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Excavations at Shahr-I Qūmis, 1967

  • John Hansman and David Stronach

A glance at any map of excavated sites in Iran will show clearly the relative rarity of controlled excavations north and east of the Tehran region. A cluster of sites in the vicinity of Behshahr, four in the neighbourhood of the Gorgan plain, two from the flat terrain immediately south of the eastern Elburz, and only one near Meshed represent the sum total of those north-eastern settlements that have attracted archaeological expeditions between the years 1930 and 1964. As a consequence, our excavated evidence from this extensive area is astonishingly slight, particularly following the fall of the rich Bronze Age “Gorgan Culture” in the middle of the second millennium b.c.

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page 29 note 1 From east to west, the sites concerned are (a) near Behshahr: Tammīsha; the Belt cave; the Hotu cave; and the Ali Tape cave; (b) in or near the Gorgan plain: Shah Tepe; Turang Tepe; Yarim Tepe; and the Ké Aram cave; (c) south of the Elburz: Tepe Hissar (Damghan) and Nishapur; and (d) near Meshed: the Great Mogan cave.

page 29 note 2 See particularly R. H. Dyson, “The archaeological evidence of the second millennium b.c. on the Persian plateau”, CAH, Chapter XVI, 1 ff.

page 29 note 3 M. Siroux, Caravanserais d'Iran, 1949, Fig. 1.

page 29 note 4 E. Schmidt, Excavations at Tepe Hissar, Damghan, 1937.

page 29 note 5 See Hansman, J., “The problems of Qūmis”, JRAS, 1968, 111116, where a detailed account of these events is given together with references.

page 31 note 6 ibid., 116.

page 31 note 7 Schmidt's comments on “Tappeh Gumish” were contained in a letter addressed to Professor R. N. Frye, dated 18th December, 1953, which Professor Frye was kind enough to make available to the writers in May 1969.

page 31 note 8 For the location of Tappeh Gumish see Schmidt, E., “Tepe Hissar: excavations of 1931”, Museum Journal, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, XXIII, 1933, 4, pl. lxxv.

page 31 note 9 During the excavations at Qūmis in 1967 the writers visited the entire area lying between Damghan and Frāt. Careful investigations and local inquiry produced only a few small cultural mounds and one level village site, the latter being Islamic in date.

page 31 note 10 Ferrier, J., Caravan journeys, London, 1856, 69, n.

page 31 note 11 Rawlinson, G., Parthia, London, 1893, 50.

page 31 note 12 Jackson, A., From Constantinople to the home of Omar Khayyam, New York, 1911, 169 ff.

page 32 note 13 Herzfeld, E., ZDMG, 80, 1926, 280.

page 32 note 14 Abdulrafi‘ Haqiqat, Tarikh-i Qūmis, Tehran, 1344/1925, 202.

page 32 note 15 Hansman, op. cit., 116–19.

page 32 note 16 ibid., 119–26.

page 32 note 17 Yaqūbī, Bibl. Geog. Arab., III, 355–56.

page 32 note 18 Hansman, op. cit., 133–35.

page 32 note 19 See pp. 61–62 below.

page 32 note 20 Marquart, J., A catalogue of the provincial capitals of Eranshahr, Rome, 1931, 12.

page 34 note 21 See also the Report of the Cambridge Expedition to Komis 1968 (hereafter Komis), by D. H. Gye, R. Beauchamp, I. Durie, and G. Wilkinson (printed, privately, in March, 1969). In their account of present conditions at the site, the authors make the point that the surface channels at Qūmis run from the small indentations to deep fissures in almost no distance at all, indicating that water erosion is caused by rain or melting snow on the site and not by floods from the foothills of the Elburz.

page 34 note 22 J. Hansman, op. cit., 126–30 and Fig. 3. As can be seen from Fig. 2, the areas that were formerly known as A1, A, B1, and B have now been redesignated as A, B, C, and D respectively.

page 34 note 23 cf. D. Oates, Studies in the ancient history of northern Iraq, 1968, Fig. 20, 139, and U. Scerrato, “Excavations at Dahan-i Ghulaman (Seistan-Iran). First Preliminary Report”, East and West, New Series, vol. 16, nos. 1 and 2, 1966, figs. 52 and 58.

page 35 note 24 The Sasanian pottery from Qaṣr-i Abu Naṣr has not as yet been published. Examples of this ware were shown to Mr. Hansman by C. K. Wilkinson, the excavator of the site.

page 35 note 25 cf. Harden, D., “Excavations at Kish and Barghuthiat, 1933”, Iraq, I, 131132 and fig. 4.

page 35 note 26 Like many other settlements in the Damghan plain, Shahr-i Qūmis lies at least 10 km. south of the foothills of the Elburz—at a point where the finer gravels and sands replace the coarse, unsorted gravels that occur immediately below the mountains, cf. Komis, 16 ff. With reference to the water supply as such, the presence of the Dadevar valley, some 12 km. to the north-west, may well have encouraged the initial growth of the site. Within the Dadevar gorge, the modest Dadevar river still supplies certain densely cultivated areas while the waters of the Dasht-i Bū spring in the upper Darvār valley are carried to Yaḥyābad, south of Shahr-i Qūmis, by means of an open channel more than 25 km. in length. But apart from such rare surface channels, most of the settlements that lie on the edge of the kavīr today depend almost exclusively upon water from qanats (Komis, 19–23) and, at the period of its greatest growth, Shahr-i Qūmis itself is more than likely to have received most of its water-supply from qanats with only a modest supplement from local wells.

