THE ORIGIN OF THE SERPENT MOTIF IN CULTURAL MATERIALS OF SOUTHEASTERN IRAN DURING THE THIRD MILLENNIUM BC: A SIGN OF RELATIONSHIP WITH ELAM AND MESOPOTAMIA

Document Type : Original Article

Author

PhD in Archaeology, University of Tehran, Iran; Assistant Director of Shahr-i Sokhta Expedition, Independent Researcher.

Abstract

In the case of the Archaeology of southeast Iran, many archaeologists have paid attention to the objects that were produced there and considered them as commercial items in Susa and Mesopotamia. This commercial relationship, in its trans-regional form, caused the transference of beliefs and Ideologies. The evidence of such relationships can be seen in the evidence of Tepe Yahya, Shahdad, South Konar Sandal, and Shahr-i Sokhta all are located in southeastern Iran. However, there is some evidence of a kind of relationship between Mesopotamia and the inhabitants of southeast Iran, but there is no evidence of direct contact between them. Based on the classic interpretation of the intercultural material it seems that this relationship was not limited only to raw or processed materials and meantime some ritual and ideological notions were transferred directly or indirectly between these two worlds. A good example is the presence of the serpent motif in southeast archaeological sites in Iran that comes with different forms and concepts over seals, metal vessels, painted and plastic pottery, and other products of the existing cultures like Tepe Yahya, Shahdad, Jiroft, Bampur, and Shahr-i Sokhta. The serpent-like motifs have been seen from the 6th and 5th millennium BC as a sign or symbol of the underworld god. Perhaps no other motif like the serpent can represent the transference of beliefs and thoughts from low to high lands and it seems as we move farther from the borders of cultural Iran, it declines in importance and presence.

