ARCHEOLOGY ii. Median and Achaemenid



ii. Median and Achaemenid

Median archeology. The rise of the Medes and the Achaemenids was in part a product of changes that took place far beyond the bounds of the ancient kingdoms of the Near East. The establishment of Indo-European populations on the steppe lands west of the Tien Shan, followed by the emergence of pastoral economies based on horse riding, served to bring successive waves of invaders into more fertile lands to the south. At least as early as 2000 B.C. the long-established Bronze Age settlements located southeast of the Caspian Sea became subject to external attack, and anywhere from five hundred to a thousand years later the main body of the Iranian tribes can be presumed to have established themselves on the upland plateau that today bears their name. Among such invaders it was the Medes, close cousins of the Persians, who assumed the dominant role in the early 1st millennium B.C.

Unfortunately many of the details that contributed to this pattern of events may never be known to us. While the Medes were likely to have been present in Iran well before the Assyrians first encountered them in 835 B.C., it remains unclear how the earliest Medes, let alone the early Iranians as a whole, should be distinguished in the archeological record. Even during the next two to three hundred years—years that saw the eventual integration of Median and non-Median elements in the Median kingdom of Cyaxares (ca. 625-585 B.C.)—the firm identification of one or another site as specifically “Median” is necessarily hazardous. Any search for a strictly Median component in the material culture of western Iran in the Iron III period (ca. 800-550 B.C.) should probably concentrate on evidence from sites not too distant from the Median capital of Ecbatana, now the city of Hamadān.

It is striking to observe that, within these boundaries of time and space, virtually nothing was known of Median material culture prior to the mid-1960s. The French excavations of C. Virolleaud and C. Fossey, begun at Hamadān in 1914, were never resumed, and in the absence of any other major investigation in the immediate area for more than half a century, all but the most recent general studies focus on the late Achaemenid or post-Achaemenid rock-cut tombs of the western Zagros as the most tangible reflection of Media’s once prominent place in Asian history.

During the past twenty years the search for the Medes on the ground has been largely concentrated within the “Median triangle,” the region bounded by Hamadān, Malāyer and Kangāvar. At Godīn Tepe, located 13 km east of Kangāvar on the left bank of the Gamas Āb, it is evident that a substantial Bronze Age site was reoccupied after an interval of about five hundred years, close to the beginning of the Iron III period. Here the excavations of T. C. Young, Jr., begun in 1965, have exposed the remains of a series of monumental mud-brick buildings presumed to be part of a single, eventually quite substantial, local ruler’s residence (T. C. Young and L. D. Levine, Excavations of the Godin Project: Second Progress Report, 1974, p. 35).

The two main halls of this Godīn II settlement (Figure 6) exhibit contrasting proportions. While the smaller hall, at the western edge of the surviving plan, is emphatically rectangular in shape and once possessed two rows of four columns, the larger, older, almost square reception hall originally contained five rows of six columns. This last structure is distinguished by several fixed installations: a bench marks the side and rear walls and is complemented, at the back of the hall, by a raised square hearth set approximately opposite an elevated seat and footstool.

The northeastern corner of the extant plan at Godīn Tepe includes a building of quite a different character. Its ground plan is taken up by two opposed ranges of six narrow storerooms, each of which probably had a vaulted ceiling. Directly outside the southwest corner, rather than within the building itself, a broad staircase provided access to an upper story. The external north wall of the building, which was erected in two separate stages, also served to extend the fortified perimeter wall that ran along the precipitous north limit of the site.

The parallels that can be adduced for the Godīn halls are not without interest. From Ḥasanlū IV, within the Iron II period (ca. 1100-800 B.C.), there is abundant evidence for rectangular columned halls with two rows of four freestanding columns. The Ḥasanlū halls also exhibit permanent internal fixtures akin to those found in the larger hall at Godīn. Nevertheless the Godīn halls are by no means carbon copies of those from Ḥasanlū, nor indeed of the late Iron II columned hall of Bābā Jān III, which has itself been claimed as Median (cf. C. Goff, “Excavations at Baba Jan: Pottery and Metal from Levels III and II,” Iran 16, 1978, pp. 40f.; cf. also Art in Iran i). Unlike these earlier partly residential halls, the two Godīn halls may have been reserved for purposes of reception alone. Moreover, the spacious plan of the larger hall can be compared to one substantially later monument, Palace P at Pasargadae, which dates to the second half of the 6th century B.C. (D. Stronach, Pasargadae, Oxford, 1978, pp. 78f.). At the same time, most of the close parallels for the architecture and the pottery of Godīn II come, not surprisingly, from the adjacent and partly contemporary site of Tepe Nush-i Jan (Nūš-e Jān (ca. 750-550 B.C.).

The excavations at Nush-i Jan, located 14 km west of Malāyer, have uncovered most of a compact settlement (Figure 7) that appears to have been at least partly religious in character. The site’s four principal buildings consist of the central temple, the western temple, the fort, and the columned hall; they were probably constructed in that order and predate the squatter occupation of the first half of the 6th century B.C.

