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Terracotta model of a chariot used by the Kura-Araxes people, 4th-3rd millennium BC Source: Tehran Times / CC 4.0

Advanced Bronze Age Kura-Araxes Burial Ground Found in Iran

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Iran has been home to many important cultures and societies throughout history. Archaeologists now believe that they have found relics and artifacts from a burial ground related to a Bronze Age society that was very advanced for its time. The finds shed new light on the Kura-Araxes culture , which greatly contributed to the early history of the region.

The remarkable discovery was made by people from the village of Khaveh, on the Quom plain. It was found completely by chance when villagers were digging in the area and found pottery fragments and bones. They made the find under a hill that is named Tepe Yousef Khan, after its proprietor. The villagers contacted the relevant authorities who dispatched a team from the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research (ICAR) to investigate the find under the direction of archaeologist Siamak Sarlak.

Find Reveals Stunning Kura-Araxes’ Bronze Age Burial Ground

After an extensive survey of the site, the archaeologists found many relics and human remains. It soon became evident that the archaeologists had found a burial ground . To the astonishment of Sarlak and his colleagues, ‘Tepe Yousef Khan has revealed relics and remains which are related to the Kura–Araxes culture’, as reported in The Tehran Times .

Pottery and human remains found at the newly discovered site (Tehran Times / CC 4.0)

Pottery and human remains found at the newly discovered site (Tehran Times / CC 4.0 )

Archaeologists based their conclusions on the similarity of the pottery with other sites that are known to have been part of the Kura-Araxes culture, also known as the Early Transcaucasian culture. This was one of the most advanced civilizations of the Bronze Age in Eurasia. They ‘inhabited the region between 4,000 BC and 2,000 BC’, according to AH.  The Kura-Araxes culture is believed to have originated on the Ararat plain , possibly in what is now in modern Georgia, and it spread over a large part of the Caucasus region .

New Site Also Yields Evidence of Contact with Other Cultures

The discovery of a Kura-Araxes cemetery is extremely important, and it is revolutionizing researchers’ understanding of the Bronze Age on the Iranian Plateau . The find supports existing evidence that members of this culture inhabited this area in the past. Previously the only proof of this was from one other site in the region. The Teheran Times quotes Sarlak as saying that the ‘cemetery showed the direct presence of the Kura–Araxes culture on the Qom plain’.

Archaeologists on the newly discovered Kura-Araxes culture site (Iranian Culture Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Ministry / CC 4.0)

Archaeologists on the newly discovered Kura-Araxes culture site (Iranian Culture Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Ministry / CC 4.0 )

The pottery found at the burial ground included some Kuru-Araxes examples which were very sophisticated, for the era, including embossed decorations. Some fragments, from much simpler earthenware vessels, attributed to a native tradition were also unearthed. The Tehran Times reports that Sarlak has confirmed that ‘some archaeological evidence that this culture had coexistence, interaction, and connection with the native culture of the region’. Based on an examination of the Kura-Araxes pottery, experts have tentatively dated the site to ‘a preliminary date no later than the third millennium BC’ reports the AH website.

Influence and Legacy of the Semi-nomadic Kuru-Araxes Culture

Based on earlier discoveries it seems that the Kuru-Araxes culture was semi-nomadic. They also engaged in farming, developed implements to make flour, and were expert metalworkers. It also appears that they had domesticated animals such as dogs. Moreover, evidence suggests that they were horse breeders, and it has been proposed that the communities of the Kuru-Araxes culture played an important role in the domestication and spread of the horse. This culture also influenced the development of later cultures in the Caucasian region, including the Uratu civilization, which is widely seen as the forerunner of the historic Armenian kingdom .

International Genetic Testing of the Discovered Human Bones

In total the remains of seven humans have been found buried at the site, including an infant and a very mature adult. The Tehran Times quotes the researchers as saying that ‘Samples of burial remains have been lent to [archaeological institutions in] Denmark and Italy for further genetic studies and other related examinations’. This is part of an agreement between these countries and the Iranian authorities in relation to collaboration on historic research. However, it may be difficult to extract genetic information and other information from the remains because of their age and condition. It is hoped that more Kuru-Araxes sites can be located on this plain, offering more insights into this important and influential Bronze Age society.

Top image: Terracotta model of a chariot used by the Kura-Araxes people, 4th-3rd millennium BC Source: Tehran Times / CC 4.0

By Ed Whelan

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