Shahr-e Sukhte (meaning: The Burnt City), also spelled as Shahr-e, is an archaeological site of a sizable Bronze Age urban settlement, associated with the Jiroft culture.
Shahr-e sukhteh represents the advent of the first complex societies in Sistan and Baluchistan province, southeastern part of Iran. It belongs to 3200 BC, and it was populated during four main periods up to 1800 BC, during the time when several developed distinct areas were within the city. In July 2014 it was placed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
It shows that they’d built monuments, and had separated houses, burial place and construction or manufacture. In the early second millennium due to deviance of water routes and changes of the climate, the inhabitants abundant the city.
There are houses, burial mounds and large amount of unearthed remarkable ancient relics. Fortunately, due to the dry desert atmospheric condition of the region, the Shire has preserved well and this site has provided a precious source of information regarding the immersion of complex societies and the communication between them in the third millennium BC.
In December 2006, archaeologists discovered the world’s earliest known artificial eyeball in Shahr-e sukhteh. It has a hemispherical form and a diameter of just over 2.5 cm. It consists of very light material, probably bitumen paste. The surface of the artificial eye is covered with a thin layer of gold, engraved with a central circle (representing the iris) and gold lines patterned like sun rays. The female remains found with the artificial eye was 1.82 m tall, much taller than ordinary women of her time. On both sides of the eye are drilled tiny holes, through which a golden thread could hold the eyeball in place. Since microscopic research has shown that the eye socket showed clear imprints of the golden thread, the eyeball must have been worn during her lifetime. The woman’s skeleton has been dated to between 2900 and 2800 BCE.
The oldest known backgammon, dice and caraway seeds, together with numerous metallurgical finds (e.g. slag and crucible pieces), are among the finds which have been unearthed by archaeological excavations from Shahr-e sukhteh. Other objects found at the Shahr-e sukhteh include a human skull which indicates the practice of brain surgery and an earthen goblet depicting what archaeologists consider to be the first animation.
Emerging from the heart of the arid landscape of southeastern Iran lies Shahr-e Sukhteh, an ancient metropolis that once stood as a beacon of civilization amidst the unforgiving desert. Its name, aptly translating to “The Burnt City,” hints at the cataclysmic event that abruptly silenced its bustling streets and froze its inhabitants in time. Yet, beneath the mantle of ash and debris lies a treasure trove of archaeological marvels, revealing a society of remarkable ingenuity and cultural richness.
A Flourishing Metropolis
Shahr-e Sukhteh’s origins trace back to the Bronze Age, around 3200 BC, when the Jiroft culture, a vibrant and sophisticated civilization, emerged in the region. This sprawling city, covering an impressive 151 hectares, bore witness to the remarkable achievements of its inhabitants.
The city’s architecture reflected a sophisticated understanding of urban planning. Divided into distinct districts, Shahr-e Sukhteh housed imposing monumental structures, well-planned residential quarters, dedicated burial grounds, and intricate irrigation systems. These remnants of a bygone era showcase the remarkable organizational and engineering prowess of the Jiroft people.
A Crucible of Innovation
The Burnt City was not merely a testament to architectural brilliance; it was also a hub of innovation and cultural advancement. Archaeological excavations have unearthed a wealth of artifacts that shed light on the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the Jiroft people.
Among these discoveries is the world’s earliest known artificial eyeball, unearthed in 2006. This remarkably crafted prosthetic, made of bitumen paste and adorned with gold leaf, belonged to an exceptionally tall woman, suggesting advanced medical practices and a society that valued inclusivity.
Shahr-e Sukhteh also yielded the oldest known backgammon set, dating back to 3000 BC, providing tangible evidence of the city’s vibrant leisure activities and the importance of social interactions. The presence of dice and caraway seeds further highlights the diverse range of pastimes enjoyed by the inhabitants.
A Legacy of Cultural Richness
Beyond its technological advancements, Shahr-e Sukhteh’s cultural heritage is equally captivating. Excavations have revealed a wealth of artifacts that illuminate the artistic and spiritual expression of the Jiroft people.
One of the most intriguing discoveries is an earthen goblet adorned with intricate carvings, believed to depict the world’s first animation. The goblet’s design suggests a sophisticated understanding of storytelling and the ability to capture movement visually.
A Silent Witness to a Tragic End
Despite its remarkable achievements, Shahr-e Sukhteh’s fate was not destined for longevity. Around 1800 BC, a series of natural disasters, including the diversion of watercourses and changes in climate, brought about the city’s gradual decline. Eventually, a catastrophic fire engulfed the metropolis, reducing its once vibrant structures to smoldering ruins.
The Burnt City’s demise left behind a silent testament to the ephemeral nature of human civilization. Yet, amidst the ashes, a wealth of archaeological treasures remains, offering a glimpse into the remarkable achievements of the Jiroft culture.