The Iranian Highlands:

Resiliences and Integration in Pre-modern Societies

A cooperation among the DFG, RICHT/ICAR and MCTH
Funded in the framework of the DFG-SPP 2176

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Dynamics of Development and Transformations of Ownership in Western Fars: The Bozpar Valley (Bushehr Region, Iran)

Applicant: Professor Dr. Stefan R. Hauser
Universität Konstanz
Fach Geschichte
Professur für Archäologie der altmediterranen und vorderasiatischen Kulturen
Subject Area: Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies
Term: since 2019
Project identifier: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) - Projekt number 424639275

Project Description

The south-western Iranian province of Fars is known as the origin of the two Persian empires of the Achaemenids and Sasanians. But in defiance of the long-standing interest in their history and in the light of limited archaeological research, the history of the wider Fars region even in those periods is only partially understood. Particularly in western Fars settlement dynamics and changes in the social structure are difficult to reconstruct. Current debates concern the role of nomads in the region’s history and differences between Arsacid and Sasanian as well as Sasanian and early Islamic rule and material culture, which appears ambiguous. The proposed project on the Bozpar valley in western Fars attempts to contribute meaningful to these questions.Bozpar is a small, secluded valley in the Zagros mountains (Bushehr province). While Herzfeld documented Sasanian monuments in the neighboring Sar Mashhad plain in 1924, Bozpar valley was first visited in 1961. Vanden Berghe noticed numerous ruins and reported a (post-)Achaemenid tomb, related to Cyros’ II tomb in Pasargadae, and ruins of two late Sasanian (or early Islamic) representative buildings (Kushk-e Bala and Kushk-e Ardashir). Recently, Askari Chaverdi (2014) indicated four additional sites which he dated to post-Achaemenid times. Still, satellite images reveal a number of ancient settlements and extensive water management features, notably 25 km of canals and qanat. Moreover, many of them appear to belong to Kushk-e Bala, a near palatial complex.A micro-regional study which combines survey, geophysical work, architectural analysis and target-oriented excavations offers excellent perspectives for(1) a detailed reconstruction of the valley’s history, land organization and water management through the ages with wider implications for transformation processes across Fars. Traces of nomadic activities might contribute to the current controversy about the role of transhumancy in the wider area in (pre-)historic times. The spatial relationship between several tepe and their relation to water resources might allow to model land-use by smaller communities, mostly in (post-)Achaemenid times.(2) Special emphasis is placed on the Sasanian/early Islamic period. The presence of monumental structures seems contemporary to a realignment of the valley’s irrigation system. This suggest a fundamental transformation of land ownership and land use, i.e., changes in its resource regime and of social institutions, probably as part of a political and social restructuring of large parts of the Sasanian Empire. The complex of Kushk-e Bala could thus be the first archaeological example for a country residence of a dehghan, the landed gentry, which in the 6th century became the backbone of Sasanian authority. Therefore, the Bozpar valley micro-study on resilience and social change could have intense repercussions for the historical description of Fars, and the poorly researched Western Fars region in particular.