The History of Iran Art




Il territory of the country still known today as Iran has undergone important changes and changes over the centuries, starting from the borders, which in the past were poorly defined and in any case different from those of today. From the point of view of geographical location, Iran is a plateau bordered by large mountain ranges. It can be imagined as a large triangle between the Indus valleys to the east, the mountains Zagros to the west, the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus and the river Oxus to the north, and the Persian Gulf and the Sea of ​​Oman to the south.

La Lower part of the Iranian plateau consists of desert regions located at 609 meters above sea level. With the exception of the coastal settlements of the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf, most urban settlements are situated at an altitude above 1.000 meters. Thus, Kerman, Mashahd, Tabriz, and Shiraz are respectively 1.676, 1.054, 1.200 and 1.600 meters above sea level. The surface of the plateau is approximately 2.600.000 square kilometers, half of which, about 1.648.000 square kilometers, correspond to today's Iran, an area equivalent to that of France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and England.

I The natural boundaries of the Iranian plateau are formed, to the west, by the Zagros mountains, a massive chain that extends from the Diyala Valley in Iraq to Kermanshah. From that point on, the altitude decreases creating a link between the Khuzestan region and the Mesopotamian region. There are other mountainous massifs inside Iran, parallel to the Zagros mountains, which develop from the center of the country to the southern end. The area between these two mountain massifs is characterized by the presence of fertile valleys rich in watercourses, and it was very probably in these valleys that the first inhabitants of the region settled. The Caspian Sea is located to the north of the country and the Alborz massif, located on its southern shore, extends to the north-eastern margins of Iran, where it assumes hilly characteristics. The highest peak of this chain is the Damavand, a mountain which in Iran enjoys a mythological status. In the space between the Mar Caspian and the Alborz chain includes green, fertile and forest-rich regions. Unfortunately, the height of the mountain range prevents humidity and clouds from reaching the center of the plateau, so that this territory results - with the exception of the foothill areas - dry and arid.

Many of the arid and less inhabited regions of today's Iran were once green and prosperous, as evidenced by the remains of ancient settlements in Sistan and the central region.

The plateau Iranian, thanks to its geographical differentiation, has always had and still has abundant natural resources. This is why since the dawn of human history, between Iran and its western neighbors, ie the peoples of Mesopotamia, flourishing exchanges and trades of stone, timber, precious stones (lapis lazuli, rubies, carnelians) have developed. ), or metals such as copper and tin. In the beginning, the exchanges took place in the form of barter and the exchange goods were grains, wheat and barley.

The height not high in the mountainous regions of north-eastern Iran has favored since ancient times the invasions by different peoples from Central Asia, driven by population growth in search of new territories. The most significant invasion was that of different populations of Indian origin that took place during the third and second millennium BC, respectively in the center, in the north-west, in the west and in the south of Iran. These populations settled on the territory of Iran and gave it its name. Who were the first inhabitants of Iran? Where did they come from and what language did those people speak who in the ninth millennium BC invented the handwork of ceramics? Unfortunately, we do not have historical written records of that period, nor relevant archaeological data since in the territory of Iran the excavations that should have been done have not yet been carried out. The disinterestedness in the past of the authorities and the excessive attention given by the workers to Mesopotamia, and perhaps also the indifference of the inhabitants of this region to the preservation of the archaeological evidence of their ancestors, has meant that scholars have adapted to the old traditional model that identifies a line that goes from Sumerians to Accidents, from these to the Babylonians and the Assyrians, to the Medes and the Achaemenids, without paying any attention, or placing less than it would have been necessary, to central, eastern and north-eastern regions of the Iranian plateau. If the mythological history of Iran had been purified by some of its ambiguities, as did Winkelmann with Homeric mythology in ancient Greece, perhaps many of the mysteries relating to this great area would have been solved.

