A 1st Millennium BCE Burial-Deprived Ritual Practice: New Evidences from Shahliq Kurgan, Northwestern Iran

Document Type : Research Article


1 Department of Archaeology, Islamic Azad University, Abhar Branch, Abhar, Iran

2 Department of Archaeology, Islamic Azad University, Abhar Branch, Abhar,Iran


Until now, the well-known Kurgans in northwestern Iran were associated with burial mounds containing burial pits;
however, discoveries in 2018 revealed mounds lacking human burials indicating still unknown rituals and ceremonies.
Shahliq Kurgan, 178 km northeast of Tabriz, is one of such Kurgans. Before the construction of Peygham-Chay Dam
by East Azerbaijan Regional Water Authority, the survey and identification of archaeological sites at the dam site
was done in 2014 in order to save the historical-cultural monuments at risk of being submerged. The first season of
rescue excavation began in 2018. The architecture of the mound, abundant stone tools, sacrificial offerings as well
as ash deposits, indicate that the mound had been a place for some special rituals and ceremonies during the early
first millennium BCE. The ash material recovered from the site suggested the tradition of cremation, a hypothesis
rejected in later anthropological experiments. It may also be one of the first sites where fire was set in an open
space for ritual purposes, since the large volume of ash could be evidence for this idea. The evidences for ecological
sequence obtained from deposits underneath a stone structure indicate that during the period of establishment of
human settlements in Bronze Age, metal extraction and smelting and extensive use of forest resources caused the
vegetation to turn from dense forests into scattered shrubs. The present study is based on field excavations as well
as library resources to study the function of burial-deprived kurgans following a descriptive analytic approach.


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