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In Search of Achaemenid Remains in Parthian City


While looking for evidence of the Median civilization in Ecbatana historic hill in Hamadan, remains of the Parthian civilization were discovered. New season of excavations in this ancient hill will focus on the rich civilizations of the Parthians and the Achaemenids.

Ecbatana Ancient Hill, Hamedan

Tehran, 2 November 2006 (CHN) -- Last year, archeologists started their excavations in the historic Ecbatana (Hegmataneh) hill in Iran's Hamedan province, looking for evidence of Median civilization which is believed to have populated this area sometime between 728 BC and 550 BC. Instead, excavations in the lower layers of this hill resulted in the discovery of a number of historic remains which archeologists believe to have belonged to the Parthian Empire (248 BC-AD 224) and surprisingly no single evidence from the Medians was found, making archeologists suspicious of the existence of the Medians in this hill at all.

The new season of excavations recently opened up in this ancient city to discover and study more Parthian remains. In addition, since this ancient hill is believed to have also been an active city during the reign of the Achaemenids (550 BC-330 BC), archeologists are hoping to find remains of this rich civilization in the lower layers of the ground where Parthian evidence had previously been observed.

Directing the third season of excavations in Ecbatana, Masoud Azarnoosh said: "Last year's stratigraphy works in a 100 meter area revealed remains of the Parthian dynastic era pointing to the existence of civil constructions on this ancient hill during that time. The new findings brought the previous theories suggesting this hill to have belonged to the Medians under question. For this reason, one of the main objectives of the third season of excavations is to confirm or disprove last year's conclusion."

Commenting on the reasons that brought delays to this season of excavations in Ecbatana Hill, Azarnoosh said that the reason this excavation season is starting later than planned was due to the fact that the report from the outcomes of the previous season was not ready on time. "This is why I did not submit my new research plan to the Archeology Research Center to keep up the promises I gave to my fellow colleagues when I was in charge of the Research Center myself which was to present the full report of the outcomes of prior studies on this site before the start of the new season," continued Azarnoosh.

A number of clay vessels, more likely kitchen utensils, belonging to the Parthian era and well as bronze coins also from this historic period were found during the second season of excavations on this site. Archeological studies also revealed that the architectural structures of this ancient hill were most probably built during either the Parthian or Seleucid Empire (330 BC-150 BC). However, unlike what experts had anticipated, stratigraphy works and sounding activities did not show any evidence of the existence of other ancient civilizations in this hill.

Azarnoosh explained that the Parthian city was built on a natural mound which could have been one inhabited even prior to that time. The Parthians used layers of soil to level off the hill. This way they prepared the hill for constructing their city by adding soil to the slopes of the hill and leveling its surface. It is possible that these people also shoveled off parts of this hill to help leveling the surface. According to Azarnoosh, this theory will also be examined by archeologists during this season of excavations.

The historic Hegmataneh or Ecbatana hill is located in Hamedan and covers an area of 30 hectares. Hamedan, known as Hegmataneh in historic texts, was the capital of the Median civilization. It later became one of the main seats of the Achaemenids, though Persepolis in Shiraz was considered the center of the throne. Ecbatana was also a strategic place during the Parthian and Sassanid (224-651 AD) empires.

Regarding the first archeological findings of the Achaemenid era in this historic hill, Azarnoosh said: "There are several reports on the existence of Achaemenid constructions in Hamedan. French archeologist, Jacques De Morgan, who was one of the archeologists who studied this city, was able to find remains of carvings dated to the Achaemenid dynastic period after only 24 days. We have selected different spots for stratigraphy studies on this hill during this stage of excavations to find out in the shortest time whether this hill was inhabited during the time of the Achaemeneids or not."

According to Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon, prior to the Achaemenids, the Medians had erected several administrative buildings in Hamedan. These historical accounts also suggest the existence of an immense city in Hamedan left from the time of the Medians.

"Our goal is to excavate the Ecbatana hill but so far, we have not observed any historic layers from the time of the Medians in our archeological excavations. However, if we could prove that no layers from the Achaemenid or the Median civilizations exist in Ecbatana hill, this would not mean that this historic period with such glory as accounted by the historians never existed in Hamedan. It could be that the Median city existed on another hill close to Hamedan that has never been excavated until now ... Finding out whether the Medians or the Achaemenids were settled somewhere else in Hamedan requires a separate research plan to be conducted and we are only planning to search the Ecbatana hill to see if we can find evidence of these historic periods," said head of the excavation team at Ecbatana hill to CHN.

Hegmataneh (Ecbatana in Greek) has been introduced in the historic texts as the capital of the Median Empire. However, latest archeological studies and sounding works in this ancient hill proved that the hill was inhabited during the Parthian period and was most probably constructed around the Parthian era. Further studies are likely to shed more light on the truth as to which historic period this ancient hill belongs to.

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