year 4, Issue 14 (2-2021)                   Parseh J Archaeol Stud 2021, 4(14): 7-25 | Back to browse issues page

XML Persian Abstract Print

1- Ph.D. Student in Archeology, Department of Archaeology, Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran ,
2- Stiftung Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann, Germany & DiyarMehr Institute for Palaeolithic Research.
3- Associate Professor, Department of Archaeology, Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran.
Abstract:   (3351 Views)
Most of our knowledge on the Palaeolithic of the Iranian Plateau derives from a scientific focus on the area of the Zagros Mountains. In recent years, several Palaeolithic research projects have been conducted in different parts of Iran, including southern piedmonts of the Alborz Mountains and the Iranian Central Plateau. The present paper is an introduction to the archaeological pieces of evidence of a Palaeolithic occupation on the southern slopes of the Alborz Mountains. Sorheh Rockshelter is the first site among a cluster of 8 caves and rock shelters located around 80 km northwest of Tehran. The Palaeolithic artifacts have been recovered from at least three looters’ pits at the center of the rock shelter. Sorheh is significant at least for two aspects: firstly, since the southern slopes of the Alborz Mountains have not yet been identified for the Palaeolithic, the site provides unique data on the Iranian Plateau. Secondly, the site’s location and the physiogeographic and lithic analyses of Sorheh are invaluable for the reconstruction of hominin behavior and settlement patterns in this under-researched area. 
Keywords: Central Iranian Plateau, Alborz Mountains, West-Central Zagros, Middle Palaeolithic, Levallois.

Compared to the wealth of Palaeolithic data from the Zagros region, the piedmonts of the Alborz Mountains have received little scientific attention. The focus has been on the northern slopes, although the intermountain valleys of the southern Alborz Mountains could have been biogeographically suitable for hunter-gatherers. Since the first systematic efforts of the Palaeolithic research in the Alborz Mountains by Carlton Coon in 1949 (1951, 1957), a few Palaeolithic sites have been discovered in the northern and southern slopes of the Alborz Mountains. Moving from the southern slopes of the Alborz Mountains towards the center of the Iranian Plateau, the number of Palaeolithic sites increases. Especially in recent years, many critical Palaeolithic localities have been identified on the interior plains of the Central Iranian Plateau (Biglari 2003, Masoumi et al. 2010, Eskandari et al. 2010, Vahdati Nasab and Feyz 2014, Vahdati Nasab et al. 2009, 2013, 2014, 2016, Heydari-Guran and Ghasidian 2011, Heydari-Guran et al. 2015, Kaboli 1999).
From the physio-geographical point of view, it seems that the sites located on the southern slopes of Alborz Mountain are related to the inner parts of the Central Iranian Plateau (Heydari-Guran et al., 2015). However, it has always been questioned whether the southern slopes of Alborz, like the northern slopes, were an area of human presence during the Palaeolithic. If so, was there a connection between the inhabitants of the southern and northern Alborz slopes? What about the connections to the inhabitants of the interior plains of the Iranian Plateau? Such questions led the authors to study the valleys located in the Southern Alborz Mountain foothills around 80 km crow flies to Tehran’s northwest. The survey in this region has led to the discovery of a complex of caves and rock shelters. The lithic artifacts from one site, Sorheh Rockshelter, presents new insights into the study of human settlement and behavior during the Late Pleistocene in the Iranian Plateau. 

Sorheh in the Palaeolithic Context of the Iranian Plateau
The Sorheh complex consists of 6 caves, and rock shelters were firstly identified in 2018 by one of the authors (H.H.). The complex is formed in a deep drainage system within tuff, shale, and sandstone lithology along the Senj River. It is located around 19 km north of the modern city of Karaj, at a longitude of 50,957,183 and latitude of 35,992,211, and approximately 1900 m above sea level. The first site of this complex on the west side of the valley, Sorheh Rockshelter, revealed rich Palaeolithic depositions. Preliminary examining the exposed strata and accumulated soil confirmed that the site is rich in archaeological remains.
