the connecting route of the Hamedan plain, it is possible to imagine a military use similar to the inter-road military forts. However, in the survey and comparison of the Urartian castles of the first millennium BC in the northwest, we observe considerable cultural data indicating long-term settlement in these places (Kleiss, 1980, Burney, 1966). On the contrary, such conditions are not observed in Qale-dagh. Hence, we can place emphasis on only the apparent characteristics of the site, such as the information obtained from the architecture and the results of comparing and matching it with the Median sites, particularly Nush-I-Jan, Moush Tepe and Haji Khan. From the excavations conducted in the three Median sites of Nush-I-Jan -Main Period, Moush Tepe and Haji Khan (Map 4), few findings of human activity (garbage production) were obtained, demonstrating a non-residential use in such places and their special use for the people. All the three sites were created on virgin soil, had intentionally filling, and were cleared before filling.
As no contemporary settlement was found near the site, a non-residential use can be considered for it. Furthermore, the height of the site above sea level and the steep slope of the site in the foothills of the Arjanī Mountain indicate that it is not easily accessible.
The intentional filling of monuments, which is carried out with special care in layers, can also be used to protect the monuments. Ghirshman associates the fillings with the change of religious attitude in the later period (Ghirshman, 1976: 10-11).
As supported by extensive evidence, the Qale-dagh site is extremely similar to the sites of Nush-I-Jan, Moush Tepe and Haji Khan.
The authors appreciate and thank the Hamedan Province Cultural Heritage Organization and Mr. Mohammad Shabani for making it possible to visit the site.