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Parseh J Archaeol Stud 2021, 5(17): 27-57 Back to browse issues page
The Relative Chronology of the Bronze Age on the Northern Side of the Central Alborz Based on Typology of Pottery Discovered at Ghale-Ben in Babol, Mazandaran
Mojtaba Safari1, Rahmat Abbasnejad2, Haasan Fazli Nesheli3, Christopher Thornton4, Judith Thomalsky5
1- PhD Student, Department of Archeology, Faculty of Art and Architecture, Mazandaran University, Babolsar, Iran. , mojtaba.safari83@gmail.com
2- Associate Professor, Department of Archeology, Faculty of Art and Architecture, Mazandaran University, Babolsar, Iran.
3- Professor of Archeology, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran.
4- PhD in Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA.
5- PhD in Archeology, Director of the German Archaeological Center in Iran, Tehran, Iran.
Abstract:   (1083 Views)
Abstract
Heretofore, no comprehensive chronological study has been conducted on the northern side of the Central Alborz mountains, including the modern provinces of Mazandaran and Gorgan, based on technological and typological study of pre-historic pottery. This is especially true of the Bronze Age (ca. 3000-1500 BCE), for which we have no sites with an unbroken stratigraph-ic sequence that have been excavated and fully published. The majority of pottery, especially the gray wares, in this region have been discovered in the course of illicit investigations and their description, classification, and chronological analyses have been influenced by cultural history approaches. As a result, some Bronze Age pottery has been attributed to the Iron Age, or assigned to the wrong stage of the Bronze Age (i.e., early, middle, and late). The lack of scien-tifically-based ceramic classification and typology is an important archaeological issue in our understanding of the Bronze Age in this region. The authors of the present article here attempt a comparative chronology for this area based on typological studies and classification of ce-ramics discovered in explorations of the site of Ghal e-Ben of in Babol, Mazandaran. Bronze Age pottery discovered in this area can be compared to those discovered in Gohar Tepe, Tepe Ghale Kosh, Tepe Ghale Pey, Tepe Tarkam, and Tepe Abbasi in eastern Mazandaran, and those discovered in Shah Tepe, Tureng Tepe, and Narges Tepe in Gorgan as well as Tepe Hissar in Damghan. In spite of the fact that the results of comparative studies on Ghal e -Ben ceramics are indicative of cultural ties between central and eastern regions of Mazandaran, Gorgan Plain, and Damghan during the Bronze Age, discovery of few Yanik (Kura-Araxes) ceramics in this site leads to a new investigation on the possible relationship between this region and the origin of these ceramics (possibly in northwest of Iran) in the Third Millennium B.C. 
Keywords: Mazandaran, Bronze Age, Gray Pottery, Relative Chronology, Typology.

Introduction
In spite of the fact that the classification and typology of pre-historic ceramics of northeastern Iran began in the 1930s (e.g., Wulsin 1932; Schmidt 1937), some remarkable articles have been published in the recent years that contribute significantly to understanding chronology of the said areas (Olson 2020; Olson & Thornton 2019). Indeed, these studies have been particularly useful for understanding the relative chronology of Mazandaran Province. More recently, stratigraphic studies at Ghal e-Ben site have given us a more realistic understanding of cultural changes in this region during the Bronze Age. Ghal e-Ben site is located in the central part of Mazandaran Province, in Khoshrudpey southwest of Babol city in West Bandpey County. The altitude of the region is 66 meters above the seas level, and geographical coordinates are N: 36 23. 17/84 E: 52 34.12/55. The site is recorded under registration number 31367 in the list of National Historical Monuments. A stratigraphic sounding was done in 2018 to learn more about the chronological status of the site (Fazeli, 2018). Results of this stratigraphic sounding showed that the upper layers (upper two meters), consisting of artifacts from Islamic and historic eras, are unfortunately disturbed due to agricultural activities as well as unauthorized excavations is some parts of the hill. Below the depth of two meters there is a layer with a thickness of one meter containing fine silt natural-sediment deposit and abundant remains of small freshwater snails. No cultural materials were found in this layer. This layer possibly suggests the remains of the old meander river flow channel, which eventually turned into an oxbow lake marsh or pond, resulting in a cultural gap at the site. The gap could be the period between end of the Bronze Age or beginning of the Iron Age and re-establishment of the site during the Historic Era. At a depth of 3 to 10 meters from surface, the archaeological site of Ghal e-Ben contains undisturbed Bronze Age deposits. The Carbon-14 test results on 36 samples discovered from these layers show that Ghal e-Ben was inhabited from 3300 to 1500 BCE.
Typological and Chronological Investigations Based on the Ceramics of Ghal e-Ben Site in spite of the fact that typological and chronological investigations based on pottery data are quite common in most archaeological studies across Iran, the prehistoric era of Mazandaran province has a very small share of such studies. Indeed, no established typology has been proposed for ceramics of this region. On the other hand, although the archaeological excavations in Mazandaran Province contain more comprehensive information about the Bronze Age, compared to the other historic eras, no accurate chronology had been presented for the excavated sites of this era before excavations at Ghal e-Ben. However, excavation of Ghal e-Ben provided the authors of this article with the chance to investigate and prepare a preliminary typology of Bronze Age ceramics in Mazandaran region using the absolute chronological sequence of this site. 
The typology of Ghal e-Ben ceramics was based on four main indicators including: production technique, ornamentation, form of the rim, and form of the body. This study led to reproduction of ceramics and comparing them to those discovered in other sites across Mazandaran Province and the Gorgan Plain. 

