1154 GMT January 19, 2019
The title ‘Burnt City’, or Shahr-e Soukhteh in Persian, is not the original name of the city and it has been used over the past three centuries due to numerous remains of ash across the UNESCO World Heritage site, presstv.com reported.
Findings show the construction of the prehistoric city started around 3,200 BCE on the bank of the Helmand River along the current Zahedan-Zabol road, but it was abandoned for unknown reasons over a millennium later around 1,800 BCE after experiencing four stages of urbanization.
Contrary to what the title implies, the city was not abandoned as a result of fire and the traces of ash are said to be the remains of ovens used by the residents of the city.
Some theories suggest that the city was abandoned due to climate change and drought, but the actual reasons for the demise of the civilization are still wrapped in mystery.
It has been speculated that the Bronze Age urban settlement might ultimately provide concrete evidence of a civilization east of prehistoric Persia that was independent of ancient Mesopotamia.
Discoveries from the site demonstrate that the city was a hub of trading routes which linked Mesopotamia and Iran with the Central Asian an Indian civilizations as well as China.
The city comprises various compounds of intricately-designed structures made of mud bricks, including a large palace as well as separate neighborhoods for residential purposes, industrial activities and production of local goods.
The 151-hectare ancient site has been under constant excavation since 1967.
Although only an estimated four percent of the city has still been unearthed, the findings from this Bronze Age archeological treasure contain astonishing evidence of how advanced the civilization was.
Evidence indicate that weaving was one of the main professions in the prehistoric city and the inhabitants made a variety of woven products such as carpets, baskets, and other household items.
The ground of the ancient site is littered with broken pottery, showing that pottery was produced in the city on a massive scale.
From among the findings, the archeologists have found the world’s first animation drawing on a goblet.
The drawing depicts a goat jumping and grazing when the cup is turned around. The vessel is currently held at the National Museum of Iran in the capital city of Tehran.
Other findings include the oldest known board game, a ruler with half a millimeter accuracy and many other astonishing tools, indicating that the residents of the city were masters of their time in urbanization, architecture, mathematics, science, medicine and engineering.
Archeological findings also provide evidence that the Burnt City was among rare matriarchal civilizations in human history, where women were responsible for handling the financial affairs of their family and mothers had social prominence.
Excavations of different sites, particularly of the graves of female bodies, have found seals of ownership, suggesting that women were in control of sources of production and food supply.
Insignias which supposedly belonged only to distinguished residents of the city were found in the graves of some female citizens.
According to some paleoanthropologists, the female owners of the insignias probably used the insignias to seal valuable documents or used the seal to indicate their lofty social status.
In December 2006, archeologists made the astounding discovery of a 4,800-year-old artificial eyeball belonging to a woman aged 32-36. The woman was 1.82 meters tall much taller than ordinary women of her time.
The hemispherical-shaped eyeball has a diameter of just over 2.5 centimeters and is made of very light material, probably bitumen paste, coated with a thin layer of gold and engraved with a central circle as the iris and gold lines resembling Sun rays.
Tiny holes are drilled on both sides of the eye, through which a golden thread could hold the eyeball in place.
Since microscopic research has shown that the eye socket showed clear imprints of the golden thread, the eyeball must have been worn during her lifetime.
Archeologists have also found traces of brain surgery in the Burnt City, going back to over 4,000 years ago.
Studies on the skull of a 12-13 year-old female skeleton show the girl underwent brain surgery and survived for nearly nine months after the operation.
Coexistence of diverse cultures
A massive 25-hectar cemetery is located west of the city, containing over 25,000 ancient graves in over 10 different types.
While the large number of graves shows the huge population of the area, the variety of the types of graves indicate the likelihood of coexistence of several cultures in the ancient city.
The most common form of graves is semicircular burial chambers which contained the dead body and some of its belongings with the entrance of the tomb sealed off with mud bricks.
Since earth was never directly poured inside the burial chambers, the skeletons of the deceased and their belongings have mainly remained intact.
Some of the excavated graves have been reconstructed and put on display at the Museum of Burnt City located at a walking distance from the ancient site.
Some of the skeletons found at the excavated tombs are in fetal positions. One hypothesis suggested that the residents of city believed that the position in which we were born was the proper way for us to leave the earth.
Another characteristic of the tombs is the way husbands and wives were buried together, facing each other.
Although so many items have been discovered during the excavations, none of the remains and symbolisms has helped researchers understand how such an advanced city could have existed over 5,000 years ago, what happened to the civilization and why we lost track of all the knowledge they had.