An Archaeobotanical Perspective on Environment, Plant Use, Agriculture, and Interregional Contact in South and Western Iran

Document Type : Research Paper


University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia


Plant remains from archaeological sites reflect many aspects of the relationship between people, plants, and the environment
in which they lived. Plant macroremains—seeds and wood that are visible without a microscope—can address a wide
range of questions. The most basic include what crops were grown? What was used for fuel? Do any of the plants come
from distant lands? Examples from fourth and third millennium deposits at Farukhabad, Sharafabad, Godin, and Malyan
show that within the basic agricultural assemblage of wheat and barley shared by all sites, Sharafabad and Godin have
stronger evidence of irrigation, lentil and flax, and Farukhabad appears to be more oriented toward pastoral production
than the other sites. This article provides an introduction to archaeobotany using examples drawn from several fourth and
third millennium sites in southern and western Iran. Human impact on the vegetation in Khuzestan and Fars appears to
have been minimal at this time. A few unexpected finds (a date pit from cold-country/Sardsir Malyan suggests trade and
rice at Parthian Susa may be evidence of a new crop that had long been cultivated in the Indus valley.