i. In Persia

This article seeks to provide a diachronic survey of the main patterns of archaeological field research in Persia from the time of the first excavations in the middle of the 19th century down to the late l990s. The role of the Persian government and its relevant agencies, that of certain early pioneers in the field, and the impact of the main scientific expeditions to have worked in Persia since the early l930s, will each be touched on in turn. In addition, periodic reference will be made to illicit digging, an activity which still remains, for all the efforts that have been made to address the problem, a source of signal concern (Muscarella, l980).


As was the case in many other parts of the Near East, the l9th century was a time when foreign visitors to Persia demonstrated a particular interest in identifying places mentioned in the Bible or in the accounts of classical authors. By the beginning of the l850s, however, William Kennett Loftus, a member of a British boundary commission who had been responsible for the first brief soundings at Warka in southern Mesopotamia, was already persuaded of the far wider significance of the site of Susa. As he chose to put matters, “Whether we regard it in a geographical, historical, or scriptural point of view, there are few places throughout the East more replete with interest thaŋSusa” (Curtis, p. l). In the course of his excavations, which took place at various intervals between l850 and l852 (and which have to be counted as the earliest to have taken place anywhere within the bounds of Persia), he not only affirmed the supposition that Susa was the site of biblical Shushan, but he also found sufficient evidence to reconstruct the outlines of the plan of the Achaemenid apadana or columned audience hall.

The towering mounds of Susa also drew the attention of two other early visitors to Persia, namely the architect and art historian Marcel Dieulafoy and his gifted wife, Jane (qq.v.). They were able to enlist the support of the Louvre, and their excavations (conducted from l884 to l886) duly initiated the longstanding French connection with Susa. In keeping with his architectural qualifications, Marcel Dieulafoy took a special interest in the nature of the defences of Susa and the character of the Apadana (q.v.). At the close of the work an Achaemenid bull’s head capital and a major portion of the famous glazed brick frieze showing the royal archers of Darius the Great were among the excavated elements of the Apadana that came to be shipped to France for installation in the Louvre. Dieualfoy’s 1886 campaign was in fact cut short because the Persian authorities felt that they could no longer guarantee the safety of the French mission. A few years later, such concerns were apparently of less moment and the year 1895 saw the signing of a convention in which France received, for the first time, wholly exclusive rights to excavate in Persia.

Not long afterwards, in l897, Jacques de Morgan (q.v.), an already widely experienced geologist, mining engineer, and archaeologist, was entrusted with the direction of the newly created Délégation Scientifique Française en Perse (q.v.). Susa was selected as the focus of the work of the new organization and, in response to the need for a secure base from which to operate, de Morgan (a vigorous man, then barely into his forties) immediately took steps to erect the celebrated “chateau,” the impressive excavation house which still dominates the skyline of the site. In the meantime, following a further period of negotiations occasioned by the assassination of Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah, his son and successor, Moẓaffar-al-Dīn Shah, did at length sign a new, definitive version of the Franco-Persian Convention in August l900. This accord not only affirmed the terms of the monopoly but also stipulated that, in return for appropriate compensation for any objects of gold and silver, any antiquities discovered in Susiana would go to France. On the other hand, the Convention also stated that any objects found outside the limits of Susiana would be divided between the two governments.

The new work at Susa came to be concentrated on the tallest extant mound: the Acropole. Here the prime aim was to discover the very origins of civilization; and, in keeping with this ambition, de Morgan’s almost frighteningly efficient modus operandi involved (a) the introduction of a series of vertically spaced tunnels that were designed to establish a relative chronology for the site and (b) the wholesale stripping of substantial areas, often in successive 5 m steps. After the uppermost, Parthian and Achaemenid portions of the mound had been largely removed, de Morgan (who ultimately found it necessary to confine his main efforts to just one part of the site) came upon a number of outstanding Mesopotamian royal monuments that may have once been displayed, as part of the booty that emenated from Shatruk-Nahunte’s victorious campaign of 1158 B.C.E., within the precincts of an Elamite temple. These included the victory stele of Naram-Sin and the law code of Hammurabi. At the base of his still gargantuan grande tranchée (measuring l00 by 40 metres), de Morgan realised that he had not by any means reached the primordial horizon that he sought; but he did encounter the graves of a late fifth millennium cemetery, replete with numerous copper objects and a store of matchless, painted pottery vessels. Publication of these and other finds (including a wealth of epigraphic material) duly followed in the pages of the scrupulously produced Mémoires de la délégation en Perse (Paris, l900-).

