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Pre-Achaemenid Iran: Gilan, Mazandaran, and Golestan

The strip of land extended from the northern slopes of the Alborz mountains to the Caspian Sea has played an important role in Iran's history. As early as 13,000 years ago cave excavations have shown evidence of modern human habitation. The Gomishan caves have yielded large numbers of animal bones pointing to hunting and fur use. By 6000BCE semi-civilized villages had begun to form as is seen near Abbas Abad Tappe and Ali Tappe, near the Gomishan caves. In Golestan this is also seen at the ancient sites of Aq Tappe, Daneq Tappe, and Yarim Tappe where agriculture and husbandry decreased hunting needs and allowed villages to form around 5500BCE. However, some believe civilized/urban life may have already begun far earlier. The oldest pottery, being crude and hand-made, dates back to 8000BCE. Around 5000BCE settled life began around Gohar Tappe also near the Gomishan caves and the modern city of Behshahr. Paved streets measuring 2 meters wide have been discovered in Gohar Tappeh dating back to 1000BCE; it was paved out of cobblestones found nearby. Other archaeological finds have yielded necklaces, shoes, bronze and clay statues, as well as other finds indicative of development such as clay ovens and metallurgy sites.

Graves in Mazandaran dating back to 1000BCE have produced a warrior with a dagger and a man buried next to an artifact that is believed to have been a clarinet-like instrument made of a deer antler. In the province of Gilan at the historical site of Tul Talesh similar warrior remains have been discovered, indicating, perhaps, that the time period was one of heavy conflict. These graves include those of a higher ranking army officer buried with his jewelry, weaponry, and his wife. Many other dismembered warrior skeletons have been buried in mass graves (presumably owing to their death to a major battle). The largest megalithic tomb discovered in Iran also lies in Gilan. This massive 3m wide, 15m long grave most likely belonged to a local ruler or nobleman. The grave was filled with a golden goblet, 2 bronze axes, 12 bronze daggers, swords, amulets and bracelets. The megalithic structure was a dolmen, or a chamber formed by using stones as pillars and capping them with other stones. Marlik, also in Gilan, contains many graves as well. The art and culture found in the ancient remains of Marlik suggest it was an important city, if not the capital of the overlords of the Caspian region. Numerous bowls, golden cups, statues, figurines, and other artifacts have been discovered at Marlik. As well as artistic artifacts Marlik, like its neighboring Caspian cities, has many strong indications of a war-like society. The words Mardi (meaning manhood), and Amardi (meaning warriorhood) came from these peoples of Gilan. Today Gilmardi is still a spoken dialect in Gilan. Other graves, and evidence of civilized village life have been found in Golestan at sites like Narges Tappe. The majority of graves unearthed in the Caspian region have yielded brachycephalic skulls with a few dolichocephalic skulls. Some believe the difference in cranial structures represent different ethnicities, however, this is relatively unknown and it is certainly possibly to have a range of skull shapes within an ethnicity. Language is unknown, only a couple of cuneiform tablets from the region have been discovered. However, modern-day descendants of Marlik, speak the Indo-European Gilmardi which, as mentioned above, was the ancient name of the peoples of the region. The culture, though undetermined was in all likelihood Indo-European/Aryan. Deities and figurines of cows (popular among ancient Aryan cultures) supports these thoughts.

Further Readings
Old Mazandarani caves
Gohar Tappe
Paved Road

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