Ancient Iran’s “Burnt City” – Part 1/7 (ca. 3,000 BC)

By: The Scribe on Monday, April 30, 2007

The Burnt City

The site of Shahr-i Sokhta, which is Persian for “Burnt City”, was a Bronze Age city located in the southeast of Iran. It was built around 3200 BC and was only occupied until around 2100 BC – and during that short time, it had four phases of civilization, after being burnt down three times… and so, it is called the Burnt City because it was not rebuilt after the last destruction.

As well as buildings, the city contains a necropolis with over 600 skeletons in more than 100 graves: some were family burials, some held individual infant burials, and some bodies simply seemed to be randomly grouped together. Skeletons were found buried sitting, laying down, or even folded into a squatting position, indicating that there must have been a large variety of cultures living at this city, which has been reflected in their burial customs.

The city site covers an area of over 150 hectares, making it one of the largest cities in the ancient world during the spread of urbanization. Even so, archaeologists are still puzzled as to where this civilization went after the city was destroyed – it appears that these people just disappeared! Regardless, the Burnt City has provided a remarkable amount of evidence for the independence of eastern Iran from Mesopotamia during the Bronze Age, and for the remainder of this week on the Ancient Standard, we will take a look at some of the incredible and sometimes perplexing finds from this ancient city.

More pictures of the burnt city

These include:
– the first backgammon board
– the first false eye
– evidence for an ancient UPS system
– embryo burials
– ancient cartoons
– the first brain surgeons

Finally, perhaps what is most intriguing about this city is its lack of military buildings or defenses, and not even one weapon has been found during excavation! The inhabitants must have been peaceful craftsmen and farmers – and based on the high evidence for trade among people of various cultures, perhaps the Burnt City was a neutral meeting place to conduct business in a safe, unprejudiced environment.

Want to read more?*

*Unfortunately, since excavations at the Burnt City are ongoing, there is not yet a comprehensive volume available that details all the archaeological finds and historical theories about this site. At the time of writing, the most recent news was that a book on the past 10 years of excavation is currently “forthcoming.” In the meantime, however, there are a number of informative books on ancient Persia in general, that will allow you to gain a sense of the land’s native culture and history…

Tomorrow:  Ancient family games night?


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