The tower-like central temple, built on what was at first a bare, steep-sided rock outcrop, occupies a commanding position more than 30 m above the level of the surrounding plain. The internal plan includes a single narrow entrance, an antechamber, a ramp leading to an upper room, and a stepped triangular sanctuary, 11 x 7 m2 in area, which once rose to the full height of the building. The altar, which stands within the western bay of the sanctuary, is 85 cm high with four projecting steps and a shallow hemispherical fire bowl at the center of its broad fiat top (Plate III). The western temple, which for a time faced the central temple across an open court, is distinguished by a different orientation and an oddly asymmetrical plan. Nevertheless it contains a similar set of rooms: an antechamber, a spiral ramp leading to a room above, and an inner cella with the possible remains of a further altar. The so-called fort, a two-story structure that seems to have combined the functions of a storehouse and a residential unit, is the largest of the buildings found at Nush-i Jan. The well-preserved ground-floor plan includes a single entrance, a guardroom, a ramp-staircase of some size (which may have taken two complete revolutions to reach the level of the upper, now-vanished residential story), and four narrow storage magazines, each of which once stood nearly 6 m in height. The fourth major structure, the columned hall, is an irregularly shaped building approaching 20 x 15 m2 in area. Its flat roof originally rested on three rows of four wooden columns, and its only fixed furnishing consisted of a low mud-brick platform set close to the south wall. The height of the hall may have reached 8 or 9 m. In sum, the main impact of this architecture came from soaring buttressed, recessed, and no doubt crenellated, mud-brick walls. Narrow window openings and tall arrow slots also marked many external walls, while the stark design of one imposing structure—the central temple at Tepe Nush-i Jan—provides a notable, if mute, expression of religious belief and practice.

Mud brick was the outstanding medium of construction, although wooden door lintels complement the obviously extensive use of wood in each columned hall. The standard mud brick, at least at Tepe Nush-i Jan, measured 40 x 25 x 13 cm, while the curved vault struts, such as were used in pairs to span distances of up to 2.35 m were often 1.18 m in length. Somewhat against expectation—particularly since large stone column bases can be seen at Ziwiyeh (Zīwīya)—worked stone was hardly employed; instead the Median brickmason was often prepared to make unexpected, even daring use of the malleable properties of brick and plaster. This determination to build wherever possible with mud-brick elements, including curved vault struts, recalls a similar inclination in the less forested regions of the east Iranian world. The architecture of the Medes came to combine the extensive dependence on mud-brick and plaster that was to remain a fixed feature in the arid zones of the East with the interest in wooden columnar construction that took a strong hold in the northern Zagros from the beginning of the Iron Age onward.

The family of ceramics represented in the Median levels at Tepe Nush-i Jan seems to be associated with the moment that the Medes consolidated their power in the vicinity of Hamadān in the second half of the 7th century B.C. Four separate wares are recognized. “Common ware” vessels are buff, cream, or light red in color, often with a distinctive gold or silver mica temper; they include bowls with horizontal handles, small jars with single or opposed vertical handles, a few larger types of jar, and, largest of all, a form of elegant ribbed pithoi. Only smaller, often more elaborate vessels were produced in “grey ware,” and these frequently display a carefully smoothed, even burnished surface. “Cooking ware” is represented by a single form: a wide-mouthed cooking pot, handmade with a heavy concentration of quartz or mica in the temper. “Crumbly ware” is also represented by a single handmade product: a tray-like dish with flakes of gold-colored mica in the temper.

Pottery of this kind is well represented in the Malāyer plain. Apart from its general resemblance to that found in Godīn II and Bābā Jān II, its distribution suggests that the monumental administrative and religious centers of the Medes were matched by modest but nonetheless permanent villages (cf. R. Howell, “Survey of the Malayer Plains,” Iran 17, 1979, pp. 156-57). If the plant remains recovered in part from the squatter settlement at Tepe Nush-i Jan may be used as a guide, the economy of these villages was based on such crops as two-row and six-row hulled barley, emmer, bread wheat, peas, lentils, and grapes. The still generously forested mountains provided an extensive range of game, but animal husbandry remained prime; the domestic bone sample at Nush-i Jan included nine species, the most common of which were sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle. There are also indications, entirely in keeping with the age-old repute of the grasslands of Media, that horse breeding already played a significant role.

Our knowledge of the Median occupation at Hamadān itself remains slight. For the moment we not only lack any evidence for stone reliefs or other worked stone elements such as would substantiate the existence of a former “court school” of Median stone carving intermediate between that of Ashurbanipal and that of Cyrus, for instance, but the chance and clandestine excavations that have inevitably taken place in Hamadān over the years have failed to reveal any Median goldwork. If, however, the latest gold vessels from Mārlīk can be ascribed to a date near 700 B.C. (O. W. Muscarella, “Fibulae and Chronology, Marlik and Assur,” Journal of Field Archaeology 11/4, 1984, p. 417), Median art promises to provide an almost direct link between the vigor of earlier Iranian art forms and the measured refinement of Achaemenid art.

