Introduction to Shahdad

Cartographic representation of Shahdad


Brief summary about Shahdad (edited by D. Meier) 

The modern city of Shahdad lies on the Western margins of the Dasht-e Lut with an estimated altitude between 420s and 520 m.a.s.l. (Gentelle 2003; Hakemi 1997).

It is situated in Southeast Iran in the modern province of Kerman in a distance of approximately 80 km to the eponymous province´s capital. Through the last ten centuries when the city was known as “Khabis“ it was an important trading place on the so called “silk road“ connecting the seaports on the Persian Gulf with Middle Asian regions and also the distant regions in East and West (Adamec 1988: 236f.; Hakemi 1997: 30f.). Besides its important geographical position it was and is still famous for its local production of several goods like dates, tamarisks, several citrus fruits, cereals, hemp as well as henna. The agricultural diversity is caused by Shahdad´s location inside of an oasis on top of an alluvial fan with fertile soils which is sloping towards the desert and which is well supplied with water by two rivers.

The first traces of prehistoric remains at Shahdad had been identified by a joint French-Iranian researcher group of the so called Lut-project under the supervision of Jean Dresch, the head of the Geographical Institute of the University of Paris and Ahmad Mostofi, the director of the Geographical Insitute of the University of Tehran (Mostofi 1972). During their first campaign of geographical surveys in 1967 several evidences of human activities had been observed. After this unexpected discoveries a group of archaeologists from the University of Tehran´s Insitute of Archaeology and from the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research (ICAR) under the supervision of  Ali Hakemi started in spring of 1968 the systematic archaeological research. In this initial phase they conducted a preliminary survey for a period of 20 days at the eastern margins of the Takab plain to underline the archaeological importance of this site. After this first assessment the archaeological expedition under Hakemi´s supervision returned in the winter of 1969 and surveyed three further areas located in a distance of 5 km east of the modern city of Shahdad. A vast number of artifacts like decorated pottery vessels, beads made of semiprecious stones as well as different metal objects deriving from burial contexts had been collected. Therefore these areas had been chosen for further archaeological excavation where the test trenches "A, B and C" had been set up. Test trench A had been renamed Cemetery A after wide scale exposures. Test Trench B located in a distance of 300m to the North of Test Trench A as well as Test Trench C in a distance of 600m to the Northwest of Area A revealed further burials with grave goods of different types. (Hakemi 1997: 39ff.) Later, the test trenches B and C had been also renamed to Cemetery B and Cemetery C.

First archaeological excavations at Shahdad had been conducted for seven seasons between 1968 and 1977 where the three graveyards(Site A-C) and one architectural feature (Site D) had been uncovered and studied. After the Islamic revolution Mir Abedin Kaboli who already had been a member of Hakemi´s team continued excavations at Shahdad between 1994 and 1996 for three season. His main work focused on a residential area which had been neglected during the first seasons of excavation. (Kaboli 1997,2001, 2002) The latest archaeological investigations at Shahdad had been conducted under the supervision of Nasir Eskandari in 2012 by remote sensing surveys which had been followed by small scale excavations of two features dated to the 5th and 4th millennium BCE, called Tappeh Dehno and Tappeh Dehno East.

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