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Shahr-I Sokhta, An ancient Civilization with Wonders

Shahr-e Sukhte in General

This historical city and the most important ancient site of Sistan is located next to the Helmand River and at the highest northwestern edge of the old delta, whose existence in the fourth and third millennia BC is due to the Helmand River.

The 5,000-year-old Shahr-I Sokhta (Shahr-e Sukhte, Burnt City) of Sistan, as the largest ancient city on the Iranian plateau, is a pristine destination for domestic and foreign tourists. Shahr-I Sokhta is the name of the remnants of the ancient city government in Iran. it is located 56 km from Zabol on the Zabol – Zahedan road in eastern Iran and in northern Sistan and Baluchestan. The city was built on the alluvium of the Helmand River to Lake Hamoon and on its shores.

The study of the remains of this city shows the evolution of various sciences and technologies on the plateau of Iran. These different sciences and technologies include archeology, sociology, trade, commerce and international exchanges, the history of the evolution of religions in prehistoric and historical periods, the history of urbanization and urban planning, the evolution of architecture, the evolution of traditional arts and technologies, History of medicine and related sciences, zoology, nutrition, agriculture, animal husbandry, entomology, botany, geology, metalworking, jewelry making, weaving.

Traces of the oldest surgical specimens, the oldest specimens of existing fabrics, the oldest mosaics, and the recent discovery of the oldest specimens of cumin, coriander, and wild pistachios are among the information and data obtained in this site.

Shahr-i Sokhta
Shahre Sukhte – by Saeed Rahdari

120 hectares of the burned city area has ancient relics and remnants, the most extensive period of which is related to the years between 2500 to 2800 BC, the area of which has reached more than 80 hectares during this period. The cultural, political, social, and industrial development of this city in a period of 400 years, has turned it from a small 15-hectare town into one of the largest bronze cities in the Middle East. Limited cities such as Anshan or Tappeh Millian in Persia, Ur in Mesopotamia, Susa in the plain of Khuzestan, and finally Mohenjo-daro in the Indus plain have been comparable to it.

The city can be divided into three main parts and three sub-parts. Shahr-I sokhta five thousand years ago was a green and fertile region with diverse and very desirable vegetation and there were many willows, maple, and poplar trees there.

Lake Hamoon was a large and watery lake in 3,200 BC and was fed by several permanent rivers such as Helmand so that excavations around the Shahr-e Sukhteh have found the bed of various streams and waterways that can be thought of they brought water to the farms of that city.

This archeological site is the 17th historical monument of Iran in the UNESCO list, which is known as one of the most advanced ancient cities in the world with its 5000-year-old history.

Different Parts of the Shahr-e Sukhteh

According to archaeologists, the city covers an area of about 151 hectares. Remains of that huge, magnificent, and old city show that the Shahr-I sokhta consists of 5 separate parts. These 5 separate parts are the Residential section, Central sections, Industrial Zone, Monuments, and cemetery.

The residential part is located in the northeastern part of the Shahr-e Sukhteh. These 5 parts are located like consecutive hills. Also, out of 151 hectares of this city, equivalent to 80 hectares, it was a residential part. Excavations in the burnt city found regular alleys and houses with water and sewage piping. These pipes were made of pottery and show a kind of urban planning and having advanced facilities and equipment.

Shahre Sukhte Cemetery
Shahre Sukhte Cemetery – by Rassol Abbasi17

About 310 graves have been discovered in this area. These 310 graves were discovered during excavations between 1997 and 2004.

Archaeologists claim that some residents of the Shahr-I Sokhta were buried in shrouded clothing and cloth. Also, in some of the graves discovered in this cemetery, traces of cloth can be seen on the surface of the bodies of the dead. These fabrics are found in three different forms in graves, which are:

1. In the form of a shroud, in this type, the dead are wrapped in a shroud.

2. In the form of clothes, which place the fabrics in the form of underlays and covers.

3. In the following form, in this type of floor, the grave is covered with cloth, and the dead person is placed in it with clothes.

Another feature of the burials in the Shahr-I Sukhteh cemetery is the presence of pottery inside the graves. It can be said that pottery objects can be seen in almost all the graves of this cemetery. There are also other gifts made of stone, wood, or cloth along with pottery.

A skeleton surrounded with artifacts
A skeleton surrounded with artifacts in a grave at the cemetery of the Burnt City.