Achaemenid archeology. Patterns of discovery. While outside Iran the Bible, the Histories of Herodotus, and a host of other early sources served to preserve a knowledge of the conquests of Cyrus and Darius, in Iran itself all accurate memory of Achaemenid achievement was lost for many centuries. From 1474 onward, early travelers to Iran reported (and on occasion took leave to doubt) the popular belief that the still-intact fabric of Cyrus’s tomb represented the “tomb of the mother of Solomon” (A. Gabriel, Die Erforschung Persiens, Vienna, 1952, pp. 49f.). There matters largely stood until 1802, when G. F. Grotefend, working from the first accurate copies of the cuneiform inscriptions at Persepolis, was able to identify them as records left by the Achaemenid kings (cf. C. F. C. Hoeck, Veteris Mediae et Persiae monumenta, Göttingen, 1818, p. 56.). Similarly, as late as 1818 R. Ker Porter found the relief of Darius at Bīsotūn to depict a “king of Assyria and the Medes” before captive “representatives of the Ten Tribes” (Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, Ancient Babylonia . . . during the Years 1817, 1818, 1819, and 1820 I, London, 1821, pp. 507f.). H. C. Rawlinson was the first to reach the relief and to begin to copy its adjacent trilingual inscriptions—something only accomplished with the aid of ropes—in 1835. But from this moment onward progress was rapid: Barely ten years were to pass before Rawlinson had completed his translation of most of the Old Persian version of Darius’s inscription (H. C. Rawlinson, “The Persian Cuneiform Inscription at Behistun, Decyphered and Translated.. ,” JRAS 10, 1847-48, pp. xxvii-xxxix).

The earliest photographic record of the major sites in Fārs is owed to F. Stolze and F. C. Andreas (Persepolis..., 2 vols., Berlin, 1882), whose journeys in the region began in 1874. Ten years later M. Dieulafoy, the first in a long line of French excavators, initiated the first major excavations at Susa. In three successive seasons he explored the Achaemenid city wall and uncovered much of the Apadāna. This last work was also rewarded by the discovery of the famous glazed-brick frieze of the “royal archers” of Darius I (M. Dieulafoy, L’Acropole de Suse d’après les fouilles executées en 1884-86, Paris, 1893). The last 19th-century traveler of interest was Lord Curzon, whose still-standard work, Persia and the Persian Question, includes a meticulous description of the early sites he visited (cf. G. N. Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question II, London, 1982, pp. 115-96). The arguments he marshaled to support the now-accepted identity of both the site of Pasargadae and its principal monument, the tomb of Cyrus, still command respect, as do his summaries of prior scholarship.

E. Herzfeld made his first visit to Pasargadae in 1905 and published his dissertation on the site three years later (E. Herzfeld, “Pasargadae. Untersuchungen zur persischen Archäologie,” Klio 8, 1908, pp. 1-68). In his subsequent excavations at Cyrus’s capital, Herzfeld opened trenches at three of the main structures: Gate R, Palace S, and Palace P; in so doing he provided a new starting point for the study of monumental construction in the Achaemenid period (E. Herzfeld, “Bericht über die Ausgrabungen von Pasargadae, 1928,” AMI 1, 1929-30, pp. 4-16). In 1931 Herzfeld was called upon to direct the Oriental Institute of Chicago’s excavations at Persepolis; over the next four years these brought to light the reliefs on the north side of the Apadāna, the gold and silver foundation plaques from the same great audience hall, and the great body of Elamite cuneiform tablets now known as the Persepolis fortification texts. E. Schmidt, Herzfeld’s successor at Persepolis from 1935 to 1939, conducted painstaking excavations in the Treasury and revealed the impressive audience reliefs that had formerly formed part of the relief façade of the Apadāna, a further collection of clay tablets (the great bulk of which were again written in Elamite), and a wealth of other objects, including bronzes, glassware, and stone tableware. Schmidt also unearthed the floor plan of the severely burnt throne hall, exposed the entire height of the tower-like Kaʿba ye Zardošt at Naqš-e Rostam, and secured, through his pioneering use of aerial photography, a memorable record of the monuments of the Persepolis region as seen from the air.

When the French Archeological Mission began its work under J. de Morgan in 1897, new attention was at once given to Susaδs earlier levels. A major find proved, nevertheless, to be that of a rich Achaemenid coffin burial containing jewelry of great quality (J. de Morgan, “Découverte d’une sépulture achéménide à Suse,” Mémoires de la délégation en Perse, 1905, pp. 29-58). In the subsequent years of R. de Mecquenem’s directorship isolated Achaemenid finds continued to be made, most notably in the vicinity of the “Donjon” at the southern limit of the Ville Royale. Finally—with reference to all but the most recent work at Susa—R. Ghirshman’s long stewardship was most closely connected with his deep excavation on the Ville Royale, which revealed a succession of Elamite strata stretching through most of the 2nd millennium B.C. His work on the western flank of the Ville des Artisans also revealed one part of an extramural satellite township, dated possibly between 625 and 250 B.C. (cf. D. Stronach, “Achaemenid Village I at Susa and the Persian Migration to Fars,” Iraq 26, 1974, pp. 244-45).

