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Parseh J Archaeol Stud 2019, 2(6): 53-68 Back to browse issues page
A Reappraisal of Shahdad: Chronology, Seals, Metal and Clay Objects
Nasir Eskandari
Assistant Professor, University of Jiroft. , nasir.eskandari@yahoo.com
Abstract:   (8091 Views)
The western Lut desert is well-known in the archaeology of Southwest Asia because of the existence of an early urban center (Shahdad) that dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. The site of Shahdad, as one of the major urban centers of the Bronze Age of Southeastern Iran, plays an important role in the Near Eastern archaeological studies. After half a century of Shahdad excavations, it is time to have a new look at Shahdad and its objects in light of our present knowledge from the archeology of southeast Iran. Here is an assessment of Shahdad data obtained from Shahdad excavations such as seals, metal and clay objects. In another article, we discussed the rest of finds of Shahdad. In this study we tried to present a revised chronology for Shahdad. This article also provides information on the status of the regional and trans-regional cultural interactions of Shahdad.
Keywords: Shahdad, Chronology, Metal Objects, Seals, Cultural Interactions.

The site of Shahdad is located at the base of an alluvial fan where it was in antiquity surrounded by the Shahdad River and a number of streams flowing east from their origin in the western mountains. In 1968, during a general geographical reconnaissance of the Lut depression, the Early Bronze Age site of Shahdad was identified. Excavations lead by Ali Hakemi of the Archaeological Service of Iran began in the following year and continued until 1978. The work concentered on a necropolis in which 383 graves were cleared including many with spectacular grave goods, including impressive human statuettes, elaborate metal objects such as a bronze standard, numerous stone and ceramic containers and ornamental finds. Hakemi also did some excavations in the east of the site, Operation D, which he identified as an industrial area of the urban center of Shahdad. Overall, excavations in necropolis and industrial area provided evidence for local craft activities and cross-regional contact. This article reevaluates the results of Shahdad excavations conducted by Hakemi.

Chronology, Seals, Metal and Clay Objects
The comparative study of the metal artifacts of Shahdad with those of the sites of Southwestern Asia revealed some results. First, the interactions of Shahdad with long-distance areas such as Indus valley, Central Asia, East, West and southwest of Iran were identified, then the evidence of the existence of a very homogenous style in metal objects in a wide geographical area was revealed and third, Shahdad was a metal production center with its own characteristics. Due to the comparative chronology, Shahdad metal artifacts date back from the mid third millennium BC to the early second millennium BC.
According to the comparative studies, Shahdad seals share some similarities and characteristic with those of Early Bronze Age sites such as Shahr-e Sokhta, Jiroft, Tepe Yahya and the remote areas such as Central Asia and the Indo-Iranian borderlands. It was also revealed that most of Shahdad seals are not comparable with those found from other regions and they had their own local characteristics. One-cylinder seal was also uncovered from workshop D that is not yet published. Due to erosion, its motif is not very clear. It seems to represent a winged goddess.
Two unique artifacts were found from Shahdad; one human statues and one house models. In total, 24 human clay statues were discovered from Shahdad cemetery which had ritual functions. The clay house models were uncovered from 33 graves of the cemetery of Shahdad. They are cubical and 20-30 centimeters long. Some researchers take them as a 3D example of house motifs on chlorite vessels. Hakemi called them shrines.
The comparative analysis of the funerary goods reveals that the cemetery A of Shahdad dates to the mid third millennium BC and lasts until the late third millennium BC (2500-2000). This dating is based on the comparative studies on pottery, chlorite and marble vessels, bronze objects and seals of Shahdad with the contemporaneous areas of southeastern Iran and neighboring regions such as Shahr-i Sokhta, Jiroft, Bampur, Tepe Yahya, Mundigak, Umm-al Nar, Susa and the sites of the central Asia. Also, the dating of the second half of the third millennium BC was proposed for the artisans ‘area (area D), the residential areas excavated by Kaboli and, in general, the entire area of the city of Shahdad. In other words, the flourishing period of this city is the second half of the third millennium BC. Furthermore, the early 2nd millennium BC was proposed for the culture after the collapse of the urbanization of Shahdad (cemeteries B and C).

The revision of Shahdad data yielded some new information. Shahdad had been inhabited for a long period from the middle third millennium BC to the early second millennium BC and it was flourished during the second half of the third millennium BC. By studying cultural materials found from Shahdad area, one can find cultural interactions of Shahdad with other regions. The impact of Shahdad on Central Asia through the Bronze and chlorite materials can be easily observed. Despite all the cultural interactions with all these regions, the local and regional cultural traditions dominated in Shahdad and it has all the characteristics of a city with local cultural character in 3rd millennium BC. In general, the similarity and harmony between the cultural materials of Shahdad and different parts of the Southwest Asia, from Mesopotamia and Southwest Iran to Central Asia, the Indus valley and the south of the Persian Gulf indicate the existence of a cultural interaction sphere in the west of Asia during the early and middle Bronze Age.
Keywords: Shahdad, Chronology, Metal Objects, Seals, Cultural Interactions.
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Type of Study: Research | Subject: Special Archeology
Received: 2019/04/14 | Accepted: 2019/04/14 | Published: 2019/04/14
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Eskandari N. A Reappraisal of Shahdad: Chronology, Seals, Metal and Clay Objects. Parseh J Archaeol Stud. 2019; 2 (6) :53-68
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