With de Morgan’s sudden resignation in l9l2 the once powerful post of Délégue Général en Perse ceased to exist and direction of the work at Susa passed to Roland de Mecquenem, whose official tenure lasted until l946. Although the new standards of excavation that were beginning to emerge elsewhere in the Near East were for long lacking at Susa, it deserves to be noted that Louis Le Breton, who first joined the Susa expedition in l934 and who concurrently dug at several of the prehistoric mounds in the vicinity of Susa, was well aware of the principles of stratigraphy. As a result, his pioneer researches led to a commendable survey of the earliest ceramics then known from the region of Susiana (Le Breton, l957).

In the wake of de Morgan’s departure, other scholars from France began to look into the possibility of digging in parts of Persia outside Ḵūzestān. The timing, on the very eve of the World War I, was far from propitious. Nevertheless the new policy did lead to one season of excavations at Hamadān, conducted by Charles Fossey in l9l3, and to a further single campaign at an Elamite site at Līān on the shore of the Bušehr peninsula, conducted by Maurice Pézard in l9l4.

l920 TO 1940

In November l927 the Convention of l900 was annulled. Under the terms of a new Franco-Persian accord the monopoly on excavation was brought to an end; and, in a further welcome development, the French authorities agreed to assist in the creation of a national archaeological museum. A young French architect, André Godard (q.v.), was posted to Tehran and charged with the latter task. Work on the Iran Bastan Museum (Mūza-ye Īrān-e bāstān) began in l929; construction lasted for three years; and the new museum, a much-needed home for the archaeological riches of Persia, opened its doors in l937.

Following the strenuous efforts of Moḥammad-ʿAlī Forūḡī, the prime minister, and other strong advocates of the measure, Ābān 1309 Š./November l930 witnessed the promulgation of the Conservation of Antiquities Act (Qānūn-e ḥefẓ-e ašyāʾ-e ʿatīqa wa āṯār-e bāstānī). Under the terms of this legislation those objects found on any excavation were to be divided equally between Persia and the expedition that had recovered them. In addition, the Act called for the formation of a new Department of Antiquities in direct succession to an earlier Office of Antiquities (Edāra-ye ʿatīqāt) that appears to have had little authority, and Godard was named to direct the new body, which itself underwent a further name change when it became, in or near l937, the Department of Archaeology (Edāra-ye bāstān-æenāsī).

The first excavator to take advantage of the abrogation of the monopoly was the eminent German scholar, Ernst Herzfeld. In concert with his already long concentration on questions related to the study of Pasargadae, he very naturally elected to excavate Cyrus’s singular capital. The results of his six-month season, conducted in l928, attracted instant scholarly attention; and, with the prospect of the recovery of still more extensive information from nearby Persepolis, the Persian government duly invited the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago to sponsor a full-scale program of excavations in (and near) Persepolis itself. The work was initially directed by Herzfeld (l93l-34) and later by Erich F. Schmidt (l934-39). It is to the latter that we owe not only three exemplary excavation reports on Persepolis itself (Schmidt, l953-70), but also a magnificent collection of aerial photographs taken during the late l930s (Schmidt, l940). A third contributor of unusual stamp at this moment of suddenly expanded activity was the doyen of Inner Asian exploration, Sir Aurel Stein. Already in his seventies by the time of his extended, even arduous archaeological reconnaissances of the l930s, he sought out, and briefly sounded, numerous prehistoric (and sometimes later) sites in different parts of southern and western Persia (Stein, l940).

