RSSFlickrLinked InTwitterFacebook

Archive for December 2011

History of Iran


The early hisotroy of Iran may be divided into three phases:

(1) the prehistoric period beginning with the earliest evidence of man on the Iranian Plateau (c. 100,000 BCE) and ending roughly at the start of the 1st millennium BCE;

(2) the proto-historic period covering approximately the first half of the 1st millennium BC; and

(3) the period of the Achaemenid dynasty (6th to 4th century BC), when Iran entered the full light of written history. The civilization of Elam, centered off the plateau in lowland Khuzestan, is an exception, for written history began there as early as it did in neighbouring Mesopotamia (c. 3,000 BC).



The sources for the prehistoric period are entirely archaeological. Early excavation in Iran was limited to a few sites. In the 1930s archaeological exploration increased rapidly, but work was abruptly halted by the outbreak of World War II. After the war ended, interest in Iranian archaeology revived quickly, and since 1950 numerous excavations have revolutionized the study of prehistoric Iran.

For the proto-historic period the historian is still forced to rely primarily on archaeological evidence, but much information comes from written sources as well. None of these sources, however, is both local to and contemporary with the events described. Some sources are contemporary but belong to neighboring civilizations that are only tangentially involved in events in the Iranian Plateau; for example, the Assyrian and Babylonian cuneiform records from lowland Mesopotamia. Some are local but not contemporary, such as the traditional Iranian legends and tales that supposedly speak of events in the early 1st millennium BC. And some are neither contemporary nor local but are nevertheless valuable in reconstructing events in the proto-historic period (e.g., the 5th-century-BC Greek historian Herodotus).


Palaeolithic (ca. 100,000-10,000B.C.E)

Enigmatic evidence of man’s presence on the Iranian Plateau as early as Lower Palaeolithic times comes from a surface find in the Baktaran Valley. The first well-documented evidence of human habitation is in deposits from several excavated cave and rock-shelter sites, mainly located in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran, dated to Middle Palaeolithic or Mousterian times (c. 100,000 BC). There is every reason to assume, however, that future excavations will reveal Lower Palaeolithic man in Iran. The Mousterian flint-tool industry found there is generally characterized by an absence of the Levallois technique of chipping flint and thus differs from the well-defined Middle Palaeolithic industries known elsewhere in the Middle East. The economic and social level associated with this industry is that of fairly small, peripatetic hunting and gathering groups spread out over a thinly settled landscape.

Locally, the Mousterian is followed by an Upper Palaeolithic flint industry called the Baradostian. Radiocarbon dates suggest that this is one of the earliest Upper Palaeolithic complexes; it may have begun as early as 36,000 BC. Its relationship to neighbouring industries, however, remains unclear. Possibly, after some cultural and typological discontinuity, perhaps caused by the maximum cold of the last phase of the Würm glaciation, the Baradostian was replaced by a local Upper Palaeolithic industry called the Zarzian. This tool tradition, probably dating to the period 12,000 to 10,000 BC, marks the end of the Iranian Palaeolithic sequence.


The Mesolithic (ca. 10,000-5500 B.C.E).

Evidence indicates that the Middle East in general was one of the earliest areas in the Old World to experience what the Australian archaeologist V. Gordon Childe called the Neolithic revolution. That revolution witnessed the development of settled village agricultural life based firmly on the domestication of plants and animals. Iran has yielded much evidence on the history of these important developments. In the early Mesolithic, evidence of significant shifts in tool manufacture, settlement patterns, and subsistence methods, including the fumbling beginnings of domestication of both plants and animals, comes from such important western Iranian sites as Asiab, Guran, Ganj-e Dareh, and Ali Kosh. Similar developments in the Zagros, on the Iraqi side of the modern border, are also traceable at sites such as Karim Shahir and Zawi Chemi-Shanidar. This phase of early experimentation with sedentary life and domestication was soon followed by a period of fully developed village farming as defined at important Zagros sites such as Jarmo, Sarab, upper Ali Kosh, and upper Guran. All of these sites date wholly or in part to the 8th and 7th millennia.

By approximately 6,000 BC these patterns of village farming were widely spread over much of the Iranian Plateau and in lowland Khuzestan. Tepe Sabz in Khuzestan, Hajji Firuz in Azerbaijan, Godin Tepe VII in northeastern Luristan, Tepe Sialk I on the rim of the central salt desert, and Tepe Yahya VI C-E in the southeast have all yielded evidence of fairly sophisticated patterns of agricultural life (Roman numerals identify the level of excavation). Though distinctly different, all show general cultural connections with the beginnings of settled village life in neighbouring areas such as Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Soviet Central Asia, and Mesopotamia.



Chalcolithic (ca. 5,500-3,500 B.C.E.)





(Susa II-III = Late Uruk-Jemdet Nasr-Early Dynastic I, ca. 3500-2800 B.C.E.)




Bronze Age

(Susa IV = Early Dynastic II-Old Babylonian, ca. 3000-1350 B.C.E.)




Iron Age I-II (ca. 1350-800 B.C.E.)


History of Elam

For a long time scholars confused Elam with Susiana, equivalent to the plain and lower Zagros foothills in the present Persian province of Khûzestân. Two important factors have recently modified this understanding, however. First, Tal-e Malyan (Mâlîân) in Fârs has been identified as the ancient center of the component kingdom of Anshan (q.v.; Hansman; Lambert; Reiner, 1973b), and, second, it has been established that Susa and Elam were distinct entities (Vallat, 1980). In fact, during the several millennia of its history the limits of Elam varied, not only from period to period, but also with the point of view of the person describing it. For example, Mesopotamian sources permit establishment of a relatively detailed map of Elam in the late 3rd millennium B.C.E., owing in particular to the “Geography of Sargon of Akkad” (ca. 2300 B.C.E.; Grayson; Vallat, 1991), a Neo-Assyrian representation of the extent of Sargon’s conquests. It seems that Mesopotamians in the late 3rd millennium B.C.E. considered Elam to encompass the entire Persian plateau, which extends from Mesopotamia to the Kavîr-e Namak and Dašt-e Lût and from the Caspian (q.v.) to the Persian Gulf. Elamite cultural, if not political, influence in that period extended far beyond those limits, however, reaching Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the southern shores of the Persian Gulf (Amiet, 1986). It should be emphasized that during the last centuries of the 3rd millennium Susiana was sometimes a political dependency of the Mesopotamian empires centered first on Akkad and later on Ur and was included only for a brief period in the Elamite confederation, which embraced the kingdoms of Awan (probably in the Zagros), Simaški (in Assyrian Šimaški; see Steve, 1989, p. 13 n. 1; probably extending from Kermân to the Caspian), and Anshan (the present province of Fârs with its natural outlet to the Persian Gulf in the vicinity of Bûšehr, q.v.). Furthermore, this entire definition was Meso-potamian. For the people of the Persian plateau, Awanites and Simaškians, Elam meant the country of Anshan (Vallat, 1980; idem, 1991; idem, 1993).

When the Elamites, in alliance with the people of Susiana, brought an end to the empire of Ur in 2004 B.C.E., they annexed Susiana, where the Epartid, or sukkalmah, dynasty was founded by the ninth king of Simaški; the dynasty thus had its origins on the plateau. It is difficult to determine the eastern limits of the Epartid kingdom, but the decline of its power in the 18th century B.C.E. (see below) probably led to a reduction of influence in the east. As for the “kings of Anshan and Susa” of the Middle Elamite period (1500-1100 B.C.E.), according to the available documents, they controlled at least the territory of the present-day provinces of Khûzestân and Fârs with Bûšehr.

In the 1st millennium B.C.E. the spread of populations speaking Indo-Iranian languages and dialects onto the Persian plateau forced the Elamites to relinquish one area of their empire after another and to take refuge in Susiana, which only then became coterminous with Elam. It is this reduced territory that is referred to in the annals of Aššurbanipal (q.v.; see, e.g., Aynard, pp. 38-61), the Achaemenid inscriptions (Weissbach), and the Bible and Apocrypha (Daniel 8:2; Esdras 4:9).

Despite recent progress, Elamite history remains largely fragmentary. Because there are few indigenous sources, attempts at reconstruction must be based primarily on Mesopotamian documentation. By far the largest proportion of the known Elamite texts have been excavated at Susa, a city that, from its foundation ca. 4000 B.C.E., alternated between subjection to Mesopotamian and Elamite power (Amiet, 1979). The earliest levels excavated at the site furnished remarkable pottery that has no equivalent in Mesopotamia, whereas in the succeeding period (levels 22-17 in the excavations conducted by Le Brun, 1978, pp. 177-92) the archeological material is identical with that of Mesopotamia in the Uruk period. From about 3200 B.C.E. the influence of the Persian plateau can be observed in the presence of numerical and then proto-Elamite tablets identical with those found in smaller numbers at different sites on the plateau, as far away as Šahr-e Sûkhta in Sîstân (Vallat, 1986). The proto-Elamite script (see iii, below), which has defied all efforts to decipher it, remained in use until about 2700 B.C.E., but it was in the little-known period that followed, between the end of the Proto-Elamite period and the establishment of the dynasty of Awan, that Elam began to emerge from anonymity. The first attestation of the name of the kingdom is in a text of the king Enmebaragesi of Kish, who ruled in about 2650 B.C.E. But it is only from the beginning of the Akkadian period that Elam really enters into history. In the following survey the variable orthography of proper names has been standardized, in the interests of simplification.

