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Burnt City Of Sistan, An Urban Civilization In Ancient Times

The roots of civilization have been found in many parts of Iran, as an ancient and eastern land of Behfor. One of the signs of the rich civilization of Iran is the existence of cities for human habitation in ancient times. 

One of the oldest cities of ancient Iran is Sokhteh, which is located in Sistan and Baluchestan province, in the southern part of Zabol city.

 It is one of the most advanced ancient cities in which signs of habitation have been found around three thousand years BC. Join us for an adventurous trip to the heart of history to learn more about this ancient treasure.

Geographical location of the burnt city

Sokhteh city is located in Zabol city, in Sistan and Baluchestan province and in the southeast of Iran. To explore this historical treasure, one must go to the side of Zabul-Zahedan road. In fact, this city reaches Zabul city from the north with a distance of about 50 km and from the south with a distance of about 180 km to Zahedan.

 For the travelers of Zabul, it is a good opportunity to drive to the burnt city in about 40 minutes and see this ancient civilization. If you plan to travel to this city from Zahedan, you need more time and you have to drive for about 2 hours. Finally, take yourself to the ancient complex of the Burnt City and visit this area and its extraordinary museum.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Entrance to the Burnt City - Photo by Saeed Rahdari
Entrance to the Burnt City – Photo by Saeed Rahdari

Archaeologists in the burnt city came across artifacts, each of which is a unique and unique treasure. The civilization of this city is fifty thousand years old and belongs to the third millennium BC. The civilized texture of the burnt city of Sistan led to the region being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. Today, the name of this ancient city along with other valuable collections of Iran is registered in UNESCO.

During the excavations of the city, archaeologists encountered interesting phenomena that increased their enthusiasm for discovery and research. You may also be interested to know that the citizen of the third millennium BC in this Sistani city, in addition to being a farmer, was also an artisan and his interest in the art of jewelry and pottery is evident in the objects he obtained.

The discovery of the first artificial eye, the first operated skull, the astonishing examples of backgammon, the precision and delicacy of the ruler, the spinning and the weaving of the mat, are all signs of the existence of a Persian civilized land in ancient times. In the following, we will acquaint you more with the wonders of this historical region.

Adventure in Burnt City

Remains of a burnt city
burnt City

Throughout history, many excavations have been carried out in the area of ​​the burnt city and useful information has been obtained from it. The first excavations are related to a British military that dates back to the Qajar period. The name of the burnt city first came to the fore by this explorer because of his observation of the ash dunes in this area. 

Then, Hungarian archaeologist Sir Orwell Stein, with much discovery, added new information about the area to previous knowledge. After Orwell, the famous British archaeologist, it was the turn of the Italians to explore the burnt-out civilization for 11 years.

All the findings of this region take away a person’s intelligence and are a seal of approval for the originality and civilization of the Iranians of several thousand years. The city is 50,000 years old and is located along the Helmand River and Lake Hamoon, which was waterlogged and wide at that time.

 During the four periods, from 3200 to 1800 BC, man took this region as a place to live and with his achievements, created it from a developed and civilized city in ancient times. The presence of the blessing of water is one of the reasons for the formation of the burnt city, and the decrease in the volume of water has greatly damaged the prosperity of this city over time. 

Investigations into the burnt city continue to answer many of the doubts and questions that have been raised about the area.

Facts about the burned city

Human skeleton burned in the city

The burnt city is one of the most important urban areas of human beings in the southern regions of the Iranian plateau and has an area of ​​151 hectares. The city is located in a high part, the highest point of which is about 18 meters above the surrounding level. The burnt city consists of 5 parts that are arranged in the form of chained hills. 

The residential part, the central part, the industrial area, the section related to the monuments as well as the city cemetery have made this area of ​​Zabol one of the most advanced urban styles in the ancient history of Iran.

The residential part has an area of ​​80 hectares and is located in the northeast of the city. The Helmand River and Lake Hamoon have been lively and vibrant in the past, bringing greenery and freshness to the area. Thus, in contrast to its desert appearance today, trees such as maple, mad willow, and… gave life to the land, and there was no mention of a dry, desert climate.

 Agriculture has flourished thanks to the Helmand and Hamun currents, and unlike today, where the only plant is desert turmeric, the city has been green with a variety of plants. In addition to the Helmand and Hamoon water shortages, the use of trees to fuel the city’s industrial uses has been very effective in reducing trees and losing greenery.

Traces of art and industry in the jobs of the civilized people of Iran

Industry burned in the city

In addition to the prosperity of agriculture, the people of the city also had a hand in industry and art. The results of research have confirmed the prevalence of craftsmanship in the activities of city residents. The artisans of this land have tended to make jewelry and pottery. 

Finding beautiful beads and necklaces made of azure and precious metal of gold, shows the art and elegance of the people of the burnt city who created an artistic work with the simplest possible tools. It is said that the method of making jewelry with gold leaf and precious stones in this city is very similar to the way of the ancient Egyptians.

The art of this land does not end with the making of spectacular ornaments, and with each stage of excavation, this land has shown another wonder to archaeologists. Pottery and stone vessels with beautiful and impressive motifs have been burnt among other works discovered in the city, which has exposed explorers to a valuable collection of this art.

