Document Type : Research Paper


Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Architecture, Payame Noor University (PNU), Tehran,Iran.


In this article, by analyzing the research activities conducted in the Central Zagros region in the Iron Age, the shortcomings, contradictions, questions and theories have been expressed, and in addition to presenting the general framework of previous researches, they have been criticized and analyzed. For this purpose, past and current published activities as well as some unpublished reports have been considered. This can be useful in identifying future research priorities. The transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age in the Central Zagros is largely unknown, and in archaeological excavations in this area, due to lack of accurate stratigraphic excavations, terms such as Iron Age I, II and III cannot be used for its different areas. Therefore, in this article, the general term of the Early Iron Age for Iron Age I and II is used.The Central Zagros region has long been interesting to archaeologists. The French geologist Jacques de Morgan visited the Luristan region in the 19th century and identified many sites. Ernst Herzfeld in the early years of the twentieth century surveyed many areas of the Zagros region and identified Tepe Giyan in the county of Nehavand. This site was later excavated by G. Contenau and R. Ghirshman. Stein conducted archaeological research in Luristan and excavated several Iron Age tombs in Hulailan and Badawar. Almost at the same time as Stein, the Holmes expedition was one of the teams that conducted archaeological studies in the Luristan region under Schmidt’s direction. In 1934 and 1935, he conducted archaeological surveys and excavations in Luristan, and in 1938, he excavated Surkh Dum for three weeks; this site is highly important for reasons such as being a settlement land and having hundreds of different objects. Sites such as Kamtarlan, Chigha Sabz and Surkh Dum were excavated during performing this research. A review of the research background conducted in the Central Zagros region indicates that the excavations were scattered and non-purposeful and at first, more attention was paid to objects. In the early studies of the Iron Age, there was no definite plan, and most of the information obtained was based on individual, and in some cases, incidental research. The lack of necessary standards in excavations has made the problem more complex. Some of the excavations were not fully published or were later conducted by others. These problems are observed in some sites such as Tang-i Hamamlan, Surkh Dum, Cheshmeh Mahi, Tepe Giyan, Khatun Ban, Jameh Shuran, Tepe Guran, Chigha Sabz, and Kamtarlan. The Iron Age in the Central Zagros is often based on studies conducted in the 1970s and 1980s. These researches started with scattered studies, and projects related to Luristan bronzes were revived. Attempts to identify bronze makers as well as their stylistics, and their geographical origin were among the reasons for focusing on Iron Age activities in the Central Zagros. Previous scattered studies were mostly based on the stylistics of objects. In the following decades, Luristan bronzes were strongly considered, and the research teams of the Danish in Hulailan, the British team in Delfan (Dilfan), and the Belgian delegation in Pusht-i Kuh (Ilam Province) conducted extensive studies in this field. In the 1970s and 1980s, during the Godin project, valuable surveys and excavations were conducted, based on which a purposeful approach on chronology, settlement patterns, comparison to the Bronze Age, and connections of the Central Zagros to other regions were considered. Nevertheless, problems, such as separation of Iron Age I and II phases from each other, involvement of theories in the north of the Central Plateau in the Central Zagros region, and uncertainty of the period of some pottery traditions like Elamite/Kassite goblets are among its shortcomings. It should also be noted that this study did not cover all parts of the Central Zagros. Clare Goff's research in the 1970s considerably contributed to the understanding of the Iron Age in the Luristan region. The excavations of Louis Vanden Berghe in Pusht-i Kuh led to excavation of 11 Early Iron Age cemeteries, which have been thoroughly investigated in the chronology of objects obtained from this area. The Danish excavation in Tepe Guran had a good sequence, but the speed of the excavation and the lack of phasing have somewhat reduced the quality of the work.The timing of the use of iron metal, either as a decoration or as a public tool in the Central Zagros, has not been precisely determined. Among the findings of Iron Age I, currently there is no conclusive evidence, and the beginning of this phase is based more on pottery changes. In the studies of this area, the emergence of gray Gray Ware as well as Kassite/Elamite pottery and the end of Godin III pottery tradition is regarded as the beginning of the Iron Age. Lack of gray pottery in all areas of the Central Zagros as an indicator, contradiction at the beginning of the Iron Age, existence of different traditions such as the difference between Pish-i Kuh and Pusht-i Kuh, and lack of separation of pottery from settlement sites with cemeteries are among the challenges of this phase. This complexity is intensified in Iron Age II, so that it is not presently possible to distinguish between this phase and the previous phase. Although pottery has been introduced as Iron Age II, firstly, these samples exhibit regional differences and secondly, their start, end or phasing time is unknown. Among the types of gray pottery, no distinction can be made between Iron Age I and II pottery. Based on surveys and excavations of cemeteries in this period, we encounter a decrease in settlement or a change in settlements, and our evidence from this period is more incomplete than that of the previous period. In general, , lack of a chronological framework for its various regions, scattered surveys, lack of standards in excavations, or long delays in the publication of reports, are among the problems in the Central Zagros region. Additionally, inadequate recording, different interpretations, lack of separation of the different phases of the Iron Age, imposing theories on data, paying attention to objects and neglecting details like architecture, and not paying sufficient attention to the findings of northern Mesopotamia are other problems. Furthermore, uncertainty of the beginning of the Iron Age in different parts of the Central Zagros, lack of detailed study of economic, technological and political changes from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, uncertainty of the impact of atmospheric factors on sites, ambiguity of the Central Zagros association with the Ilam civilization and lack of accurate excavation in areas covering all phases of this period are among the other problems. Moreover, insufficient knowledge of Luristan bronzes and unknown details such as manufacturers, production centers, accurate stylistics, and time of their production are other shortcomings of the Iron Age of the Central Zagros region. To start research activities in the Central Zagros region, considering these shortcomings, we need purposeful, long-term, question-based projects using interdisciplinary studies.


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