The Old Elamite period (ca. 2400-1600 B.C.E.)

In the Old Elamite period three dynasties ruled in succession (Table 1). The kings of the first two, those of Awan and Simaški, are mentioned in the king list from Susa of the Old Babylonian period (Scheil, 1931). In this document twelve names are mentioned, followed by the phrase “twelve kings of Awan,” then by twelve more names and the phrase “twelve Simaškian kings.” In contrast to similar texts from Mesopotamia, neither a regnal year nor any mention of parentage appears in this simple document; nor is there any indication that the two lists are exhaustive. But, despite the somewhat artificial character of this document, some of the individuals mentioned are also known from other sources, Susian or Mesopotamian. The third dynasty, that of the Epartids, often called “of the sukkalmahs” because of the title borne by its members, was contemporary with the Old Babylonian period in Mesopotamia.

The Awan dynasty (ca. 2400-2100 B.C.E.). The Awan dynasty was partially contemporary with that of Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 B.C.E.), and its last king, Puzur-Inšušinak, is thought to have reigned in the time of Ur-Nammu (2112-2095 B.C.E.), founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur (Wilcke, p. 110). At that point the information in the sources becomes more explicit, for the Mesopotamians were attracted by the natural riches of the Persian plateau that they themselves lacked (wood, stone, metals). The records of their military campaigns provide important indications for the reconstruction of the history and geography of Elam.

Although nothing is known of the first seven kings enumerated in the Old Babylonian king list, the eighth and ninth are mentioned (in inverse order) in reports of the campaigns of Sargon and his son Rimuš (Hirsch, pp. 47-48, 51-52; Gelb and Kienast, pp. 180-81, 188, 206-07). The primary purpose of these Akkadian expeditions was the economic exploitation of Elamite territory, including Marahaši (Baluchistan, q.v. i-ii). It seems, however, that they were raids, rather than real conquests of this vast territory. The Akkadian king Maništusu (2269-55 B.C.E.) continued to fight in the south, where he achieved a victory at Šehirum on the Persian Gulf, which he then crossed in order to subdue an alliance of thirty-two cities on the Arabian coast (Gelb and Kienast, pp. 220-21). In the reign of the Akkadian Naram-Sin a treaty (König, 1965, no. 2) was concluded between Naram-Sin’s vassal ruling at Susa and a king of Awan, perhaps Hita (Cameron, p. 34); it is the first known Elamite text to have been written in cuneiform characters, but interpretation remains difficult.

The last king in the king list, Puzur-Inšušinak (Gelb and Kienast, pp. 321-37), conquered Susa, then Anshan, and he seems to have managed to impose an initial unity on the Elamite federation by subduing also the king of Simaški. His successors, however, were unable to hold Susa within the Elamite sphere. Puzur-Inšušinak left several documents in his name at Susa. Some are inscribed in Akkadian and others in linear Elamite, a script of which only a few signs have been deciphered with certainty (Vallat, 1986; see v, below); these signs may have been derived from proto-Elamite. But the establishment of the Elamite kings at Susa was of short duration. Several years later Šulgi of Ur (2094-47) retook the city with the surrounding region, which once again became an integral part of the Mesopotamian empire and remained so until that empire collapsed.

The Simaški dynasty (ca. 2100-1970 B.C.E.). Of the twelve Simaškian kings mentioned in the king list from Susa, nine have been documented elsewhere (Stolper, 1982, pp. 42-67). The first part of this period was characterized by incessant Meso-potamian attacks on the Persian plateau; the principal objective, though rarely attained, seems to have been Simaški, the homeland of the Elamite kings, in the area of modern Kermân. These campaigns alternated with periods of peace, marked by dynastic marriages. For example, Šu-Sin of Ur, after having given one of his daughters in marriage to a prince of Anshan, led at least two expeditions to the southeastern coast of the Caspian (Kutscher, pp. 71-101). It seems that the Mesopotamians alternated between peaceful and more forcible approaches, in order to obtain the raw materials they needed. But Mesopotamian power was weakening. The last king of the dynasty of Ur, Ibbi-Sin (2028-04), was unable to penetrate very deeply into Elamite territory, and his agent Ir-Nanna no longer controlled more of the eastern empire than the countries along a northwest-southeast line from Arbela to Bašime on the north bank of the Persian Gulf (Thureau-Dangin, pp. 148-51). In 2004 the Elamites, allied with the “Susianans” under the leadership of Kindattu, sixth king of Simaški, conquered Ur and led Ibbi-Sin away to Elam as a prisoner.

The Epartid or sukkalmah dynasty (ca. 1970-1600 B.C.E.). This long period of nearly three centuries still seems one of the most confused in Elamite history, despite the greater abundance and variety of the available documentation. Modern historians (König, 1931; Cameron, p. 229; Hinz, p. 183) have been misled by three factors that have completely distorted historical reconstruction.

First, the order of succession and the genealogy of the rulers of this period were distorted by a misinterpretation of the expression “son of the sister of Šilhaha” (Ak. mâr ahâti(-šu) ša Šilhaha). It was believed that the correct translation of mâr ahâti was “nephew,” as in Mesopotamia, and that the term referred to a real biological relationship. The result was a theory about the division of power between the direct and collateral lines specific to Elam. The reality was quite different: The words “son of the sister of Šilhaha” do not mean “nephew” but rather “son that Šilhaha sired with his own sister” and are evidence of royal incest, which ensured the legitimacy of the heir. Furthermore, the expression was only a title, as is confirmed by its use for centuries after the death of Šilhaha, for example, by Untaš-Napiriša and Hutelutuš-Inšušinak. It may be added that this Akkadian expression was rendered in Elamite as ruhu-šak, ruhu meaning “son” when referring to the mother and šak “son” when referring to the father. There is thus no question of the word “sister” (Vallat, 1990, p. 122; idem, 1994).

A second factor, which played just as negative a role in historical reconstruction as the first, is a text of Šilhak-Inšušinak, who enumerated those of his royal predecessors who had restored a temple of Inšušinak (König, 1965, no. 48); the majority of historians have considered that this enumeration provides a chronological scheme that has only to be completed by insertion of the names of kings who are not mentioned in it. Although generally early sovereigns are mentioned first in the text and the most recent ones last, within each group there are obvious contradictions with other documents. These distortions result from enumeration according to lineages; sometimes the direct line is given, then the collateral lines, but sometimes the collateral lines precede the direct line, without relation to actual chronology. For the sukkalmah period the order is Eparti (Ebarat), Šilhaha, Siruk-tuh, Siwe-palar-huppak, Kuk-Kirmaš, Atta-hušu, Temti-halki, and Kuk-Našur. Although the sequence Eparti, Šilhaha, Siruk-tuh, Siwe-palar-huppak in the direct line is correct, the two kings mentioned next, Kuk-Kirmaš and Atta-hušu, are not in the correct place, for they ruled between the reigns of Šilhaha and Siruk-tuh. Kuk-Kirmaš was thus a collateral, as is confirmed by the fact that in this list he is designated “son of Lankuku,” an individual unknown elsewhere, who probably never ruled; it is probable that he was the brother of a sukkalmah who died without a direct heir or whose heir was too young to reign. Further confirmation comes from the inscriptions of certain high functionaries who served him after having been in the service of Idaddu II, tenth king of Simaški. He could thus not have reigned in the 15th century B.C.E., as had been incorrectly supposed. Temti-halki and Kuk-Našur, the last two sukkalmahs known, were probably in the direct line.

Finally, an inscription of Atta-hušu (Sollberger, 1968-69, p. 31; Vallat, 1989, no. 101) has been considered as evidence that Eparti, Šilhaha, and Atta-hušu were contemporaries, constituting the first “triumvirate” of the dynasty. In fact, from different documents, particularly cylinder seals (q.v.) of servants of these sovereigns, it is possible to demonstrate (Vallat, 1989, no. 34) that between Šilhaha and Atta-hušu six sukkalmahs or sukkals exercised power: Pala-iššan, Kuk-Kirmaš, Kuk-sanit, Tem-sanit, Kuk-Nahhunte, and Kuk-Našur I, a group that reigned in the 20th century B.C.E. and not in the 16th century, as most commentators have believed (e.g., Hinz and Koch, p. 555).

