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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Mobile villages and dynamic landscapes: the Varamin Plain from the late 5th to the early 3rd mill. BCE

Applicants: Professor Dr. Reinhard Bernbeck
Freie Universität Berlin
Institut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie
Professorin Dr. Susan Pollock
Freie Universität Berlin
Institut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie
Subject Area: Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies
Term: since 2019
Project identifier: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) - Projekt number 424609853

Project Description

Iranian excavations in 2006-2011 at the late 4th mill. BCE site of Tappeh Sofalin in the Varamin Plain of north-central Iran recovered numerous artifacts of a complex accounting system, including inscribed clay tablets, sealings, and seals dating to the Proto-Elamite period. Unlike neighboring Mesopotamia, where a similar administrative system was associated with the emergence of large urban centers, the appearance of Proto-Elamite administrative artifacts across the central plateau of Iran was accompanied by an overall decline in settlement and only modest increases in the sizes of the largest sites. A number of scholars have postulated that these settlement patterns attest to the fundamental role of pastoral nomadism in the development of complex societies in highland Iran.In this project, we re-examine mobility as an important factor in settlement and economic patterns of the 4th mill. BCE. In contrast to the nomadism thesis, we reconsider evidence for long-term patterns of mobility, examining their connections to a highly dynamic natural environment in the Varamin Plain. The project investigates the changing strategies used by 4th mill. societies to make a living in the context of challenging natural circumstances. We posit that varying rhythms, frequencies, and forms of social and economic mobility were crucial elements of resilience in this region.