Five other shelters of the Sorheh complex are located between 20 and 70 m east of Sorheh Rockshelter. They mostly consist of a rocky surface with poor deposition; some were destroyed by the looters’ pits. The bedrock dip in two rock-shelters is towards the front slope caused no preservation of archaeological deposits. The last shelter of this complex is attached to the Senj River and is endangered by periodically river flooding, thus empty of archaeological deposits. The newly-constructed road between the villages of Baraghan at the west to Vamkouh at the east destroyed partly two rock shelters; however, it provided easier access to Sorheh Rockshelter.
In general, the lithic techno-typological characteristics of Sorheh presents significant Middle Palaeolithic elements. These lithic artifacts bear little resemblance to their counterparts from Zagros, such as Warwasi, Bisetun, and Kunji (Dibble and Holdaway 1993, Dibble 1984, Baumler and Speth, 1993). However, a comparison with Zagros sites is not plausible because of the considerable distance between these sites and the Alborz. The sites located in the interior regions of the Iranian Plateau, perhaps, provide more relevant information. Most of the Central Plateau open-air sites, including Chah-e Jam, Mirak, Zaviyeh, and Holabad, are flake-oriented, and Levallois technology has widely been used (Heydari-Guran and Ghasidian 2011, Heydari-Guran et al. 2015, Vahdati Nasab et al. 2013, Vahdati Nasab and Hashemi 2016). Levallois technology was observed abundantly among Sorheh collection, though heavily retouched tools, reminiscent of the Zagros Mousterian, are nearly absent.  
Sorheh’s collection reveals more similarities to two open-air sites of Moghanak and Otchounak. The lithic artifacts from these sites are mostly based on the production of blades and elongated flakes (Berillon et al. 2007). The Levallois technology was broadly practiced in Moghanak and Otchounak. The points from Moghanak are plain and unretouched, reminiscent of the Sorheh points. Due to the lack of characteristic retouched tools in Moghanak and Otchounak, no typological comparisons were possible.

The evidence from Sorheh, Zagros Mountains, and the Iranian Central Plateau indicate various subsistence strategies in different geographical regions. This issue put forward the idea of cultural variability among the Middle Palaeolithic populations (Heydari-Guran et al., 2015) in contrast to the notion of cultural homogeneity (Mousterian) throughout the Iranian Plateau (Rosenberg 1988, Biglari et al. 2009, Piperno 1972). 
Considering the high elevation of 1900 m asl., Sorheh Rockshelter, after Ghaleh Kurd with 2100 m asl., is one of the highest-elevated Palaeolithic sites on the Iranian Plateau. Ghaleh Kurd has revealed Middle Palaeolithic artifacts assigned to the Mousterian techno-complex (Soleimani and Alibeigi 2012). The study of the deposits from Sorheh will provide valuable information on the climatic changes during MIS 5 to 3 up to Holocene. It seems that the area, despite high altitude, periodically provided ideal settlement conditions. Climatic amelioration intervals made the region suitable for settlement. Therefore, the detailed physiogeographic study of the Sorheh complex may provide a wealth of information on late Pleistocene climate changes.
Due to the techno-typological similarities of Sorheh lithics to the sites in the Central Iranian Plateau (Vahdati Nasab et al. 2013, Heydari-Guran et al., 2015), we hypothesize the cultural exchange between late Pleistocene hunter-gatherers of Alborz and the interior parts of the Central Plateau during climatic deterioration periods. 
The discovery of this complex with a particular geographical location in a valley with difficult access and, most importantly, the rich Palaeolithic depositions is an essential step towards answering questions related to the human dispersal at the edge of the Iranian Plateau during Marine Isotope Stages of 5 to 3 stages.
Systematic excavation and acquisition of more data in Sorheh will allow more accurate and detailed comparisons to other Middle Palaeolithic sites of the Iranian Plateau.