Many of the new expeditions that came to Persia during the l930s chose to concentrate their efforts on prehistoric sites. Thus Frederick R. Wulsin dug at Tūrang Tepe, to the east of the Caspian Sea, under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania Museum (hereafter the University Museum) from l93l-32; Georges Contenau and Roman Ghirshman dug at Tepe Gīān, on the eastern fringes of Luristan (Musée du Louvre, from l93l-32); and T. J. Arne excavated at Šāh Tepe, also not far from the Caspian Sea (Royal Swedish Academy, l933). Directly prior to his association with Persepolis and the Oriental Institute, Erich Schmidt carried out extensive excavations at Tepe Ḥeṣār near Damˊḡān (University Museum, l93l-32), and Donald E. McCown and Alexander Langsdorff, as members of the original Persepolis team, co-directed the concurrent, adjacent excavations at Tall-e Bākūn (Oriental Institute, l932). Following his work at Tepe Gīān, Ghirshman elected to excavate at Tepe Sīalk, near Kāšān (Musee du Louvre, l933-34 and l937) and, as was noted in another recent review of excavations in Persia (Dyson, l997, p. 61), both Tepe Ḥeṣār and Tepe Sīalk came to be regarded as “models . . . for the stratigraphic recovery of regional prehistoric sequences.” Schmidt, who soon found it possible to fly his sturdy biplane, the Friend of Iran, directly between certain of his far-flung excavations, also managed to conduct investigations at Neolithic Čašma ʿAlī, near Ray (l934-36), as well as at Dom Sorḵ and a number of other Iron Age and earlier sites in central Luristan (l938).

Later sites were not neglected either. Joseph Upton and Charles Wilkinson excavated at early Islamic Nīšāpūr (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, l93l-37) and, with the addition of Walter Hauser, the same team worked from l932 to l935 at the Sasanian town and fortress of Qaṣr-e Abū Naṣr, to the south-east of Shiraz. Also, while Schmidt found time to examine Sasanian and later levels at both Naqš-e Rostam and Estaḵr (each in the vicinity of Persepolis), Ghirshman initially joined Georges Salles at Bīšāpūr (Musée du Louvre, l934-36) and then continued to excavate at the same site on his own for one final, increasingly difficult season (Musée du Louvre, l940-4l).

l941 TO 1959

With the outbreak of World War II various members of the Department of Archaeology, who had hitherto chiefly participated in the above-mentioned work as inspectors, were suddenly propelled into a more central role. At Persepolis, for example, Ḥosayn Ravānbod was charged with continuing the excavations. Then, on ʿAlī Sāmī’s advancement to the same post, the latter continued to expand the excavated area within the central hall of the Hall of a Hundred Columns. At various points between l949 and the end of the l950’s, Sāmī also carried out combined excavations and restorations at Pasargadae, besides resuming work at Persepolis and conducting new researches in the region of Fasā (Mūsawī). Elsewhere, Maḥmūd Rād and ʿAlī Ḥākemī followed up Stein’s early soundings at Ḥasanlū before undertaking further excavations, again in l949, at Ganj Tepe, near Ḵorvīn. During the l950s particular note may be taken of the excavations of Ḥākemī at the Sasanian site of Tepe Mīl, near Varāmīn (l955), those of Fereydūn Tavallalī in the region of Fasā (l958-59), and those of ʿAlī Ḥākemī at Tepe Mušalān, near Karaj (l958-59). Also, from l953 to l958, Moḥammad-Taqī Moṣṭafawī became one of the first Persians to direct the Department of archaeology, and the late 1940s and early 1950s saw the foundation of the first provincial museums in the cities of Shiraz, Isfahan, and Qazvīn.

As the only pre-war dig director to return to Persia after the interval of the war years, Ghirshman, the new head of the French mission at Susa, opened separate operations on the “Ville Royale” and the “Ville des Artisans” in l946 and l947 respectively (before also reviving de Mecquenem’s prior work at Čōḡā Zanbīl, q.v., beginning in l95l). In other parts of the country, Carleton S. Coon’s exploratory cave excavations were the first to direct serious attention towards the Palaeolithic and Epipalaeolithic periods (University Museum, l949, l95l). Then, from the early l950s onwards, Louis Vanden Berghe (a further key figure in the history of Persian archaeology) launched a series of surface prospections and test excavations which did much to document the prehistoric sequence in central Fārs (University of Ghent, l95l-55). But even given these various activities, it is instructive to note that when Robert H. Dyson, Jr. conducted the first of his twelve seasons of work at Ḥasanlū (University Museum, beginning in l956) his was one of only two archaeological expeditions then in the field.

