Archaeology of Iran could aid understanding of global issues
21 September 2022
Archaeologists undertaking a major research project into the early human communities in Iran have published their findings in a new book, The Archaeology of Iran from the Palaeolithic to the Achaemenid Empire.
In the most comprehensive study of all of Iran’s archaeology and early history ever published, the authors from the University of Reading and University of Tehran in Iran reveal new findings and interpretations, including how Iran’s archaeology can help us make sense of modern issues such as resilience, migration and how humans interact with, and impact upon, the environment including climate.
The richly illustrated book, in full colour and freely available through Open Access, is co-authored by Professor Roger Matthews, University of Reading, and Professor Hassan Fazeli Nashli, University of Tehran, with Dr Amy Richardson (University of Reading) as Illustrations Editor.
One example of an issue of contemporary concern is social inequality - with differences in the types and quantities of grave goods and sizes of houses, as well as records of slaves working for the elite - revealed by Iran’s archaeology, demonstrating that this problem originated thousands of years ago.
Roger Matthews said: “Cultures and behaviours in ancient Iran paved the way for modern life. Our research has confirmed that concepts and practices such as agriculture and living in towns and cities, as well as societal problems like class divides, first emerged thousands of years ago in this region of western Asia.
“Studying ancient Iran greatly enhances our appreciation not only of modern-day Iran but the entire world, yet this region’s history is almost entirely overlooked in schools in favour of Roman or Egyptian history.
“We hope this book provides a reminder of Iran’s historic significance and of the unknown and forgotten links between us and our predecessors there.”
The book, published in June 2022, explores important periods through Iran’s prehistory and history, from the earliest Lower Palaeolithic period around 500,000 years ago, when pre-humans began to inhabit the land, through to Neolithic humans who lived in the Zagros mountains and beyond, and later Bronze Age and Iron Age societies.
The latter of these included the first ‘world empire’ – the Achaemenid Persian empire. The book ends at the collapse of the Achaemenid empire at around 330 BC.
Among topics covered are the early development of farming villages, the early use of writing and bureaucracy in urban civilisations, and the rise and fall of some of the great empires of the ancient world.
Professor Matthews and fellow Reading archaeologist Dr Wendy Matthews were awarded £2.2m by the European Research Council in 2018 for a related but separate research of early agricultural communities in the Zagros mountains of Iran and Iraq.
With colleagues Amy Richardson and Kamal Rasheed Raheem, they published a major volume on this work in 2020, The Early Neolithic of the Eastern Fertile Crescent.
Further research based on their findings is due to be published in the coming months.