Full-Text [PDF 2043 kb]   (660 Downloads)    
Type of Study: Research | Subject: Special Archeology
Received: 2020/02/14 | Accepted: 2020/06/1 | Published: 2021/02/27

1. - امیرلو، عنایت‌الله، (1369). «بررسی باستان‌شناختی منطقه دماوند». مجلۀ باستان‌شناسی و تاریخ، شمارۀ پیاپی 7، صص: 78-79.
2. - بیگلری، فریدون؛ و عبدی، حسین، (1380). «گزارش بررسی مقدماتی پناهگاه صخره‌ای خل‌وشت در منطقۀ عمارلو گیلان». مجلۀ باستان‌شناسی و تاریخ، شمارۀ 29 و 30، صص: 72-68.
3. - بیگلری، فریدون؛ جهانی، ولی؛ مشکور، مرجان؛ آرگان، آلن؛ شیدرنگ سونیا؛ و طاهری، کمال، (1386). «غار دربند: شواهدی نویافته از دورۀ پارینه‌سنگی قدیم در گیلان». مجلۀ باستان‌شناسی و تاریخ، شمارۀ 41، صص: 37-30.
4. - سلیمانی، شهربانو؛ و علی‌بیگی، سجاد، (1391). «غار قلعه‌کرد آوج؛ شواهدی از استقرار دورۀ پارینه‌سنگی میانی در کوهستان‌های جنوب‌غرب استان قزوین». مجلۀ پیام باستان‌شناس، سال 9، شمارۀ 18، صص: 16-1.
5. - کابلی، میر‌عابدین، (1378). بررسی باستان‌شناسی قمرود. تهران: سازمان میراث‌فرهنگی کشور (پژوهشگاه).
6. - معصومی، امید؛ جوهر، آذر؛ و افشاری، ثریا، (1389). «آراسنج: شواهدی جدید از پارینه‌سنگی میانی در جنوب دشت قزوین». باستان‌شناسی ایران 1، تهران: مؤسسه بین المللی مطالعات گردشگری و هشت مینا، صص: 16-6.
7. - وحدتی‌نسب، حامد؛ و جایز، مژگان، (1390). «فناوری و گونه‌شناسی دست‌افزارهای سنگی غار کمیشان، مازندران (ملاحظاتی بر صنعت تریالیتی). باستان‌شناسی و تاریخ، سال 21، شمارۀ 50، صص: 79-56.
8. - وحدتی‌نسب، حامد؛ و فیض، زینب، (1393). «بررسی و شناسایی محوطه‌های پارینه‌سنگی در حاشیۀ شمالی دشت کویر - ایرلی در حدفاصل بین سمنان و سرخه». مجموعه مقالات دوازدهمین گردهمایی سالانۀ باستان‌شناسی ایران، صص: 4۶۵-۴۶۸.
10. - Baumler, M. & Speth, J. D., (1993). “A Middle Paleolithic assemblage from Kunji Cave, Iran”. In: D. I. Olszewski and H. L. Dibble eds. The Paleolithic prehistory of the Zagros-Taurus. The University Museum, Pennsylvania, Pp: 1-74.
11. - Berillon, G.; Asgari Khaneghah, A.; Antoine, P.; Bahain, J-J.; Chevrier, B.; Zeitoun, V.; Aminzadeh, N.; Beheshti, M.; Ebadollahi Chanzanagh, H. & Nochadi, S., (2007). “Discovery of new open-air Paleolithic localities in Central Alborz, Northern Iran”. Journal of Human Evolution, No. 52, Pp: 380-387.
12. - Berillon, G.; Asgari Khaneghah, A.; Chevrier, B.; Auguste, P.; Zeitoun, V.; Beheshti, M.; Nochadi, S.; Ebadollahi Chanzanagh, H.; Ramirez Rozzi, F.; Bahain, J-J.; Antoine, P. & Vercoutere, C., (2009). “Late Pleistocene Prehistory in Central Alborz: Preliminary results of the French and Iranian Palaeoanthropological Programme 2006 on the Excavation of Garm Roud 2 (Amol, Mazandaran)”. In: M. Otte, F. Biglari and J. Jaubert, eds”, Iran Paleolithic/ Le Paléolithique d’Iran. BAR International series. Pp: 101-108.
