Elamite clay tablet discovered in Iran’s mysterious “Burnt City”

The discovery of such clay tablets is not a rarity in Iran’s western regions, but the fact is that archaeologists have never made such a unique discovery in the easternmost point of the Lut Plain and southeastern Iran, said senior Iranian archaeologist Seyed-Mansour Seyed-Sajjadi.

The UNESCO-registered Shahr-e Sukhteh in Persian is associated with four stages of civilization, all of them mysteriously burned in catastrophic fires. It is located in the province of Sistan-Baluchestan, which was once a junction of Bronze Age trade routes that crossed the semi-arid plateau.

Speaking of the significance of the find, Seyyed Sajjadi, who is leading the current excavations at the Gorely City, said: “This is the first time such a significant clay tablet, which is an accounting document, has been discovered in Shahr-e Sukhteh since archaeological excavations were first conducted here 50 years ago.”

The 11-by-7-centimeter tablet was found by archaeologist Hossein Moradi at a depth of about four meters underground in Room 27 of the once residential area, Seyyed-Sajjadi explained.

“There are several signs on the clay tablet, some of which depict the types and quantities of goods sent … there are also signs on it that we are not yet familiar with.”

Other relics discovered recently during the 19th archaeological season, which began Nov. 19 at the magnificent site, include animal and human figurines.

The figurines include various depictions of animals, especially cows, as well as human statues of seated women and standing men. In addition, a kiln was discovered. However, according to Seyyed-Sajjadi, it has not yet been determined whether it is a pottery kiln or a metal smelting furnace.

“To date, four to five percent of the Gorely City has been excavated. … and [conducting research in] unexplored areas is time-consuming and expensive,” said Alireza Jalalzai, provincial tourism chief.

“This excavation season will explore residential areas in the central and eastern parts [of Shahr-e Sukhte]. “The excavation season will take 60 days, of which 45 days will be spent in the field and 15 days will be spent summarizing field information, preparing reports and sending them to the [Cultural Heritage and Tourism] Research Institute,” Jalalzai said.

In addition, archaeologists have already discovered the remains of a prehistoric ape in the Burnt City and concluded that the animal was kept in captivity in a cage when it died. According to Seyyed Sajjadi, based on examinations and scientific studies of the monkey’s skeleton, the animal died in captivity in a cage and was buried by its owner, like a child, in a beautiful container.

“Since the Burnt City had many trade connections with eastern Iranian territories, such as northern India and Central Asia, and there is a lot of information on this, we have concluded that the monkey came from there.”

“The other issue is that in the ancient world, monkeys were essentially considered a luxury and an aristocratic possession. They were imported to be given to people of certain social classes such as the elite, merchants, governors and religious authorities,” explained Seyyed Sajjadi.

Founded around 3200 B.C., the Burned City was inhabited during four major periods up to 1800 B.C. Previous excavations have shown that its inhabitants possessed great skills in weaving, creating fine arts such as decorative objects, stone carving, and painting pottery.

Located in a region in the present-day provinces of Elam and Khuzestan, Elam was one of the most impressive civilizations of the ancient world. It was never a cohesive ethnic kingdom or state, but rather a federation of various tribes, ruled at different times by such cities as Susa, Anshan, and Shimashki, until in the Middle Elam period it was briefly united into an empire.

The name Elam was given to the region by others – the Akkadians and Sumerians of Mesopotamia – and it is thought to be their version of what the Elamites called themselves – Haltami (or Haltamti) – which means “those who live in the high country. Thus, “Elam” is usually translated as “highland” or “high country” because it consisted of settlements on the Iranian plateau that stretched from the southern plains to the uplands of the Zagros Mountains.

Elamite, an extinct language spoken by the Elamites in the ancient country of Elam, which included the region from the Mesopotamian Plain to the Iranian Plateau. According to Britannica, Elamite documents from three historical periods have been found. The earliest Elamite writings were written in figurative or pictographic script and date to the middle of the third millennium B.C.

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