Conclusion 
The present article is the first comparative study of the Bronze Age in Mazandaran Province based on the information acquired from stratigraphic excavation of Ghal e-Ben archaeological site. It presents a relative chronology of the Bronze Age in Mazandaran Province based on the ceramics from excavated, C14-dated contexts. The results show that gray ware ceramics were decorated with diverse ornamentation, from polished and burnished patterns to carved patterns, which can be compared in terms of form and pattern to the ceramics found in the type-sites of northeastern Iran including Hissar IIB-IIIC, Shah Tepe IIA-B, Tureng Tepe IIA- IIIC, and Narges Tepe III as well as at major Bronze Age sites of Mazandaran including Gohar Tepe, Taghut Tepe in Behshahr, Tepe Kelar in Kelardasht, Tepe Ghale Kosh in Amol, Ghale Pey and Tepe Turkam in Sari, Gomishan Cave, and Tepe Abbasi in Neka. It is also interesting to note that material remains of Transcaucasian culture (Kura-Araxes) from the third millennium BCE (ca. 2500-2400 BCE) are observed in Mazandaran and the Gorgan Plain, which indicates cultural ties between these regions and the northwest of Iran during the Bronze Age. A number of ceramics were found in the Early Bronze Age layers at Ghal e-Ben archaeological site that compare to Kura-Araxes ceramics discovered at Tepe Kelar in terms of production technique, color, fineness, and patterns. To what extent these foreign ceramics found together with local types can be indicative of the influence of Transcaucasian cultures must be the subject of further studies, and horizontal explorations can help in this regard. However, it is clear that the comparative study of ceramics discovered in Ghal e-Ben and other Bronze Age sites of Mazandaran suggests cultural ties between this region and both the northwest and northeast of Iran. 
Ghal e-Ben archaeological site in Babol was inhabited during the late fourth millennium BCE and was abandoned gradually around 1500-1400 BCE. Such abandonment events have been observed in most other archaeological sites in the north and northeast of Iran, and we do not know exactly how to connect the Iron Age in Mazandaran to the Bronze Age, as the Iron Age emerged in northern Iran around 1100 BCE. These are the questions that will be hopefully answered by future studies on cultural sequence of Mazandaran during the second and first millennia.
 
Article number: 2
Keywords: Mazandaran, Bronze Age, Gray Pottery, Relative Chronology, Typology.
Full-Text [PDF 2087 kb]   (185 Downloads)    
Type of Study: Research | Subject: Special Archeology
Received: 2021/01/25 | Accepted: 2021/04/11 | Published: 2021/12/21
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Safari M, Abbasnejad R, Fazli Nesheli H, Thornton C, Thomalsky J. The Relative Chronology of the Bronze Age on the Northern Side of the Central Alborz Based on Typology of Pottery Discovered at Ghale-Ben in Babol, Mazandaran. Parseh J Archaeol Stud. 2021; 5 (17) :27-57
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