Taking into account the corrected interpretations on these three points, it is possible today to write a coherent, though incomplete, history of the Epartid dynasty. The Simaškian kings who succeeded Kindattu were installed at Susa after the fall of the empire of Ur. The Simaškians Idaddu I and Tan-Ruhurater II (who married Mekubi, daughter of Bilalama of Ešnunna in Mesopotamia) built or restored temples at Susa. But Eparti II, though named as the ninth Simaškian king in the king list, was the founder of a new dynasty, called the Epartids by modern historians. It is surprising that the first Epartid sovereigns reigned at the same time as the last “Simaškian kings,” Idaddu II, Idaddu-napir, and probably Idaddu-temti. Eparti, the first of his dynasty, was at least partially contemporary with the sukkalmah-sukkal group (see below); the second, Šilhaha, is mentioned in two documents from the time of Atta-hušu, contemporary with Sumu-abum (1894-81 B.C.E.), the first king of the first dynasty of Babylon. The last Epartid, Idaddu-temti, is known only from the king list. It is not known how power was divided, for, although Idaddu II and Idaddu-napir are attested at Susa, Kuk-Kirmaš bore the title, among others, “sukkal of Elam, of Simaški, and of Susa” (Thureau-Dangin, pp. 182-83), which implies that he ruled the entire Elamite confederation. Despite these titles, it is probable that the last Simaškians governed the eastern part of the empire while the first Epartids governed the western part.

At any rate Eparti, Šilhaha, and their immediate successors lived in troubled times. Rulers of several Mesopotamian states attempted to retake Susa from the Elamites. Several raids are known, particularly those of Gungunum of Larsa, and it was perhaps because of such a raid that Atta-hušu seized power. In fact, there are several indications that he was a usurper: Unlike all his predecessors and successors Atta-hušu was not associated with any other sovereign in the economic and juridical documents. His titles, too, are unusual. Although he called himself “son of the sister of Šilhaha,” it was probably in order to legitimate himself a posteriori; he also bore the title “shepherd of the people of Susa,” which no other dynast during that period assumed, with the exception of a certain Tetep-mada, who may have been his successor.

The name of Siruk-tuh, which appears on a tablet from Šemšarra, permits linkage of Elamite history with Mesopotamian chronology, for he was contemporary with the Assyrian Šamši-Adad I (1813-1781 B.C.E.). But the best-known sukkalmah of the dynasty is Siwe-palar-huppak, who for at least two years was the most powerful person in the Near East. According to the royal archives of Mari, kings as important as Zimri-Lim of Mari and Hammurabi of Babylon addressed him as “father,” while calling each other “brother” and using the word “son” for a king of lesser rank (Charpin and Durand). But the interventions of Siwe-palar-huppak and his brother and successor, Kudu-zuluš, in Mesopotamian affairs (as far away as Aleppo) did not last long (Durand, 1986; idem, 1990; Charpin, 1986; idem, 1990). Siwe-palar-huppak’s suzerainty was broken by an alliance led by Hammurabi, which put an end to Elamite ambitions in Mesopotamia.

The reigns of Kutir-Nahhunte I and his thirteen successors as sukkalmah or sukkal down to Kuk-Našur III, the last known sukkalmah, are documented only in the juridical and economic records from Susa (Scheil, 1930; idem, 1932; idem, 1933; idem, 1939) and in some rare royal inscriptions (Thureau-Dangin, pp. 184-85; Sollberger and Kupper, pp. 262-64). These documents suggest that daily life in Susa and Elam was quite insular. Although no military activity is noted in the documents, it is astonishing that so many royal or princely names are attested at the same time. For example, Kutir-Nahhunte is associated with five potential heirs: Atta-mera-halki, Tata, Lila-irtaš, Temti-Agun, and Kutir-Šilhaha; only the last two, however, attained supreme power, the status of sukkalmah. Following them Kuk-Našur II, a contemporary of Ammisáaduqa, king of Babylon (1646-26 B.C.E.); Temti-raptaš; Simut-wartaš II; Kuduzuluš II; and Sirtuh exercised power in an order that cannot yet be established with certainty, despite association with royal names in the texts. The three last known sukkalmahs, Tan-Uli and his two sons Temti-halki and Kuk-Našur III, all three of whom were styled “son of the sister of Šilhaha,” constituted a group that is linked by no document to its predecessors. These different factors raise the question whether, during the second half of this period, palace intrigues had not replaced international conflicts.

This dynasty, which was remarkable for its duration, was also characterized by a progressive “semitization” of the royal line; owing to the annexation of Susiana to the Elamite empire, the sukkalmahs ensured that Susa would remain a major center. This process is reflected in different spheres. For example, the Elamites did not impose their language on the Susians; the vast majority of the documents from this period excavated at Susa, most of them juridical or economic texts related to daily life in the name of the sukkalmah or a sukkal, were written in Akkadian. Similarly, the Susians preserved their Suso-Mesopotamian pantheon, at the head of which was Inšušinak, the tutelary divinity of the city (see vi, below). Gods of Elamite origin were rare. Finally, this semitization, or westernization, is illustrated by the titulary. The title “king of Anshan and Susa” borne by Eparti, the founder of the dynasty, was soon abandoned in favor of titles that had belonged to Mesopotamian functionaries posted in Susiana or Elam during the Ur III period. The supreme power was held by the sukkalmah. It happened that the ruler delegated certain powers to his children, who were then given the title “sukkal of Elam and of Simaški” while in charge of the eastern provinces of the empire and “sukkal of Susa” when governing Susiana. This last title could be replaced by “king of Susa.”

It is thus necessary to set aside the theory of the division of Elamite power (Cameron, pp. 71-72). The succession to the throne was based on male primogeniture, with, however, an important additional element: the different degrees of legitimacy exemplified by the primacy of endogamy over exogamy. The child born to a union of the king with an Elamite princess, that is, a foreigner, was legitimate. The child born to a union of the king with his own sister had a higher degree of legitimacy. An elder son born to the marriage of a sovereign with a princess outside the family (exogamy) thus had to cede the throne to a younger brother born to a later union of the king and his sister (endogamy). The supreme degree of legitimacy was accorded to the son born to a union of the king with his own daughter. That was the case some centuries later with Hutelutuš-Inšušinak, who seems to have been the son of Šutruk-Nahhunte by his daughter Nahhunte-utu (Vallat, 1985). In the eventuality that a sovereign had no male heir or an heir was too young to exercise power then, as often elsewhere, power was secured by a collateral branch (Vallat, 1994).

The association of a “sukkal of Elam and of Simaški” and a “sukkal of Susa” with the supreme authority of the sukkalmah was not the rule. It sometimes happened, however, that the king associated his children in power for practical reasons: It is probable that, as in the Achaemenid period, the court left the extreme heat of Susa in summer and took refuge on the more temperate plateau. It was thus prudent to leave a trusted man in charge of the low countries.

The Middle Elamite period (ca. 1500-1100 B.C.E.).

The Middle Elamite period was marked by a sharp reversal from the preceding period. It was, in fact, characterized by an “elamization” of Susiana. The kings (Table 2) abandoned the title sukkalmah or sukkal in favor of the old title “king of Anshan and of Susa” (or “king of Susa and of Anshan” in the Akkadian inscriptions). The Akkadian language, still in use under the first family of rulers, the Kidinuids, became rare in the inscriptions of the later Igihalkids and Šutrukids. Furthermore, in this period the Elamite pantheon was imposed in Susiana and reached the height of its power with the construction of the politicoreligious complex at Chogha Zanbîl (q.v.).


The “dynasty” of the Kidinuids (ca. 1500-1400 B.C.E.). 

The term “dynasty” for the Kidinuids is perhaps improper, for there is no indication of any filial relationship among the five rulers who succeeded one another in an order that is not yet certain: Kidinu, Inšušinak-sunkir-nappipir, Tan-Ruhurater II, Šalla, and Tepti-Ahar (Steve, Gasche, and De Meyer, pp. 92-100). Susa and Haft Tepe (ancient Kabnak) have furnished evidence (Reiner, 1973b; Herrero) of a break between the period of the sukkalmahs and the Middle Elamite period. The first element was the titulary: Kidinu and Tepti-ahar styled themselves “king of Susa and of Anzan,” thus linking themselves with an old tradition. Both also called themselves “servant of Kirwašir,” an Elamite divinity, thus introducing the pantheon from the plateau into Susiana. As in the preceding period, however, they continued to use Akkadian in all their inscriptions.


The Igihalkid dynasty (ca. 1400-1210 B.C.E.). 

Until quite recently the Igihalkid dynasty seemed one of the best known in Elamite history. It was believed (e.g., Stolper, 1984, pp. 35-38) that, following a raid by the Mesopotamian Kassite ruler Kurigalzu II (1332-08 B.C.E.) against a certain Hurpatila, king of Elam, Igi-halki seized power, in about 1320, power that he than passed on to his six successors, the most celebrated of whom was Untaš-Napiriša, who built the famous ziggurat at Chogha Zanbîl (ca. 1250). This period ended with Kidin-Hutran, who put an end to the grandeur of the Kassites by winning two victories over Enlil-nadin-šumi (1224) and Adad-šuma-iddina (1222-17).