È possible that the Caspi, who gave the name to the sea of ​​Mazandaran, and who reigned in peace for about three centuries on Mesopotamia, were those same first populations who inhabited the caves of the Zagros mountains between the fifteenth and ninth millennia before Christ? It is possible that the Elamites, who inhabited the southwest Iranian and Susa and whose name is recorded in the Sumerian and Babylonian inscriptions, are descendants of that generation of artists who created the painted terracotta of the 6th, 5th and 4th millennium BC found in Susa ? Or were they also the descendants of the inhabitants of the Zagros mountains, or of the peoples who lived in the Siyalk fortresses, or the urban populations of Robat-e Karim or Cheshme Ali?

È possible that the Guti, mossisi in the first half of the third millennium BC from the Zagros mountains to attack the Mesopotamia, and that swept away the Accadi, were an Iranian population? And it is possible that the Sumerians, who in the fourth millennium BC migrated from the northern coast of the Persian Gulf to the south of Mesopotamia, established their own state, developed a mythology and finally began the "historical" era, were also do they Iranians?

I archaeological finds of the city of Shahdad, the testimonies found in the caves of Mir Malas and in other sites, as well as the abstract and semi-figurative signs painted on the ancient Iranian ceramics, none of this has yet been adequately studied. Therefore, it is not possible to express itself definitively on the ancient art of this vast plateau, nor to put accurate analysis tools into the hands of scholars. Nevertheless, some fixed points, on which all the insiders agree, exist:

1. the period of ceramics - which includes the pre-ceramic, ceramics, decorated ceramics, the pottery of the pottery and the glazed ceramic - in Iran began earlier than in Mesopotamia and on the site of Çatal Hüyük, in present-day Turkey

2. the variable speed lathe for ceramics processing was invented in Iran (in Ganj Dareh) in the period between the sixth and fourth and sixth centuries BC

3. metalworking - gold, silver, copper and tin - began in western Iran earlier than in Mesopotamia and the oldest metal welded body is a Susa-related gold artifact from the XNUMXth-XNUMXth century BC

4. the invention of the four-wheeled cart, the breeding of the horse and their appearance in the Mesopotamian civilizations, particularly among the Sumerians, is attributed to the Iranian populations and the Caspi

5. the invention of some artistic elements, especially in architecture, such as the vault and the dome, is due to Iran; these elements reached the Sumerians through the Elamites, and from the Sumerians they came to the rest of the ancient world

6. weaving is an invention of the Zagros populations, ie the inhabitants of western Iran, from where it spread to the east and west of the plateau, in Mesopotamia, India and Asia Minor.

This this is why it is necessary to make an effort to decipher what has happened in Iran in the most ancient ages, although the data available are altered and incomplete. It is only after that we can move on to study the urban populations of the Elamites and then the Medes and Persians, that is, the air populations. Then, after analyzing the remains, or at least those that have come, we will briefly address the topic of Iranian prehistory and then review some rare artistic finds. Furthermore, we will use, where possible, and if necessary to understand the topics covered, the support of graphics, images and maps.



More it is not clear enough in which period, from which peoples, of which ethnicity and language, the Iranian plateau was inhabited for the first time. However, at a time when there was still no record of settlements in Palestine, Syria, Anatolia and north and central Mesopotamia, north-central Iran, Ghar-e Kamarband, near Noushahr, traces of anthropization are found.In addition, in Ganjidareh, in the west of Iran, finds from the pre-aristocratic period dating back to the second half of the 9th and the first half of the 8th century BC have been found. Same traces of a few more recent centuries are observable. in Tell Asiyab, near Kermanshah, a place where this period lasted for more than a millennium. From the beginning of the seventh millennium BC, ceramics appeared in Ganjidareh. Likewise, at Teppe Guran, there are traces of ceramics dating back to the mid-seventh century. At the same time, in Busmordeh and then in Alikosh, in the plain of Dehlaran, traces of ceramic and pre-ceramic civilizations emerged. In the region of the current Mohammad Jafar, towards the end of the seventh millennium, and in those of Sabz-e Khazineh, in the second half of the sixth millennium, small communities of farmers lived in villages. In Khazineh, these settlements are witnessed until the second half of the fifth millennium.

