Investigations on the Evolution of Subsistence Economy in the Qazvin Plain (Iran) from the Neolithic to the Iron Age

By Mashkour, M.; Fontugne, M. et al. | Antiquity, March 1999 | Go to article overview

Investigations on the Evolution of Subsistence Economy in the Qazvin Plain (Iran) from the Neolithic to the Iron Age


Mashkour, M., Fontugne, M., Hatte, C., Antiquity


This paper aims to present some of the results of research on the palaeodiet of prehistoric people in the Qazvin Plain within the last five millennia. Archaeological faunal remains used for this study originate from three sites in the Bu'in-Zahra microregion of the Qazvin Plain: Tappeh Zagheh (hereafter Zagheh), Qabrestan and finally Sagzabad dating respectively to the 6th/5th, 4th and 2nd/1st millennia BC (Mashkour in preparation). These sites were systematically excavated between 1970 and 1978 under the direction of Professor E. O. Negahban.

From a palaeoeconomic point of view, the northern Iranian Plateau is little known and these archaeozoological investigations represent the first attempts to understand human/animal relationships in this area. Here we aim to present some of the results, including the analysis of faunal spectra and relative proportions of different animal species, as well as preliminary information on animal management during the three major cultural periods in the area under concern.

Located 140 km northwest of Tehran and extending over 443,200 hectares, the Qazvin plain is geographically bordered by, the Zagros Mountains to the west and to the northeast and the Alborz Mountains to the southeast [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. The plain is located in a semi-steppic/arid zone at an altitude of approximately 1300 m above the sea level. The archaeological sites are found in the southern limits of the Bu'in Zahra micro-region, next to the modern-day village of Sagzabad.

Archaeological context

Tappeh Zagheh [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURES 2 & 3 OMITTED]

Several seasons of field work have resulted in extensive excavations of the almost 1.5-ha mound, and brought to light architectural remains dated to the late Neolithic. Twelve levels of occupation were exposed and virgin soil was reached at 6.10 m below datum, in an area of about 1.25 sq. m (Malek Shahmirzadi 1977b: 84). The characteristics of the architectural remains reflect cultural continuity throughout the occupation with no major or significant interruptions. Two major phases are visible in the pottery sequence at Zagheh; the oldest levels, XII to IX, have yielded 'Zagheh type pottery'. Levels VIII to I correspond to 'Cheshmeh Ali' type pottery,(1) a key element in the relative chronology of the Central Iranian Plateau, and also found at a few sites at the edge of Dasht-i-Kavir, the central desert of Iran (Ghirshman 1938; Malek Shahmirzadi 1990). According to Majidzadeh's chronology, Zagheh falls within the Archaic period of the Central Plateau culture (Majidzadeh 1976; 1981). Zagheh is thus a critical site for understanding the dynamics of the Iranian Plateau prehistory.

Qabrestan [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURES 2 & 3 OMITTED]

The site lies 3.2 km from Zagheh. It is oval in shape, some 200 m long and 80 m wide. Several trenches were investigated (A, B and E) yielding 19 archaeological levels corresponding to four distinct cultural periods (Majidzadeh 1976: 28; 1981). The excavator of the site allocates these occupation levels to the Middle and Late Plateau periods marked by two intrusive stylistic elements, the Plum Ware and the Grey Ware.(2)

Sagzabad [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 & 3 OMITTED]

The mound also has an oval shape and extends over 350 m from north to south and 400 m from east to west. The most important trenches opened are A, O (OXX and OXXI) and N (NXX and NXXI). On the basis of some ceramic sherds, similar to those from Stalk III (Ghirshman 1939), Negahban (1973) has proposed a wide chronology for Sagzabad, from the end of the 4th to the middle of the 1st millennium BC. This dating is not in accordance with the section OXX excavated by Malek-Shahmirzadi, where a Late Bronze to Iron Age occupation (Malek-Shahmirzadi 1977a) was proposed. Other publications on the archaeological material of Sagzabad (architecture, ceramic ware, inhumation etc.) are also available (Negahban 1977; Majidzadeh 1976; Tala'i 1983; 1984).

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