Combined information from a letter now in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin (Van Dijk, 1986) and two fragments of a statue rediscovered in the Louvre (Steve and Vallat, pp. 223-38) has, however, led to a complete revision of this scheme. The letter in Berlin is a Neo-Babylonian document written in Akkadian, whereas the statue fragments contain an inscription in Elamite. The letter was addressed by an Elamite king whose name is lost but who may well have been Šutruk-Nahhunte (see below) to assert his claim to rule Babylonia; the name of the person to whom it was addressed is also not preserved in the letter. In support of his claim the king mentioned the names of all the Elamite kings who had married Kassite princesses, followed by the names of the children born of these unions. For example, the immediate successor of Igi-halki, Pahir-iššan, married the sister or daughter of Kurigalzu I, whose reign ended in 1374 B.C.E., which implies that the Igihalkid dynasty was older by about a century than had previously been thought. Furthermore, two previously unknown kings, Kidin-Hutran, son of Untaš-Napiriša (who could not have been the Kidin-Hutran who fought the Kassites), and his son Napiriša-untaš, are mentioned in this text. As the fragments of the Louvre statue are attributed to another Kidin-Hutran, son of Pahir-iššan, there must have been three kings of the same name in this dynasty: Kidin-Hutran I, son of Pahir-iššan; Kidin-Hutran II, son of Untaš-Napiriša; and Kidin-Hutran III, whose paternity is unknown. The number of kings known to have succeeded to the Elamite throne has thus been raised from seven to ten, without any certainty that the list is complete. In fact, the first surviving description of this dynasty occurs in a text of the Šutrukid Šilhak-Inšušinak (König, 1965, no. 48), in which he enumerated those of his predecessors who had restored a temple of Inšušinak. As for the Berlin letter, only the dynasts who married Kassite princesses or their children are mentioned in it. A king who belonged in neither of these two categories would remain unknown. Finally, it can now be confirmed that Hurpatila was not an Elamite king but king of a country known as Elammat (Gassan).

The main characteristic of this dynasty is to have “elamized” Susiana; the religious complex at Choghâ Zanbîl, ancient Dur-Untaš (or Âl Untaš-Napiriša), is evidence of this policy, which had been initiated under the “Kidinuids.” Whereas the Epartids had adopted their titulary, gods, and language from the Susians, the Igihalkids emphasized the Elamite aspect of Susiana. Documents written in Akkadian are thus especially rare from their rule, and most are only curses against those who might tamper with dedicated works, as if such outrages could come only from Mesopotamia. Second, the old royal title “king of Anshan and of Susa” was revived. Finally and most important, the gods of the plateau appeared in force in Susiana. For example, the attitude of Untaš-Napiriša at Chogha Zanbîl is revealing. The king began by constructing a small ziggurat in the middle of a courtyard 105 m2 surrounded by temples. This first ziggurat bore the obligatory dedication to the tutelary god of Susa and Susiana, Inšušinak. But very quickly the king changed his mind and undertook construction of a large ziggurat. The small one was destroyed, and the buildings that surrounded the square courtyard were incorporated in the first story of the new monument, which consisted of five stories, each smaller in area than the one below (Ghirshman; Amiet, 1966, pp. 344-49). It must be emphasized that the new building was dedicated jointly to Napiriša, the principal god of Anshan, and to Inšušinak, who was always mentioned second, or even third when Kiririša, the associate of Napiriša, was also named. The primacy of the Elamite component over that of Susa was thus reflected on the divine plane. But the situation was even more complex. Within three concentric walls at Chogha Zanbîl temples were constructed for different gods of the new Suso-Elamite pantheon, and it seems that all the constituent elements in the Elamite confederation were represented (Steve, 1967). For example, Pinikir, Humban, Kirmašir, and Nahhunte probably belonged to the Awanite pantheon, whereas Ruhurater and Hišmitik were of Simaškian origin. Among the Anshanite gods the pair Napiriša and Kiririša, as well as Kilah-šupir and Manzat, can be mentioned. Other divinities of Suso-Mesopotamian origin, like Inšušinak, Išmekarab, Nabu, Šamaš, and Adad, helped to establish a balance between Elamite and Susian power. The creation of this city from nothing had more a political than a religious character, for it implied the cultural and political subjugation of Susiana by the old Elamite confederation. Curiously, this huge complex was quickly abandoned. No king other than Untaš-Napiriša left his name there, and Šutruk-Nahhunte reported having carried some inscriptions from Dur-Untaš to Susa. Nothing is known of the two immediate successors of Untaš-Napiriša, Kidin-Hutran II and Napiriša-Untaš. The campaigns led by the last sovereign of the dynasty, Kidin-Hutran III, against the Kassite kings Enlil-nadin-šumi and Adad-šuma-iddina of Babylonia are evidence that the good relations that had existed between the two royal families had quickly deteriorated.


The Šutrukid dynasty (ca. 1210-1100 B.C.E.). 

Under the Šutrukids Susa regained its greatness, which had been somewhat eclipsed by Chogha Zanbîl, and Elamite civilization shone in all its glory. The riches of Šutruk-Nahhunte and his three sons and successors, Kutir-Nahhunte II, Šilhak-Inšušinak, and Hutelutuš-Inšušinak permitted these new “kings of Anshan and of Susa” to undertake frequent military expeditions against Kassite Mesopotamia and to embellish the Elamite empire and particularly Susiana with luxuriously restored temples.

Šutruk-Nahhunte, son of Hallutuš-Inšušinak, perhaps following the Babylonian rejection of the Elamite claims to sovereignty in the Berlin letter discussed above, undertook several campaigns against Mesopotamia, whence he carried off a number of trophies, which he had inscribed with his name. It is thus known that he raided Akkad, Babylon, and Ešnunna, from the last of which he carried off the statues of Maništusu. It was he who brought to Susa such renowned documents as the code of Hammurabi and the stele of Naram-Sin. In 1158 B.C.E. he killed the Kassite king, Zababa-šuma-iddina, and placed his own eldest son, Kutir-Nahhunte, on the throne of Babylon. When Šutruk-Nahhunte died Kutir-Nahhunte succeeded him and continued his policy in Mesopotamia, putting an end to the long Kassite dynasty by deposing Enlil-nadin-ahi (1157-55 B.C.E.). He reigned only a short time before he was succeeded by his brother Šilhak-Inšušinak, who left a large number of inscriptions in Elamite, recording his numerous campaigns against Mesopotamia, on one hand, and, on the other, dedicating to the gods temples that he built or restored; for example, on one stele twenty temples “of the grove” in Susiana and Elam are mentioned (König, 1965, no. 48). The last king of the dynasty, Hutelutuš-Inšušinak, who called himself sometimes “son of Kutir-Nahhunte and of Šilhak-Inšušinak” and sometimes “son of Šutruk-Nahhunte, of Kutir-Nahhunte, and of Šilhak-Inšušinak,” was probably a son of Šutruk-Nahhunte by his own daughter, Nahhunte-utu (Vallat, 1985, pp. 43-50; idem, 1994), apparently another example of incest in the royal Elamite family. Less brilliant than his predecessors, Hutelutuš-Inšušinak had to abandon Susa briefly to Nebuchadnezzar (1125-04 B.C.E.). He took refuge at Anshan, where he built or restored a temple (Lambert; Reiner, 1973b), then returned to Susa, where his brother Šilhina-amru-Lagamar may have succeeded him. With this king Elamite power faded from the political scene for a long time.


The Neo-Elamite Period (1100-539 B.C.E.).

The essential element that distinguished the Neo-Elamite period was the massive arrival of Iranians on the Iranian plateau, which had the result of reducing still further what remained of the former Elamite empire. Although these invaders appeared only late in the Elamite texts, they were documented in Assyrian sources, where two groups of Medes were distinguished: the Medes or “powerful Medes” and the “distant Medes” or “Medes who live beside Mount Bikni, the mountain of lapis lazuli.” The first group, which occupied the region around Ecbatana (q.v.; modern Hamadân), was well-known because of its frequent and often warlike contacts with the Assyrians, but the second group, which encompassed all the tribes that held territories between the region around modern Tehran and eastern Afghanistan was not; the Achaemenids (and following them Herodotus) designated the latter group by their proper names: Parthians, Sagartians, Arians, Margians, Bactrians, Sogdians, and probably neighboring peoples. In the Assyrian annals, however, all these Iranian tribes were confused under the general appellation “distant Medes.” An identification of Mount Bikni with Damâvand (q.v.; Cameron, p. 149) or Alvand (Levine, 1974, pp. 118-19) must thus be rejected. An identification with the sources of lapis lazuli in Badakhšan was not only credited by some classical authors but also lends a certain coherence to history, whether recorded by Assyrians, Elamites, or Iranians (Vallat, 1993).

