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Scientists have uncovered the secret of 4,000-year-old artifacts that could rewrite human history
Scientists have uncovered the secret of 4,000-year-old artifacts that could rewrite human history

In 2001, the market for antiquities was simply flooded with rare archaeological artifacts, seemingly out of nowhere. Unique jewelry, weapons, finely worked ceramics with extraordinary craftsmanship and magnificent carnelian and lapis lazuli inlays turned out to be on sale. These outlandish pieces featured incredibly complex symbolism and were beautifully executed. Data on these mysterious antiquities was scarce and, at best, vague. The solution turned out to be so unexpected for scientists that it is capable of making changes in the history of mankind.

Mysterious artifacts

The data provided by Internet sites and auction houses could not clarify the question of where all these artifacts came from. Their origin was often referred to as "from Central Asia." At first, experts assumed that these items were the work of experienced counterfeiters. This version did not pass the test. As more antiquities appeared on the market in the following months, scholars began to speculate that they might very well be genuine. Experts suspect that all these items come from an undocumented place, the location of which is still unknown to them.

In 2001, the antiquities market was flooded with archaeological rarities of unknown origin

In 2002, the Iranian police managed to uncover this secret. A coordinated investigation led to the arrest of several traffickers and the seizure of many artifacts. These properties were being prepared for shipment from Tehran, Bandar Abbas and Kerman to buyers around the world. Investigators found that the origin of most of these items can be traced back to a location in the Khalil River Valley. It is located about forty kilometers south of Giroft, a remote and peaceful city in southeastern Iran, near the Persian Gulf.


An unexpected solution

But where did all these mysterious artifacts come from? At the time, scientists knew that there were no excavations in the area. The explanation turned out to be incredibly simple and very unexpected. It turned out that in 2001 there was an extensive flood near Giroft. It exposed the ruins of an ancient necropolis belonging to a Bronze Age culture that flourished near Mesopotamia. The flooding led to the fact that the Khalil River overflowed its banks and eroded all adjacent lands. As a result, the remains of an ancient cemetery were exposed. Locals and looters quickly realized the importance of the find and began collecting and selling the artifacts found.

Ancient weapons confiscated from marauders by the police

The full significance of the discovery became clearer after archaeologists conducted official surveys of the area. They discovered that this mysterious, hitherto undocumented culture belongs to the Bronze Age. She is almost five thousand years old! Marauders plundered thousands of graves in the necropolis. They stole thousands of artifacts and barbarously damaged this place. The archaeologists were determined to study what was left. Specialists have come here from all over the world to join the Iranian team.They were determined to protect as much of the open area as possible and to excavate the surrounding areas to learn more about this ancient culture and its people.

Giroft's Excavation

New ancient culture

In February 2003, excavations began under the leadership of Iranian archaeologist Youssef Majidzadeh. They continued for several years. Majidzade's team identified the main necropolis, which they named Makhtutabad. Experts believe that most of the original finds and artifacts came from this very place. Unfortunately, a lot was plundered. Three kilometers west of the necropolis, archaeologists have mapped out two large artificial mounds for further study, towering over the plain.

These two mounds were named South Konar Sandal and North Konar Sandal. They contain the remains of two large architectural complexes. The northern mound included a religious building, and the southern one - the remains of a fortified citadel. At the foot of the mounds, buried under a multi-meter layer of sediment, there were the remains of small buildings. Archaeologists say that these two mounds were once part of a rather large single urban settlement.

The findings of the scientists were unexpected

Majidzadeh's preliminary conclusions from the available partial data made a great impression on the scientific community. Some scientists, most notably the American archaeologist Oscar White Muscarella, strongly questioned his findings, sparking a fierce academic debate. Critics were concerned that the initial looting of the artifacts at the site made it difficult to accurately assess their age and authenticity. Despite all the controversy, work at the Iranian facility continued. The first stage of excavations at this site lasted until 2007.

The original picture of Giroft's ancient and powerful civilization has become clearer. Majidzade published the results of the study. In them, he wrote that this urban center was founded on the site of Giroft at the end of the fifth millennium BC. His optimistic conclusion was that the region was incredibly developed. Its center was in the valley of the Khalil River, where large monuments with monumental architecture, significant areas of handicraft production, residential quarters and vast cemeteries prevailed.

The artifacts discovered during the excavations were striking in their craftsmanship

Archaeologists have discovered distinctive objects - some practical, some decorative, and others sacred. The items were often carved semi-precious stones such as calcite, chlorite, obsidian, and lapis lazuli. The inhabitants of this city seem to have maintained close contact with the cities of Mesopotamia. This is a region that was located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (the territory of modern Iraq). Painstaking excavations of South Conar Sandal have revealed that the citadel there was once surrounded by a monumental brick wall and had several rooms. Radiocarbon analysis has shown their age to be between 2500 and 2200 BC.

Excavations at the Giroft site ceased for a full seven years and only resumed in 2014. Iranian archaeologists have returned to this place again. Scientists from Italy, France, Germany and other countries took part in this new excavation, which revealed even more detailed information about the inhabitants of Giroft of the Bronze Age.