Circa 5.300 years before Christ, in two points of Iran, south-west and center respectively, two other urban civilizations emerged. The first in the Shushiyan plain in the Jaffarabad region, the second in the Siyalk region, near Kashan, on the edge of the central desert. The findings of these civilizations, especially that of Jaffarabad, are contemporaries of the period of Eridu 19 in Mesopotamia.

As mentioned above is based on the already mentioned study of Pierre Amiet, who speaks of the site of Ghar-e Kamarband, but does not mention, for any specific reason, other caves in western Iran, such as Kuh-e Sarsarkhan, Hamiyan, and Kuh-e Dusheh, in Luristan. These caves retain numerous cave paintings, left by hunter and farm communities in much earlier times than those found at Kuh-e Kamarband. Kuh-e Sarsarkhan is located at a distance of 30 km from the city of Kuhdasht, and houses prehistoric cave paintings in the two caves, north and south. In the southern cavern there are twelve paintings, six in the northern one, probably from the previous era.

On the summit of the mountain of Sarsarkhan, there is a wide plain largely hidden by vegetation, from which a path leads off to the east and then ends in a wide valley lying between Sarsarkhan and Hamiyan. In the middle of the valley there is another path that leads northwards to the slopes of the mountain and to the sites of the paintings; another path leads south, towards another site of paintings. Between the southern and the northern caves there is a distance of about half a kilometer, which can be reached on foot in just over half an hour. The paintings preserved almost intact in the north cave are three, seven of the south cave. The number of paintings in the cave of Dusheh, which belong to the beginning of the urban period and are much more recent, reaches the thirty, and two are endowed with inscriptions, part of which is lost.

No it is possible to accurately reconstruct the history of the Rupestrian representations of Luristan and we will not stop to analyze them here. However it is almost certain that these drawings may represent the starting point for the invention of writing. What is most important, however, is the origin of the mountain populations of the Zagros and, above all, of the Damavand, due to the special role it plays in the Iranian mythology.

- inhabitants of these territories, and in particular those of the Iranian plateau, are part of populations defined as "asian". The oldest names that history and history of Iranian epic-mythology have left us are those of the Kassi, or Cassiti, to the west, and the Saka to the east of the plateau. The name of the Kassi, due to its proximity to Mesopotamia and the fact that the Zagros populations sometimes went west and attacked the Mesopotamian cities, is recorded in different forms in Sumerian, Assyrian and Greek documents. Among the Sumerians, they were known as Kassi or Kassu, in Islam as Kussi, near the Assiri Kashshu, and among the Greeks as κοσσαίοι (Kossaioi), known for a long time at the Europeans as Kusseni. It seems that the sea that laps the Mazandaran, known for centuries as the Caspian Sea, and even the city of Qazvin (Kaspin), among the largest in northern Iran, derive its name from the name of this people. However, the name of the Cassites appears in the Sumerian, Babylonian and Elamite documents only from the second millennium BC. These peoples, not knowing the writing and living on the mountains and in the valleys of the hunting, agriculture and breeding valleys, did not need to form urban civilizations similar to those of the Elamites and Sumerians, and compensated for their material shortcomings with aggression towards the Mesopotamian peoples and other neighbors. The pottery found in the places where they lived show that the Cassites learned weaving in very ancient times, and that they hunted with slingshot and bat. In agriculture, they used plows made of flints and knives made of the same material, since metalworking was still unknown. The pottery they used was made with open-cooked clay on fires of dried bushes and desert bushes. Due to the inadequacy of the excavations undertaken in Iran, these are more or less all the information regarding the Cassites that we have available.

Around at 8.500 BC, some agricultural settlements appeared on the Zagros heights, at about 1.400 meters above sea level. The hills soon turned into villages formed by adobe dwellings. Archaeological findings suggest that, towards the end of the seventh millennium, an unprecedented event occurred that determined the superiority of this region over other areas of the ancient Near East: a terrifying fire hit a village and devoured it. The raw mud walls were fired and transformed into terracotta, an event that allowed the buildings to be preserved over the centuries.

- buildings in the area were built with long bricks, and probably some also had a floor above the ground floor. The houses were decorated with sheep's skulls, which also happened in Çatal Hüyük in Asia Minor, where public buildings and cult buildings were finished with animal skulls. The houses also had small raised warehouses for storing and storing grains and other foodstuffs.

