A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - For centuries, Mesopotamia was thought to be the world's oldest civilization and this was generally accepted by the people until a 5,000-year old temple was accidentally discovered in Jiroft Historical Site in Iran's southern Kerman province.
In 2000, floods along the Halil River stretching for some 390 km running in the Jiroft and Kahnuj districts of Kerman Province, Iran, revealed thousands of previously unknown tombs and since 2002, excavations in Jiroft began to reveal the cultural and historical remains of the region.
This event prompted archaeologists to identify the region as the world's oldest cradle of human civilization.
It has long been hypothesized that Jiroft is the legendary land of Aratta, a 'lost' Bronze Age kingdom of renown.
According to texts dating from around 2100 BC, Aratta was a beautifully decorated capital with a citadel fashioned with green lapis lazuli and its lofty towers of bright red brick.
Aratta's artistic production was famous and highly regarded.
About 2500 BC the Sumerian king Enmerkar sent a message to the ruler of Aratta requesting that artisans and architects be dispatched to his capital, Uruk, to build a temple to honor Inanna, the goddess of fertility and war.
Enmerkar addressed his letter to Inanna:
'Oh sister mine, make Aratta, for Uruk’s sake, skillfully work gold and silver for me! (Make them cut for me) translucent lapis lazuli in blocks, (Make them prepare for me) electrum and translucent lapis!' prayed the Sumerian ruler.
Many valuable objects, including two clay inscriptions carrying the oldest human scripts, have been unearthed during authorized excavations in the region.
Among many fascinating artifacts of great value, there are two remarkable stone reliefs unearthed in the Kenar Sandal area in Jiroft. They are carved on soapstones and depict two men with human faces and snake bodies, instead of legs.
"These reliefs were carved on soapstones. They are 25 by 17 centimeters in size with a thickness of about 1.5 centimeters," said Professor Yousof Majidzadeh, head of excavation team in Jiroft.
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'This is the first time that such stone reliefs of creatures that are half-human and half-snake have been discovered in this historical site.
However, carvings of scorpion-like human beings on stones and eagle reliefs had previously been discovered in this historical site. These stone reliefs were carved on a flat stone, and there are 12 circles on the arms of each of them.
Most probably, this flat piece of stone had an entertainment usage some 5000 years ago, something like today's backgammon. These circles are carved around the arms and the chests of the carved figures,' explained Majidzadeh, who believe that Jiroft is the legendary land of Aratta.
'When one imagines that Uruk was the heart of the Sumerian civilization and that its king is asking another ruler about 2000 kilometers (1200 mi) distant to send his artisans, one realizes that the quality of their work must have been extraordinary,” Madjidzadeh explains.
'The craftsmen must have been known all over. Today there is no doubt in my mind that Jiroft was Aratta.'
Professor Majidzadeh's team uncovered more than two square kilometers of remains from a city dating back to at least the late 3rd millennium BC and these remain support theories proposing the remains belong to a forgotten culture known as the Jiroft civilization and also shed light on other ancient cultures that flourished in Mesopotamia in the third and fourth millennia BC.
A large number of stone and clay objects from the third millennium BC were discovered during archeological excavations but unfortunately, illegal excavations of the smugglers operating in Jiroft site before 2001, resulted in the loss of some invaluable evidence.
These historical treasures were then sold to museums and private collections outside the country.
Written by – A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com Senior Staff Writer
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Expand for references
MUSCARELLA, OSCAR WHITE. "Jiroft and "Jiroft-Aratta" A Review Article of Yousef Madjidzadeh, "Jiroft: The Earliest Oriental Civilization"." Bulletin of the Asia Institute, New Series, 15 (2001): 173-98
Touraj Daryaee, The Oxford Handbook of Iranian History
Cais Archaeological And Cultural News.