The Iranian highlands: Mining regions of the Central Plateau between resilient and precarious societal and economic strategies.

Applicant: Professor Dr. Thomas Stöllner
Deutsches Bergbau-Museum (DBM)
Forschungsstelle Archäologie und Materialwissenschaft
Forschungsbereich Montanarchäologie
Subject Area: Prehistory
Term: since 2019
Project identifier: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) - Projekt number 424635418

Project Description

The arid highlands of Iran are characterized by an enormous richness in mineral resources. Although the region is dominated by the poverty of water, by pastoral systems and horticultural systems in oases, sustainable strategies were achieved by highland societies to manage to manage the exploitation of these resources and to establish their exploitation and to establish very specific raw material regimes that were able to distribute this wealth. The societal and economic influence can be envisaged especially during the beginnings of metallurgy during the 5th and 4th mill. BCE, in the initial phases of the Iron Age and especially during the Achaemenid and Sasanian empires when mineral resources became important factors of political strategies. This was possible on the basis of rural systems that were capable of developing resilient living and subsistence strategies that allowed exploitation of local and regional resources successfully and continuously. Important adaptations to landscape and climate conditions can be observed in rural life worlds from the North-West to the South-East of Iran alongside the mountainous backbone of the Iranian deposits, the Urumieh-Dokhtar copper belt. This project aims to investigate different technical, economic and social concepts that went alongside metal ore and salt mining and exploitation in that vast region. This will provide insight into specific strategies of highland communities and their change from prehistoric to historical periods. Besides the salt-mining landscape around the salt-mine of Chehrabad, the project plans to investigate mining and metallurgical production-centres and their settlement and subsistence systems near Takestan and Shakin (Qazvin province), the area of the copper and lead-zinc deposits of Anarak (Nakhlak and Baqoroq), and the early copper mining society of Tall-i Iblis at the Bardsir-valley in Kerman. Examples of four different time-periods will be investigated by help of surveys, small-scale excavations in mines and single settlement and production-sites and compared to each other in a structural sense (layout of installations and infrastructure, subsistence strategy, economic strategy).