The year l959 was consequential in two respects. First, it saw the beginning of H. H. von der Osten’s and R. Naumann’s long running excavations at Taḵt-e Solaymān and, hence, the initial introduction, in Persia, of the estimable field techniques of the best German expeditions. And secondly, this same year saw the birth of the Ḥasanlū Project, an influential field concept which embraced the theme of regional archaeology (as opposed to single-site archaeology) and which also encouraged a broad, interdisciplinary approach to the reconstruction of the past.

l960 TO 1979

The years in question have frequently, and rightly, been regarded as the period when archaeology in Persia came of age. In the first place this was a time when the regulations governing excavations in Persia underwent many desirable modifications. As a recent publication has stressed, the provisions of the antiquities law were not really enforced in the years prior to l960. Little effort was made to prevent clandestine digging; so-called commercial excavations, in which half of the finds were automatically assigned to the person paying for the excavation (who could then dispose of the objects on the open market), were taking place in great number; and the various professional positions in the Department of Archaeology, then a branch of the Ministry of Education, were most often given to “nonspecialists” who regarded their posts as sinecures, worthy of little time or effort (Negahban, p. 5). Accordingly, in the first of a series of reforms that were introduced late in l960, the granting of commercial licences was discontinued and ʿEzzat-Allāh Negahbān (Ezat Negahban), who had recently returned from the University of Chicago in order to take up a teaching post in archaeology at Tehran University, was appointed as the technical director of the Archaeological Service (to use the new designation which then became current, at least in English, for the Department of Archaeology). In close succession, moreover, the archaeological branch of the French Institute in Tehran came to be complemented by the presence of both the German Archaeological Institute and the British Institute of Persian Studies, followed, in the mid-sixties, by the foundation of the Asia Institute in Shiraz, and, last but not least, by the establishment of the American Institute of Iranian Studies. In a word, the l960s witnessed the beginning of almost two decades of fruitful international collaboration in which Persian, American, Austrian, Belgian, British, Canadian, Danish, French, German, Italian and Japanese excavators each played a highly positive role.

In December l972 the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research (ICAR) was founded, under the direction of Fīrūz Bāqerzāda (Bagherzadeh). With the creation of ICAR, and with the continued vigor of the field activities of the Department of archaeology at Tehran University, a whole generation of young Persians suddenly found the opportunity to gain a critical new level of field experience. At the same time the law that had decreed that the finds from each excavation should be divided half and half (regardless of the scientific value of keeping such objects in one place and thus maintaining the integrity of the material) was at last rescinded (Bagherzadeh, l990, pp. xvi ff.) and, in a pattern that was soon to become a model for other neighboring countries, ICAR began to host an annual conference at which each project director was expected to provide a report on the findings of the previous season.

Space precludes a full listing of each and every excavation which took place between 1960 and 1979. Nevertheless a brief mention of most of the more significant excavations, and at least a few of the main surface prospections, can hardly be omitted. Some impression of the rich variety of work that took place may be gained from the following broad-brush surveys, which examine (a) the Palaeolithic period, (b) the Neolithic period, (c) the period from the fifth to the second millennium B.C.E., and (d) the period that runs from the early first millennium B.C.E. down to the late first millennium C.E. In the last two instances (following a convention first introduced by Vanden Berghe) each survey will begin in the general vicinity of the South Caspian littoral and then move, in a clockwise direction, east, south, west and north towards the north-western limits of the country.

Palaeolithic. Sixty stone artifacts found during a surface survey in the Kašafrūd basin over 40 km to the east of Mašhad were dated by their discoverer, Claude Thibault, to a pre-Acheulian context that could be at least 800,000 years old. For a note of caution, however, see also the comments of Philip Smith (l986, p. l5), whose monograph now provides a convenient outline of the current state of research in this still embryonic field of enquiry.