Fu in this same period it was begun to build amphorae and large terracotta jars for the preservation of food and foodstuffs; subsequently, these containers began to be decorated. The surface of the vases proved to be the most suitable background for the expression of the aesthetic sense of this people and the application of different techniques. From this moment on, every agricultural community of some entity had its own specific ornamental forms, whose stylistic variations are of enormous importance from the historical point of view.

La discovery of the earth's cooking gave way to the production of fired bricks, more resistant, and the availability of this material determined the development of a different type of housing, since the buildings built in fired bricks could rise even more than one floor . The aesthetic sense of these populations also greatly influenced their ceramics. The grace and the beauty of their works, which emerge above all in the weaving and weaving of baskets, soon appeared also in the representation of birds, chamois and other types of fauna, performed with particular skill on the ceramic surfaces. Subsequently, the metals began to work and this process developed rapidly among the rural communities, even though it was in the first small urban centers that it accelerated. Sharp copper tools appeared beside flint tools and volcanic stone, clubs and stone axes. These volcanic black stone tools are also found in the mountainous areas around Qazvin.

Le Kalat Jarmuth ceramics, in Kurdistan, date back to 6.000 years before Christ. They are relatively differentiated, and include various types of vases, large amphoras for food and grain, cups, cups, and bowls. The containers were made of soft, porous earth, whose surface was painted with a red layer. The same technique is attested in the plain of Dehlaran, where it lasted much longer. Here, the population lived from hunting, fishing and even agriculture to seasonal cycles, a technique that allowed to increase the productivity of the land. This, in turn, encouraged these populations to breed domestic animals.

La appearance of agricultural civilizations on the slopes of the mountainous regions of Iran prevented the establishment and formation of large communities in the area; the inhabitants of the slopes, in fact, less than important events, lived from semi-nomads, part of the year in movement and part in the villages.

It seems that since very ancient times, small groups of hunters, shepherds and farmers who practiced the breeding of domestic animals, have chosen to settle in the lower plains of the great valleys, such as that of the plain of Dehlaran. These groups settled near fertile alluvial plains were among the first to arrive at the creation of artistic artifacts, to which they were able to confer, with a collective effort, a certain value.

The invention of terracotta, although it did not spread everywhere with the same speed, it is considered one of the main elements of the Neolithic revolution, thanks to the innumerable facilities that this practice introduced in daily life. It was precisely in the production and decoration of ceramics that, much earlier and better than in other fields, the aesthetic and artistic potential of these peoples manifested itself. However, the technique of ceramic decoration was not based solely on artistic sensitivity. The decorative particularity of a particular urban area was in fact based on the organization of work in the workshops. An element that was not very evident, so as to be little known even today, and therefore very difficult to evaluate. The diffusion of a technique or style was sometimes the expression of a personal style, and others the result of the dissemination of the collective culture of a given community, whose identity is not always easy to identify with exactness. One thing is clear: the passage of the culture of ceramics decorated in a very simple way from Iran to Mesopotamia is configured as a real "cultural revolution".

Simultaneously with the civilizations of the Sumerians and of Susa, independent civilizations emerged that distinguished themselves for the production of a decorated pottery that had no equal in the plateau.

Some rural communities settled in the mountain valleys encountered great difficulties in the exploitation of the land, and being very far from the flood plains they developed very little agriculture, making the farm their main resource. Very soon they created ties with the civilizations of the neighboring countries, that is of the Mesopotamia and of the plain of Turkestan and in this way, the great cultural and commercial families of the mountainous areas could give continuity to the tradition of decorated pottery in the area around the salt lake of Central Iran (the current lake of Qom or Soltaniyeh). To the west, on the southern shore of Lake Orumiyeh, the ceramic production of Hajji Firuz and then that of Dalma Tepe together with the ceramics of Turkmenistan, suggest that these two territories had connections between them from this period.

