ČOḠĀ SAFĪD (Chogha Sefid), site in Ḵūzestān. Čoḡā Safīd is a prehistoric site on the Dehlorān (Deh Luran) plain, dating back to the 8th millennium b.c.e. Excavation of a step trench in 1348 Š./1969 uncovered six archeological phases representing some 1,500 years of occupation (Hole, 1977), but there remain deposits as yet unexcavated, which continue to the end of the 4th millennium.
The site in one of a group of prehistoric mounds on the Dehlorān plain that have been briefly excavated by American archeologists whose research emphasis was on the origins and development of agriculture and animal husbandry. ʿAlīkoš, Tepe Sabz, Čoḡā Safīd, and Tepe Mūsīān (Musiyan; Hole, Flannery and Neely) were dug by teams representing Rice University under the supervision of Frank Hole. Farroḵābād (Farukhabad), a 5th- to 3rd-millennium site was excavated by Henry Wright of The University of Michigan (1981). Collectively these sites cover the entire occupation of the Dehlorān plain from its initial settlements as early as the 8th millennium through the early part of the 3rd millennium (Table 1).
Following the excavations at ʿAlīkoš and Tepe Sabz, it was recognized that a significant gap existed in the known sequence. Čoḡā Safīd, which held the missing phases, was excavated to complete the sequence and provide information on crucial social and economic changes. The most important of these changes were the intrusion into Dehlorān in about 5500 b.c.e. of Samarran people from Iraq and the consequent shift from dry farming to irrigated crops with new hybrid races of cereals (Helbaek) and perhaps to specialized herding (Hole, 1974). With the new people also came domesticated cattle and dogs, a new variety of buffware ceramics in addition to local styles, and a new form of architecture featuring loaf-shaped mud bricks and floors in herringbone pattern. The ceramics, architecture, and agriculture all closely mimic material found in sites in lowland eastern Iraq: Samarra (Sāmarrā), Tall al-Ṣawwān (Tell as-Sawwan) and Čoḡā Māmī (Oates, 1969; idem, 1987); similar material also occurs as the initial occupation in southern Mesopotamia at Tell al-ʿOwaylī (Oueili; Calvet, 1981 ) and other sites as yet unexcavated (Adams, 1975; idem, 1981; idem and Nissen), and it supplants indigenous ceramics in Ḵūzestān (Dollfus; Kantor). The penetration into Dehlorān thus appears to have been part of a general expansion by people who were able to exploit intensively locales particularly suitable for irrigation.
Adjunct to the excavation of Čoḡā Safīd was a study of the geomorphology and land use of the Dehlorān plain by Michael Kirkby. This study confirmed previous impressions of changing local environments that had been deduced by Hans Helbaek on the basis of plant remains and later palynological study of sediments from ʿAlīkoš, Čoḡā Safīd, and Tepe Sabz (Woosley and Hole). In brief, from the time of the first settlements until around 2000 b.c.e. some 5 m of alluvium accumulated; then the present cycle of downcutting began. The period of aggradation, involving widespread flooding, would have been optimal for the establishment of primitive irrigation and also would have enhanced conditions for hunting, dry farming, and especially herding. This rich environment, coupled with the proximity of the plain to the Zagros mountains, permitted residents who engaged in seasonal transhumance to enjoy a relatively high standard of living. Kirkby emphasizes that changes in the plain were progressive, so that villages would have been forced to move at intervals as the local environment became no longer suitable. Such shifts are documented from both ʿAlīkoš and Tepe Sabz.
R. M. Adams, “An Early Prehistoric Site in the Warka Region,” Sumer 31, 1975, pp. 11-15.
Idem, Heartland of Cities, Chicago, 1981.
Idem and H. Nissen, The Uruk Countryside, Chicago, 1972.
Y. Calvet, “Le sondage profond Y 27 (1981),” in J. L. Huot, ed., Larsa et ʿOueili, travaux de 1978-1981, Paris, 1983, pp. 15-69.
G. Dollfus, “Peut-on parler de "Choga Mami Transitional" du sud-ouest de l’Iran?” in J. L. Huot, ed., Préhistoire de la Mésopotamie, Paris, 1987, pp. 181-88.
H. Helbaek, “Plant Collecting, Dry-Farming, and Irrigation Agriculture in Prehistoric Deh Luran,” in F. Hole, K. V. Flannery, and N. A. Neely, Prehistory and Human Ecology of the Deh Luran Plain, Museum of Anthropology, The University of Michigan, Memoir 1, Ann Arbor, 1969, pp. 383-426.
F. Hole, “Tepe Tula’i, an Early Campsite in Khuzestan, Iran,” Paléorient 2, 1974, pp. 219-42.
Idem, Studies in the Archeological History of the Deh Luran Plain, Museum of Anthropology, The University of Michigan, Memoir 9, Ann Arbor, 1977.
Idem, K. V. Flannery, and J. A. Neely, Prehistory and Human Ecology of the Deh Luran Plain, Museum of Anthropology, The University of Michigan, Memoir 1, Ann Arbor, 1969.
J. L. Huot, ed., Préhistoire de la Mésopotamie, Paris, 1987.
H. Kantor, “Excavations at Choga Mish and Choga Bonut,” The Oriental Institute Annual Report for 1976-1977, Chicago, 1977, pp. 15-23.
M. Kirkby, “Land and Water Resources of the Deh Luran and Khuzistan Plains,” in F. Hole, Studies in the Archeological History of the Deh Luran Plain, Museum of Anthropology, The University of Michigan, Memoir 9, Ann Arbor, 1977, pp. 251-88.
J. Oates, “Choga Mami, 1967-88.
A Preliminary Report,” Iraq 31, 1969, pp. 115-52.
Idem, “The Choga Mami Transitional,” in J. L. Huot, ed., Préhistoire de la Mésopotamie, Paris, 1987, pp. 163-80.
A. Woosley and F. Hole, “Pollen Evidence of Subsistence and Environment in Ancient Iran,” Paléorient 4, 1978, pp. 59-70.
H. T. Wright, ed., An Early Town on the Deh Luran Plain. Excavations at Tepe Farukhabad, Memoirs of the Museum of Anthropology, The University of Michigan 13, Ann Arbor, 1981.
Table 1. Phases Excavated at Various Prehistoric Sites on the Dehlorān Plain
Originally Published: December 15, 1992
Last Updated: October 26, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 1, pp. 8-9