Hierarchical or Transegalitarian? Societies of the Transitional Chalcolithic Period on the North-Central Plateau of Iran

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Professor, Department of Archeology, University of Tehran, Tehran.

2 Professor, Department of Archeology, University of Reading, UK.


Tracking the emergence of political authority and social hierarchy in the archaeological record has been one of the major challenges addressed by archaeologists in the past fifty years or more, with considerable attention given to potential material correlates of early stages in developments leading ultimately toward statehood (Chapman 2003; Smith 2012). Much of this research has explored the evidence from past societies of the ancient Near East, including Mesopotamia and Iran (Wright 1998; Flannery 1999; Smith 2003), but there has been less investigation of the communities of the Iranian plateau in this light (Matthews and Fazeli 2004). What was their role(s) in the complex series of socio-political developments leading to the appearance of hierarchical societies in the centuries between 5500 and 4000 BC, and how might the archaeological evidence inform us on those roles? Recent and ongoing research into societies of the Iranian plateau in the so-called Transitional Chalcolithic period (5200-4200 BC) is continuing to enhance our understanding of this question. In this article we summarise and analyse the evidence from archaeological investigations of sites and regions on the Tehran, Kashan, and Qazvin plains, addressing in turn settlement patterns, subsistence strategies, craft production, and mortuary practices (Fig. 1).


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