Neolithic. Renewed interest in the beginnings of agriculture led to the innovative, multidisciplinary excavations of Robert Braidwood at such sites as Tepe Asīāb and Tepe Sarāb in the central western Zagros (Oriental Institute, l960). Braidwood’s program in turn inspired the careful excavation of a series of early sites in the Dehlorān (q.v.) plain, starting in l96l, under the overall direction of Frank Hole, then of Rice University. Indeed, work at one Dehlorān site, ʿAlī Koš (q.v.), witnessed one of the first experiments in seed flotation. Subsequent work in still little-explored Luristan included the surveys of Peder Mortensen and the associated excavations of Henrik Thrane at Tepe Gūrān (Danish Archaeological Expedition, l963-65). Also in this vicinity, Philip Smith discovered the earliest known pottery in the Near East at partly 8th millennium Tepe Ganj-dara (University of Montreal, l965-l974) and Judith Pullar recovered evidence for a 7th millennium settlement at Tepe ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn (British Institute of Persian Studies, l978). Elsewhere, Mary Voigt excavated at Hājī Fīrūz Tepe, in Azarbaijan (University Museum, l968), a site now celebrated not only for its boldly painted pottery but also for the earliest attestation of wine.

Fifth to second millennium B.C. In a region of the western Alborz that was virtually overrun by clandestine diggers towards the end of the l950s, Negahban succeeded in completing a single, protracted season at the markedly productive late second to early first millennium B.C.E. site of Mārlīk Tepe (Archaeological Service, l96l-62). Further to the east, Jean Deshayes introduced a new series of excavations at Tūrang Tepe (University of Paris, l960-l977) and David Stronach recovered yet other elements of the Gorgān plain sequence at nearby Yarīm Tepe (British Academy, l960; British Institute of Persian Studies, l962). Tepe Ḥeṣār also came to be re-examined (with special attention being given to stratigraphy, architecture, and areas of industrial activity) by Dyson and Maurizio Tosi (University Museum, l976).

In southeastern Persia, at a site where pieces of imported lapis lazuli were also processed, Tosi excavated at late 4th and 3rd millennium Šahr-e Sūḵta on behalf of the Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente (IsMEO) from l967 to l974; Beatrice de Cardi documented a late 3rd millennium occupation at Bampūr (Royal Asiatic Society, l966); and C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky’s Tepe Yaḥyā project (Harvard University, l967-74) documented a site that not only yielded Proto-Elamite tablets of about 3000 B.C., but also examples of a hitherto little considered highland resource, namely, finished chlorite vessels. In an area south of Kermān Joseph Caldwell recorded early copper smelting operations at Chalcolithic Tall-e Eblīs (Illinois State Museum, l966) and, at some distance to the northeast of Kermān, Ḥākemī’s excavations at Šahdād revealed a late 3rd millennium cemetery in which a number of graves were found to contain spectacular clay funerary busts (Archaeological Service/ICAR, l968-78). Meanwhile, in central Fārs, William M. Sumner’s excavations at Tepe Malīān (University of Pennsylvania, l97l-78) yielded a wide range of materials of Proto-Elamite date, not to mention inscribed brick fragments of Middle Elamite date which at once affirmed the location of Elam’s long lost eastern capital, Anšān (q.v.).

In order to retrieve as much site-specific information as possible from various regions of Ḵūzestān that were suddenly slated for intense agricultural development, both Robert Mc. C. Adams (University of Chicago, l960) and Henry Wright (University of Michigan) conducted separate surface surveys—and Wright’s own, principally fourth millennium, l968 excavations at Tepe Farroḵābād, in the Dehlorān plain, were directly inspired, for example, by the new approaches to urban development and the rise of the state that such innovative surveys had generated. Excavations in more central parts of Ḵūzestān included those of Pierre Delougaz and Helene Kantor at long-occupied Čōḡā Mīš (q.v.; UCLA-Oriental Institute, l96l-77) as well as those of Jean Perrot at Susa (Délégation archéologique française en Iran, l967-78) and those of Genevieve Dollfus at a number of adjacent, still earlier sites (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, l967-76). Indeed, Perrot and his multidisciplinary, international team did much, it should be stressed, to secure many significant new perspectives concerning the long sequence of occupation in and near Susa. Meanwhile, at Haft Tepe, a short distance to the south, Negahban recovered an ample range of textual and architectural data for the previously poorly-documented interval in Middle Elamite history that falls between l500 and l300 B.C.E. (University of Tehran, l966-78).

