Archaeologists discover 300,000-year-old relics, traces of hunter-gatherers in northcentral Iran

January 4, 2022 - 21:45

TEHRAN – Archaeologists have recently discovered a considerable number of prehistorical relics and clues about the Paleolithic hunter-gatherers who once roamed across the Garmsar country of Iran.

“Archaeological quarries in Eyvanekey (district of Garmsar country) have uncovered vast landscapes from the Paleolithic period and a significant number of stone tools and artifacts,” Seyyed Milad Hashemi who led the archaeological survey said told reporters on Monday.

“Preliminary studies indicate the presence of human beings in this region in the two eras of the Middle Paleolithic period, about 300,000 years (before present), and in the New Paleolithic period of about 40,000 years ago.”

The archaeologist said the recent archaeological excavations at Eyvanekey have uncovered vast landscapes from the Paleolithic period and a significant number of stone structures.

Some of the stone tools are associated with the Pleistocene era, he noted. Pleistocene, often referred to as the Ice Age, is the geological epoch that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the earth's most recent period of repeated glaciations.

Most of the discovered stone artifacts bear a shiny layer of burnt brown to black, which is called “desert polish”, Hashemi noted.

Of the technical characteristics of the artifacts are their relatively large dimensions (which are expected to be shaped) with the help of hard hammer blows; evidence of the use of The Levallois technique and the existence of tools attributed to the Middle Paleolithic period such as jagged and concave side scrapers on large chips deemed to be used for making fine blades, the researcher explained.

The Levallois technique is a name given by archaeologists to a distinctive type of stone knapping developed around 250,000 to 300,000 years ago during the Middle Paleolithic period. It is part of the Mousterian stone tool industry and was used by the Neanderthals in Europe and by modern humans in other regions such as the Levant. The method provides much greater control over the size and shape of the final flake which would then be employed as a scraper or knife although the technique could also be adapted to produce projectile points known as Levallois points.

“This archaeological study indicates the possibility of human presence in an area now called Garmsar county, and field studies are still ongoing in the area,” Hashemi added.

Amongst the most important artchaeological sites of Semnan province is Tepe Hesar, which bears cultural periods from the Chalcolithic Age to the Sasanian period. Situated on the southern outskirts of Damghan, Tepe Hesar is reportedly one of the world’s five archaeological hills of the Iron Age, and the archaeological hill is considered as of the oldest prehistorical sites in the Iranian plateau as well.

Identified in 1880, Tepe Hesar was excavated in 1925 and 1931-1932 when the construction of the Trans-Iranian Railway cuts through the main mound. It was one of the first Chalcolithic and Bronze Age excavations in this area, and the stratigraphy has been very important to date similar sites. In 1976, research was briefly resumed and radiocarbon measures were taken.

The oldest layer, Hesar I, belongs to the Copper Age (Chalcolithic; after 3800 BC); it is about as old as Susa and resembles Sialk III, by which it appears to have been influenced, according to livius.org, a website on ancient history written and maintained since 1996 by the Dutch historian Jona Lendering, according to Livius.org; a website on ancient history written and maintained since 1996 by the Dutch historian Jona Lendering.

Hesar II, which starts in about 3600 BC, is marked by the appearance of burnished grey pottery and the first objects made of bronze. Among the finds are long-shaped bottles. The next phase, Hesar III, began in about 2800 BC and saw nice metal work and grey pottery similar to Turan Tepe, which is on the other side of the Alborz mountain range. Some three centuries later, when Hesar III ended, a part of the town was violently destroyed. The ruin that is now known as the "Burnt Building", situated in the western part of the hill, is the most recognizable remainder of this catastrophe. Archaeologists have found stone arrowheads and charred battle victims.

After this period, the site was abandoned and there was a hiatus for about five or six centuries. After about 1350 BC, people returned and settled on smaller mounds in the neighborhood of the ancient mound. If the main hill was occupied, those recent layers have eroded.

The smaller mounds from the Iron Age and later have not been investigated, although surface finds prove that Tepe Hesar remained inhabited, as one could have expected, because this part of the Silk Road, from Rhagae to Susia, continued to be in use. In the west, the Median kingdom came into being in the second quarter of the first millennium; its armies came along the road and subdued the Parthians. Later, both Media and Parthia were part of the Achaemenid and Seleucid Empires, until the Parthians turned the tables and united Iran. Directly west of Tepe Hesar, Hecatompylos flourished.

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Human Evolution, suggests that Neanderthals were roaming over the Iranian Zagros mountain range between 40 to 70 thousand years ago. Neanderthals lived before and during the last Ice Age of the Pleistocene in some of the most unforgiving environments ever inhabited by humans. They developed a successful culture, with a complex stone tool technology, that was based on hunting, with some scavenging and local plant collection. Their survival during tens of thousands of years of the last glaciation is a remarkable testament to human adaptation. According to Britannica, the oldest rocks in the Zagros range date to Precambrian time (that is, before 541 million years ago), and the Paleozoic Era rocks date to between 541 million and 252 million years ago are found at or near the highest peaks.

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