Life and death in Sefidkuh

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An ongoing study in the Makran Sefidkuh region of Iran is shedding light on the culture and archaeological remains of communities in the area, stretching back to prehistory.

The project, led by Hossein Vahedi in collaboration with the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism, is examining the continuity of settlement in the area. In its most recent phase, research has focused on recording the heritage of three villages – Baragdan, Kuchkodam, and Koddap A and B – all of which are important cultural centres in the region.

Archaeological survey was carried out over an area of 7km2 of difficult mountainous terrain. This survey discovered nine sites – six settlements and three cemeteries – which are thought to be associated with semi-nomadic communities who once lived in the region.

All nine sites contain the remains of circular stone structures, with six to 15 found at each site. These cottage structures mostly measure 2m to 3m in radius and are similar in structure, material, form, and dimensions to Neolithic architecture identified in Oman and the Persian Gulf, although round houses comparable to these are still built in the Sefidkuh area today. It is hoped that further analysis of the extensive pottery assemblages found in these structures will help to date them more accurately. Much of this pottery is characteristic of Londo ceramics from the historical Parthian period, c.3rd-1st century BC, while other pieces appear to be prehistoric in date, perhaps made by Chalcolithic communities.

Both prehistoric and historical cemeteries are represented in the region, some with as many as 100 graves, but damage and looting by local people has limited researchers’ ability to understand these sites in more detail.

This is the second phase of an extensive archaeology and ethnoarchaeology project, which is combining research by experts from a variety of disciplines to uncover the story of the people who lived in the Sefidkuh region in the past, and their connections to the modern societies still living there.

This article appeared in issue 105 of Current World ArchaeologyClick here for more information about subscribing to the magazine.

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