The slow progression of the Medes and the Persians across the plateau pushed the Elamites in the region of Anshan toward Susiana, which had been the second center of their empire for almost a millennium and a half. The country of Anshan gradually became Persia proper while Susiana then—and only then—became known as Elam. In most sources of the period, particularly those from Mesopotamia, Susiana is designated as Elam. Nevertheless, the Neo-Elamite kings (Table 3) still called themselves “king of Anshan and of Susa,” except for the last three, Ummanunu, Šilhak-Inšušinak II, and Tepti-Humban-Inšušinak.


Neo-Elamite I (ca. 1100-770 B.C.E.). 

No Elamite document from this first phase of two and a half centuries provides any historical information. The tablets from Malyan (Stolper, 1984), which M.-J. Steve (1992, p. 21) attributes to the beginning of the period, reveal that Anshan was still at least partially Elamite, for almost all the individuals mentioned in them had names of Elamite origin. Mesopotamian tablets from the same period offer very little additional information; it is known only that the Babylonian king Mar-biti-apla-usáur (984-79 B.C.E.) was of Elamite origin and that Elamite troops fought on the side of the Babylonian king Marduk-balassu-iqbi against the Assyrian forces under Šamši-Adad V (823-11 B.C.E.).


Neo-Elamite II (ca. 770-646 B.C.E.). 

Only after the middle of the 8th century B.C.E. does the Babylonian Chronicle (Grayson, 1975) provide the elements of a historical framework, particularly the role of Elam in the conflicts between Babylonians and Assyrians. The king Humban-nikaš (743-17 B.C.E.), son of Humban-tahra and brother of Humban-umena II, came to the aid of Merodach-baladan against the Assyrian Sargon II, which seems to have had little permanent result, as his successor, Šutruk-Nahhunte II (716-699), son of Humban-umena II, had to flee from Sargon’s troops during an attempt on the region of De@r in 710. The Elamite was again defeated by Sargon’s troops two years later; finally he was beaten by Sargon’s son Sennacherib, who dethroned Merodach-baladan and installed his own son Aššur-nadin-šumi on the throne of Babylon. Šutruk-Nahhunte was then murdered by his brother Hallušu, mentioned in the Babylonian Chronicle (698-93). After several skirmishes with the troops of Sennacherib, Hallušu was assassinated and replaced by Kudur, who quickly abdicated the throne in favor of Humban-umena III (692-89). Humban-umena recruited a new army, including troops from Ellipi, Parsumaš, and Anshan, in order to assist the Babylonians in the battle against the Assyrians at Halule on the Tigris in 691. Each side proclaimed itself the victor, but Babylon was taken by the Assyrians two years later. Elamite relations with Babylonia began to deteriorate during the reign of Humban-haltaš II (680-75), son of Humban-haltaš I (688-81), which may explain why his brother and successor, Urtak (674-64), at first maintained good relations with the Assyrian king Aššurbanipal (668-27), who helped him by sending wheat during a famine. But peaceable relations with Assyria also deteriorated, and it was after a new Elamite attack on Mesopotamia that the king died. He was replaced on the throne by Te-Umman (664-53 B.C.E.). The new king was the object of a new attack by Assurbanipal, who, after the battle of the Ulaï in 653, put an end to the king’s life. After this victory Aššurbanipal installed in power the son of Urtak, who had taken refuge in Assyria. Humban-nikaš II (Akkadian Ummanigaš) was installed at Madaktu, an advance post toward Mesopotamia, and Tammaritu at Hidalu, a retreat in the eastern mountains on the road to Anshan. These two towns thus functioned as capitals from the beginning of the 7th century, to the detriment of Susa. The war that broke out between Aššurbanipal and his brother Šamaš-šum-ukin, whom he had installed on the throne of Babylon, provided some respite for the Elamites, who profited from it to fight among themselves. Tammaritu captured the throne of Humban-nikaš II and was in turn driven out to Assyria by Indabigaš, who was himself killed by Humban-haltaš III in 648. The collapse of the Elamite kingdom seems even clearer when it is realized that a certain Umba-habua reigned at Bupila and that Pa’e was called “king of Elam” at Bît-Imbi. The coup de grace, however, was delivered by Aššurbanipal in 646, when he sacked Susa after having devastated the whole of Susiana (Streck; Aynard; Grayson, 1975).

The defeat of the Elamites was, however, less devastating than Aššurbanipal made it appear in his annals, for after his victory the Elamite kingdom rose from the ashes with Šutur-Nahhunte, son of Humban-umena III.


Neo-Elamite III (646-539?B.C.E.). 

So far nothing has been known about the century between the sack of Susa by Aššurbanipal in 646 and the conquest of Susiana, thus of Elam, by the Achaemenids, perhaps by Cyrus in 539. This apparent gap in the history was owing in fact to two errors of interpretation by modern scholars, who, first, considered that the Neo-Elamite kings Šutruk-Nahhunte, son of Humban-umena; Šutur-Nahhunte, son of Humban-umena; and sometimes even Šutur-Nahhunte, son of Indada, were the names of a single sovereign (Hinz, 1964, pp. 115-20). Now, it is possible to show that they belonged to three different individuals. The first, who reigned from 717 to 699, is known from the Mesopotamian sources. He was the son of Humban-umena II (ca. 743), whereas Šutur-Nahhunte was the son of Humban-umena III (692-89) and reigned after the fall of Susa. As for Šutur-Nahhunte, son of Indada, he was a petty king in the region of Èza/Malâmîr in the first half of the 6th century (Vallat, 1995).

The second error of interpretation was to have considered the names of the Elamite kings mentioned in the Mesopotamian documents as simple distortions of the names of kings known from their inscriptions at Susa. For example, it was believed that the name Šutruk-Nahhunte was rendered Šutur-Nahhunte in Assyria and Ištar-hundu in Babylonia. Again, it can be demonstrated from internal analysis of the Elamite documents that these identifications are erroneous and that, with the exception of Šutruk-Nahhunte II, all the Neo-Elamite kings known from Susian inscriptions reigned after Aššurbanipal’s sack of Susa (Vallat, 1996).

For this period no text furnishes a synchronism with Mesopotamia. Nevertheless, one group of more than 300 tablets (Scheil, 1909) can be dated by the iconography of their seal impressions to the first quarter of the 6th century. Analysis of the language of these documents, which was no longer classical but not yet Achaemenid, reveals details that permit a chronology in relation to other inscriptions. In addition, on one of these tablets a king (Ummanunu) and on another the name of Humban-kitin, who was probably the son of Šutur-Nahhunte, are mentioned (Vallat, 1995). It is thus possible to locate the reigns of Šutur-Nahhunte, son of Humban-umena III; Hallutaš-Inšušinak, son of Humban-tahra II; and Atta-hamiti-Inšušinak, son of Hutran-tepti in the second half of the 7th century. Ummanunu, who is mentioned in the tablets from the Acropolis, appears to have been the father of Šilhak-Inšušinak II, himself the father of Tepti-Humban-Inšušinak. These three individuals ruled in succession between 585 and about 539, at a time when Elamite royalty seems to have been fragmented among different small kingdoms, though it is not possible to determine that there was any sort of vassal relationship with the king of Susa. It is thus known that Šutur-Nahhunte, son of Indada ruled in the region of Malâmîr; Humban-šuturuk, son of Šati-hupiti, probably in the region of Kesat in what was later Elymais; and the first Achaemenids over the city of Anshan. It is interesting to note that the three kings at the end of the 7th century (Šutur-Nahhunte, Hallutaš-Inšušinak, and Atta-hamiti-Inšušinak) still called themselves “king of Anzan and of Susa” or “enlarger of the kingdom of Anzan and of Susa,” whereas Ummanunu and Šilhak-Inšušinak II bore the simple title “king,” without any further specification, and Tepti-Humban-Inšušinak did not even allude to his royal position! This last known king of Elam did boast, however, of having led a campaign in the Zagros.


The Achaemenid period (539-331 B.C.E.).

With the Achaemenids in general and Darius I (q.v.) in particular Susa regained its previous greatness, but Elam lost its independence, becoming the third “province” of the empire, after Persis and Media. Curiously, in that period, though the country was called Elam (Elamite Hatamtu, Akkadian NIM) in the sources, in Old Persian it was called Susiana (Uja). Susa eclipsed the other capitals, like Anshan and Pasargadae, in Cyrus’ time and even Persepolis, founded by Darius himself, and Ecbatana. It is striking, for example, that officials traveling to such distant destinations as Egypt, India, or Arachosia departed from Susa and returned to Susa, as confirmed in numerous archival tablets found at Persepolis (Hallock, nos. 1285-1579). Furthermore, these documents were written in Elamite, as if Darius had wished to make use of a class of scribes belonging to an already existing administration. The majority of royal inscriptions were written in Old Persian, Akkadian, and Elamite versions, but Elamite had by then absorbed Iranian influences in both structure and vocabulary. The Elamite gods, after having benefited from a final revival of the cult under Darius and Xerxes, disappeared forever from the documents. Elam was absorbed into the new empire, which changed the face of the civilized world at that time.


