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Owing to its special geographical location, which connects Central Asia and the Far East to the near east and Europe, the Iranian plateau has since pre-historic times been one of the most attractive regions of the world from the viewpoints of migration, inhabitation, war, and various kinds of other developments.It is not clearly known when human settlement in the Iranian plateau first began. Nevertheless, some researchers have referred to the possibility of human exodus from Africa, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Indian subcontinent towards this region. Apparently, the oldest region belonging to the Stone Age to have been discovered in Iran thus far is located in the Khorāsān province and on the bed of the Kashafrud river and the age of the excavated stone objects discovered from these areas have been estimated to be 8,00,000 years old. Some of the stone effects belonging to the middle Stone Age (middle Paleolithic), too, have been discovered in Central Iran, south-east of Shirāz. Following the course of these periods, Iran, like the other parts of the Middle East too had entered the Copper Age at a time when Europe was still in the Stone Age.Evidences and effects of the presence of human life and the earliest human civilizations have been discovered from various parts of Iran. The excavations from the Kamarband Cave (near Behshahr) and the Hutu Caves (near Torijān, west of Behshahr) prove that civilization in Iran dates back to about 9000 BC. Similarly, the effects excavated from the Asiyab Hill (East of Kermānshāh), Ganjdarreh (Southwest of Kangāvar), the Ghorān Hill (in the valley of the Holaylān river in the Kermānshān province), the Alikosh Hill (Southeast of the Dehlorān Valley), the Sarāb Hill (Northeast of Kermānshāh), the Zāgheh Hill (in Buin Zahrā), Talleh Bākun (Southwest of the Persepolis), the Yāniq Hill (Southwest of Tabriz), the Chaghamish Hill (Southwest of Dezful), the Gudin Hill (West of Kangāvar), the Giyān Hill (near Nahāvand), the Cheshmeh Ali Hill (near the Rey city), Talleh Iblis (in Kerman), and the Yahyā Hill (South of the Bāft region of the Kermān province) indicate the presence of human life in this region between the 9th and the 4th millenniums BC. The excavations from Bampur (in the Halilrud Valley), Shahre Sukhteh (South of Zābol), the Shush Valley, and Haft Tappeh (Southeast of the Shush city), the Hasanlu Hill (near Naqadeh), the Marlik or Chirāg Ali Hill (in the Rudbar city of the Gilān province), the Turang Hill (Northeast of Gorgān), the Ziviyeh Hill (East of Saqqez), the Hesār Hill (near Dāmghan), the Musiyān Hill (in the Dehlorān region), the Shahdād or Khabis Hill and graveyard (East of Kermān), and Ganjtappeh (in the Kelārdasht region of the Māzandarān province), too, are evidences of the existing civilizations in the Iranian plateau up to the beginning of the 1st Millennium BC.One of the earliest known pre-historic civilizations of Iran is the Sialk civilization. Evidences of this civilization found from the Sialk Hills, southwest of Kāshān, indicate that this was one of the earliest regions to have been inhabited in the Iranian plains. The age of the oldest Sialk Hills dates back to between the latter part of the 6th millennium BC and the early 5th millennium BC. The earthenware excavated from these hills is among the oldest in Iran. A large number of decorated pots have been discovered from this region, the ages of some of which date back to c. 4000 BC and it is for this reason that researchers believe that the Iranian plateau has been the birthplace of decorated pottery.Owing to its interaction with Mesopotamia, the western and the southwestern parts of the Iranian plateau entered the historical age before the other regions of this plateau. In the early 3rd millennium BC, the pictographic script – generally referred to as the early Elamite (Ilāmi) script - was invented in the Khuzestān province. Some samples of this script have been discovered from Sialk, the Gudin Tappeh of Kangāvar, Talleh Malayān of Fārs and even the Shahre Sukhteh of Zābol, indicating to the cultural relations shared between the western part of the Iranian plateau and the other regions of this plateau during those times. The most important native communities that inhabited the western part of the Iranian plateau – from the south to the north – comprised the Elamites, the Kassites, the Lullubis, and the Gutis. These communities were related to each other and were very close from the racial and linguistic viewpoints. The main territory of the Elamites comprised the plains of Shush (Susā) and the valleys of the rivers Kārun, Karkheh, and Dez as well as the mountainous regions and the elevated parts of the north and northeast of the Shush plains. However, the Elamite Empire comprised larger territories and included Liān (the present Bushehr) on the southern side and Anshān or Anzān (Talleh Malyān near present-day Marvdasht in the Fārs province) on the eastern side. In the ancient times, the economy of Mesopotamia depended on the natural resources of the Iranian plateau and the Zagros Mountains and this was the main reason for the frequent military expeditions of the Sumerians and the Akkadis to Khuzestān and the foothills of the Zagros. These military expeditions eventually prompted the small neighboring autonomous kingdoms of the Zagros and Khuzestān to unite politically and militarily and to establish a unified Elamite empire that lasted up to 646 BC or a little longer, when it was toppled by Āshurbanipāl. The Elamite empire included several dynasties. The most important rulers of the various Elamite dynasties were Pozur (Kutic) - Inushinak, Shilhaha, Awntash - Gal, Shutruk - Nahawnteh, Kutir - Nahawnteh, and Shilhak -Insushinak. Besides Shush and Anshān, the other important large cities of the Elamite Empire included Avan (probably the present-day Shushtar), Simash (the present Khorramabād), Madaktu (probably the northern part of Shush), and Hidalu (in the mountainous regions of the east, on the way to Fārs).

