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Parseh J Archaeol Stud 2020, 4(13): 27-53 Back to browse issues page
The Results of the Archaeological Investigations at the Site of Varamin, Jiroft: Early Phase of Jiroft Civilization
Nasir Eskandari
Assistant Professor, Department of Archaeology, University of Tehran & Department of Archaeology, University of Jiroft, Iran , Nasir.eskandari@ut.ac.ir
Abstract:   (1459 Views)
The site of Varamin is a key-site to understand the chronology and cultural development of the Jiroft region during the 4th and 3rd millennia BC. Thus, the project seeks to address one of the fundamental questions of the archaeology of the Halil Rud Basin, i.e. the transition process from the Late Chalcolithic to the Early Bronze Age and the emergence of the Jiroft culture of the 3rd millennium BC. This periodization system for the Jiroft region is backed by twelve 14C AMS radiocarbon dates. Furthermore, a rich burial (grave 1), which contained 78 complete pottery vessels and six metal objects. The tomb is attributed to the Varamin Period and dates between 3100 and 2900 BC. It is one of the few burials in the Halil Rud Basin which was found unlooted and could be investigated in a stratigraphically controlled manner. It furnishes invaluable insight into funerary customs of the Jiroft region at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age. Indeed, Varamin offers new insights into the formation of the Jiroft civilization based on developments of the 4th millennium BC. Here, we also present the preliminary results of a survey, accompanied by limited test trenches, at the large prehistoric site of Varamin. Occupied from the late 5th to the second half of the 3rd millennium BC, this site, part of a much wider settlement network, provides crucial evidence on the local processes of early urbanization and the evolution of the Halil Rud or Marḫaši civilization. In spite of intensive erosion and the impact of older and recent agricultural earthworks, the available archaeological record is quite rich, with evidence of monumental architecture, of two different cemeteries, and of important craft production areas (for Aliabad pottery firing, and for producing beads and stone vessels in different kinds of valuable stones). In addition, we will report the discovery of a hoard of copper artifacts exposed by erosion. 
Keywords: Halilrud Basin, Jiroft, Konar Sandal, Varamin Period.

Recent archaeological discoveries in the Halil Rud Basin (Kerman province, Iran) brought to light a hitherto unknown culture, the so-called “Jiroft culture” which generally dates back to the third millennium BC. Jiroft became famous after 2000-2001 when thousands of confiscated burial goods, especially elaborated carved chlorite vessels, from a dozen of looted necropolises of Halil Rud impacted the media. This drew the attention of many scholars to Jiroft. Most of them refer to it as the core of the production and probably distribution of the widely distributed chlorite artefacts of the so-called “intercultural style”, while Steinkeller attributed the toponym of Marḫaši to Jiroft. In 2003, Youssef Madjidzadeh started archaeological excavations at the Konar Sandal archaeological complex in Jiroft plain. Excavations at Konar Sandal South have revealed the character of an Early Bronze Age large mud-brick citadel which was surrounded by a massive defensive wall in the centre of a large lower town. Although there is still much to learn about this centre, the results are a clear testimony to the power, wealth and social stratification of this urban centre. According to absolute dates that come from well-controlled contexts at the site of Konar Sandal South (KSS), an absolute range between 2880 and 2140 BC has been proposed for the site. However, the radiocarbon dates for the citadel of KSS fall in the second half of third millennium BC. In contrast, the protohistoric site of Varamin seems to have reached its maximum extension in the late 4th/early 3rd millennium BC, at a time before Konar Sandal South started to be the main centre of the valley. Varamin gives us, after more than 15 years of work in the Halil Rud valley, a more comprehensive view on the chronology of the Halil Rud basin from the late 5th to the late 3rd millennium BC (to be refined for the 3rd millennium BC or Konar Sandal South period) and the typological evolution of its ceramics. 