Keywords


Alden, J. R. (1982). Trade and politics in Proto-Elamite Iran., Current Anthropology, 23(6), 613-640.
Alizadeh, A. (1992). Prehistoric Settlement Patterns and Cultures in Susiana, Southwestern Iran. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Alizade, A. (2003). The Origin of State in the Prehistoric Fars, Tell Bakun, Nomadism and the Formation of the States, Translated by K. Roustai, CHTO of Fars Province, The Research Foundation of Parseh, Pasargad(2). (Persian)
Alizadeh, A. (2006). Tall-e Bakun A: The origins of state organizations in prehistoric highland Fars, southern Iran, Illinois, Oriental Institute Publication of the University of Chicago. Vol.128, Chicago.
Alizadeh, A. (2010). The rise of the highland Elamite state in southwestern Iran, Current Anthropology, 51, 353-383.
Alizade, A. (2013). The mixing of opposite and complementary agricultural and animal husbandry livelihoods in the southwest of Iran. The Archaeology of Iran, 3(3), 41-74 (in Persian).
Amiet, P. (1972). Glyptique Susienne, MDP 43, Paris, Geuthner.
Amiet, P. (1974).  Antiquités du désert de Lut. RA, 68, 97-110.
Amiet, P. (1983). The archaic glyptic at Shahr i Sokhta (period I), In: M. Tosi(ed.), Prehistoric Sistan 1, Rome, ISMEO, 199-210
Amiet, P. (1993). The History of Elam. Translated by S. Bayani, University of Tehran pub, Tehran (in Persian).
Amiet, P. (2010). The relations of Elam and Mesopotamia from 3500 to 1600 BC. In Early Mesopotamia and Iran in Antiquity: Contact and Conflict 3500-1600 BC. Proceeding of Seminar in Memory of Vladimir Lukonin, J. Curtis (ed.), translated by Z. Basti, SAMT pub, Tehran, 25-37 (in Persian).
Amiet, P., and Tosi, M. (1978). Phase 10 at Shahr i Sokhta: excavation in square XDV and the late 4thmillennium B.C.assemblage of Sistan, East and West, 28 (1-4), 9-41.
Aruz, J. (2003). Intercultural style carved chlorite objects. In Aruz, J. and Wallenfels, R., (eds.), Art of the First Cities, the Third Millennium B.C. From the Mediterranean to the Indus, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 325-345.
Ascalone, E. (2008). Cultural Interactions among Mesopotamia, Elam, Transelam, and Indus Civilization. The Evidence of a Cylinder-Stamp Seal from Jalalabad (Fars) and its Significance in the Historical Dynamics of South-eastern Iran. In H. Kuhne et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 4th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Berlin, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, 255-276.
Ascalone, E. (2020). Pesi dall’Iran orientale. La metrologia a Shahr-i Sokhta e Konar Sandal Sud all’interno di un sistema culturale integrato. In M. Vidale, D. Usai, S. Tuzzato (eds.), Tales of three worlds. Archaeology and beyond Asia, Italy, Africa. A Tribute to Sandro Salvatori, Padova, 3-16.
Beale, T. (1973). Early trade in highland Iran: a view from a source area. World Archaeology, 5(2), 133-148.
Biscione, R., & Bulgarelly, M.C. (1983). Painted geometrical decoration on the Shahr-i Sokhta buff ware: an approach to systematic classification. In Tosi, M., (ed.), Prehistoric Sistan, 211-257.
Buchanan, B. (1971). A snake goddess and her companions: a problem in the iconography of the early second millennium BC. Iraq, 33 (1), 1-18.
Caldwell, I. R. (1967). Investigations at Tal-i Iblis, Illinois State Museum Preliminary Reports 9, Springfield: Illinois State Museum Society.
Cooper, J.C. (1983). The Curse of Agade. Baltimore and London.
De Cardi, B. (1968). Excavation at Bampur, S.E Iran: a brief report. Iran, VI, 135-156.
De Cardi, B. (1970). Excavation at Bampur, A Third Millennium Settlement in Persian Baluchistan 1966, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, 51(3), New York.
Delougaz, P., & Kantor, H. (1996). Chogha Mish (Vol. I): the first five seasons of excavations 1961-1971. In Alizadeh. A., (ed.), The University of Chicago, Oriental Institution Publication, Vol.101.
Desset, F. (2014). A new writing systems discovered in 3rd millennium B.C.E. Iran: the Konar Sandal geometric tablets, Iranica Antiqua, XLIX, 83-109.
Dittmann, R. (1986). Susa in the Proto-Elamite period and annotations on the painted pottery of Proto-Elamite Khuzestan. In Finkbeiner, U., and Rollig, W., (eds.), Gamdat Nasr period or regional style? Tiibinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients Beiheft B 62. Wiesbaden: L. Reichert Verlag, 171-198.
Eliade, M. (2011). Pictures and Symbols, Translated by M.K Mohajeri, University of Tehran pub, Tehran (in Persian).
Frankfort, H. (1934). Gods and myths on Sargonid seals. Iraq, 1(1), 2-29.
Frankfort, H. (1939). Cylinder seals. Chicago, Chicago University Press.