More recently, the German Archeological Institute, founded in 1960, was occupied for several years with the study and documentation of Darius’s great relief at Bīsotūn (cf. H. Luschey, “Studien zu dem Darius-Relief von Bisitun,” AMI, N.S. 1, 1968, pp. 63-94), not to mention the excavation of a small Achaemenid settlement at Taḵt-e Solaymān. The British Institute of Persian Studies, founded one year later, also turned to a major site, Pasargadae. In a three-year program of work that in many ways represented a continuation of the earlier campaigns of Herzfeld and ʿA. Sāmī (Pasargadae, the Oldest Imperial Capital of Iran, Shiraz, 1956), the Institute sought to reexamine the history of each of the main monuments, as well as to carry out extensive excavations on the elevated Tall-e Taḵt and in the partly preserved gardens of the palace area. This last work, despite the limited depth of deposit, led to the discovery of a hoard of fine jewelry and other objects (Plate IV), which may have been buried close to the middle years of the 4th century B.C.

Two of the main concerns of J. Perrot, who was appointed to lead the French Archeological Mission in 1968, were to establish a secure stratigraphic sequence at Susa and to provide a more complete picture of the Susian Apadāna. The work of the 1970s also saw the recovery of two marble foundation tablets from the adjacent residential quarters of Darius’s palace; the identification and excavation of the “Chaour Palace,” (once the paradayadām or “pleasant retreat”) of Artaxerxes II; and perhaps most gratifying, the discovery of a larger-than-life-size statue of Darius I that had been transported from Egypt to flank one of the doorways of the great gateway leading to the Apadāna.

In the past few years Achaemenid levels have been recognized at such widely distributed sites as Choga Mish (Čoḡa Mīš), Bābā Jān Tepe, Ḥasanlū, Yānek Tepe, Tūrang Tepe, Dahan-i Ghulaman (Dahān-e Ḡolāmān), and Tepe Yaḥyā, while with reference to other recent research, the surveys of L. Vanden Berghe in southwestern Iran have revealed the existence of the Buzpar tomb (“Le tombeau achéménide de Buzpar,” Vorderasiatische Archäologie, Festschrift A. Moortgat, Berlin, 1964, pp. 243-58); the perceptive observations of C. Nylander have provided new directions for the study of Achaemenid masonry; and M. Roaf’s penetrating examination of the reliefs from Persepolis (Sculptures and Sculptors at Persepolis, Iran 2l, 1983) has done much to define the organization of the sculptors’ work. A special debt is due to the meticulous surveys of G. and A. B. Tilia which have thrown new light, for example, on early Achaemenid construction in the Persepolis plain, on the original location of the “Treasury reliefs,” on the use of color at Persepolis, and on the surviving remains of a monumental stairway façade of Artaxerxes I (A. B. Tilia, Studies and Restorations at Persepolis and Other Sites of Fars I and II, IsMEO Reports and Memoirs XVI and XVIII, Rome, 1972 and 1978). Last but not least, the suggestion put forward by J. Hansman, and subsequently confirmed on the basis of textual evidence by E. Reiner, that the large site of Mālyān, located some 50 km to the west of Persepolis, could represent the ruins of the city of Anshan (Anšān) (J. Hansman, “Elamite, Achaemenians and Anshan,” Iran 10, 1972, pp. 101ff.; E. Reiner, in RA 67, 1973, pp. 57ff.) has triggered many new developments. In particular, it has served to clarify certain of the basic realities of Achaemenid geography, which can now begin to be integrated with the ample data contained in the Persepolis fortification texts.

Problems in chronology. Only twenty years ago the uncertain date of many of the uninscribed stone monuments of southern Iran allowed such prominent sites as Masǰed-e Solaymān and the Tall-e Taḵt at Pasargadae to be assigned respectively to the early 7th and the early 6th century B.C. (R. Ghirshman, Persia. From the Origins to Alexander the Great, London, 1964, pp. 129-31). By extension, the last stages of the Persian migration to Fārs were assumed to have taken a rather unlikely course from the foothills of Ḵūzestān to the plain of Pasargadae; and on the basis of the specific character of the two sites just mentioned, the Persians were further presumed to have demonstrated a familiarity with large stone construction well before the accession of Cyrus the Great (559-530 B.C.).

This reading of the archeological evidence was called into question when it became apparent that neither site could be said to predate the reign of Cyrus (D. Stronach, Iraq 36, 1974, pp. 246f.). It has also become apparent that there is no compelling reason to suppose that Kudur Nahunte (693-692 B.C.) was the last Elamite king to exercise control over Anshan (cf. G. G. Cameron, History of Early Iran, Chicago, 1936, pp. 164-65 and 179-80). From hints found in the surviving titles and protocols of the period it is likely that Elamite dominion in Anshan only came to an end close to the time of Ashurbanipal’s conquest of Susa in 646 B.C. (see F. W. König, Die elamischen Königsinschriften, Archiv für Orientforschung, Supplement l6, 1965, p. 172). In short, the Persians did not necessarily arrive in Fārs as a conquering force, at once capable of driving the Elamites to the west. Instead, these newcomers from the north may have entered their eventual homeland in a peaceful fashion, perhaps over a surprisingly long time, and, following a period of increasing acquaintance with the literate world of Elam, and took steps to acquire direct political control of Fārs only in the wake of the severe dislocations occasioned by Ashurbanipal’s assault on Susa.

