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A Sasanian repository at Shahr-i Qūmis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2011


In offering to Sir Mortimer Wheeler some of the firstfruits of our recent excavations at Shahr-i Qūmis, 32 kilometres west of Damghan, it may not be inappropriate if we enlarge on certain of the details that have been recovered from the only major building with both Parthian and Sasanian associations.

Copyright © The Royal Asiatic Society 1970

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1 See Hansman, J. and Stronach, D., “Excavations at Shahr-i Qūmis, 1967”, JRAS, 1970, 1, 29–62 (hereafter Qūmis)Google Scholar.

2 ibid., 41.

5 Litvinsky, B. A. and Mukhitdinov, K., “The ancient site of Saksanakhyr”, Sovietskaya Arkheologiya, 1969, 2, 163Google Scholar.

6 ibid., 168–69. The present writers would like to thank the authors of the aforementioned article for permission to publish a simplified version of the plan that appears in their interim report.

7 In a personal communication dated 10th March, 1970.

8 As P. Bernard has suggested (see note 7).

9 The coins reported, described as “barbarous Heliocles” and “Kadphises II”, are evidently of later date than the Greco-Bactrian kingdom and can occupy a considerable time-range from 130 b.c. (the estimated death of Heliocles) down into the first century. Cf. Litvinsky and Mukhitdinov, op. cit., 168–69.

10 Similar provision for more or less complete circulation around a central block of magazines or small rooms is also a time-honoured feature in Iran itself. Cf. the plan of the southern area of the Apadana at Susa (Ghirshman, R., Arts Asiatiques, XVIII, 1968, p. 40, fig. 38)Google Scholar.

11 Qūmis, fig. 3.

12 The writers wish to thank Mrs. Joan Allgrove, Keeper of Textiles at the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester; Mrs. Jenny Housego, formerly of the Textile Department, Victoria and Albert Museum, and Jean Glover of the North Western Museum and Art Gallery Service, Manchester, for examining and describing certain of the samples of cloth and felt found at Qūmis. It should be stressed, however, that the few comments offered here only represent preliminary observations.

13 Dr. A. D. H. Bivar has prepared a description of this coin and a note on the mint reading. This information is given at the end of the present article.

14 The writers wish to thank Mr. A. S. Baynes-Cope, Principal Scientific Officer of the Research Laboratory, British Museum, who has undertaken the considerable task of opening this material.

15 This feather was identified by Mr. D. Goodwin, Bird Section, British Museum (Natural History).

16 Also identified by courtesy of Mr. Goodwin.

17 The writers wish to thank Dr. C. R. Metcalfe, former Director of the Jodrell Laboratory, Dr. D. F. Cutler and Mr. F. R. Richardson of the Plant Anatomy Section of the Laboratory, and Mr. C. C. Townsend of the Herbarium at Kew for examining and identifying these plant specimens.

18 The excavated material was too badly decomposed to identify the species. However, each of the 11 examples of Haloxylon collected by the writers in the vicinity of Qūmis were of the species salicornicum, and this identification is proposed for the older material.

19 Cf. fig. 3; also Qūmis, fig. 5.

20 The historical evidence available for the early Parthian period, together with a survey of those features that point to the identity of Shahr-i Qūmis with Hecatompylos, is given in “The problems of Qūmis”, JRAS, 1968, 3 and 4, 110–139. For a summary of this evidence see Qūmis 29–32. Further research allows us to list three additional references in this connexion. A. Stahl, “Notes on the march of Alexander the Great from Ecbatana to Hyrcania”, JRGS, LXIV, 1924, 325, proposed that Hecatompylos might be found within an encirclement of hills which, on an accompanying map (ibid., 316), he located 11 miles to the south-east of Gusheh on the Damghan road. He suggested that the distances given by the Greek geographers would fit this location. Topographical maps do show a group of hills at the distance indicated but they contain no ruins. Stahl himself did not visit the hills in question. P. M. Sykes, “A sixth journey in Persia”, JRGS, XXXVII, 1911, 18, suggested a site on the Gurgan River, 10 miles east of Gumbad-i Kabus, which he had heard of but did not visit. Investigation of this area by Dr. Hansman in 1969 produced only a small Islamic site. Lastly Muhammad Hasan Khan (Matla al-Shams, Tehran, a.h. 1301–3, 3, 308–9) notes that to the east of the village of Gusheh there is a large area covered with ruined buildings, mounds, walls, and fragments of baked bricks. He quotes the local people as saying that the city of Qūmis was at this place. These ruins appear to be those of the site with which we are dealing, but our author does not equate the location with Hecatompylos.

21 Josephus, Ant. Jud., XX. iv. 2.

22 Tacitus, , Annals, xxiii. 3840Google Scholar.

23 cf. Soderblom, N., “Death and disposal of the dead (Parsi)”, ERE, IV, 1911, 504, for a description of the Zoroastrian practice of exposing the bodies of the deadGoogle Scholar.

24 At the present time the bones of the dead are not preserved, although this was the practice in earlier periods (for a reference see the next note).

25 Dadistan-i Dinik (tr. West, E.), SBE, XVIII, Oxford, 1882, 43Google Scholar. For the Pahlavi text see Datistan-i Dinik (D. Anklesaria, ed.), Bombay, Part I, Pursishn I-XL.

27 Burney, C., “Excavations at Haftavān Tepe, 1968”, Iran, VIII, 1970, 169171Google Scholar.

28 In all, a long bone and a hoof of a horse; part of the lower jaw of a horse complete with 4 teeth; and 12 additional equid teeth.

29 Qūmis, 47.

30 ibid., 45–7.

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