Frankfort, H. (1955). Stratified cylinder seals from the Diyala region, Chicago. The University of Chicago Press, Vol. LXXII.
Frazer, J. G. (1919). The Folklore in the Old Testament (Vol.1). London, Macmillan.
Girshman, R. (1993). Sialk in Kashan (Fouilles de Sialk près de Kashan). Translated by A. Karimi, Vol.1. CHTO, Tehran., Iran (in Persian).
Golan, A. (2003).  Prehistoric religion-mythology- symbolism. Jerusalem,
Hakemi, A. (1997). Shahdad: archaeological excavations of a Bronze Age center in Iran. In S.M.S Sajjadi(ed.), Roma: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente Centro Scavi e Richerche Archeologiche, Reports and Memoirs, Vol. XXVII.
Hakemi, A. (2006). The Results of 8 Seasons Excvavtion at Shahdad (Lut Desert): 1347-1354, M. Mosavi (ed.), RICCHT, ICAR, Tehran (in Persian).
Hakemi, A, & Sajjadi, S.M.S. (1988). Shahdad Excavations in the Context of the Oases Civilization. In G. Ligabue and S. Salvatori (eds.), Bacteria, an Ancient Oasis Civilization from the Sands of Afghanistan, 142-153.
Hints, V. (1992). The Lost World of Elam, Translated by: F. Firouz Nia, Elmi Farhangi pub, Tehran (in Persian).
Hyut, J. L. (2010). Iran 1. Translated by M. Golzari and M. Vazirpour, Ketabdar pub, Tehran (in Persian).
Kohl., P. (1977). The Balance of Trade in Southwestern Asia in the Mid-Third Millennium BC. Current Anthropology, 19(3), 463-492.
Kohl, P. (1979). The World Economy of West Asia in the Third Millennium BC. In Maurizio Taddei (ed.), South Asian Archaeology 1977(1), 55-85.
Lamberg-Karlovsky, C.C. (1970). Excavations at Tepe Yahya, Iran, 1967-1969. Progress Report 1. American School of Prehistoric Research, Bulletin 27. Cambridge, Mass.: Peabody Museum, Harvard University.
Lamberg- Karlovsky. C.C. (1977). Foreign relations in the third millennium at Tepe Yahya. In Deshayes. J. (ed.), Le Plateau Iranen et l’Asie Centrale des Origines a’ la Conquete Islamique, Paris, 33-43.
Lamberg- Karlovsky. C.C. & Beale, T. (1986).  Excavation at Tepe Yahya: 1967-1975, the Early Periods, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Bulletin 38.
Lamberg- Karlovsky. C.C, & Tosi, M. (1989). Shahr-i Sokhta and Tepe Yahya: Tracks on the Earliest History of the Iranian Plateau. East and West, (39), 21-57.
Lamberg- Karlovsky. C.C. & Potts, D.T. (2001). Excavations at Tepe Yahya, Iran:1967-1975, the Third Millennium, With contributions by Holly Pittman and Philip L. Kohl, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Lambert, W. G. (1966). Ancient Near Eastern Seals in Birmingham Collections, Iraq, 28 (1), 64-83.
Leak, G. (2007). The Encyclopedia of Myths in the Ancient East. Translated by R. Behzadi, Tahouri pub, Tehran (in Persian).
Le Breton. L. (1957). The Early Periods at Susa, Mesopotamian Relations.  Iraq, 19(2), 79-124.
Le Brun, A. (1999). hac─▒nebi et suse. Paléorient, 25 (1), 139–40.
Madjidzadeh, Y. (1976). The Land of Aratta, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 1(2), 105-113.
Madjidzade,Y. (2002). The History and Civilization of Mesopotamia, Vol. 3. Art and Architecture, Markaz e Nashre Daneshgahi, Tehran (in Persian).
Madjidzade, Y. (2003).  la découverte de Jiroft. dossiers d’archéologie, 287, 19–26.
Madjidzade, Y. (2004). Jiroft, The Oldest Civilization of the East, the Centre of Publication in Vezarat e Farhang va Ershad e Eslami, Tehran (in Persian).
Maisels, C. K. (1999). Early Civilizations of the Old World, The formative histories of Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, India and China, New York.
Mallowan, M.E.L. & Rose, J.C. (1935).  Excavations at Tell Arpachiyah, 1933. Iraq, 2, 1–178.
Maxwell- Hyslop, K.R. (1955). Note on a Shaft-Hole Axe-Pick from Khurab, Makran. Iraq, 17(2), 161.
Munn-Rankin, J. M. (1959). Ancient near eastern seals in the fitzwilliam museum, Cambridge. Iraq, 21(1), 20-37.
Moori, P.R.E. (2010). If Iran was the Sumerian El Derado?. In Early Mesopotamia and Iran in antiquity: Contact and Conflict 3500-1600 BC, Proceeding of Seminar in memory of Vladimir Lukonin, J.Curtis (ed)., translated by Z. Basti, SAMT pub, Tehran, 38-61 (in Persian).
Moradi. H, Sarhaddi Dadian, H., & Abdul Rahman, N. H. (2014). Development and Fall of the Bampur Valley, Based on the New Archaeological Evidences in Prehistoric Period. Iranian Studies, Journal of the International Society for Iranian Studies, 47(2), 263-287.
Meier, D.M.P. (2008). Die Metallnadeln von Shahdad – eine funktionstypologische Untersuchung,Abschlußarbeit zur Erlangung des GradesMagister Artium (M.A.) im Fach Vorderasiatische Archäologie am Dekanat für Kulturwissenschaften der Eberhard- Karls Universität Tübingen,Gutachter: PD Dr. Mirko Novák und Prof. Dr. Ernst Pernicka.