A richly furnished tomb of the late 7th or early 6th century B.C. from the vicinity of Behbahān may well lend a measure of support to certain of the developments just described. First, this newly discovered tomb, which appears to have been that of a certain Kidin Hutrun, an Elamite of rank (F. Vallat, “Kidin Hutrun et l’époque néo-élamite,” Akkadica 37, 1984, pp. 1-17), may show that the boundary between the reduced Neo-Elamite kingdom of Susa and the new Persian rulers of Anshan lay somewhere to the east of Behbahān. Second, a quite exceptional gold object from the tomb, with a pair of confronted griffins on each of its two disc-like finials (F. Tawḥīdī and A. M. Ḵalīlīān, “A Report on the Investigation of the Objects from the Tomb of Arraǰān (Behbahān),” Āṯār 7-9, 1361 Š./1983, pp. 232-86, in Persian) is arguably representative of the blend of Elamite and Persian artistic skills which could be expected at this specific moment of transition.

Material culture of Achaemenid Iran. The Persian delight in gold and silver tableware, or in many other objects of personal finery, ranging from parade weapons to elegant jewelry and cosmetic articles (see Art in Iran iii), only rarely extended to earthenware vessels. In contrast to the Assyrians, who seem to have had a particular regard for their own palace wares, the Persians did little to export or reproduce their ceramics elsewhere. One of the very few forms that appears to have had a wide distribution throughout much of the empire in the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. is a small drinking bowl with a rounded body and everted rim directly imitating those of a long-lived metal type. There is no uniform ceramic specific to the Achaemenid dynasty; the archeological record in Iran has only revealed “pottery of the Achaemenid period,” from some nine different ceramic zones (Figure 8). Each of these zones has a separate history of change or interaction that persisted, in surprisingly similar terms, down to the end of the Parthian period (cf. E. Haerinck, La céramique de la période parthe, Gent, 1983, fig. 1).

In zone I, a group of fine monochrome bowls from Čoḡā Mīš in southwestern Iran is possibly representative of the often ill-defined border between the Iron III period (800-550 B.C.) and the Iron IV period, a division that conveniently subsumes both the Achaemenid period (550-330 B.C.) and the brief Seleucid or post-Achaemenid period (330-250 B.C.). In zone II, in western Iran, there are indications from Jameh Shuran (Jāma Šūrān) in the Mahi Dasht (Māhī Dašt), not to mention Ziwiye (Zīwīya) in upland Kurdistan, that the plain buff wares of the late Iron III period gave way to painted “triangle wares,” also well known from sites in southern and eastern Azerbaijan. Furthermore, the important and still not published pottery sequence from Jameh Shuran shows (L. Levine, personal communication) that, at least in the Mahi Dasht, the local triangle wares gave way to painted buff wares of the type found in quantity at Pasargadae, where they were seemingly most at home in late or even post-Achaemenid loci.

Without a full “grammar” of the evolving pottery styles of the Iron IV period, any attempt to define Achaemenid settlement patterns throughout Iran is unlikely to be definitive, yet W. Sumner’s recent survey in central Fārs has shown that a beginning can be made: The independent testimony of the Persepolis fortification texts (which refer in all to some 400 geographic names) is taken to support certain strictly archeological indications for the presence of between 100 and 150 Achaemenid settlements within the bounds of the Persepolis plain alone (W. Sumner, “Achaemenid Settlement in the Persepolis Plain,” AJA, forthcoming). The “Spring Cemetery” near Persepolis is presumably representative of the many cemeteries that must have complemented such local villages. In this late 4th-century (or later) cemetery the dead lay in extended positions, in slipper coffins. The majority of the grave goods consist of simple pottery vessels (E. Schmidt, Persepolis II, 1957, pl. 89). Richer graves, such as may have been associated with the country estates referred to in the fortification tablets, have not been encountered to date. Notwithstanding the recent excavation of Achaemenid levels at more than a dozen different sites in Iran, the great mass of objects from controlled contexts still comes from three sites: Pasargadae, Susa, and Persepolis. Pasargadae and Susa are obvious points of reference for any study of jewelry. Fine stone vessels are well represented at Persepolis, though the looting of the site before it was burned in 330 B.C. must clearly account for the absence of any examples of Achaemenid gold and silver plate. Persepolis has also yielded handsome horse-bits and, among various weapons, thousands of barbless trilobate bronze arrowheads that seem from examples recovered from Cyprus, Palestine, and the early 5th-century battlegrounds of Greece to have represented a standard issue within the Achaemenid army. For seals and seal impressions it is again appropriate to look to the rich material from Persepolis, particularly since the many sealings from the fortification tablets promise to reveal much about the beginnings of Achaemenid iconography (cf. R. L. Zettler, “On the Chronological Range of Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid Seals,” JNES 3, 1979, pp. 257f.). In addition, certain recently discovered seal impressions from Persepolis (A. Tadjvidi, Iran 13, 1970, p. 187) no longer depict the once-canonical scene of a “royal hero” dominating animals and therefore call attention to changes in seal design that took place during the Achaemenid period.

