(Part 3)

Discover Iron Age burial in Gilan: bizarre patterns and rituals

September 1, 2021 - 20:30

TEHRAN – According to Iranian archaeologist Yousef Fallahian, the Iron Age is considered a new era due to the creation of new and varied forms of metal and ceramic objects, development, and use of gray earthenware with tube spouts, updating and expanding the use of iron, developing the tradition of burial settlements.

“Logically, it has more or less common features in most regions of the Iranian Plateau and its surrounding regions. But without a doubt, each of the sites and each of the regions has some different features,” Fallahian wrote in one of his scientific articles published by ResearchGate.

“In Iron Age Gilan, horse burial was common in all the three cultural domains as its examples can be observed in some sites such as Marlik, Kalouraz, and Shahran from Roudbar domain, Kafarkosh and Tomajan from Deilaman and Amlash domain, and ‘Asb Sara’ Maryan and Toul sites from Tavalesh domain,” he says.

Almost in all Iron Age cemeteries of Gilan, the tradition of burying objects as grave goods, near the dead bodies, was common. The researcher believes that the burial sites of horses were relatively less common in Iron Age Gilan, however, he mentions that the percentage of horse burial tradition in Gilan is much higher than in the rest of the country.

“Horses were buried in tombs buried near their owner with their saddles and harnesses in some sites including Marlik, Shahran, Kalouraz, and Toul. And, horses have been seen in the Tomajan site which was buried in separate graves as well.”

Here are edited excerpts of the author’s conclusion about the Iron Age burial in the northern Iranian province:

The form of Iron Age tombs was not the same in Gilan. It includes various types such as vacuolar graves, cyst graves, huge stone graves, stack stone graves, honeycomb graves, crock graves, simple two-floor graves. Loosely, these graves can be divided into two basic categories:

In almost all Iron Age sites in Gilan, the dead had been buried on the right shoulder or the left shoulder and bent legs with low and high curvature degrees. Only a small number of bodies had been buried supine (face up) in some cemeteries. A particular conclusion cannot be drawn on this relationship at present.

The graves had no specific direction in the Iron Age cemeteries in Gilan. The graves had been built in four major and minor directions.

Burials in different directions can be seen even in a single cemetery. Of course, the burial of corpses in the east-west direction in Kalouraz cemetery or the burial of corpses in the Northeast and Southwest in Boye cemetery could possibly have a special meaning.

Less writing and script works had been found in the remnants of the Iron Age in Gilan than in the rest of Iran. However, three of these findings were related to all three cultural domains of the Iron Age in Gilan. One of them was a cylindrical bead with carved cuneiform artifacts in the Marlik site in the Roudbar domain. Another one was a bronze bracelet with cuneiform lines in the Toul site in the Tavalesh domain found during the excavations. The third one was two bronze wide eyes with cuneiform lines found from the Amlash region in unauthorized excavations.

Almost in all Iron Age cemeteries of Gilan, the tradition of burying objects as grave goods, near the dead bodies, was common. In most cases, these objects included: pottery, porcelain, and metal objects, pottery and metal figures, metal weapons including daggers, spears, axes, swords, maces, ornaments made of stone, metal, etc. It seems that their richness and abundance were related to the degree of wealth or social position of the person. This means that more valuable objects are more show that the person who has died was of higher social standing.

Since the present time, no site was as abundant and rich as the Marlik site in Gilan. Even it can be said that the volume of gold and silver objects, jewelry, and artifacts from the Marlik site is notable and unique compared to other Iron Age sites in Iran and the world.

The gray pottery and tube porcelain which are of the characteristic of the Iron Age had been more or less achieved in the graves in all three domains of Iron Age in Gilan. Grey pottery and tube porcelain discovered in Gilan is indeed comparable to other objects discovered in other Iron Age sites in the northeast and northwest of Iran.

Placing food for the dead has been extensively discovered in Iron Age graves in Gilan. Perhaps, this is a consequence of the fast decomposition of the foods since there is no evidence left behind. However, the reports of Deilaman and Lasulokan explorations show that vertebrate animal bones had been discovered in a container placed there as food for the dead body.

 Putting weapons and decorative objects (jewelry) in the graves of both men and women was common in the Iron Age sites of Gilan. However, the total percentage of weapons (sword, dagger, spear, mace, etc.) in the grave of men is more than that in the graves of women. On the contrary, the percentage of festive objects (rings, necklaces, earrings, pins, etc.) in the grave women is more than that of men. In some cases, it has been observed that the discovered graves had no burial object. For example, the seventh and tenth graves excavated at Jamshid Abad had no burial objects as these graves were of infants and children.