The Elamite Empire

The Iranian Plateau did not experience the rise of urban, literate civilization in the late 4th and early 3rd millennia on the Mesopotamian pattern, but the lowland Khuzestan did. It was the Elamite Civilization.


Geographically, Elam included more than Khuzestan; it was a combination of the lowlands and the immediate highland areas to the north and eaSusa remained in office, and the brother of the old viceroy nearest to him in age became the new viceroy. Only if all brothers were dead was the prince of Susa promoted to viceroy, thus, enabling the overlord to name his own son (or nephew) as the new prince of Susa. Such a complicated system of governmental checks, balances, and power inheritance often broke down, despite bilateral descent and levirate marriage (i.e., the compulsory marriage of a widow to her deceased husband’s brother). What is remarkable is how often the system did work; it was only in the Middle and Neo-Elamite periods that sons more often succeeded fathers to power.
Elamite history can be divided into three main phases: the Old, Middle, and Late, or Neo-Elamite, periods. In all periods, Elam was closely involved with Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria, sometimes through peaceful trade, more often through war. In like manner, Elam was often a participant in events on the Iranian Plateau. Both involvements were related to the combined need of all the lowland civilizations to control the warlike peoples to the east and to exploit the economic resources of the plateau.

1. Old Elamite Period
The earliest kings in the Old Elamite period may date to approximately 2700 BC. Already conflict with Mesopotamia, in this case apparently with the city of Ur, was characteristic of Elamite history. These early rulers were succeeded by the Awan (Shustar) dynasty.



The 11th king of this line entered into treaty relations with the great Naram-Sin of Akkad (c. 2254-c. 2218 BC). Yet, there soon appeared a new ruling house, the Simash dynasty (Simash may have been in the mountains of southern Luristan). The outstanding event of this period was the virtual conquest of Elam by Shulgi of the 3rd dynasty of Ur (c. 2094-c. 2047 BC). Eventually, the Elamites rose in rebellion and overthrew the 3rd Ur dynasty, an event long remembered in Mesopotamian dirges and omen texts. About the middle of the 19th century BC, power in Elam passed to a new dynasty, that of Eparti. The third king of this line, Shirukdukh, was active in various military coalitions against the rising power of Babylon, but Hammurabi (c. 1792-c. 1750 BC) was not to be denied, and Elam was crushed in 1764 BC. The Old Babylon kingdom, however, fell into rapid decline following the death of Hammurabi, and it was not long before the


Elamites were able to gain revenge. Kutir-Nahhunte I attacked Samsuiluna (c. 1749-c. 1712 BC), Hammurabi’s son, and dealt so serious a defeat to the Babylonians that the event was remembered more than 1,000 years later in an inscription of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. It may be assumed that, with this stroke, Elam once again gained independence. The end of the Eparti dynasty, which may have come in the late 16th century BC, is buried in silence.

2. Middle Elamite Period

After two centuries for which sources reveal nothing, the Middle Elamite period opened with the rise to power of the Anzanite dynasty, whose homeland probably lay in the mountains northeast of Khuzestan. Political expansion under Khumbannumena (c. 1285-c. 1266 BC), the fourth king of this line, proceeded apace, and his successes were commemorated by his assumption of the title “Expander of the Empire.” He was succeeded by his son, Untash-Gal (Untash (d) Gal, or Untash-Huban), a contemporary of Shalmaneser I of Assyria (c. 1274-c. 1245 BC) and the founder of the city of Dur Untash (modern Chogha Zanbil).


In the years immediately following Untash-Gal, Elam increasingly found itself in real or potential conflict with the rising power of Assyria. Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria (c. 1244-c. 1208 BC) campaigned in the mountains north of Elam. The Elamites under Kidin-Khutran, second king after Untash-Gal, countered with a successful and devastating raid on Babylonia.


In the end, however, Assyrian power seems to have been too great. Tukulti-Ninurta managed to expand, for a brief time, Assyrian control well to the south in Mesopotamia. Kidin-Khutran faded into obscurity, and the Anzanite dynasty came to an end.


After a short period of dynastic troubles, the second half of the Middle Elamite period opened with the reign of Shutruk-Nahhunte (c. 1160 BC). Two equally powerful and two rather less impressive kings followed this founder of a new dynasty, whose home was probably Susa, and, in this period, Elam became one of the great military powers of the Middle East. Tukulti-Ninurta died about 1208 BC, and Assyria fell into a period of internal weakness and dynastic conflict. Elam was quick to take advantage of this situation by campaigning extensively in the Diyala River area and into the very heart of Mesopotamia. Shutruk-Nahhunte captured Babylon and carried off to Susa the stela on which was inscribed the famous law code of Hammurabi. Shilkhak-In-Shushinak, brother and successor of Shutruk-




Nahhunte’s eldest son, Kutir-Nahhunte, still anxious to take advantage of Assyrian weakness, campaigned as far north as the area of modern Kirkuk. In Babylonia, however, the 2nd dynasty of Isin led a native revolt against such control as the Elamites had been able to exercise there, and Elamite power in central Mesopotamia was eventually broken. The Elamite military empire began to shrink rapidly. Nebuchadrezzar I of Babylon (c. 1124-c. 1103 BC) attacked Elam and was just barely beaten off. A second Babylonian attack succeeded, however, and the whole of Elam was apparently overrun, ending the Middle Elamite period.
It is noteworthy that during the Middle Elamite period, the old system of succession to, and distribution of, power appears to have broken down. Increasingly, son succeeded father, and less is heard of divided authority within a federated system. This probably reflects an effort to increase the central authority at Susa in order to conduct effective military campaigns abroad and to hold Elamite foreign conquests. The old system of regionalism balanced with federalism must have suffered, and the fraternal, sectional strife that so weakened Elam in the Neo-Elamite period may have had its roots in the centrifugal developments of the 13th and 12th centuries.
Neo-Elamite Period

A long period of darkness separates the Middle and Neo-Elamite periods. In 742 BC a certain Huban-nugash is mentioned as king in Elam. The land appears to have been divided into separate principalities, with the central power fairly weak.


The next 100 years witnessed the constant attempts of the Elamites to interfere in Mesopotamian affairs, usually in alliance with Babylon, against the constant pressure of Neo-Assyrian expansion. At times they were successful with this policy, both militarily and diplomatically, but, on the whole, they were forced to give way to increasing Assyrian power. Local Elamite dynastic troubles were, from time to time, compounded by both Assyrian and Babylonian interference. Meanwhile, the Assyrian army whittled away at Elamite power and influence in Luristan. In time, these internal and external pressures resulted in the near total collapse of any meaningful central authority in Elam. In a series of campaigns between 692 and 639 BC, in an effort to clean up a political and diplomatic mess that had become a chronic headache for the Assyrians, Ashurbanipal’s armies utterly destroyed Susa, pulling down buildings, looting, and sowing the land of Elam with salt.


Aryans' Immigration

The overwhelming majority of historical sources regard the people of present Persia (Iran) descendants of Aryans who are thought to have migrated from some far northern land towards south including the present land of Persia, destroyed native people and civilizations and replaced them. The date of this great migration is speculated to be sometimes between 3000 to 5000 years ago. Similarly, speculations on the point of origin of this great history-making shift includes a vast area from west, north and center of Europe to east of Asia, Baltic Sea, Scandinavian peninsula, north plains of central Asia and Caucasus, Siberia and even the north pole. This very disagreement and lack of unquestionable evidences on the exact geographical homeland of these Aryans point to the soundlessness of such speculations. Most of contemporary historical texts end the account of the land of origin and this great migration with a few short obscure and inexact statements without giving any sound reasons for such an important move. They usually suffice to present a map with a few large arrows drawn from Siberia to Caspian Sea and central plains of Persia.
The persistence of above dubious speculations is very interesting because it is now a known historical fact that the basic underlying reason for any human migration and shift of civilization is always a quest to find ‘better living conditions’ and in antiquity this ‘better living conditions’ basically meant more water and fertile land. Therefore, if on one hand we manage to prove that natural and climatic environment of Iranian Plateau was one of the most suitable one for human settlements at that time and on the other hand show that life conditions on far northern regions of this plateau (i.e. the hypothetical origin of Aryans) were far away from what is called ‘suitable environment,’ then not only we can seriously question the validity of the above theories in relation to the path and direction of the above migration, but show that it most probably took place in the opposite direction, that is from Persia (Iran) to other parts of the world.
As any population increase can only occur under most suitable ecological conditions, the first urgent question is how could this occur under such harsh freezing cold conditions as Siberia to give rise to the idea of migration to a climatically more favorable environment such as Persia? More interesting is the fact that this unsound undocumented theory is continuing to perpetuate while none of the archaeological and geological field studies carried out in the region in question (i.e. the hypothetical original land of Aryans) show traces and signs of the presence of any significant settlements there.
In this article we put forward a more documented hypothesis that Persians or Iranians did not migrate to Persia with Aryans, but it was Aryans, including native people of Persia or Iran that migrated ‘in Iran’ and ‘from Iran’ to other parts of the world.
Climatological Evidences

