Prehistoric Sirvan


Overview of the Sirvan Valley (© OREA / F. Ostmann)

The Prehistoric Sirvan Project is the new archaeological investigation of a previously unexplored micro-region in the highlands of the Central Zagros. This region is geographically marked with the Sirvan river, a tributary of the larger Seymareh, and a narrow valley. The project focuses on the prehistory of the Sirvan Valley, i.e. on documentation of prehistoric activities, based on the outcomes of the extensive and intensive archaeological surveys, environmental and geological survey, GIS analyses, and finally find recording and their further (inter-)regional comparisons.

The pilot study of the project involved the initial survey of the Sirvan Valley and a short-term visit and surface survey of the tell site of Chogha Khaki and the caves in the nearby mountains, in the neighbouring Chardavol Valley. The first results of the pilot study demonstrated a high potential of the complete micro-region for further research of the prehistory. Preliminary study of the prehistoric material and recorded locations informs about the occupation of the valley from the Middle Paleolithic until the end of the Bronze Age. Distribution and chronological determination of finds, together with the study on geology, geomorphology and topography yielded the information about several settling patterns in the valley during prehistory. The hill-flanks alongside the river basin provided most of the remains of the prehistoric use in the Sirvan region, with numerous find scatters on terraces and natural plateaus around the height of c. 900m. On the contrary, the flood lands of the Sirvan river were not used in the earlier prehistory for longer periods, except in the case of already existing natural mounds as geological elevations in the valley.

Investigated areas of the Prehistoric Sirvan Project 2018 including the Sirvan Valley and Chogha Khaki with its vicinity (© OREA / M. Börner)

Besides the Paleolithic lithic scatters, short-term, seasonal and sites of possible repetitive use, most likely related to the Neolithic (PPN-PN) occupation, and the presence of Metal Ages (Chalcolithic and Bronze Age) recorded both within the surface find accumulation in the Sirvan Valley and on large tell sites (such as Tepe Sirvan in the centre of the plain), an extension of the survey was made with the investigations of the neighbouring Chardavol Valley. This geographically, and possibly also culturally adjacent region, yielded the only Neolithic tell in the Prehistoric Sirvan Project survey – Chogha Khaki, with strong indications for the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) and existence of good knappable raw material sources in the direct vicinity of the site. As such, possible connections between the two regions are planned for the further investigations, as well as the understanding of the distinct Neolithic landscapes and site use in the Sirvan region.

Finally, the research on prehistory in this micro-region is embedded in a broader cooperation aiming to understand a long-term occupation of the Sirvan region, with the internal Austrian Academy of Sciences research institutions – The Institute of Iranian Studies, under the direction of Florian Schwarz, and The Institute for the Study of Ancient Culture, led by Andreas Pülz.