The evolution of the civilization in central-northern Iran can be better analyzed and understood thanks to the data emerged from the excavations carried out at Tepe Siyalk, near Kashan. The first inhabitants of this territory used simple tents, but soon their descendants began to build houses in raw bricks, whose basements were destined to the inhumation of the dead. With the technical development of the kilns for firing bricks and ceramics, they began to produce beautiful red or orange ceramics, decorated with black drawings. This type of pottery was widespread in the areas of present-day Tehran, in Ismail Abad, Kara Tepe and Cheshme Ali. The molds were still a little heavy, but the decorations already mixed abstract elements with very animalistic drawings. Finally, the third phase of Siyalk's civilization coincides with the apex of tradition born with the Neolithic revolution, from the fifth to the fourth millennium.

Big terrines and containers such as pitchers, wide-necked carafes, relief vases with complex shapes, began to host special decorations. These decorations included parallel and ordered rows of inscriptions and historiated tables, with animals portrayed in a very vivid way, although the geometric shapes were rather simple. This style spread to the east, even very far from its region of origin, Teppe Hesar, Damghan, and south of Alborz. While to the north of this area, in the Turkoman desert, the inhabitants of Anau and Namazga Tepe, after those of Jayatun, drew inspiration from life in villages whose conditions were similar to those of Mesopotamia. Soon they found themselves at the center of the network of relations established between western Iran and the southeastern part, the area of ​​today's Afghanistan and Baluchistan.

From excavations of graves scattered in different points, various ornamental objects were found of copper, mother-of-pearl, pearls of the gulf, turquoise of Khorasan and other precious stones coming from eastern areas of the plateau, whose variety shows the existence, in that period, of a certain type of trade, which perhaps went beyond barter.

Ci are some areas of southern Iran whose study is able to show the importance of this region as a source of raw materials such as copper and soft stones, including soapstone. In the area of ​​Kerman, the inhabitants of Tepe Yahya gave birth to a Neolithic civilization similar to that of Siyalk. After having achieved a good level in the fusion of metals, they established relations with other civilizations of eastern Iran. starting from the fifth millennium, one of the specializations of a nearby area, that of Tepe Iblis, in which hundreds of furnaces for the fusion and purification of copper were found.

Il Fars, that is the region of the current Shiraz, is linked to the civilization of Susa as far as the ceramic decoration styles and techniques are concerned. This is the reason for the commonality of these two areas in the historical period. The village of Tell Bakun, bordering on Persepolis, consisted of groups of houses built next to each other, without clear boundaries. His pottery was densely decorated with unusual and particular motifs whose elements are presented in some cases ordered in tight and unequal rows, and in others clearly distinct from each other. In these decorations, animals are represented with symbolic decorative elements: for example, beasts with large and disproportionate horns that show more clearly the value of the associated figures.

Le simple traces found in these areas show how in a few centuries a material revolution occurred, marked by the passage from the working of stone to that of metals, which determined the development of agricultural civilization; a revolution that progressed with its own motion, without interventions or influences coming from outside. Also in the fourth millennium, this progress experienced a rapid acceleration that led to the development of a highly advanced civilization, once again attributable to the outcome of a specific material revolution of the plateau. The invention of the ceramic lathe involved progress in processing techniques and a wider differentiation of ceramics and vascular types, as well as an increase in production that began to overcome local needs, which caused the birth of a ceramic trade . This fact led, in turn, to the development of new models of increasingly refined containers and decorative types. In such decorations, the animals are depicted in the act of chasing each other in a specific order, or in combat (Fig. 1).

Il changing the shapes of the animals, with the creation of stains and lines arranged in refined geometries, operations, these, all made in the laboratories of Bakun, Siyalk, Susa and other cities, as well as being indicative of the development of a conscious and original aesthetics in able to give completeness to the vascular decoration, merged with some superstitious and tribal beliefs, since the thought that underpinned the pictorial production did not concern only the mere execution of decorations, that traces of the same inspiration are found in the subsequent religious thought (Fig. 2 ).