In addition to the fact that in the past, Shahr-I sokhta was known as the agricultural center of that region, it was also the center of many industrial and artistic activities. It might be interesting to know that very beautiful and eye-catching examples of jewelry have been found in this ancient city. Residents of the city also used tree wood to provide the fuel they needed, both for large pottery workshops and for jewelry-making workshops.

Important discoveries in Shahr-I Sokhta

Discovery of the world’s first artificial eye in Shahr-I Sukhteh

For the first time in Shahr-I sokhta, an artificial eye with a history of 4,800 years was discovered. This artificial eye belongs to a 25 to 30 year old woman who was buried in one of the burnt city graves and was placed on her skull. The artificial eye found in the woman’s left eye was implanted and still survives over time.

The material of this artificial eye has not been fully determined, but it seems that it was made of natural bitumen mixed with a kind of animal fat. Preliminary studies show that this eye belonged to the left eye of a burly woman buried in grave number 6,705 and most likely, this woman was between 25 and 30 years old and was mixed-race (black and white). Pottery, decorative seals, a leather bag, and a bronze mirror were also found in the tomb.

oldest artificial eyes that was founded in Shahre Sukhte
Oldest artificial eyes that was founded in Shahre Sukhte

Discovery of the world’s first brain surgery in Shahr-I Sokhta

One of the most amazing finds of this ancient city is the discovery of the signs of the oldest brain surgery. A skull of a 12- or 13-year-old girl has been discovered in this ancient city. 4,800 years ago, doctors in the area removed part of her skull bone and operated on her to treat hydrocephalus and this girl survived long after this operation. The complete skeleton of this little girl has been found and her face has been reconstructed by paleontologists.

Two views of the skull that was operated on in Shahre Sukhte
Two views of the skull that was operated on in Shahre Sukhte

Discovery of a 5,000-year-old ruler in Shahr-I Sokhta

A ruler made of ebony wood has been discovered in the archeological excavations of the burnt city. This ruler is 10 cm long with an accuracy of half a millimeter made of ebony; The discovery of this device indicates that the inhabitants of this ancient city have made great strides in the field of mathematics.

Ruler that was found in Shahre Sukhte
Ruler that was found in Shahre Sukhte

Discover the world’s oldest backgammon in Shahr-e Sukhteh

The oldest backgammon in the world has been found from the ancient tomb Number 761 in the burnt city with 60 beads. This backgammon is much older than the backgammon found in the royal cemetery of Ur in Mesopotamia. This backgammon is made of ebony and is rectangular in shape and has a snake engraved around it 20 times and holding its tail in its mouth.  This backgammon has 20 game houses and 60 beads, and the beads, which were placed in an earthenware dish next to the backgammon, are made of the common stones of Shahr-I Sokhta, namely azure, agate and turquoise.

Oldest backgammon in the world
Oldest backgammon in the world

Discover the world’s first animation in Shahr-I Sokhta

Archaeologists excavated a 5,000-year-old tomb and found a cup with the image of a goat and a tree on it. It has a purposeful repetition, showing the movement of a goat towards a tree. By bringing these images closer together, archaeologists were able to obtain a sample of a moving image in the form of a 20-second film. The goat is one of the animals that is skilled in reaching heights, and the painter of Shahr-I sokhta managed to depict the jump of this goat with precision and dexterity.

This cup, which was used for drinking, is 10 cm high and is based on a pedestal. In many dishes, there are shapes that are just repetitions and there is no movement in them, but our research has shown that this role is the oldest idea of the ancient people to present a “moving image” and in today’s interpretation of “animation”.

Animation on a Vase in Shahre Sukhte
Animation on a Vase in Shahre Sukhte
Vase animation in Shahre Sukhte
Vase animation in Shahre Sukhte, by Emesik

Other objects of the Shahr-I Sokhta

Other important objects found among the thousands of objects include pottery with the potter’s signature on it, hammers, needles, hairpins, residential towns and public buildings such as apartments, melon seeds, beans, dried fish, Rice, cumin, pottery kilns, metal smelting furnaces, buttons, ax, shoelaces, hooks, combs, ropes, baskets, wooden frames, shoes, and belts.

A few Tools that was found in Shahr-e Sukhte
A few Tools that was found in Shahr-e Sukhte

The Burnt City is one of the most unique and spectacular relics of the glorious era of ancient Iran. For this reason, those tourists who are interested in the history of ancient Iran or people who love the ancient study will enjoy a trip to this ancient city more than any other trip and destination. Since this magnificent site is not on the Iran Classic Route, therefore in case you are interested in visiting this historic site, just give us a call or simply fill out the form below and create your own desired tour to Iran. 


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