Evidence for those two special Persian luxury items, cut glass and gold plate, is rare indeed. Fine glass was recovered from Persepolis (Schmidt, Persepolis II, pl. 67), but sumptuous gold vessels of the kind that accompanied the Persian king both at home and on the march are today known only from a number of examples reportedly found during clandestine excavations at Hamadān, and not all of these “court style” vessels have been accepted as genuine. (Cf. O. W. Muscarella, “Excavated and Unexcavated Achaemenian Art,” D. Schmandt-Besserat, ed., Ancient Persia: The Art of an Empire, Undena, 1980, pp. 23f.) Finally, no gold darics or silver sigloi like those minted in Anatolia in order to meet the needs, in part, of an existing coin economy, have been found so far within the limits of Iran. Unless new evidence is forthcoming, the home economy can be seen to have been based, down to the time of Alexander, on a currency consisting of cut and weighed silver, a type of currency that was present in Iran at least from Median times (cf. A. D. H. Bivar, “A Hoard of Ingot-Currency of the Median Period from Nush-i Jan, near Malayir,” Iran 9, 1971, pp. 97-111).

Material traces of Achaemenid rule from beyond Iran. It has never been easy to assess the influence that the Achaemenid empire came to exert on the indigenous cultures within its wide bounds. Wherever detailed regional information is available, the precise forms of Persian authority—and Persian investment—can be seen to have varied not only from one region to the next, but often from one district to another.

No exhaustive treatment of the archeology of Mesopotamia in the Persian period has yet been attempted. Such a study could profitably combine the disparate evidence recovered from such major centers as Babylon, Kīš, Ur, and Nippur with the results of several relatively recent field surveys and “rescue excavations.”

In north Syria the 5th-4th century B.C. inhumation cemetery at Deve Hüyük can be associated with the presence of a permanent Persian garrison to the west of one of the more important crossings on the upper Euphrates. This cemetery, Deve Hüyük II (P. R. S. Moorey, “Cemeteries of the First Millennium B.C. at Deve Hüyük,” in British Archaeological Reports 87, 1980, pp. 7f.), provides evidence for such characteristic Achaemenid objects as zoomorphic rhyta (here in pottery, not metal); bronze phialai, or drinking bowls; alabastra with small lug handles; and, among iron weapons, tanged javelin heads, socketed spearheads, and examples of the Persian short sword—the akinakes of Herodotus’s account (7.54). Bronze horse bits, bracelets, and fibulae are also complemented by relatively simple silver earrings and by cylinder seals which here appear, probably in deference to local taste, in glass.

In Palestine the free passage of goods from one part of the country to another seems to have offset the region’s very varied mixture of peoples and its diverse forms of government so as to create a distinctive, more or less uniform material culture. As has been recently demonstrated in E. Stern’s survey (Material Culture of the Land of the Bible in the Persian Period, Jerusalem, 1982, p. 229), Persian authority operated effectively wherever its sole prerogative was to be expected: in the construction of palaces and fortresses, in the provision of support services for the army, and in its seemingly exclusive right to issue all the more valuable forms of coinage. The presence of a Persian elite also finds a very probable reflection in the recovery of typical Achaemenid jewelry from such sites as Gezer and Ashdod (ibid., figs. 253-54); still more remarkably, elements of a bronze throne were found in clandestine excavations at Samaria, the capital of the province (cf. M. Tadmor, “Fragments of an Achaemenid Throne from Samaria,” Israel Exploration Journal 24, 1974, pp. 37f.).

The part of the empire that left the largest imprint on its Persian occupants was almost certainly Anatolia. In the Achaemenid period, it is not always easy to distinguish a Persian of rank from an Anatolian dignitary with a taste for the trappings of Achaemenid protocol. While the difficulties are manifest, and the Achaemenids are seldom very visible in the archeological record save for their royal (and subsequently satrapal) coinage or their seals and sealings, J. Cook has offered a persuasive picture of the mechanics of local Persian government and of the role of the Iranian landed gentry who so often sought a landscape, and a way of life, that contained echoes of their homeland (J. M. Cook, The Persian Empire, 1983, p. 180). Also, certain finds from western Anatolia, such as the gold jewelry discovered by the first archeological expedition to Sardis (C. D. Curtis, Sardis XIII, Leiden, 1925, passim), the silver incense burners and other objects of precious metal of Achaemenid design recovered from the tombs at Ikiztepe in eastern Lydia (B. Tezcan, VIII Türk Tarih Kongresi, 1979, pp. 391-97), and the wall paintings found on the interior walls of the stone tomb at Karaburun in Lycia (M. J. Mellink, “Excavations at Karataṣ-Semayük and Elmalı, Lycia, 1971,” AJA 74-80, 1970-1976, pp. 265-69) could each be taken as partial reflections of high dynastic fashions set by the distant court at Susa. Nevertheless, as the finds from these and other sites demonstrate, the idioms of Greek art made an increasingly strong appeal from the early 5th century onward. Greek, Persian, and Anatolian influences are to be found in varying measure in the “Greco-Persian” stamp seals of western Anatolia (cf. J. Boardman, “Pyramidal Stamp Seals in the Persian Empire,” Iran 8, 1970, pp. 19f.), while each of these influences, combined with strong hints of a north Syrian or Apamean (Aramean) style, is to be seen in the distinctive funerary stelae of local officials from the region of Daskyleion, close to the Troad. (See most recently R. Altheim-Stiehl, D. Metzler, and E. Schwertheim, “Eine neue Gräko-Persische Grabstele aus Sultaniye Köy und ihre Bedeutung für die Geschichte und Topographie von Daskyleion,” Epigraphica Anatolica 1, 1983, pp. 1f.).