As we have nothing written at the time, the real nature of this thought and these beliefs is unknown to us; however, it is possible that those same decorations were a sort of visual representation of the beliefs of that time. What the specialists wrote in this regard are nothing but assumptions by archaeologists, who in turn are mostly Westerners and assertors, as regards ancient civilizations, of the existence of polytheist cultures; they have spread their conception whose reliability, however, will not be certain until documents that can confirm this or that theory are discovered, so that the proposals made so far can only be accepted with reserve.

That whereas, on the contrary, it is true that it is incontrovertible that men, since they appeared, believed in the existence of good and bad supernatural forces. In light of this, it can be assumed that they asked the good deities for protection from the bad deities. They also believed that specific gods existed for the storm, the lightning, the fairs, the flocks, the herds and the harvest they worshiped and in honor of which temples were erected, where gifts were brought, officiated sacrifices, installed talismans, ex votos and invocations , sometimes simple and sometimes complex forms, all with the aim of guaranteeing the protection of the devotee.

Thus, in honor of the sun, or the sun-god, in addition to the creation of his particular geometric representations, they also represented animals that appeared to them as powerful as the sun, such as the eagle or the royal hawk, the lion or the bull. , sometimes mixing the elements. Traces of the same religious thought appeared until a few millennia later, testified by the myth of the Simorgh (

The persistence and prestige of this art, probably born from the oldest roots of the religious beliefs of the people of the plateau, contributed to its success and to a strong development throughout the territory and in the neighboring areas. It is possible to successfully search for the influence it exerted on the art of Mesopotamia and beyond, in the East and India.

Just as this people was a forerunner in the firing of ceramics, in the manufacture of bricks and in the invention of the lathe and transmitted these inventions to other areas, especially to Mesopotamia, it maintained its preeminence also in the field of metals and their processing. In fact, the oldest welded gold artefact was found in Susa and dates back to the fourth millennium. In the fourth millennium, an acceleration in the manufacture of metals occurred. The impetus of this development was such that it is still possible today to find places of extraction and fusion in the mountainous areas of the border of the plateau. The discovery of metals - accidentally happened, probably due to the presence of furnaces for firing ceramics or for burning firewood - was an extraordinary discovery that allowed the construction of weapons and metal tools, and the replacement of old and primitive stone tools. Stilettos, daggers, digging tools, knives, scythes etc. they began to be made of copper. Some ornamental stones, such as turquoise, coral and lapis lazuli, were used to create jewelry or as a decoration for copper tools. Born brooches, spherical mirrors, necklaces of different shapes and chest bracelets. In the jewelry were also used shells, quartz, jade and pearls. The production of similar jewelry led to the invention of stamped and subsequently cylindrical stamps (Fig. 3). Turquoise, lapis lazuli and mother-of-pearl were traded with agricultural products.

Up until this time, the changes that occurred were the work of the native inhabitants of the plateau. Traces found in various parts of the region, from north to south and from east to west, testify to the existence of very close relations between them, while there are no findings that suggest foreign influences in this process. However, towards the end of the fourth millennium, a known people with the name of Elamiti emerged to the southwest of the plateau. It is an urban population with a certain power, whose provenance is not entirely clear, just as much is not known about any links with older Iranian groups on whose activity there is no evidence, due to the destruction of towns and villages caused by the numerous invasions they suffered The only thing that can be said with reasonable approximation is that the Elamites were related to the Sumerians, and that gave rise to an urban civilization at the same time - or perhaps even a little earlier - to them.

It is not clear at what periods the Elamites began to use writing. Clay tablets, containing signs that probably corresponded to vocal elements and served to express concepts, and which can be dated from the second half of the fourth millennium, have been found in all the centers of civilization of the Iranian plateau, from Susa to Siyalk, from Tepe Giyan to Shahdad (the ancient Hafiz, on the edge of the salty desert). These signs can be interpreted as figures for the classification and counting of goods. Given that these tribal populations, if we exclude the populations of Zagros and Susa, led their lives peacefully in the cities and villages, it is quite normal that they did not invent writing to record events, but exclusively to satisfy their commercial and material needs. , as is now also established for the Sumerians; unfortunately, however, the numerous written signs that have left us the people of the plateau remain largely still to be deciphered, even if, to be fair, it must be said that they do not see elements that make one think of an evolution of writing .

