Research in the Prehistory of Central Western Iran

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Science  22 Jul 1966:
Vol. 153, Issue 3734, pp. 386-391
DOI: 10.1126/science.153.3734.386


The archeological sequence in the Bisitun and Kangovar valleys promises to fill a number of gaps in the prehistory of this part of southwestern Asia. Ghar-i Khar should yield data concerning the degree of cultural continuity or discontinuity in the Upper Pleistocene and early Holocene ranges of prehistory. This cave site should also be helpful in gaining further insight into the climatic conditions during these times, and in particular on the prevalent fauna and flor (and the human use of them) at the close of the Pleistocene, when some groups may already have been leading ways of life foreshadowing the Neolithic. Ganj-i Dareh offers the opportunity of examining in detail what seems to be an early farming community at or very near the beginning of an important shift in methods of subsistence. The geographical position of this latter site may also be of unusual significance in studying the spread of the Neolithic; located as it is near the traditional route across the Zagros Mountains into Iraq, this site, as well as others in the region, may have played an important role in the diffusion of the new elements and methods to other parts of the mountainous zone. That is, within the broad "natural habitat zone" it may be useful to distinguish optimum areas of development and diffusion during the early phases of the Neolithic. Comparison with small sites like Tepe Asiab in the Kermanshah Valley (considered to have been a temporary encampment of clam collectors) (7) may place such sites in their proper perspective as seasonally occupied satellites of more permanent villages such as Ganj-i Dareh; the same possibility is open for the later ceramic Neolithic phase now that the oldest level of Godin Tepe shows a community to which nearby sites on this time horizon can probably be related. However, it will require an intimate study of the two valleys as microenvironments, and comparison of them with each other and with the Kermanshah and Hulailan valleys, in order to reach a fuller understanding of the interrelationships of the various aceramic and ceramic Neolithic sites from the 9th to the 6th millennium. Again, only further exploration in the region will reveal whether the absence of recognizable farming-community sites in the Zagros region during the 8th millennium reflects a genuine hiatus or simply insufficient investigation (21).

A broader clearance of Period VII at Godin Tepe itself will enable us better to define the period during which material from Period VII is found stratigraphically associated with later material. Through the horizontal clearance of one of the six small sites in the Kangovar-Bisitun area where similar materials in the pottery Neolithic period are found on or near the surface, by sounding perhaps one other such site, and by plotting all the sites in the region that date to this period, we should be able to reconstruct a reasonably complete picture of this valley at the time of Godin VII. One of these small sites in the neighborhood may yet yield evidence on the relationship between the aceramic and pottery phases of the Neolithic. Godin, of course, provides us an excellent opportunity to examine the relationship between the pottery of the Neolithic and subsequent cultural periods in western Iran, since there appears to be no major break in the developmental sequence between Godin VII and VI.

For the periods after the pottery Neolithic in western Iran we have had only the more or less stratified sequence of tombs excavated at Tepe Giyan on which to base our understanding of the developmental sequence from the 6th to the 1st millennium B. C. Even the evidence from our preliminary testing of Godin Tepe indicates how sketchy that understanding has been, since previously we had only suspected the presence of the Uruk culture in the area and had no evidence at all that the culture defined at Yanik Tepe near Tabriz, which has strong links with eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus, ever spread as far south as the central Zagros. Continued research at Godin will shed light on these new problems as well as on many of the long-standing issues that have puzzled archeologists concerned with the Bronze and Iron ages in western Iran.

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