Haft Tappeh (Iran): Archaeologists uncover human tragedy at ancient Elamite site
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Earlier excavations have provided important insights into the structure of the ancient remains of Haft Tappeh and its development over time
Excavation area IV of the Haft Tappeh archaeological site in southwestern Iran - ©: Behzad Mofidi-Nasrabadi
Archaeologists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have been progressively examining the city located in the ancient Elamite site of Haft Tappeh in southwestern Iran since 2002. Their excavations have revealed important information relating to the city’s structure and its historic development, but have also produced evidence of a human tragedy that occurred here 3,400 years ago.
Mass grave on the ancient Elamite Haft Tappeh site - ©: Behzad Mofidi-Nasrabadi
In the middle of the second millennium BC, a city emerged approximately 15 kilometers south of the capital Susa that would soon ascend to become the most prominent center within the Elamite empire. Within a relatively short period of time, the Elamite kings Tepti-ahar and Inshushinak-shar-ilani built here monumental structures such as temples and palaces, and the area covered by the city was extended to roughly 250 hectares. The city continued to flourish for about one hundred years, and trade and political relations with neighboring states such as Babylon were established. A recently discovered workshop with attached clay tablet archive provides ample evidence of the expansion of commerce, arts, and crafts. At the end of the 14th century BC, the urban developments in Haft Tappeh stagnated for reasons that are as yet unknown. Some of the monumental structures were abandoned while others ceased to be used; materials from their ruins were subsequently employed by the population to build simple homesteads.
Grave goods found in the tomb of a high-ranking female official in Haft Tappeh, 15th century BC - ©: Behzad Mofidi-Nasrabadi
A team of archaeologists from Mainz University headed by Dr. Behzad Mofidi-Nasrabadi recently discovered that the city’s population fell victim to a massacre at the end of the settlement phase. They found a mass grave containing the skeletal remains of several hundred people in a street between the dwellings of the final building layer. The dead had simply been haphazardly piled one on top of another behind a wall.
Terracotta statue found in Haft Tappeh,15th century BC - ©: Behzad Mofidi-Nasrabadi
The German Research Foundation (DFG) has recently approved the continued financing of the project. Thus it will now be possible to continue the excavations in order to reveal the particular circumstances of this human tragedy and its historical background. Mainz University had provided start-up funding for the excavation campaign in early 2015.