Whether it is simply a conjecture due to the lack of excavations conducted or not, it is in fact in the Sumerians that we note the passage from a figurative and ideographic writing to an alphabetical one. In the third millennium this process was now completed and writing became the instrument for the transcription of laws, invocations, prayers, litanies, poems and stories, as witnessed in the epic of Gilgamesh.

The graphic signs found in the centers of the plateau are normally known as ancient-Elamite. Although this denomination is not necessarily denoting the spread of these signs from Islam to other areas, nevertheless one of the reasons for this name is the rapid expansion of the Elamite civilization in the plateau and the influence it had on the arts, and perhaps also on the literature and customs, of other Iranian civilizations, as well as the development of elemite writing in the third millennium.

From the point of view of religious beliefs, a definitive assessment of the religiosity of the inhabitants of the plateau is not yet possible. However, if we consider all the representations on ceramics, and all the other artistic artifacts such as plates, figurines, abstract forms and fantastic human-animal beings, as an expression of religious beliefs, we can conclude that the inhabitants of the plateau had roughly the same beliefs of the peoples of other areas of their contemporaries. For example, they believed in divinity of fertility, grace, and abundance, including the mother goddess and a serpent god. These beliefs survived until the first millennium as witnessed by depictions on circular stamps and on ceramic plates, together with some ancient ancient sculptures found at Naqsh-e Rostam and Guran Tepe.

Between the end of the fourth millennium and the beginning of the third, bronze was discovered. The bronze artifacts, much more resistant than those in copper, became widespread. The major development of bronze working took place between the end of the third and the beginning of the second millennium, and it became so specialized that it required specific skills and mastery. The ceramics further refined and began to be decorated with engraved representations. At the center of attention, however, the shape and the aesthetics of objects began to rise more and more often, while decoration slipped towards an almost secondary role. It is possible that the reason for this is to be found in some changes in religious beliefs or in some external influences. Nevertheless, a series of blue-gray pottery was found in Tureng Tepe, in the same place where earthen figurines were found.

From the recent excavations carried out near Tehran, at Robat-e Karim, traces of an urban civilization of the fourth millennium have emerged, on which studies not yet published have been carried out. On the site were found ovens for firing gray ceramic and various other intact or broken finds, which show how the blue ceramics of Tureng Tepe are successive. On the other hand, Tureng Tepe's statuettes testify to a particular skill in the design of human forms in relief. On the head of these small sculptures there are recesses to affix the hair and the rings, on which were set some stones, which represented the eyes and that had to be, as they show similar findings, colored in white.

These statuettes, as well as the bronzes of the second millennium of Luristan (eastern Iran), which was in direct relationship with the Cassites and with their dominion over Babylon, due to the fact that they are coeval with the elamite civilizing wave, will be analyzed after the treatment of Elam and his art. These two cultural and artistic flows have many similarities and common points.

As in Mesopotamia, it seems that even the people of Susa initially lived in hills, valleys or plateaus. The excavations carried out at Chaghamish show that first appeared a civilization, defined as "ancient" or "primitive", deriving from the Neolithic civilizations of the Zagros. Subsequently, the human agglomerates expanded well beyond simple farming villages. During this long period, groups of breeder-hunters settled near Jaffarabad, north of Susa. The nucleus consisted of a small company assembled in a large house consisting of fifteen rooms. Later, when this typology was abandoned, a group of expert ceramists settled in the same place with their laboratories in which they produced ceramics for all the neighboring populations. In the end, around the year 4000 a. C., a group from Chaghamish abandoned the large houses, too exposed to aggression, and moved to safer shelters. The desire to live in community, to support one another and to defend oneself from external aggressions is the reason why Susa - at the beginning only a cluster of small agricultural villages - became a city. Its inhabitants, who until then used to inumare the dead at home, erected a cemetery on a hill near the town. From the buried tools that have been found next to the bodies, it is clear to us that this people had a flourishing copper metallurgical industry and produced magnificent dishes, of which only a few specimens were found in the houses. The figures painted on the vases, which had the shape of a chamois head, are simple and similar to those of the Neolithic civilizations. However, the way in which they were arranged on the surface of jugs and vases with a refined and pleasant design, and inside large and deep cups, show the search for harmony and proportion. To avoid the monotony of the ornamental lines, they have different thicknesses that harmonize with precision with the whole. Strips of gradually variable thickness, delimit and characterize angular surfaces on which geometrical figures had to be painted, sometimes pushed to the limit of abstraction and to an unknown simplicity. The huge and disproportionate horns of the chamois are enough to summarize the idea of ​​the animal and remind us of the bonds that the inhabitants of the desert had with those of the plateau, links that made it essentially a single people.

