In November 2014, UNICEF recognized Shah-e Sukhteh (burnt city in English) as a world cultural heritage site. The place is close to the city of Zabol (57 Kilometer) in Sistan & Baluchistan province bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan. This region has suffered sever consequences of the global warming in recent decades and a series of draughts have caused great damage to the rural economy. Historically however, this part of Iran has enjoyed a lush ecosystem. Shahr-e Sukhteh appears to have been a city state dated back to 5000 BC. The site exhibits an astonishing ancient civilization unparalleled to any other in the world except that of Mesopotamia. There is an on-site museum which contains many fascinating aspects of a vibrant cultural and scientific society. The mesmerising museum has many artistic pieces and one of them is the first invented animation in human history. The animation is five sequential images much like those in a zoetrope which once the bowl receives a spin displays a scene showing a goat leaping to reach leaves from a tree.
Not too far from Shahr-e Sukhteh another archaeological treasure can be found; that of the Jiroft culture. The site is situated in neighbouring province of Kerman and very much like Shahr-e Sukhteh, there are many archaeological assets. This shows that Iran was a center of civilization around the Neolithic revolution comparable to that of Mesopotamia. Jiroft culture also dated back to 5000 BC has perhaps one of the most striking example of an ancient civilization – writing scripts. These scripts belonging to (5000) BC, have been studied by a team of linguists from different parts of the globe and show that the culture may well have been where writing was first invented. The richness of these two sites makes one agree with Yosef Majidzadeh’s who calls them the cradle of art and civilisation, and the “archaeologists’ lost paradise”.
There is more to be excavated and discovered but from what has already been found this region may well contain the origin of human civilization parallel but independent of Mesopotamia.
Author: Roksana Behramitash, Ph. D
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