The last ice age on earth began approximately 14000 years ago and ended around 10000 years ago. These ice ages led to formation of huge glaciers and icebergs in poles and rainfall in mid altitudes including Persia. Sedimentations of inner craters reveal that during warm periods between ice ages, Persia witnessed intense rainfalls that resulted in the emergence of humid climate and forestation on the Iranian plateau and during the cold time of ice ages welcomed cold dry weather. Archaeo-geological evidences show that around 10000 years ago and with the termination of the last ice age, warm humid climatic started to rule Iran. They also show that with the onset of warm humid period and retraction of icebergs to the north pole, the amount of rainfall gradually increased until it reached 4 to 5 times of its present amount around 5500 to 6000 years ago. Subsequently the water level of regional seas rose and reached its highest level filling up all the hollows, deserts, valleys and waterways. This is the period that in various mythologies is referred to as Jamshid’s era and Noah’s Flood. An increase in rainfall and floods occurred once more around 4500 years ago, but it soon started to decline and a drought and hot dry climate started to emerge around 4000 years ago reaching its climax about 3800 years ago. This coincided with the great shift of civilization in the Iranian plateau and decline and disappearance of many of ancient settlements, cities and villages in Persia.
The warm humid climate that occurred 4000 to 1000 years ago led to emergence of lush vegetation and massive forests all over Persia and even on present dry barren deserts. In that period of tremendous forestation and regression of deserts, a green flourishing land emerged in great Persia and northern regions of present Afghanistan were covered with vast savannas and humid lush meadows. Abundant forests in north of Afghanistan and particularly its west side called Badgheys (Vaiti gaes in Avesta) is referred to in Pahlavi version of Bundahisn (primal creation or cosmology) as follows: “Vatgisan is a place full of trees.” This climatic situation of north of present Afghanistan is described in historical texts of middle ages. In his moruj ol-zahab, Massudi speaks of the beautiful city of Balkh (Bactria) with its lush vegetations and numerous fields. Vaez Balkhi speaks of hundred thousand trees of Balkh in his Virtues of Balkh and quoting Shahriyar Samanid, Nezami Arouzi regards it a superior heaven due to its flourishing green land and Farih Sayah, considers meadows of Badgheys the best in Asia. Today, large parts of Badgheys and Balkh consist of dry sand deserts. They are particularly seen around Kerman and Sistan with far greater vastness, while in historical texts of two millennia ago refer to the presence of forests and meadows in these areas. At that time, Persia possessed rich meadows and wild animals. Many ponds, marshes and lakes with sweet water which were the dwelling place of aquatic animals and birds and many vast lush forests and reedy lands existed there. According to the above data, the warm rainy climate ruled all over Persia from 4000 to 10000 years ago. In addition, the surface of the earth, rivers and their springs was lower and that of lakes and ponds higher than today. Consequently all main craters, hollows and low lands on the shores of lakes, valleys and deserts and present dry rivers were filled with abundant sweet water and Persia was entirely covered with flourishing vast meadows and possessed rich animal and plant products, thus a suitable place for human life.


Archaeological Evidences

Archaeological findings and indications also affirm the presence of warm humid climatic conditions throughout Persia from 4000 – 10000 years ago. On one hand a great part of local ancient hills and old settlements studied so far belong to the same period of 6000 years of warm rainy climate, dispersed along barren deserts, dry rivers and salt marshes which points to the existence of better climatic conditions at the time of their emergence and persistence. Establishment of these civilizations along dry salty deserts indicate that there must have been abundant amount of sweet water with present dry rivers next to those hills providing sufficient amount of drinking water for the inhabitants of nearby cities and villages. On the other hand, there is no sign of ancient hills by the shores of present seas. Ancient hills located in the south or by the shores of the Persian Gulf are separated by hundred kilometers which indicates that during the ice ages, the water level of south seas must have been lower than today and with the increase of the water level, all human settlements were sunk. Meanwhile, in between the ice ages when the water level of south seas was higher and the surface of the earth was lower and sedimentations resulting from the three rivers, Tigris, Euphrates and Karoon were less, the Persian Gulf extended to Susa and Sumeria. Sumerian inscriptions deal with the penetration of water into Mesopotamia and refer to the city of Erido as a city located by seashores. Ancient settlements in the north were only a few kilometers away from the shores of Caspian Sea which shows that its water level must have been higher than today. In addition, the remainders of ancient dams, including those over valleys and waterways of Khajeh Mountain in Sistan indicate the presence of higher amount of rainfall at that time. Those dams provided the required water for temples and other buildings located on top of the Khajeh Mountain. Today, not only those waterways, but also the Hamoun Lake have dried up. Recent short periods of drought in Persia showed that even a short period of decreased rainfall is enough to dry out lakes, ponds and large rivers and consequently lead to rapid destruction of animal and vegetation life. Drying out of the Arjan Lake in Fars and the Zayandeh Rud River in Esfahan are prominent examples of such threatening phenomenon. Archaeological indications and existing sedimentations prove the occurrence of numerous floods around 5500 years ago. An example is the findings derived from excavations of Qarah Tapeh by Mir Abedin Kaboli in Qomrud region carried out with the goal of recording changes resulting from those floods. On the basis of Mir Abedin Kaboli’s findings, a tremendous flood occurred around 5500 years ago that led to abandonment of Qomrud region and immigration of people to higher neighboring regions.
In addition, images of gazelle, elephant, deer and aquatic birds and animals including even turtles, fish and crabs point to favorable climatic conditions in those areas at the flourishing time of corresponding civilizations. Here it is necessary to refer to a vital point. Up to now, with the exception of some dispersed scant evidences (such as collective or hill graves) found on the northern parts of the Aral Lake, scientists have found no evidence for the presence of any significant human settlement in any of those regions regarded as the original Aryan home land – that is Siberia, north of central Asia and Caucasus – during the time when favorable climatic conditions for the growth of human societies ruled over the Iranian Plateau. What has been found in those areas so far have just been cold non-inhabitable weather and icebergs remaining from ice ages and any trace of civilization found there, usually belong to later ages and as the result of migration of Iranians and other tribes to those regions.