Piperno. M., & Salvatori. M. (1982).  Evidence of Western Cultural Connections from a Phase 3 group of Graves at Shahr-I Sokhta. Hans-Jorg Nissen and Johannes Renger (eds). Mesopotamien und seine Nachbarn, Politische und kulturelle Wechselbeziehungen im AltenVorderasien vom4. bis1. Jahrtausend v.Chr, Oietrich Reimer Verlag. Berlin, 79- 92.
Piperno. M, & Salvatori. M. (1983). Recent Results and New Perspective from the Research at Graveyard of Shahr-I Sokhta, Sistan, Iran. Annal. 43, 173-0191
Pittman, Holly,. 1984. Art of the Bronze Age, Southeastern Iran, Western Central Asia and the Indus Valley. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Pittman, H. (2001). Glyptic Art of Period IV. In C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky and D.T. Potts (eds.), Excavations at Tepe Yahya, Iran: 1967-1975, the Third Millennium. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 231-268.
Pittman, H. (2008). The art of sealing in Konar Sandal: The gods, the rulers and relationship by marriage. In Papers on first international congress of  Halil Rud Civilization 2004, Y. Majidzade (ed.), Kerman, HCT of Kerman province:53-78 (in Persian).
Pittman, H. (2012). The Bronze Age Art of Iran: New capture of Konar Sandal in Halil Roud archaeology in southeast of Iran. In The Papers of Second Congress on Civilization of Halil Roud Basin in Jiroft. Y. Majidzade and M.R. Miri (eds.), Fahangestan e Honar pub, Tehran, 53-78 (in Persian).
Pittman, H. (2013). Imagery in Administrative Context: Susiana and the West in the Fourth Millennium B.C. Cameron A. Petrie (ed.), Ancient Iran and Its Neighbours, Local Development and Long-Range: Interactions in the Fourth Millennium B.C.  British Institute of Persian Studies, Archaeological Monographs Series III, Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK,  293-336.
Potts, D. T. (1981). Echoes of Mesopotamian divinity on a cylinder seal from southeastern Iran.  Revue d'Assyriologie et d'archéologie orientale, 75(2), 135-142
Potts, D. T. (1999).  The Archaeology of Elam, Formation and Transformation of an Ancient Iranian State, Cambridge University Press.
Rafifar, J. & Malek, M. (2013). The iconography of leopard and snake on Jiroft cultural material, 3rd millennium BC. In Journal of Archaeological Researches of Iran, vol.4, issue 3:7-36, (Persian)
Raikes, R. (1979). Prehistoric Iran and Baluchistan: The environmental constraints. In: Maurizio Taddei (ed.), South Asian Archaeology, 1977(1), Naples, 553-560.
Rashad, M. (1990). Die Entwicklung der Vor- Und Fruhgeschichtlichen Stempelsiegel in Iran, Jahrttausends V. Chr, Dietrich Reimer (eds). Im Vergleich Mit Mesopotamien, Syrien Und Kleinasien- Von Ihren Anfangen Bis Zum Beggin Des 3. Verlag in Berlin.
Sajjadi, S.M. (2010). A Mental game of Shahr i Sokhta (Sistan), Bastan Pajouhi Journal, 6, 113-124 (in Persian).
Salvatori, S., & Vidale, M. (1997). Shahr-i Sokhta 1975-1978: Central Quarters Excavations, Preliminary Report. Roma: Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente.
Speiser, E.A. (1935). Excavation at Tepe Gawra, Vol.1. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press.
Talai., H. (2011). 8000 Years of Making Pottery in Iran, SAMT pub, Tehran (in Persian).
Tosi. M. (1974a). The Lapis lazuli Trade across the Iranian Plateau in the 3rd Millennium BC Gururajamaiijarika: Miscellanea in onore di Giuseppe Tucci, Napoli: 3-28
Tosi. M. (1974b). The Problem of Turquoise in Proto Historic Trade on The Iranian Plateau. Memorie dell' Istituto Italiano di Paleontologia Umana, VoI.II – Anno, 1974, 147-162.
Tosi. M. (1974c). Bampur, a Problem of Isolation.  East and West, 24(1-2), 29-61
Tosi. M. (1979). The Proto-Urban Cultures of Eastern Iran and the Indus Civilization. Notes and suggestion for a Spatio-Temporal Frame to Study the Early Relation between India and Iran. In: Maurizio Taddei (ed.), South Asian Archaeology, 1977.  Napoli, 149-171.
Tosi. M., & Lamberg-Karlovsky, C.C. (2003). Pathways Across Urasia. In: J. Aruz and R. Wallenfels (eds.), Art of the first cities: The third Millennium B.C From the Mediterranean to the Indus. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 347-376.
White, M., & Dyson, H. (2003). The Chronology of Iran Since 8000 to 2000 BC. Translated by A. Pour Faraj and A. Chaichi Amir Khiz, Nasl e Baran pub, Tehran (in Persian).
Van Buren E. D. (1934). The God Ningizzida.  Iraq, 1(1), 60-89.
Vanden Berghe, L. (1959).  Archéologie de l’Iran ancien. Leiden. Brill.
Ward, W. H. (1910). The Seal Cylinders of Western Asia. Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Volume 3, Issue 2
December 2023
Pages 39-49
  • Receive Date: 21 August 2023
  • Revise Date: 14 November 2023
  • Accept Date: 28 November 2023
  • Publish Date: 01 December 2023