In contrast to each of the regions just described (as well as Egypt, another seat of ancient and foreign culture), the satrapies to the east of Iran were chiefly inhabited by Iranian peoples. Yet for all the linguistic, religious, and cultural ties that presumably linked the east Iranians to the Medes and Persians, there are strong archeological indications that they possessed a vigorous material culture of their own. Most of the

pottery of the northeastern provinces, for example, is utterly different from any in contemporary Iran. It is distinguished, as E. E. Kuz’mina (“The "Bactrian Mirage" and the Archaeological Reality. On the Problems of the Formation of North Bactrian Culture,” East and West 16, 1976, pp. 111-31) and A. Cattenat and J. C. Gardin (“Diffusion comparée de quelques genres de poterie caractéristique de l’époque achéménide sur le Plateau Iranien et en Asie Centrale,” in J. Deshayes, ed., Le Plateau Iranien et l’Asie Centrale des origines à la conquête Islamique, Paris, 1977, pp. 225-48) have lately shown, by wheel-made cylindrical-conical jars such as begin to appear in the region around 600 B.C. Pottery with clear western finks is not in evidence before the late 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., when it is tempting to associate its appearance with the new political conditions imposed by Alexander.

Direct echoes of Persian rule, such as the fragment of an Achaemenid Elamite tablet found at Qandahār (S. W. Helms, “Excavations at "The City and the Famous Fortress of Kandahar, the Foremost Place in All of Asia",” Afghan Studies 3/4, 1982, p. 13) are, for the present, all too rare on Afghan sites. But if the relevance of both the 4th-century funerary furnishings from tomb V at Pazyryk (S. I. Rudenko, Frozen Tombs of Siberia. The Pazyryk Burials of Iron Age Horsemen, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1970) and the late Achaemenid and post-Achaemenid objects for the so called Oxus treasure (see O. M. Dalton, The Treasure of the Oxus with other Examples of Early Oriental Metal Work, 3rd ed., R. D. Barnett, ed., London, 1964) should be admitted, it can not be questioned that Achaemenid motifs and Achaemenid tastes eventually traveled a long road eastward.

Much work still remains to document the material remains of Median and Persian rule, both inside and outside the boundaries of Iran. In regions beyond Iran in particular, the Achaemenid period is often one of the least archeologically explored and understood. This condition appears to derive in part from the nature of Persian dominion: Persian rulers preferred on the whole to adopt and to modify those institutions they encountered rather than to impose a single imperial pattern on their possessions. Nevertheless, detailed research into the once far-flung Persian presence constitutes a prime historical and cultural requirement. Only new archeological discoveries can serve to supplement those literary records that at present most largely illuminate the internal workings of the empire (cf. J. M. Cook, The Persian Empire, pp. 167-82), and only a thorough knowledge of the sources of the Achaemenid court style, and of the diffusion of that style through some thirty satrapies, can be used to account for the subsequent appearance of time-honored Near Eastern themes deep in Europe and well across the breadth of Asia.



Median archeology: The regional ceramic sequences in Iron Age Iran are now best summarized in L. D. Levine, “The Iron Age,” in F. Hole, ed., Archaeological Perspectives on Iran, from Prehistory to the Islamic Conquest, forthcoming.

For the excavations at Godīn Tepe, see especially T. C. Young, Jr., Excavations at Godin Tepe. First Progress Report, Royal Ontario Museum, Occasional Paper 17, 1969; T. C. Young, Jr. and L. D. Levine, Excavations of the Godin Project: Second Progress Report, ibid., 26, 1974.

Among reports on Tepe Nush-i Jan, see D. Stronach, M. Roaf, R. Stronach, and S. Bokonyi, “Excavations at Tepe Nush-i Jan . . .” Iran 16, 1978, pp. 1-28; M. A. Kyllo and R. N. L. B. Hubbard, “Median and Parthian Plant Remains from Tepe Nush-i Jan,” Iran 19, 1981, pp. 91-100; and J. E. Curtis, Tepe Nush-i Jan III:The Small Finds, London, 1984.

Note also C. Goff, “Excavations at Baba Jan: The Pottery and Metal from Levels III and II,” Iran 16, 1978, pp. 29-66; idem, “Excavations at Baba Jan: The Architecture and Pottery of Level I,” Iran 23, 1985, pp. 1-20.

On the early history of the Medes, see most recently P. R. Helm, “Herodotus’ Mêdikos Logos and Median History,” Iran 19, 1981, pp. 85-89.

For 19th-century records of freestanding Achaemenid monuments see also E. Flandin and P. Coste, Voyage en Perse IV, Paris, 1854, pls. 194f.

For relevant accounts left by early European visitors as a whole, see G. N. Curzon’s Persia and the Persian Question; A. Gabrial, Die Erforschung Persiens. Die Entwicklung der abendländischen Kenntnis der Geograhie Persiens, Vienna, 1952; and G. Herrmann, The Iranian Revival, Phaidon, Oxford, 1977, pp. 10f.

