A Recent Find of a Possible Lower Palaeolithic Assemblage from the Foothills of the Zagros Mountains

Article excerpt

The Mehran Plain to the northwest of the Deh Luran Plain is located between the central parts of lowland Mesopotamia and the foothills of the Zagros Mountains at an altitude of 100-400 m a.s.l. After a long hiatus in archaeological fieldwork following the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, in March 1997 a team from the Center for Archaeological Research of the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization, led by the late Ali-Mohammad Khalilian, launched an archaeological survey of the Mehran Plain. The work was continued in March 1999 by G. Nokandeh (field director), F. Biglari, A. Azadi, N. Malek-Ahmadi (archaeologists) and S. Heydari (geomorphologist).

Our team revisited, mapped and sampled 13 previously recorded sites, among them three sites with Palaeolithic artefacts (FIGURE 1). Perhaps the most important among the latter is Amar Merdeg, a cluster of hills covering approximately 6 sq. km to the east of the Konjan-Cham River, north of the town of Mehran. These hills may have been formed by the accumulation of catastrophic flood alluviation during the Pleistocene. They form an undulating skyline cut by river gullies. The source of the sediments is the Aghajari formation and the overlying and Bakhtiyari conglomerate of the Zagros front ranges (Eyvazi 1995). The inner parts of this hilly area were not yet safe for survey because of heavy military waste from the Iran-Iraq War; therefore we only collected two samples from the surface of the eastern and southwestern margins of the area.


Raw materials of various qualities are available in the area as pebbles, cobbles, and nodules of chert, sandstone, and small amounts of quartzite. The density and fine quality of these lithic resources may have attracted people from the Palaeolithic period until late prehistoric times. Artefacts form a sparse scatter over the surface of the hills, but at some places have a denser concentration.

Lithic artefacts at Amar Merdeg are characterized by large numbers of tested cobbles, cores, cortical debitage, and a smaller number of tools, suggesting flint-knapping activities at the area (FIGURE 2). Various fine-grained cherts, including fine red, white and brown, and medium grey chert, were used for flake tools while coarse-grained material like sandstone was often modified into chopping tools. Most artefacts are heavily patinated, of which some have multiple levels of patina, indicating that a significant period of time had elapsed between one retouching episode and the subsequent ones. …