page 35 note 27 This proved to be the case, for example, wherever we attempted to locate definite traces of the long rectangular enclosure that appears to be visible in certain air photographs of the site (see Fig. 2 and J. Hansman, op. cit., pl. I). For the moment, therefore, all arguments in favour of such a characteristic Hellenistic enclosure must rest on the evidence of the photographs in question.

page 36 note 28 From what is now known of various other mud-brick vaults from Qūmis a number of other options would also have been open to the builders of Site VI. (cf. Figs. 5, 7, and 11.)

page 40 note 29 In this last context, the thin deposit that still remained in Room 10 produced carbonized grains of both wheat and barley.

page 41 note 30 On the fortifications of Old Nisa see Pugachenkova, G. A., “Parfyanskoe zodchestvo”, Trudy Yuzhno-Turkmenistanskoi Arkh. Ekspeditsii, VI, Moscow, 1958, 33.

page 41 note 31 Information kindly supplied by Dr. J. E. Noakes, Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

page 43 note 32 Step vaults appear to have been already associated with mud-brick staircases as early as the first quarter of the second millennium b.c. See Oates, D., “The excavations at Tell al Rimah, 1966”, Iraq, XXIX, 1967, 81 and pl. XXXIV.

page 45 note 33 The use of radiating voussoirs is of course well-known in much earlier periods in the west; for example from both Old and Late Assyrian sites. See Oates, D., “The excavations at Tell al Rimah, 1965”, Iraq, XXVIII, 1966, pls. XXIX a and b, and Oates, D., “The excavations at Nimrud (Kalḫu), 1960”, Iraq, XXIII, 1961, pl. VI c.

page 45 note 34 Tolstov, S. and Vainberg, B., Koi Krylgan Kala. Trudy Khoresmskoi Arkheologoetnograficheskoi Ekspeditsii, V, Moscow, 1967, 284285 and pl. 115.

page 45 note 35 The writers are particularly grateful to Dr. S. Bökönye, Dr. Dexter Perkins, and Miss Jane Wheeler for the identifications listed below. Dr. Bökönye's full report on the animal bones will appear in a separate article.

page 47 note 36 This is also very likely to have been the case with reference to certain of the animals. As Miss Jane Wheeler has noted, several of the animal bones from Room 5, Site VII, betray the marks of rodents' teeth.

page 47 note 37 Wroth, W., Catalogue of the coins of Parthia, London 1903, xxxiixxxiv.

page 47 note 38 Sellwood, D., “The Parthian coins of Gotarzes I, Orodes I and Sinatruces”, The Numismatic Chronicle, London, 1962, 8182.

page 48 note 39 The ostracon is published by Dr. A. D. H. Bivar on pp. 63–66 of this issue.

page 48 note 40 Dyakonov, I. M. and Livshits, V. A., “Parfyanskoe tsarskoe khozyaistvo v Nise”, Vestnik Drevnej Istorii, 1960, 2, 14 ff.

page 48 note 41 On Scythian horse burials see Rostovtzeff, M., Iranians and Greeks in South Russia, Oxford, 1922, 45, 47, 49. See also Rice, T. Talbot, The Scythians, London, 1957, 7072, 92, 109.

page 48 note 42 Justin, XLI, 3.

page 48 note 43 Lucian, Macrob., 16.

page 48 note 44 cf. Tolstov, S., Po drevnim del'tam Oksa i Yaksarta, Moscow, 1962, 200203; also Rappoport, J., “Khorezmijskie astodany, k istorii religii Khorezma”, Sovetskaya Etnografiya, 1962, 8081. For an alternative view, maintaining that exposure of the dead inside a closed chamber was “also undoubtedly practiced” before the 2nd century b.c., see Jettmar, K., “The Middle Asiatic heritage of Dardistan”, East and West, New series, 17, 0306, 1967, 65.

page 48 note 45 Not least in the case of Room 11 where the four brick-lined receptacles are more than likely to have been used as astodans for the deposition of exposed and collected bones.

page 48 note 46 Dyakonov, I. M., and Livshits, V. A.Dokumenty iz Nisy, Moscow, 1960, 24. See also R. N. Frye, op. cit., 200 ff.

page 52 note 47 See p. 55 below.

page 52 note 48 Dyson, S., The Excavations at Dura-Europos, Final Report IV, Part I, Fascicle 3, The Commonware Pottery, New Haven, 1968, fig. 21 and pl. 5.

page 54 note 49 Khvāndamīr, Habīb as-siyar, Tehran, 1333/1914, vol. 2, 271 (Persian text).

page 54 note 50 Stein, A., “An archaeological tour in the ancient Persis”, Iraq, III, 1936: for Fīrūzābād, 117 and plan I, for Dārābgird, 191–94 and plan 10.

page 54 note 51 E. Schmidt, Flights over ancient cities of Iran, 31 and pl. 35.

page 54 note 52 More strictly, copper or bronze objects; none of the Qūmis metalwork has been analysed as yet.

page 55 note 53 See Shepard, Anna O., Ceramics for the archaeologist, Washington, D.C., 1965, 193.

page 61 note 54 Crawford, V. E., “Beside the Kara Su”, Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 04, 1963, table on p. 273.

page 62 note 1 Connexion with Latin scateo “to well out”, offered in Transactions of the Philological Society, 1959, 84, and with kan- in Bartholomae's Dictionary seems less satisfactory.

page 62 note 2 More details in Khotanese Texts VI 91.

page 62 note 3 Khotanese Texts VI 313.

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