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Pre-Achaemenid Iran: Greater Luristan, Kermanshah, and Kurdistan




Modern archaeological research has given us a picture of the gradual evolution of civilized man in Iran. Although much more research and effort remains to be put into this field, from the work that has been done some knowledge is available.

The Zagros mountains, particularly around Luristan, have long been a haven for humans. From sites like the Poleh Barik we find early remains of cavemen from the Lower Paleolithic. Middle Paleolithic sites such the Ghareh Koba, Arjana, and Konji caves such more advancements, crafty tools, and the beginnings of agriculture. The Paleolithic inhabitations continue, mainly clustered in the Kurdistan/Luristsan region. Evidence of artwork appears in the form of carved stones and civilizations become more advanced through the mesolithic period.

Next the Neolithic period began. The time frame between the Mesolithic/Neolithic shift is poorly defined. The divide references more to changes in human settlment pattern, and societal behavior as opposed to definitive points in time. Namely the Neolithic revolution is defined by domestication, the beginnings of agriculture, and the spread of larger settlements. In most civilized regions agriculture tends to begin in mountainous regions and spread later to fertile valleys which are suitable for agriculture. As early as 8000BCE this process was beginning in Iran in the Zagros mountains. In the next two to three thousand years sedentary settlements, domestication, and agriculture were further developed in the Luristan region and emanated around Iran. This is seen in Ganj Dareh (literally "valley of treasure") near Harsin in Kermanshah. The discovery of stone tools date the earliest inhabitance back to the middle paleolithic Mousterian Era (between 40,000 and 30,000 years ago). The oldest pottery from this region dates back 10,000 years ago. Most of the older pottery was either black, or, if the clay used had high degrees of Iron and Copper, red because of oxidization. Early adobe structures have been found, reinforced with straw.

Much artwork dating back to the bronze age (3000BCE to 1200BCE) has been excavated from Luristan and Kermanshah. Among the artwork lies examples of mythological motifs, winged divinities, and animal spirits. In addition ancient pottery has been uncovered mirroring finds in Elam. Many other artifacts have been recovered from tombs and excavation sites, some illegally. These include tools, eating utensils, weapons, and ornaments.

As the Zagros mountains developed as site of human inhabitance, different peoples from this region become prominent on the world stage. The Zagros mountains, and Iran in general often served as a raw materials supplier for Mesopotamia via Elam. As early as 2300BCE a people of obscure origin, the Lullubi were at war with the Akkadian Empire. Under Naram-Sin, the Akkadian empire reached its zenith and brought the Lullubis under subjugation, at least until the end of Naram Sin's reign in 2220BCE. Not much is known of these Lullubi; they may have been Indo-European speaking, and were war-like nomads who frequently raided Mesopotamia's wealth. Today a Kurdish tribe still retains the name Lullu, possible descendants of the Lullubi. Around 2215BC a people called the Guti, from the Zagros mountains, invaded Mesopotamia. Not much is known of these Guti either. It is assumed that they spoke an Indo-European language from the names of the kings that are given. They took the capital Akkad, obliterating it. As rulers their reign lasted not longer than 100 years, and the general consensus from Mesopotamia sources depict them as bad rulers. From the Mesopotamian point of view they did nothing, only plundered the land's wealth, and neglected development. The Gutians were seen as barbaric nomads, however we do not retain much from the Gutian point of view as they did not record much during their rule in Mesopotamia and were soon ousted under the third dynasty of Ur. Therefore, it must be accepted that the conquered Mesopotamians would harbor some animosity and bias towards their conquers. Some modern scholars attribute the name "Kurd" to the original Guti.

Another mountain tribe to originate in Iranian Kurdistan were the Kassites. Their origins are obscure and what little of their language is left shows no apparent affinity to Indo-European or Semitic languages. It's believed that around 1800BCE the Kassite tribes were already forming larger societies around Kurdistan, Luristan and Kermanshah. By 1740BCE the Kassites had already mounted their first attack against Babylonia. The attack was repelled; however, remaining instability from Hittite attacks in northern Mesopotamia left the door open for the Kassites to expand. By 1475BCE the Kassites had conquered most of Mesopotamia. Under Agum II the Kassites defeated the Hittites returning the statue of Marduk to Babylon. Even though the Kassites brought their own deities with them, they still revered the Babylonian pantheon. In fact, the Kassite adopted most of the preceding Babylonian customs so as to legitimize their rule. Conquering Babylon, the Kassites renamed it Karanduniash, and they set up a new capital west of modern-day Baghdad called Dur-Kurigalzu. The Kassites transformed Mesopotamia from a local city and regional powers, to a territory run by a central goverment through provincial governors. The Kassites encourage comerce and rebuilt many cities, such as Nippur albeit with Babylon architecture. No art is attributed Kassite origin except brick decorations used to face certain temples. The Kassite invaders formed the upper tier of Babylonian society, adopting Babylonian customs. As time wore on the Kassites blended more into Babylon society, intermarrying. The last eight Kassite kings had Akkadian names. In addition the Kassite royalty often intermarried with the royalty of other nations, attempting to broker political alliances. An Assyrian invasion and one notable revolt were the only troubles to plague over 400 years of stable Kassite rule. Kassite hegemoney ended with a devastating Elamite invasion under Shutruk-Nahhunte.

Futher Readings
Cavemen in Iran
Prehistory of Iran


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