For general accounts of Achaemenid art and archeology based on excavations conducted between 1930 and 1961, see also Survey of Persian Art I, pp. 309f.; E. Herzfeld, Iran in the Ancient East, London, 1941, pp. 221-74; H. Frankfort, Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient, Harmondsworth, 1954, pp. 348-78. More recent treatments include E. Porada, The Art of Ancient Iran, New York, 1965, pp. 142-78; C. Nylander, “The Achaemenid Empire,” Expedition 13, 1971, pp. 50f.; E. Porada, “Achaemenid Art, Monumental and Minute,” Highlights of Persian Art, ed. R. Ettinghausen and E. Yarshater, Boulder, Colorado, 1979, pp. 57-94; M. C. Root, The King and Kingship in Achaemenid Art: Essays on the Creation of an Iconography of Empire, Acta Iranica 19, 1979.

Note also the bibliographies dealing with the pre-Achaemenid period and the Achaemenid period in L. Vanden Berghe, Bibliographie analytique de l’archéologie de l’Iran ancien, Leiden, 1979, pp. 233-55, and in L. Vanden Berghe and E. Haerinck, Bibliographie analytique de l’archéologie de l’Iran ancien, Supplément 1: 1978-1980, Leiden, 1981, pp. 72-80. Separate reports on Pasargadae, (Achaemenid) Susa and Persepolis are frequently weighted towards the study of architectural remains (for which see Art in Iran iii). Brief listings for each site may nevertheless include the following: For Pasargadae: C. Nylander, Ionians in Pasargadae: Studies in Old Persian Architecture, Uppsala, 1970; D. Stronach, Pasargadae. A Report on the Excavations Conducted by the British Institute of Persian Studies from 1961 to 1963, Oxford, 1978. For Susa: R. de Mecquenem, “Contribution à l’étude du palais achéménide à Suse,” Mémoires de la délégation en Perse 30, 1947, pp. 1-119; R. Ghirshman, “Susa. Village perse-achéménide,” Mémoires de la mission archéologique en Iran 36, 1954; P. Amiet, “Les ivoires achéménides de Suse,” Syria 49, 1972, pp. 167-91; D. Stronach, “La statue de Darius le Grand découverte à Suse,” Cahiers de la délégation archéologique française en Iran 4, 1974, pp. 61-72; M. Roaf, “The Subject Peoples on the Base of the Statue of Darius,” ibid., pp. 73-160; F. Vallat, “Les textes cunéiformes de la statue de Darius,” ibid., pp. 161-70; J. Perrot, “L’architecture militaire palatiale des achéménides à Suse,” 150 Jahre Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, 1829-1979, Mainz, 1981, pp. 79-94.

For Persepolis: M. Dieulafoy, L’art antique de la Perse II, Paris, 1884-89, pp. 2-74; F. Sarre and E. Herzfeld, Iranische Felsreliefs, Berlin, 1910, pp. 100-46; E. Schmidt, Persepolis I: Structures, Reliefs, Inscriptions, Chicago, 1953; idem, Persepolis II: Contents of the Treasury and Other Discoveries, Chicago, 1957; idem, Persepolis III: The Royal Tombs and Other Monuments, Chicago, 1970; M. C. Root, “The Persepolis Perplex: Some Prospects Borne of Retrospect,” Ancient Persia: The Art of an Empire, ed. D. Schmandt Besserat, Undena, 1980. For tablets inscribed in Elamite from Persepolis see especially, G. G. Cameron, Persepolis Treasury Tablets, Chicago, 1948 and R. T. Hallock, Persepolis Fortification Tablets, Chicago, 1969.

For archeological materials of Achaemenid date from beyond Iran, see in particular the recent survey in P. R. S. Moorey’s Cemeteries of the First Millennium B.C. which not only includes a concise overview for Mesopotamia and the Levant, but also treats of other regions within and without the borders of the Persian empire.

For Mesopotamia, see also C. L. Woolley, Ur Excavations IX: The Neo-Babylonian and Persian Periods, London, 1962.

For Palestine, see especially E. Stern, Material Culture of the Land of the Bible in the Persian Period, London, 1982.

For Anatolia, see also E. S. G. Robinson, “The Beginnings of Achaemenid Coinage,” NC, 1958, pp. 187f.; E. Akurgal, Die Kunst Anatoliens: von Homer bis Alexander, Berlin, 1961, pp. 167-74; A. Sh. Shahbazi, The Irano-Lycian Monuments, Tehran, 1975; G. M. A. Hanfmann et al., Sardis from Prehistoric to Roman Times, Cambridge, Mass., 1983, pp. 100-06.

For the East, see, apart from Rudenko’s and Dalton’s major works, and the article by E. E. Kuz’mina, already mentioned, W. J. Vogelsang “Early Historical Arachosia in South-East Afghanistan. Meeting-place between East and West,” Iranica Antiqua 20, 1985, pp. 55-99.

(D. Stronach)

Originally Published: December 15, 1986

Last Updated: August 11, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 3, pp. 288-296