During the excavations, despite the devastation, many amazing artifacts were discovered

Arts and Literature

The archaeologists were thrilled to find the great complexity and incredible beauty of the art found in the Giroft area. The decorative iconography found on hundreds of vessels is rich in artfully executed symbolism and demonstrates striking similarities with the iconography of the Mesopotamian tradition. The images of scorpions found in Giroft echo the images of scorpion people depicted in the royal necropolis at Ur (mid-third millennium BC). Giroft's bull-men are reminiscent of the bull-man Enkidu from the Akkadian epic of Gilgamesh.The parallels are so obvious that it is assumed that the two cultures may share a common cultural heritage.

Images on objects have something in common with the plots of Akkadian myths

The most striking are the recurring characteristic images of an inverted bull with an eagle hovering over it and battles between eagles and snakes. These two motifs appear on many of the vessels found at Giroft. They definitely bring to mind one of the most famous Mesopotamian myths - Etana. This is the mythical shepherd king Kisha, who is mentioned in the list of Sumerian kings as the first supreme ruler.

This myth is one of the most complex and gripping stories of that early period. It tells how Etana searches for a way to ascend to heaven. He wants to get some magic plant that will allow his wife to give birth to an heir. At this very time, an eagle and a serpent enter the battle. They were once allies, but the eagle ate the offspring of the snake. After that, they became mortal enemies. The snake takes revenge on the eagle, leaving him to die in the pit. On the advice of the sun god Shamash, Etana saves the eagle. As a token of gratitude, the bird takes Etana to heaven to pick up the much-needed plant.

The Flood motif, central to the Sumerians and Babylonians, also occasionally appears in some depictions of Giroft. Italian archaeologist Massimo Vidale, in his work on one of the found vases, noted: “On the vase, a kneeling character holds two zebu, whose heads produce waves. A mountain rises from the waves. Another character with the divine symbols of the Sun and the Moon raises what looks like a rainbow, behind which we can see the protruding chains of mountains. There is a clear impression that the image is telling an ancient myth about the great flood."

Tablet with Elamite script

At one of the entrances to the citadel of South Konar Sandal, scientists found a fragment of a burnt clay tablet with an inscription. Later, three more tablets were found with written texts written in two different writing systems. Whoever these people were, they had their own writing system. One of them is similar to the so-called linear Elamite script used in the cities of the kingdom of Elam on the border with Mesopotamia. Another font had a geometric shape and had not been seen before. The obvious conclusion from the two finds is that the civilization at Giroft was literate.

The clay tablets had texts written in two writing systems

Ideas for identification

Majidzadeh, having studied a huge collection of confiscated archaeological finds, put forward an intriguing hypothesis. Based on his observations of this place and his study of ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform texts, the scientist believes that the civilization of Giroft is Aratta. A land whose wealth was glorified in numerous Sumerian verses. An ancient text describes the conflict between Aratta and the Mesopotamian city of Uruk. Aratt's narration is a fabulously rich and beautiful place: “Prongs of green lapis lazuli. The walls of the city rise above the plain. They are lined with bright red bricks. The clay of which is made of pewter stone dug in the mountains."

Majidzade insists that the geographical position of this place, the abundance of semi-precious stones and a high degree of civilization are factors that indicate that this is the legendary Aratta. Skeptics criticize Majidzade's theory for the lack of conclusive evidence. There is no documentary evidence that this mythical kingdom existed anywhere outside the Sumerian poems. Many historians consider Aratta to be simply a Bronze Age myth.

Scientists believe that the culture found is the mythical Aratta

Other scholars speculate that the civilization near Giroft may correspond to the ancient kingdom of Marhashi. There is textual support for this theory. First, these are the chronicles of the kings of Akkad. The texts of the Mesopotamian Empire describe in detail the glorious Akkadian exploits during the struggle against the powerful state in the Iranian highlands.In one of these texts the epilogue of the conflict is described in great detail: “Rimush (the king of Akkad) won the battle of Abalgamash, the king of Markhash. When he conquered Elam and Markhashi, he took 30 gold mines, 3600 silver mines and 300 male and female slaves. " There is strong evidence that the city of Akkad existed between 2350 and 2200 BC. Since Markhashi was a contemporary of Akkad, he can also be dated to that time. This period is fully consistent with the data from the excavations of Giroft. Unlike Markhashi, Aratta cannot be identified with a specific period. But how attractive this version is!

Ancient Akkadian kingdom

No one dreamed that from the sands of such a remote and arid region, which many consider an unlikely place for the development of a complex civilization, a sophisticated culture could arise. Excavations have been going on for almost two decades. Numerous discoveries have already been made. Their careful analysis will allow, over time, to make adjustments to the history. Indeed, since 1869, when the remains of the Sumerian culture were discovered, Mesopotamia has been considered the cradle of civilization. But Giroft's remarkable discoveries warrant a reevaluation of this historical interpretation.

If you are interested in Istria, read our article on what secrets scientists have learned from the ancient scrolls of Herculaneum, and how this discovery can change the world.

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