While T. Cuyler Young’s Godin (Gowdīn) Tepe project in western Persia revealed both a lowland (Mesopotamian or Susian) “trading post” of about 3,200 B.C.E. and a much later fortified residence of Median date (Royal Ontario Museum, l965-74), Louis Vanden Berghe’s more westerly excavations, at such sites Banī Sorma and Var Kabūd, can be said to have shed significant new light on the long history of local metal production in Luristan from about 2600 to about 600 B.C.E. (Belgian Archaeological Mission, l965-79). Finally, in the north-west, Negahban’s Qazvīn project (University of Tehran, l970-79) provided an unusually long and important sequence for the fertile Qazvīn plain; Charles Burney’s excavations at Haftavān Tepe in Azerbaijan documented links with the Caucasus (University of Manchester, l968-78); and Andreas Lippert’s work at Kordlar Tepe (University of Innsbruck, l97l-78) provided evidence for a lengthy occupation that concluded with the construction of certain quite striking, fortified complexes of early Iron Age date.

First millennium B.C.E. to first millennium C.E. Excavations that fall within this time-bracket are less numerous. While Moḥammad-Yūsof Kayānī worked at late Sasanian(?) to early Islamic Gorgān, south of Gonbad-e Qābūs (ICAR, l973-78), John Hansman and David Stronach excavated at partly Parthian Šahr-e Qūmes, near Dāmˊḡān (q.v.), a site which may well represent ancient Hecatompylos (British Institute of Persian Studies, l967-78). In Sīstān, Umberto Scerrato dug at probably late Achaemenid Dahan-e Ḡolāmān (IsMEO, l960-65) and, in Fārs, Dieter Huff provided precise studies of the Sasanian monuments at Fīrūzābād (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, l976-78). Stronach conducted new excavations at Pasargadae (British Institute of Persian Studies, l96l-63) and, beginning shortly afterwards, Guiseppe Tilia and Ann Britt Tilia undertook invaluable architectural studies and restorations at Persepolis (IsMEO, l965-l978). In terms of renewed excavations at Persepolis, Akbar Tajvīdī concentrated on the site’s mud-brick eastern fortifications where he retrieved a series of late Achaemenid clay bullae (Archaeological Service, l969-72).

In the most important excavation of an early Islamic site to-date, David Whitehouse chose to work at Sīrāf on the shores of the Persian Gulf (British Institute of Persian Studies, l966-73). Not too far from Sīrāf, Vanden Berghe’s foot-surveys of about l960 located both the freestanding post-Achaemenid(?) “Bozpar Tomb” and a number of still markedly intact Sasanian čahār ṭāqs (q.v.). Further inland, Ghirshman concluded his long career by working, between l964 and l972, at the largely post-Achaemenid sites of Masjed-e Sulaymān and Bard-e Nešānda; ʿAlī-Akbar Sarfarāz and Jahāngīr Yāsī carried out new, rewarding work at Bīšāpūr (Archaeological Service, l968-l970); and, at Ḥājīābād in southeastern Fārs, Masʿūd Āḏarnuš (Azarnoush) excavated the remains of a once luxurious, 4th-century Sasanian country residence (ICAR, l978).

While the main features of elite local houses of the 9th and 8th centuries B.C.E. on the eastern borders of Luristan are now clearly comprehended through the agency of Clare Goff’s multi-period excavations at Bābā Jān Tepe (q.v.; Institute of Archaeology, London, l966-69), the soaring height that could be attained by public buildings of Median date remains most visibly demonstrated by David Stronach’s excavations at Tepe Nuš-e Jān (British Institute of Persian Studies, l967-l977). Elsewhere, Sayf-Allāh Kāmbaḵš Fard and Masʿūd Aḏarnuš excavated at Seleucid to Sasanian Kangāvar (Archaeological Service/ICAR, l969-78) and Edward Keall spent one productive season at late Parthian Qalʿa-ye Yazdegerd (Royal Ontario Museum, l978). Notice must also be taken of the excavations and surface studies undertaken by Wolfram Kleiss at Bīsotūn (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, l966) and of Louis D. Levine’s welcome recovery of stratified, first millennium B.C.E. ceramic sequences at Jāma Šūrān in the Māhīdašt in western Persia (Royal Ontario Museum, l978).

