Jiroft is the ancient city of Marhashi: U.S. scholar

May 7, 2008 - 0:0

TEHRAN -- Piotr Steinkeller, professor of Assyriology in Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of Harvard University, believes that the prehistoric site of Jiroft is the lost ancient city of Marhashi.

He developed the theory in his paper during the first round of the International Conference on Jiroft Civilization, which was held in Tehran on May 5 and 6.
Marhashi, (in earlier sources Warahshe) was a 3rd millennium BC polity situated east of Elam, on the Iranian plateau. It is known from Mesopotamian sources, and its precise location has not been identified. An inscription of Lugal-Anne-Mundu, the most important king of the Adab city-state in Sumer, locates it, along with Elam, to the south of Gutium, an ancient polity in upper Mesopotamia. The inscription also explains that Lugal-Anne-Mundu confronted the Warahshe king, Migir-Enlil.
Jiroft is the lost ancient city of Marhashi, which had been located between Anshan and Meluhha, Steinkeller said.
Anshan was one of the early capitals of Elam, from the 3rd millennium BC, which is located 36 kilometers northwest of modern Shiraz in Fars Province, southwestern Iran.
The Indus Valley Civilization has been tentatively identified with the toponym Meluhha known from Sumerian records.
According to Steinkeller, Marhashi was a political and economic power in eastern Iran, which had been in a close contact with Babylonia. This relationship had been developed over two periods, which has influenced the political history of the region for at least a half century.
Steinkeller had previously been searching the Kerman region in order to identify a site from the 3rd millennium BC, which he could consider it as Marhashi. He had found Tepe Yahya and Tall-e Eblis, but he believes that Tepe Yahya is too small to be considered as Marhashi and Tall-e Eblis has been has almost entirely been destroyed over the years.
Thus, he said that Jiroft is the heart of the ancient city of Marhashi and hoped that upcoming excavations and studies would help archaeologists discover other parts of the city.
According to the conference scientific secretary Professor Yusef Majidzadeh, over 700 ancient sites such as tepes and graves have been discovered in Jiroft over the past six seasons of excavation by a team of archaeologists led by Majidzadeh.
Located next to the Halil-Rud River in southern Iran’s Kerman Province, Jiroft came into the spotlight in 2002 when reports surfaced of extensive illegal excavations being carried out by local people who went on to plunder priceless historical items.
Majidzadeh team unearthed a great number of artifacts at Jiroft as well as three tablets in one of the present-day villager’s homes and a brick inscription near Jiroft’s Konar-Sandal region wherein they also discovered ruins of a large fortress, which previously was believed to be a ziggurat. The structure is surmised have been made of more than four million mud bricks.
The pottery works and the shards discovered in the Konar-Sandal fortress date back to an interval between the fourth millennium BC and early years of the Islamic period, Majidzadeh said during the conference.
Once, Majidzadeh had said that Jiroft is the ancient city of Aratta, which was described in a Sumerian clay inscription as an impressive center of civilization. In December 2007, he suggested that archaeologists use the term Proto-Iranian instead of Proto-Elamite for the script found at Jiroft.
He believes that the world should revise its knowledge of the Eastern civilizations due to the inscriptions discovered at Jiroft.
Majidzadeh describes the inscriptions as unique and also elaborates that the tablets and the brick inscription bearing a script which has been invented along with the Mesopotamia script at the same time.
A great number of Iranian and foreign archaeologists and scholars will discuss latest studies on the Jiroft civilization during the conference, which will be continued in Jiroft from May 8 to 9.
Photo: A team of archaeologists work on a prehistoric site near Konar-Sandal in the Jiroft region in an undated photo. This site was previously believed to be a ziggurat.