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Ritualistic Burials in Iran

Strange Ritualistic Burials Discovery in 5,200-Year-Old Burnt City of Iran

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An archaeological team assigned to reconstruct the 5,200-year-old Burnt City, a recently listed World Heritage Site in Iran, have unearthed a series of unusual burials depicting ritualistic funerary practices, according to a report in the Tehran Times .

Located near Zabol in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, the ancient site of Shahr-i Sokhta (“Burnt City”) is one of the largest and richest Bronze Age sites in Iran and the Middle East, and is believed by some to have been the capital of an ancient civilization that flourished on the banks of the Helmand River in around 3,200 BC.

Spanning more than 300,000 hectares, the Burnt City was once a trade centre for merchants from Mesopotamia, Indus Valley and Central Asia and represents the emergence of the first complex societies in eastern Iran. Four civilizations lived Shahr-I Sokhata, which was burnt down three times and not rebuilt after the last fire in around 1800 BC. Despite the excavations and studies carried out at the site, the reasons for the unexpected rise and fall of the Burnt City still seem to remain a mystery.

In the last 40 years, archaeologists have uncovered more than 1,200 graves, some of which have revealed some amazing finds, such as the well-preserved remains of a woman in her late 20s who died between 2900 and 2800 B.C. She was buried with an ornate bronze mirror and what researchers believe is an artificial eyeball made of bitumen paste and gold that was once held in place with fine thread. Microscopic examination showed that the artificial eyeball left an imprint in her eye socket, a sign that it was there for a long period of time before her death.

Remains of a woman found in the Burnt City with artificial eye

Remains of a woman found in the Burnt City with what is believed to be an artificial eye. Credit: The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies

In the latest excavations, researchers found the remains of a middle-aged man in the centre of a circle-shaped grave with the skulls of two dogs placed above his head. In addition, 12 human skulls were located on the north side of the grave.

Due to the structure of the grave, and the fact that no other similar burials have been found like it, Team Director Seyyed Mansur Sajjadi believes the grave belongs to the people who migrated from Central Asia to the Iranian Plateau. “This kind of burial indicates strong relations between the people of the region and Central Asia,” he said.

Another unique burial contained the remains of a young man whose head was separated from his body and placed at his lower right side, along with two daggers. The archaeologists surmise that the man was beheaded with the cutting tools.

Finally, grave 609 was found to contain six skulls with a large number of long human bones.

“All these burials raise a number of questions: Why were the men buried in such styles during the third millennium? Were the men buried in these styles by accident or on purpose? Were the men buried in such ways to save ground in the graveyard? Or are there other reasons behind these burial styles and we are unaware of them,” Sajjadi asked.

Thousands of artifacts have been discovered among the ruins of the Burnt City in the course of 22 seasons of archaeological excavations, and it is hoped that further research will continue to shed light on the life and customs of the inhabitants of this ancient city.

Featured image: The Burnt City, Sistan-Baluchestan, Iran. Photo Source: Press TV

By April Holloway

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