Mythological Evidences and Old Texts

From the mythological point of view, the famous story of the great flood – found in various forms in almost all major cultures of the world - is a reminder of the existence of some actual humid rainy period on earth in the past. In Pahalvi texts, including Bundahisn, we read that Tishtar (star of rain) produced such tremendous amount of rain that later gave rise to all seas and consequent rise of water on earth led to division of dry lands into seven regions or countries.
A demon (div) called Mahrak Usha in Vidivdat (pronounced as Vandidad in Persian, old Zoroastrian text), Malkush in some Pahlavi Epistles and Malkus in Menok i Xrat (Minu-ye Kherad, heavenly reason) is a terrifying demon who brings tremendous amount of rain, snow and hail for years on earth. According to Vidivdat, Ahuramazda warns Jamshid about it and orders him to make a shelter called Var to tend a pair of all creatures of the world, from humans to birds and animals and plants and seeds, also fire and all other useful things under it until the defeat of that demon when the flood subdued and favorable life conditions started to re-appear again. Similarly, Hindus believe that Manu was caught in a great storm, but Vishnu who had turned himself into a fish with a large horn, led Manu’s ship to land on northern mountains. Vishnu had warned Manu about the storm before and had ordered him to be prepared for it. When the ship safely landed on those mountains Manu ordered the seven scientists the pair of all living creatures of the earth on board leave the ship and populate the earth again. Manu had seeds of all plants with him too. The phrase ‘northern mountains’ often found in legends of Indians living along the shores of Sand and Punjab Rivers is a clear allusion to their migration from Pamir and Badakhshan mountains in present Afghanistan which were important regions of Persia once. Another version of the great storm is the Noah’s Flood whose oldest account belongs to Sumerians. Later, it was adopted by Babylonians and Acadians and finally appeared in the Testament. The story of flood is also found in ancient Chinese texts. According to Books of Bamboo written under the reign of Yu, the founder of Shia dynasty, a great flood seized the entire Chinese empire up to highest hills. Yu competently managed to subdue it in a period of thirteen years.
References to ancient seas that no longer exist are also found in the works of famous Persian scientist, Abu Reyhan Birooni. In his book called tahdid nahayaat ol-amaaken, when writing about the construction of the Suez Channel by Persian kings, Birooni speaks of a sea in the place of Egyptian low lands; a sea whose description is also found in Herodotus’ writings. Birooni believed that this sea used to be so vast that ships not only traveled on the Nile River, but on present dry lands surrounding the Pyramids which they passed when heading for Memphis. Oral legends and stories narrated by the people living in the central dry land of Iranian plateau today, approves of the existence of a huge sea instead of the present deserts. I have listened to various stories in cities of Damghan, Saveh, Kashan, Zavvareh, Meybod, Naa-inn, and Yazd which refer to a large sea, numerous islands, seaports and harbors and even to pharos.
Finally, we should point out two other facts. The first is the account of the second fargard of Videvdat and expansion of land and population increase under the reign of Jamshid and their migration toward Nimrouz (midday) and the path of sun. To me the phrase toward Nimrouz or south is an allusion to hot midday sun and the temperature increase and not to a new dwelling land. The supplementary phrase ‘the path of sun’ clarifies the direction of dispersion which is from east to west. The other fact is the story of Fereydoon in Ferdosi’s Shahnameh and division of kingship between his three sons, Iraj, Salm and Tur which is an allusion to Iranian migration from the heart of Persia to eastern and western lands and the subsequent war that Salm and Tur waged against their small brother is an allusion to inhabitants of eastern and western regions of Persia waging war against their original homeland.
However, after this golden age, that is around 3800 to 4000 years ago, a great drought and famine occurred and the warm humid period is followed by a hot dry age. At that time the water level lowered rapidly and smaller lakes and rivers dried out creating a great crisis for human settlements. The crisis that started with water shortage rapidly led to shortage of food, stagnation and destruction of agriculture, expansion of deserts, destruction of meadows and natural environment with numerous grave consequences. The drought drove people, who had descended from heights after the flood and brought about prosperity to their previous lands, to search for more suitable living places and migrate in spite of their will. This of course led to disputes, struggles, wars on the existing scarce resources and subsequent evident destructions and ruins proved by archaeological excavations of nearly all ancient Persian hills as ‘the end of human life around 4000 years ago together with a layer of ruins and ash.’ This layer of ruins and ash is not the result of Aryan attack, but the result of struggles and wars on limited human resources which lasted until 3500 years ago. This is a period that we scarcely find any traces of life in ancient hills, except in a few site situated in the western south regions and Mesopotamian cities. These years of relative silence in the history of Persia is very similar to the reign of Zahak in Ferdosi’s Shahnameh.
At the end of this period and concurrently with the onset of Iron Age, that is around 3500 years ago, the weather gradually started to ameliorate and prepared the grounds for expansion and prosperity of new Persian civilizations which regained their previous favorable climatic environment around 2800 years ago.
On the basis of above facts, the theory of Aryan migration from north toward the present Persia and Asia Minor does not seem feasible. What is more probable is that Aryans are native people who lived on this land due to its most favorable living conditions since antiquity. This is supported by abundant traces of civilizations found while there is no trace of any similar settlements in any nearby places. Cultural and civil changes of the Iron Age are indeed the rational development of the Bronze Age and not the result of the arrival of another tribe to the region. These native Aryans migrated to the high lands during the intense increase in rainfall and returned to their previous lowlands after the intense decrease in rainfall. They migrated from the heart of Persia at least twice after the great flood:

1- Once after regression of seas and lakes and drying out of marshes remaining from the great flood when they descended from neighboring mountains and migrated to fertile lands and sedimentary plains which was naturally a vertical migration from high to low lands. The onset of these shifts was in the middle of the humid warm period and after the intense rainfalls known as the storm of Jamshid’s reign or the Noah’s Flood in 5500 years ago. Two great migrations are two examples of this kind of migration: first the Aryan Indian migration from the Hindukoush Mountains to newly dried out lands of Panjab and shores of the Sand River recorded in Rig Vedas. The second is the Elamite and Sumerian migration from western mountains of Persia to newly dried marshes of Khuzestan and Mesopotamia. There are clear references to the Sumerian migration from ‘the east’ to Sumeria or Shinar in the Old Testament (Genesis, chapter one). They brought the idea of establishment of a new civilization to the Nile valley and Egypt. There are also hypotheses about Phoenician migration from shores of the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean shores. On the other hand, we know Sumerians were physically very similar to present inhabitants of Baluchestan and Afghanistan and the Sand Valley. Their artistic and architectural works testify that the Sumerian civilization and the north west Indian civilization were similar to eastern Persian civilization and perhaps undoubtedly originate from the same source. Recent excavations by Yusef Majidzadeh in Jiroft are additional proof for such hypothesis.
2- Once again, there were migrations during the drought occurring 3500 to 4000 years ago in search of more suitable dwelling places from Persia or in Sumerian words from “Sacred motherland” to other lands, abandoning living places prepared 5500 years ago and in which they lived 1500 years due to climatic unpleasant events.
3- Various tribes and peoples lived in the ancient land of great Persia; one and perhaps the general cultural name of all of them was Aryan. All present Persian tribes and people are offspring of those old tribes and people, including Aryans who migrated many times in harmony with climatic changes from high to low lands and vice versa. It is not possible to attribute the beginning of Persian history to the idea of a migration in an unknown time, from an unknown place, to an un destination and through unknown path and only regard them as the ancestors of present Persians.
4- In ancient Persian beliefs, ‘North’ or “Apakhtar” is the headquarter of Ahriman (devil), the dwelling place of div-s (demons) and evil-doers on the entrance way to Hell. If the northern lands were Persian original motherland, they would never talk about it in this way. On the basis of all the above facts discussed here briefly, it seems that Persians (Iranians) did not migrate with Aryans to Persia (Iran), but migrated ‘in Persia’ and ‘from Persia’ and moved to other places.

The Median Dynastic Empire


The Medes (Persian mādhā), were an Iranian people who lived in the north, western, and northwestern portions of present-day Iran.


The Medes are credited with the foundation of Iran as a nation and an empire. their domain was corresponding to the mainland-Iran, north of Khvarvarana and Asuristan (nowadays northern-Iraq),


The inhabitants, who were known as Medes, and their neighbors, the Persians, spoke Median languages (of the Western-Iranian group of languages), that was closely related to Aryan (Old Persian). Historians know very little about the Iranian culture under the Median » Read more

U.S spy drone and Iran's high capabilities

These days, U.S. drone is the name which has become a familiar name for the entire world and as an honor for Iranians.

It drew the attraction of people and media from all over the world. All the major and popular news media around the world published it as their headline. According to the news, Iranians based on their strong scientific power, took the control of America’s spy plane and captured it.

All people and media confessed to high scientific and defensive power of the Islamic Republic of Iran so that Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, said in an interesting comment that: “Iranians have unusual talent in the field of cyber operations and Americans are not able to recognize it.” » Read more

Why does Iran and Israel have bad relationships

The Islamic Republic of Iran declared officially its non-recognition of Israel since the very beginning of its foundation, denying the legitimacy of the Israeli State. This article seeks to explain the foreign policy of Iran towards Israel through a survey of the relations between the two countries.

After the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the relations between Iran and Israel were immediately severed and the former embassy of Israel lay at the disposal of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Obviously, the Islamic Revolution, one of the major goals of which being its support of Muslims throughout the world, the Palestine cause lay on the top of its objectives and » Read more

Yalda - Shab-e Cheleh

Yalda, a Syric word imported into the Persian language by the Syric Christians means birth (tavalud and melaad are from the same origin). It is a relatively recent arrival and it is refereed to the “Shab e Cheleh Festival” a celebration of Winter Solstice on December 21st. Forty days before the next major Persian festival “Jashn e Sadeh” this night has been celebrated in countless cultures for thousands of years. The ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia (God of Agriculture, Saturn) and Sol Invicta (Sun God) are amongst the best known in the Western world.

In most ancient cultures, including Persia, the start of the solar year has been marked to celebrate the victory of light over darkness » Read more

Review of Iran’s Achievements in International Scientific Olympiads

If the name of Mount Olympus has given rise to Olympics Games as an international sports event, the word “Olympiad” is also reminiscent of scientific competitions among young people from different nationalities. About 44 years ago mathematics teachers from Romania founded a series of mathematical competitions at their high schools and the first competition was held the next year, thus giving birth to the first mathematics Olympiad in the world. After the positive results of such competitions were observed, other Olympiads came into being and, at present, chemistry Olympiad is 34 years old, physics Olympiad is 33 years old, and informatics Olympiad is 14 years old. This development has been a major positive event in the world and has continued as a venue for talented » Read more

Stem Cell Science in Iran

Stem Cell Science in Iran


Stem Cell Science in Iran
David W.G. Morrison1 and Ali Khademhosseini1,2
1 Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 02139.
2 Center for Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women‟s Hospital, Cambridge, MA, 02139.
Correspondence email: » Read more

Pages:123456Next »