13. - Biglari, F., (2012). “A reconsideration of the purported Epipaleolithic assemblage of Qaleh Asgar, Alborz Mountains”. Iranian Archaeology, Vol. 3, P: 46.
14. - Biglari, F.; Heydari, S. & Shidrang, S., (2004). “Ganj par: the first evidence for lower Paleolithic occupation in the southern Caspian basin, Iran”. Antiquity, No. 78 (302), Pp: 1-3.
15. - Biglari, F. & Jahani, V., (2011). “The Pleistocene Human Settlement in Gilan, Southwest Caspian Sea: Recent Research”. Eurasian Prehistory, No. 8 (1-2), Pp: 3-28.
16. - Biglari, F.; Javeri, M.; Mashkour, M.; Yazdi, M.; Naderi, R.; Shidrang, S.; Tenberg, M.; Taheri, K.; Darvish, J. & Hashemi, N., (2009). “Test excavation at the Middle Paleolithic sites of Qaleh Bozi, southwest of Central Iran”. A preliminary report, In: M. Otte, F. Biglari and J. Jaubert, eds, Iran Paleolithic/ Le Paléolithique d’Iran, BAR International series, Pp: 29-38 .
17. - Chevrier, B.; Berillon, G.; Asgari Khaneghah, A.; Antoine, P.; Bahain, J-J. & Zeitoun, V., (2006). “Moghanak, Otchounak, Garm Roud 2: nouveaux assemblages paléolithiques dans 1e Nord de 1 Iran, Caractérisations typo technologiques et attributions chrono-culturelles”. Paleorient, No. 32 (2). Pp: 59-75.
18. - Conard, N. J.; Soressi, M.; Parkington, J. E.; Wurz, S. & Yates, R., (2004). “Unified lithic taxonomy based on patterns of core reduction”. South African Archaeological Bulletin, No. 59 (179), Pp: 13-17.
19. - Coon, C. S., (1951). Cave Explorations in Iran 1949. Philadelphia: The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania.
20. - Coon, C. S., (1957). The Seven Caves, New York: Knopf.
21. - Dibble, H. L., (1984). “The Mousterian Industry from Bisitun Cave (Iran)”. Paleorient, No. 10 (2), Pp: 23-34.
22. - Dibble, H. L. & Holdaway, S. J., (1993). “The Middle Paleolithic industries of Warwasi”. In: D.I. Olszewski and H. L. Dibble eds, The Paleolithic prehistory of the Zagros-Taurus, The University Museum, Pennsylvania, Pp: 75-100.
23. - Eskandari, N.; َAbedi, A.; Niazi, N. & Saeediyan, S., (2010). “Tapeh Mes: a possible Middle Palaeolithic site in the Delijan Main, central Iran”. Antiquity, No. 84 (323), project Gallery.
24. - Ghasidian, E., (2019). “Southern Caspian Corridor: a biogeographical corridor of expansion”. Hugo Obermaier Society for Quaternary Research and Archaeology of the Stone Age. 61st Annual Meeting in Erkrath: April 23rd – April 27th 2019: book of abstract, P. 26.
25. - Groucutt, H. S., (2014). “Middle Palaeolithic point technology, with a focus on the site of Tor Faraj (Jordan, MIS 3)”. Quaternary international, No. 350: Pp: 205-226.
26. - Heydari-Guran, S. & Ghasidian, E., (2011). “The Paleolithic survey in Arisman region; western central plateau of Iran. In Early Mining and Metallurgy on the Western Central Iranian Plateau”. ed. A. Vatandoust, H. Paryinger, B Helwing, Archäologie in Iran und Turan Band 9, Verlag Phlipp Von Zebern, Mainz, Pp: 484-498.
