Archeologists and surveyors plan to draw up an archeological map of the Iranian southern city of Jiroft, home to a 5,000 year old civilization.
Nicknamed as "The Lost Paradise" by experts, historical sites of Jiroft are located by the bank of Halil River, which covers 8450 sq km and houses artifacts dating from the Neolithic to Islamic period.
"The historical settlement of Halil River has relics from 7,000 years ago and is considered one of the earliest urban centers around the world. That's why we have decided to produce its archeological map," said Nader Alidad Suleimani, an expert with Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (CHTO) in Kerman. The historical site of Jiroft, located in Kerman, is one of the richest civilization sites of the world, encompassing invaluable remains and items from the third millennium B.C. and with more than 100 historical areas in just 400 kilometers of Halil Rood riverbank.
Many great Iranian and foreign experts see the findings in Jiroft as signs of a civilization as great as that of Sumeria and Mesopotamia. In January 2001 a group of Iranians from Jiroft in the southwestern province of Kerman stumbled upon an ancient tomb. Inside they found a hoard of objects decorated with highly distinctive engravings of animals, mythological figures and architectural motifs.
They did not realize it at the time but they had just made one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries of recent years, one that is radically altering accepted notions of the development of the world's earliest civilizations in Iran and Mesopotamia between the fourth and third millennia BC. A few weeks after the discovery, officials from Iran's Ministry of Culture, vastly outnumbered by local people, watched hopelessly as thousands systematically dug up the area. The locals set up a highly organized impromptu system to manage the looting: each family was allocated an equal plot of six square-meters to dig.
This organized pillaging continued for an entire year. Dozens of tombs were discovered, some containing up to 60 objects, and thousands of ancient objects were removed. All of these were destined for overseas markets.
In February 2002 Iran's Islamic police finally arrived in force to stop the destruction. Some 2,000 objects were confiscated from locals in Jiroft and other hoards of the ancient artifacts ready to be shipped overseas were seized in Tehran and at Bandar Abbas.
The objects confiscated by the police are unlike anything ever seen before by archeologists. Many are made from chlorite, a gray-green soft stone; others are in copper, bronze, terracotta, even lapis lazuli. They are now being studied by a group of Iranian archaeologists led by Dr. Madjidzadeh. Official excavation of the site began in February 2003. It is focusing on both the necropolis, which was looted extensively, and on an ancient settlement not discovered by the looters.
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