Excavations and Surveys at Varamin
In February 2017, two trenches were opened in the site of Hajjiabad-Varamin, 5 km south-west of the site complex of Konar Sandal South. Trench I uncovered a stratigraphic sequence well dated by radiocarbon to the mid-4th – early 3rd millennium BC. Trench II brought to light a well preserved grave dated, on the basis of the pottery, to the same and newly defined Varamin period. In 2019, in order to determine the extent of the site, 13 small test trenches (1.5 x 1.5 m in size) were opened all around the outer border of the site. Variable in depth (but usually less than 1 m deep), these operations generally unearthed erosive secondary lenses on top, variously altered by recent soil formation or recent agricultural impact, then followed by natural subsoil. We thus enclosed the site (including all the occupations of various periods) within a total area of about 80 ha. 
In the upper levels of Trench I, came to light the walls of a massive construction in mudbricks and other three architectural levels linked to a stratigraphic sequence, well dated by the means of eight 14C dates, which span from 3300 to 2900 BC. The small and not very abundant pottery found in the later levels of Trench I, painted with a limited repertory of simple geometric patterns, looked comparable with the local black-on-buff ceramics accompanying the Mahtoutabad III or Uruk-related ceramic assemblages found at Mahtoutabad (late 4th millennium BC), where it followed 1 m thick deposits of Aliabad ware. The deeper occupation layers of Trench I, down to the virgin soil, contained amounts of the same pottery. Trench II was excavated on the southern slopes of the same mounded area. It brought to light Grave 1, a well preserved “catacomb”- like grave dated, on the basis of the style of the pots, to the same general period. In February 2019, Trench III, in the southern edge of the site, explored one of earliest settlement cores. Trenches IV and VII were opened in the north-eastern part of the site. Here, the first operation exposed the natural soil, while in Trench VII came to light Grave 2, another large catacomb grave coeval to Grave 1, and equally rich in offerings (at present, in the course of restoration and documentation). The style of the black-on-buff ceramics with geometric patterns of the two graves, again, was very similar, as it was coherent with the sherds generally linked with the life and abandonment of the walls of the massive building exposed on top of the Main Mound.  Trenches V, VI and VIII were dug in the center of the site, west of the Main Mound. In the first two, archaeological deposits were not preserved for more than 40-60 cm of thickness. In Trench VIII, a better preserved stratigraphy included living surfaces and pits of the mid-3rd millennium BC, currently in course of study; the virgin soil was not reached. Trench X, finally, partially explored the uppermost layers of a mound at south-east, dating to the Islamic period.

This site appears as a complicated patchwork of discrete minor occupations which followed in time for more than two millennia (here labeled, in sequence, Gaz Saleh, Mahtoutabad I, Aliabad, Varamin and Konar Sandal South periods). Thus, they represent a continuous cultural development from the late 5th to the mid-3rd millennium BC in the Halil Rud Basin. This development appears to have been a purely indigenous process not affected by foreign elements, such as Uruk or Uruk-derived potteries. Varamin seems to have played an important role in this autochthonous development. The site was a major center of the Jiroft Plain from the mid-4th millennium onwards until around 2700 BC. At which point in time, Konar Sandal South, only 6 km away from Varamin, took over as it became the dominant and single center of the Jiroft Plain. The later role of Konar Sandal South, however, cannot be properly understood without acknowledging the long, gradual developments which took place in the region before the Jiroft Period. Thus, the Late Aliabad Period and the Varamin A and B Periods, extending from the mid-4th millennium BC to around 2900 BC, can be seen as the formative phases of the flourishing Jiroft Period of the 3rd millennium BC.
Keywords: Halilrud Basin, Jiroft, Konar Sandal, Varamin Period
Full-Text [PDF 4207 kb]   (400 Downloads)    
Type of Study: Research | Subject: Special Archeology
Received: 2020/05/15 | Accepted: 2020/08/8 | Published: 2020/11/30
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Eskandari N. The Results of the Archaeological Investigations at the Site of Varamin, Jiroft: Early Phase of Jiroft Civilization. Parseh J Archaeol Stud. 2020; 4 (13) :27-53
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