In the north-west, while Naumann and Huff continued, successively, to document the late Iron Age to Mongol remains at and near Taḵt-e Solaymān (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, l959-78), R. H. Dyson (University Museum, l964) and M. Moʿtamedī (ICAR, l976-78) each undertook separate examinations of previously pillaged Zīvīa (Ziwiya). And finally, in western Azerbaijan, special note deserves to be taken of the surveys and excavations of chiefly Urartian date that were conducted by Wolfram Kleiss, including, at the hub of these investigations, his definitive excavations at Besṭām (q.v.; Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, l968-78).


During this latest interlude the patterns of field activity in Persia were at first greatly reduced, partly because of the departure of the once-numerous foreign expeditions and partly because of a sharp drop in the scale of government funding, especially for excavations. In the circumstances, the newly formed Archaeological Institute of Iran (l980-86) was obliged to concentrate on programs of conservation and restoration. In the context of rescue excavations, however, the chance discovery of a monumental, buried tomb in the vicinity of Arjan, near Behbahān, led to the recovery, in l982, of the distinctive grave goods of a local Elamite ruler of the mid-seventh century B.C.E.

More recently, under the auspices of the Persian Cultural Heritage Organization (Sāzmān-e mīrāṯ-e farhangī; l986-), a considerable measure of government support has been forthcoming. Much attention has been given to the provision of new archeological facilities, especially in the provinces, and the organization is presently sponsoring excavations at such sites as ancient Ecbatana (q.v.), Zīvīa, and Ray. In addition, fresh attention is beginning to be devoted to eastern Persia, where one project of note consists of the excavations that are currently being conducted at the intriguing Parthian to late Sasanian site of Kūh-e Ḵᵛāja in Sīstān.



Bibliography (for the references in Persian I am much indebted to Ms. Soroor Ghanimati; for cited sources not given in detail, see “Short References”):

Reports of excavations can be found listed, and indexed by site and period, in L. Vanden Berghe, Bibliographie analytique de l’archéologie de l’Iran ancien, Leiden, l979; idem and E. Haerinck, Bibliographie analytique de l’archéologie de l’Iran ancien: Supplement, 2 vols., Leiden, l98l-87; and in the following annual publications: AMI, l968-; Cahiers de la Délégation archéologique française en Iran, l97l-; East and West, l974-; Expedition, l959-; Iran, l963-; Iranica Antiqua, l96l-; Paléorient, l973-; and in F. Bagherzadeh (Bāqerzāda), ed., Gozārešhā-ye majmaʿ-e sālāna-ye kāvešhā wa pažūhešhā-ye bāstān-æenāsī/Proceedings of the Annual Symposium on Archaeological Research in Iran, Tehran, l972-77.

Reference to reports in Persian of archaeological excavations can be found in Ī. Afšār, Fehrest-e maqālāt-e fārsī dar zamīna-ye taḥqīqāt-e īrānī, 4 vols., Tehran, 1348-69 Š./1969-90.

A. Alizadeh, “A Tomb of the Neo-Elamite Period at Arjan, near Behbahan,” AMI l8, l985, pp. 49-73.

A. Ariai and C. Thibault, “Nouvelles précisions à propos de l’outillage ancien sur galets du Khorassan (Iran),” Paléorient 3, 1975-79, pp. 101-8.

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(David Stronach)

Originally Published: December 15, 1998

Last Updated: January 20, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. IX, Fasc. 1, pp. 88-94

Cite this entry:

David Stronach, “EXCAVATIONS i. In Persia,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, IX/1, pp. 88-94, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/excavations-i (accessed on 30 December 2012).