Introduction to Tepe Sialk
When traveling to different parts of Persia, we encounter various historical and natural spots with their history. Kashan is a desert city in the heart of Iran that has become popular among tourists due to its many historical attractions. One of the historical spots is the Tepe Sialk, the site of the first human urban civilization, and has 7000 years old due to the archaeologists’ estimation. Undoubtedly, a trip to one of the first places of Persian civilization and urbanization will be interesting for archeology and history enthusiasts. Sialk hill is an ancient region in the Fin region, southwest of Kashan. Entering the Sialk hill, a high hill appears in front of your eyes. At first, the hill does not reveal to the visitors what is in its heart. Just climb the hill to see the pieces of pottery that have fallen in the corners. A little further on, you will see archeological excavations in the form of deep holes. The region is known as the first civilization of urban life in the central area of Persia. Sialk consists of two hills, north and south, which are about six hundred meters apart.
History of Tepe Sialk
The cave dwellers of the Central Plateau of Persia, following the climate and the farms’ formation changes, turned to the plains and began a new life about five thousand years BC. The oldest people of the plains were the Silak citizens near Kashan, where traces of their life have been found. On the hill, writings related to the pre-Achaemenid period have also been found. According to archives, the Sialk Hills inhabitants’ civilization was defeated by the Aryan’s, and their only relics have been found in various excavation layers. Valuable historical heritage as the oldest hand-made clay, Sialk ziggurats, and painted pottery has been obtained from the Sialk site. More than 90 years have passed since the discovery and beginning of excavations in the ancient site of Sialk.
Around 1131 the floods in the agricultural lands paved the way for discovering the several thousand years of civilization; Tools and pottery were found that were distinctive from the previously discovered ones, which aroused everyone’s astonishment and curiosity. A lost civilization that had survived natural disasters for thousands of years brought the world’s attention and drew the most famous archaeologists of the time to Iran. At this time, many people made clumsy excavations in the area to discover and sell historical artifacts. These precious artifacts were sold to antique dealers that led to exported items from Persia. Realizing the great ancientness of the antiques, Sialk became a hotbed of looters.
After finding several historical artifacts from the Sialk Tepe in Western museums, it was discovered that a treasure trove of history was buried on the land, therefore, Roman Ghirshman, an archeology employee of the Louvre Museum in Paris, traveled to Persia to visit Sialk, the natural museum, and save the history of human civilization from profiteers. The disinterring carried out by Roman Ghirshman and his entourage on and around Sialk Hill consist of three chapters. The results of these cavities were published in two volumes in French. Persian Cultural Heritage Publications has translated them entitled “Kashan Sialk.” In the excavations, Roman estimates that Sialk is about ten thousand years old. Unfortunately, after Roman Ghirshman finished his work, the hill was left unconsidered. In 2001, Persian archaeologist Dr. Sadegh Malek Shahmirzadi and a group he had collected from around the world were chosen by the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization to explore the area. Until 2006, he conducted five seasons of excavations on Tepe Sialk and published the valuable results in writing.
Explorers’ discoveries in Kashan Sialk Hill
Disinterring at Tepe Sialk uncovered a Sialk shrine, called a ziggurat in Akkadian. Additionally, the skeletons of several people along with ancient vessels are other relevant discoveries of the region, some of which are kept in the Louvre Museum in Paris and others in the Museum of the Fim Garden in Kashan. According to archeological observations, the inhabitants of this civilization buried dead bodies under the room floor. There was no paving, nor bricks on the rooms’ floors, plus the interior walls of the rooms were made of ocher clay. They seem to have been burying the dead body in a squatting position and placing various objects next to them inside the grave. During varying terms of excavation in the area, several objects have been extracted from the core of the earth each time; From the dead bones and the homes of ancient tribes to old utensils, valuable jewelry, tiles, metals, pottery, and tools of life and work.
The ancient Shrine of Tepe Sialk
Dr. Malek Shahmirzadi and his excavation team discovered the Kashan Sialk Hill with muddy walls. Today, several human bones and ancient vessels found in the area are on exhibit in museums outside Persia, such as the Louvre Museum in France. The rest are kept in the National Museum of Iran, the Museum of the Fin Garden, and the museum next to the ancient site. Shredded pottery dating back several thousand years is scattered on and around the hillside. Some work tools are made of metal, which shows the ability of these people to melt metals. In the southern part of Sialk, kilns for melting metals have been discovered, indicating that the Sialk civilization is one of the most advanced ones of antiquity. Also, the existence of weaving and spinning shops presents the existence of the spinning and weaving industry in such a civilization, which indicates the development of the textile industry in the tribes of that time.
The natives and their occupations
The discovery of the remaining pottery kilns, and pottery found in the ancient site of Sialk, has provided archaeologists with a wealth of anthropological information from six different historical periods. Geometric, plant, and animal motifs on the pottery on the hill belong to the first and second historical periods of seven thousand years ago. The inhabitants of the early age had temporary huts made of reeds and twigs. During this period, stratified walls were discovered, and in the second period, hand-made bricks appeared to build houses. The people of this era were engaged in hunting, agriculture, and shepherding. In the third period, about 6,000 years ago, they went to the southern parts of the hill and built pottery cycles in special ovens with controllable heat. Moreover, human motifs were added to the previous ones in pottery, and Sialk artisans were able to extract silver from its ore, making ornaments.
The beginning of urbanization
The fourth period, five thousand years ago, was the beginning of the Sialk people’s urbanization. The emergence of writing and calligraphy is a significant cultural change in this period. Cylindrical beads painted in various shapes in this period represent the commercial progress of the people living in Sialk Hill. The fifth period, about 3,200 years ago, deals with the migration of new settlers to Sialk.
The most important culture of these tribes is making gray pottery, which is one of the best types of historical pottery in terms of beauty, strength, and fire resistance. The sixth period was associated with the emergence of pottery in the shape of animals, birds and various decorations besides burial use.
Sialk Hill Ziggurat
Tepe Sialk was a ziggurat or shrine of ancient residents made of clay and pottery. Ziggurat is a particular style of religious architecture that has been common in Persia and Mesopotamia, and accordingly, it was constructed in a pyramidal tower form. Thirty-two ziggurats have been identified in these regions, belonging to historical periods from the Orenmo era, the founder of the Ur dynasty, to the time of Assyrian King, Banipal. There are three ziggurats of Susa (Shush), Haft Tappeh (Tepe), and Tchogha Zanbil (Choghazanbil) in Persia, and Sialk ziggurat is the fourth one discovered on the Persian plateau. Since the discovery, the ziggurat should no longer be considered a Sumerian structure; Rather, it can be identified as an architectural style that has emerged from the centre of the Persian plateau.