Soon the inhabitants of Susa, who had become very wealthy, realized that it was not necessary to use all the time to accumulate wealth, and that it could be organized in such a way as to entrust this task to a powerful manager, able to lead the dynasties. real estate during the period in which they were in office. They raised a huge pedestal, ten meters high and a base of eighty meters by eighty; the structure, unique in size, was to serve as a base for a temple and its appurtenances, and remained the center of Susa throughout the pre-historic period. This pedestal was similar to what had been erected as a place of worship in Eridu. In that period an urban society emerges with specific features from the point of view of architecture and religion, based on institutions of Mesopotamian origin. The first inhabitants of Susa, in spite of their superb civilization, did not know the writing, nor is it possible consider the vascular decorations as a beginning of writing, although some representations are similar to ideographic writing. Of course, sometimes these representations appear as scenes, however elementary: birds in the parade, running dogs, or chamois on the edge of a body of water. Writing in reverse, in its early stages, abstracted images from their real context in order to use them in an independent and orderly manner, capable of organizing the discourse.

The seals of Susa reveal a much more varied inventory than that of the vascular drawings, that is, something that for the first time brings to mind myths of religious gods and rituals. In the detailed engraved scenes, we see a character with horns, or with an animal head with horns, which grabs snakes next to a sawfish or a lion, and which appears prominent compared to the rest of the representation. A demon or a priest who plays a demon can be identified in this character. In another context, another character dressed in the same way, but devoid of the animal head, accepts the blessings of a series of little prayers, who bring him gifts. This design is very similar to the representations found on the seals made in Luristan in the same period, and it seems that some of them were brought to Susa from there.

The inhabitants of the high-altitude valleys buried the dead in cemeteries, as in Susa, but far from inhabited settlements. This fact corroborates the idea that they were settlers who lived side by side with villagers concentrated around certain nuclei, like Tepe Giyan. It can be assumed that starting from the fifth millennium, some form of cohabitation between colonial populations, citizens, inhabitants of the mountains and villages of valleys and the desert has been established, and that this situation has been prolonged for a long time.

In the second half of the fifth millennium, the pottery of Susa reached its highest peak in beauty and magnificence. Despite the widespread use of ceramics from the so-called obeid period in Iran, on the shores of the Persian Gulf, between the Assyrians and up to Syria, only Susa pottery can be considered the expression of the artistic revolution produced by the Neolithic revolution and retained its originality .

At the end of this period of prehistory, both in Mesopotamia and in Susa a tradition has been consolidated. Civilizations in contact with current traditions in the high valleys of western Iran radiate from the territories of the ancient east to the other territories. Settlements of not inconsiderable size arise, dominated by buildings that demonstrate a certain degree of economic collaboration. Moreover, the specialization in labor, testified by the ceramic and metallurgical laboratories, indicates the existence of social changes much more diversified than the societies of the villagers still linked to the Neolithic, in which the division of labor still appears primitive. The presence of a central power is also revealed by the existence of large buildings of worship, as well as by religious specificities, even "priestly". The central plains, kissed by the fortune of rivers of considerable size, assumed a clear preeminence with respect to the other areas, since in it a society developed that tightened ties with other densely inhabited areas and proliferated. In this way, a very extensive human society was created, so much so that in the second half of the fourth millennium the conditions for a new "revolution" occurred, namely the revolution of cities, in the specific sense of the term. Cities, metropolises, and states were established on economic, social, cultural, and religious bases that had not been manifested before because of the heaviness of the Neolithic tradition.



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