The Kassite, the Lullubi, and the Guti communities lived in central Zagros. From among these, the Kassites lived in the present-day Lorestān towards the end of the 3rd millennium BC but their place of origin in not clearly known. From the 17th or 16th centuries BC up to about 1155 BC Babylon (Bābel) was also part of the Kassite territories, making this the longest period of foreign occupation in the history of Mesopotamia. The gun-metal works of Lorestān that were the best examples of the art of western Iran towards the end of the 2nd millennium BC and the early 1st millennium BC have been attributed to the Kassites by some research scholars. Apparently the Lullubis had a large part of the mountainous regions of Zagros, from the upper parts of the Diāleh river up to Lake Orumieh, under their control and their capital was the Zur city. The most important relic that has survived from that age is an engraving of the Lullubi king Anubanini, found near Sare-pole Zahāb, which is a short inscription in the Akkadian language. The Gutis who probably lived in the north of the Zur city conquered Babylon towards the end of the 3rd millennium BC and apparently also gained control over Ilām after some time.

However, the history of “Iran” as the “Land of the Āryans” began with the exodus of a group of Aryans (Indo-Iranian) to the Iranian plateau. The Aryans were from the Indo-European community who lived in central Asia in the 2nd millennium BC after separating from others of their own race. Zoroastrian texts refer to the ancient land of the Iranians as “Irānvij”. As per the Vendidād, “Irānvij” is the first land that was created by Ahurā Mazdā. According to some researches, the Aryan immigrants entered the western part of the Iranian plateau some time around 1000-800 BC when this plateau was still in the Iron Age. As regards the route of the migration of the Aryans to the Iranian plateau, some researchers are of the opinion that these immigrants headed westwards from central Asia, until they reached the Zagros Mountains. Some other scholars, on the other hand, believe that the migration of the Aryans took place on two separate routes on both sides of the Caspian Sea, and that the Median and the Persian tribes entered the Iranian plateau through the Caucuses. Accounts of the Kiyāni rulers, although mixed with mythological elements, depict the historical evidences after the settlement of the Aryans in eastern Iran until the advent of Zoroaster (Zardosht). It appears possible to regard the Kiyāni dynasty of eastern Iran to be the first establisher of the great and organized Aryan political system in the Iranian plateau. In any case, with the advent of the Aryans a new phase began in the history of the Iranian plateau.

From the early 9th century BC, the Aryans increased their pressure on the original inhabitants of the Zagros Mountains and managed to gradually conquer the cities and settlements of these regions on their westward journey, eventually rising up to the Assyrians. It is from this context that the names of the Median and Persian tribes first appeared in the Assyrian texts along with their lands called Madai (near present day Hamedān) and Parsua (in the west and southwest of Lake Orumieh). The chronological accounts of the Assyrian king, Shalamnasr III, makes mention of the Persians in the year 844 BC and the Medians in the year 836 BC.

The power of the Assyrians declined towards the end of the 9th century BC and the early 8th century BC resulting in the strengthening of the Orārtu (Ārārāt) rule. The spread of the power of Orārtu evoked concern among the Assyrians and the Assyrian kings were forced to post huge armies on their borders with the Orārtu kingdom in order to encounter any possible attacks. One of the Orārtu kings managed to invade the Assyrian kingdom in the early 8th century BC and to conquer the western coasts of Lake Orumieh as well as parts of the lands belonging to the Mannai tribes on the eastern coasts of this lake. However, it was a difficult task to monitor the movements of the freedom-loving and warrior Median and Persian Aryans who had settled in these regions, resulting in the intensification of the sense of independence of these communities. With the advent of the reign of Tiglath Pilesar III (744-727 BC) the attacks of the Assyrians on the east, in order to stop the spread of the Orārtu rule, were resumed and large parts of the Zagros fell into their hands. These military operations brought the Assyrians face to face with the Medians and in the year 737 BC the Assyrians entered the Median territories. The Assyrian inscriptions depict the exaction of tributes (tolls) from the Medians and their hold on their lands up to the Bikni Mountains. The location of the Bikni Mountain – earlier believed to be the same as Mt. Damāvand but now identified as the Mt. Alvand – can indicate the extent of the advancement of the Assyrians into the Median territories. 

The Median and Persian tribes had very close ties and bonds at the time of their exodus and settlement in the Iranian plateau and their internal independence did not come in the way of the continuation and expansion of such ties and bonds. Although recent etymological studies indicate that the term “Mede” has no specific Indo-European root, according to Herodotus, in the ancient times, all the Medians were referred to as “Aryans”. According to Herodotus, Medes comprised six large tribes, the Moghs being one of them. This Greek historian had categorized the Persians into ten tribes and referred to the “Pasargadis” which included the Achaemenians as the superior Persian tribe. As a matter of fact, even the Persians moved southwards from their original lands of settlement in the Iranian plateau when the Median tribes gained power c. 815 BC and settled around the northeast of Shush, at a little distance from Anshān, in a region which was referred to as Parsumash. The ruler of the Persian tribes the Achaemenid apparently had allied with Ilām and Babylon in a war that resulted in the defeat of the Assyrian king, Sennākhereb during c. 700 BC. Thus, like the Medians, the Persians too had entered into the political arena of their times. However, the conditions and situations turned in favor of the Median chiefs and by uniting the various Median tribes they managed to establish a powerful rule before the Persians.

Zarrinkoob ,Roozbeh "Iran Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V. 10 , pp.522 - 524

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