New traces of Neanderthal sites discovered in northcentral Iran

January 24, 2022 - 19:56

TEHRAN – A team of archaeologists has discovered new traces of Neanderthal sites during its intensive field survey conducted on vast areas of barren lands in Eyvanekey, northcentral Iran.

Led by Iranian archaeologist Seyyed Milad Hashemi, the team has found a considerable number of stone tools, some of which underwent laboratory examinations, ILNA reported on Sunday.

“This survey was conducted in an area of about 890 square kilometers to identify distribution patterns of possible Paleolithic sites and examine the traditions of ancient toolmaking in the western region of Semnan province,” Hashemi said.

“Preliminary studies indicate the sites in which the relics discovered to belong to the Middle Paleolithic and Neolithic periods.”

Moreover, our initial investigations suggest a large part of the stone tools have been cut from relatively large rocks using hard hammer blow, Hashemi explained.

According to the archaeologist, some of the stone tools are associated with the Pleistocene era, which is often referred to as the Ice Age. It 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.

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

Of 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.

Semnan is home to many ancient and prehistorical sites with Tepe Hesar being amongst the most important ones. The site 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.

Tepe Hesar was first 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.

Its older 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.

Later on, 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 available 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.

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