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Mamasani Archaeological Project



A number of the most powerful and influential states and empires of the ancient Near East originated in southwest Iran. These include the Persian Empire ruled by the Achaemenid Dynasty (c.539-330 BC) and the various incarnations of Elamite states that engaged in warfare, political intrigue and trade with Babylonia and Assyria during the Bronze and Iron Ages (2200-641 BC). Southwest Iran was also the heartland of the so-called ‘Proto-Elamite horizon’, which was distinguished by the first appearance in Iran of urbanism and pictographic writing, the latter of which spread from the southwest into the furthest reaches of the Iranian plateau in the late 4th millennium BC (c. 3300-2900 BC). The rise of this succession of socio-political formations was a product of the increasing complexity in the village and town-based societies in the 6th, 5th and 4th millennium BC.

A defining characteristic of these prehistoric and historical entities was their dominance of both the lowland province of Khuzistan and the highland province of Fars, once referred to as Susa and Anshan after their capital cities. The successful control of these environmentally distinct highland and lowland areas depended on the routes of communication through the Zagros Mountains, and historical texts dating from the 3rd mill BC onwards indicate the critical importance of one geographical region that lay directly on the major route linking Khuzistan and Fars: the Mamasani region

In 2003, a research collaboration between the Iranian Centre for Archaeological Research (ICAR) and the University of Sydney began joint research in the Mamasani district of Fars Province, Iran. This collaboration now involves researchers from the ICAR, New York University (USA), the University of Cambridge (UK), and the University of New England (Australia). Since 2003, the project has undertaken soundings and excavations at the sites of Tol-e Nurabad, Tol-e Spid, and Qaleh Kali, as well as a reconnaissance archaeological survey of the northern Mamasani district and pioneering Holocene palaeoclimate research in lakes and wetlands of northwest Fars.

Our prehistoric research in Fars aims to understand local late prehistoric developments within the context of broader regional patterns of socio-economic and technological change, and to examine the implications of these local transformations for models of the rise and spread of complex societies in early SW Asia. The results of this research have been widely disseminated (see Project Bibliography).

The current project directors are Dr Alireza Askari (University of Shiraz), Dr Cameron Petrie (Cambridge), Prof. D.T. Potts (NYU), Dr Alireza Sardari (ICAR), and Prof. Lloyd Weeks (UNE).

See also: Exploring Routes and Plains in Southwest Iran