27. - Heydari-Guran, S. & Ghasidian, E., (2017). “The MUP Zagros Project: tracking the Middle–Upper Palaeolithic transition in the Kermanshah region, west-central Zagros, Iran”. Antiquity, No. 91 (355), Project Gallery.
28. - Heydari-Guran, S. & Ghasidian, E., (2020). “Late Pleistocene hominin settlement patterns and population dynamics in the Zagros Mountains: Kermanshah region”. Archaeological Research in Asia, No. 21, Pp: 100-161, DOI:10.1016/j.ara.2019.100161.
29. - Heydari-Guran, S.; Ghasidian, E. & Conard, N. J., (2015). “Middle Paleolithic Settlement on the Iranian Central Plateau”. In: N. J. Conard and A. Delagnes (eds.), Settlement Dynamics of the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age, Volume IV. Tübingen Publications in Prehistory, Pp: 171-205.
30. - Jayez, M. & Vahdati Nasab, H., (2016). “A separation: Caspian Mesolithic vs Trialetian lithic industry (a research on excavated site of Komishan, south-east of Caspian Sea)”. Paléorient, No. 42, Pp: 81–100.
31. - Mashkour, M.; Chahoud, J. & Mahfrouzi, A., (2010). “Faunal remains from the Epipaleolithic site of Komishan Cave and its dating, preliminary results”. Iranian Archaeology, No. 1, Pp: 32-37.
32. - McBurney, C. B. M., (1964). “Preliminary report on Stone Age reconnaissance in North-Eastern Iran”. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, No. 30, Pp: 382-99.
33. - Piperno, M., (1972). “Jahrom, a Middle Paleolithic Site in Fars”. Iran. East and West, No. 22, Pp: 183-97.
34. - Rosenberg, M., (1988). “Paleolithic Settlement Pattern in the Marv Dasht, Fars Province, Iran”. Unpublished Ph.D, disserta‌tion, University of Pennsylvania, USA.
35. - Shea, J. J., (2001). “Experimental Tests of Middle Palaeolithic Spear Points Using a Calibrated Crossbow”. Journal of Archaeological Science, No. 28, Pp: 807–816.
36. - Shea, J. J., (2009). “The Impact of Projectile Weaponry on Late Pleistocene Human Evolution”. In: Hublin, J.-J. and Richards, M. (eds.), The Evolution of Hominid Diets: in‌tegrating approaches to the study of Palaeolithic subsistence, Springer, New York. Pp: 187–197.
37. - Shea, J. J. & Sisk, M. L., (2010). “Complex Projectile Technology and Homo Sapiens Dispersal into Western Eurasia”. PaleoAnthropology, No. 2010, Pp: 100−122, doi:10.4207/PA.2010.ART36.
38. - Vahdati Nasab, H. & Clark, G. A., (2014). “The Upper Paleolithic of the Iranian Central Desert: The Delazian Sites, Semnan Province–a Case Study”. Archaologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan (AMIT), No. 46, Pp: 1–21.
39. - Vahdati Nasab, H. & Hashemi, M., (2016). “Playas and Middle Paleolithic settlement of the Iranian Central Desert: The discovery of the Chah-e Jam Middle Paleolithic site”. Quaternary International, No. 408, Pp: 140-152.
40. - Vahdati Nasab, H.; Mollasalehi, H.; Saeedpour, M. & Jamshidi, N., (2009). “Paleolithic Levalloisian Assemblages from Boeen Zahra in the Qazvin Plain (Iran)”. Antiquity, No. 83 (320), Project gallery.
41. - Vahdati Nasab, H.; Clark, G. A. & Torkamandi, S., (2013). “Late Pleistocene dispersal corridors across the Iranian Plateau: A case study from Mirak, a Middle Paleolithic site on the northern edge of the Iranian Central desert (Dasht-e Kavir)”. Quaternary International, No. 300, Pp: 267-281.

Rights and permissions
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.