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Pre-Achaemenid Iran: Esfahan and Yazd

Some of the oldest archaeological finds have come from the Esfahan province in Iran. Here, in the outer suburbs of Kashan, lie the remains of Tappe Sialk. Sialk (through to modern-day Kashan) is considered the oldest continuing city. While the site has been inhabited for 9000 years, civilized development dates back 7500 years to 5500BCE; this is when the first housing and urbanization appeared. These peoples also produced the Sialk Ziggurat dating back to between 2900BCE and 2700BCE, far outdating the Ur Ziggurat. The Ziggurat had three major platforms. As far back as 6000 years ago evidence shows that civilized man in Iran had learned to use the kiln and rotating machines to construct pottery. Around 1000BCE pottery development in Sialk picks up. Many shaped with such skill and professionalism portraying the fact that they were developed with proper pottery making machines. This is seen in the range of shapes formed and the different colors, created through different kiln firing methods. The pottery from this era displays many mythological motives and geometric patterns. Similar methods were used to make other earthenware utensils. Earthenware tools were a beneficial advancement over stone tools. This can be found in the American Southwest were native populations wore their teeth to the nerve because they used stone tools which wore tiny rock granules into the food; Iranian at Sialk overcame this. Artistic expression is seen in many common items found at Sialk; a flint knife found at Sialk with a bone handle depicts a man in the greeting position, bowing with his arms crossed. The diet of the population of Sialk is believed to have come in large part from domesticated animals. Arachaeologists have unearthed numerous skeletal remains of cattle, goats, and sheep in the vicinity of Sialk.

South of Sialk, the remains of Arisman point to the formation of an urban center of industry around 4000BCE. Preliminary finds have unearthed a lot of metal working artifacts and metallic tools. In the Esfahan City area remains found at the Kopandeh Tappe reveal another 6000 year-old civilization. The civilization that inhabited this region lived on the banks of Zayandeh Rud near the Gave Khuni swamp (literally "the bloody cow"). Scientists believe that this swamp may have in fact been a lake ten times larger when first inhabited. The residential area and decorative artifacts discovered around this area point to a developed trade with other cities, possibly Jiroft. Smaller and newer satellite villages of the Kopandeh Tappe, such at the Ashna Tappe dating back to 1000BCE, have been discovered. At the Gourtan archaeological site, also near Esfahan city, evidence of civilized inhabitation dates back to 4000 BC. Southward some of the settlements of Esfahan had spread to Yazd. Not much is known of the early civilizations in Yazd. Only recently have archaeologists begun researching in this province, finding pottery shards in the Mehriz mountains.

The origin of the civilizations in Esfahan are unknown. Evidence exists pointing to both proto-Elamite and Jiroft/Shahreh Sukhteh influences. Some thing the region may have been an early industrial and trade center that interacted with many civilizations.

Further Readings
9000 year-old Sialk
Kopandeh Tappe

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