 It is interesting to know that during historical discoveries and intuitions in this region, fabrics have been found that also testify to the prosperity of textile weaving in this important historical period. Among the activities of the people of this region was mat weaving with the reeds around the watery lake of Hamoon at that time. The discovery of fishing hooks is also a reminder that fishing was also one of the occupations of the people of this region of Sistan.

Urban water supply and sewerage system

Other wonders of this modern city in ancient times, engineering intelligence in the integrated architecture of houses and also the design of the system to meet the needs of citizens in water consumption. The remains of this city show a regular and intelligent urban plumbing system with clay pipes in this area.

 Civilization has taken root in the land of Persia, so much so that in the third millennium BC, at a time when many people in other lands were struggling to survive on the most basic facilities, the Iranians burned the city’s plumbing and sewage system in a civilized city.

City Cemetery and its knowledge

Burnt City Cemetery - Photo by Rasoul Abbasi
Burnt City Cemetery – Photo by Rasoul Abbasi

The city cemetery is one of the most mysterious parts of this region, and interesting results were obtained from its excavations. Burnt people buried their dead in a squatting position, with objects usually made of pottery, stone, and so on. According to the burial ritual of the burnt city, the dead body was laid to rest with a cloth in the grave. In some of the bodies found, shroud marks are evident, and in some cloths in the form of clothing or undergarments and blankets, the dead body is covered.

The story of the artificial eye of the civilized citizen of Sistani

Artificial eyes burned in the city
artificial eye

It is hard to imagine that around three thousand years BC, the Iranians had reached a stage of civilization and progress, which they thought of replacing physical defects. A skull was found in the excavations of the burnt city, in which an artificial eyeball made of wax and animal fat had settled inside the cavity of one of his eyes. The skull belonged to the skeleton of a woman between the ages of 28 and 32 who used an eye prosthesis. 

The precision in the construction of this artificial eye is astonishing and a pupil can be seen in its center. But the interesting and artistic point of this prosthesis is the capillaries made of thin gold wires that are embedded on it with a special elegance.

The art of making animation for the first time in Iran

History of animation in Burnt City

It may come as a surprise to you that animation or animation in Iran dates back to the ancient civilization of the Burnt City. It is another incredible wonder of this land that the people of the third millennium BC have gone beyond meeting daily needs and tried their imagination to create moving images. 

In their excavations, the Italians found an earthenware vessel with a band of goats and trees around the vessel. Five goats are engraved on this cup, each of which shows a step of the goat moving towards the tree. These five movements in a frame put a moving image in front of the eye. The intelligence of the citizens of this civilized land is praiseworthy and shows us their creative and searching spirit.

 To see this illustrated art, you should go to the Museum of Ancient Iran on Si Tir Street in Tehran.

The first brain surgery in human history in the burned city

Brain surgery in the burned city

Nearly five thousand years ago, signs of one of the most complex medical surgeries were found in this Sistani land. Excavations at the cremated city found a skull about the age of a 13-year-old girl. The highlight of this skeleton is the effect of a brain surgery to remove part of the skull bone, which astonished archaeologists. The girl suffered from a type of brain disease called “hydrocephalus” or the accumulation of fluid in the skull, which reduces the pressure of fluid on the brain by removing part of the bone in this part of the body.

Discovery of its five thousand year old line

A piece of ebony wood with a length of 10 cm is burnt from other findings of the city. This wooden object represented the taste and intelligence of the ancient Iranians in the use of mathematical sciences in everyday life. On this piece of ebony, there are visible grooves that are lined up at a distance of millimeters. 

This small wooden ruler belongs to the people who needed precise and very delicate measurements to create their artistic works such as jewelry. The construction of this device for industrial and artistic measurements is a proof of citizens’ mastery of mathematical knowledge. 

The presence of geometric patterns on objects and geometric intelligence in the architectural system of the city is another factor that shows the mathematical power of the people of this land.

Discover backgammon and game pieces

Backgammon in the burned city

The intelligence of the citizens of Sistani has turned to intellectual games, and in this land, a wooden and rectangular plate with 20 houses, similar to backgammon, has been found, the number of beads of which reaches 60. These beads are placed in an earthenware dish, close to the board, and they are made of precious stones such as azure and turquoise. The role of a snake that spins around 20 times and holds its tail in its mouth forms the game screen.

Also, the emergence of dice that are lined up on the sides of those points, is one of the other historical and ancient play equipment in the city that have been beautifully created with the help of art and stones in the city.

Undoubtedly, the civilization of the burnt city of Zabol, in Sistan and Baluchestan province, is a mysterious collection that takes time to study. This collection is a big world of unique wonders, which we tried to point out in this article. The story of civilization is not complete in our country and a trip to civilized lands will be one of the sweetest and most proud trips of every Iranian. During the cool seasons, do not miss a trip to Zabul and the ancient complex of the Burnt City. 

What we know about urban civilization will still be small; So how do you share your useful information and experiences from this adventurous trip with other companions? We are waiting for you.