Tepeh Khaleseh: a new Neolithic and Palaeolithic site
in the Abharrud basin in north-western Iran

Sajjad Alibaigi & Shokouh Khosravi

Introduction

Archaeological surveys in the Abharrud basin on the north-western Iranian central plateau were carried out in two seasons in 2003 and 2005 (Aali 2004a & 2004b). In the first season of the survey, which led to the identification of 92 archaeological sites, the ancient Tepeh Khaleseh was identified (Aali 2004a: 56; 2006: 17). Tepeh Khaleseh or Yazi Tepeh (49 10 28 N - 36 11 22 E and 1537m asl) is located 1km south of Khorramdarreh city (Figure 1) and on the bank of the river Khoshkerhrud. This is a tributary stream originating from Abharrud which flows in an east-west direction 900m to the north of the mound. The site is 46m in diameter and rises 3m above the surrounding landscape. Unfortunately the mound has been disturbed by farmers, and illegal excavations have been carried out in several places. Many parts of the mound have thus been destroyed (Aali 2004a: 56) (Figure 2).

Figure 1
Figure 1. Landscape of the Khorramdarreh valley.
Click to enlarge.
Figure 2
Figure 2. A view of Tepeh Khaleseh showing illegal excavations on the western side.
Click to enlarge.

The material collected

Surface examination revealed many sherds of pottery, fragments of bone and stone tools. These pottery sherds have been divided into two major groups, undecorated and decorated (Figures 3 & 4). The undecorated group consists of red to cream and orange clay fabrics; the decorated sherds are of red and buff fabric. The sherds collected have three features in common: production technology, temper and slip.

All pottery is hand-made and tempered with large amounts of chaff. The majority of sherds have clay slips of buff, cream, orange and orangey-buff colours. They appear to belong to softwares made at a low firing temperature. The decorated sherds are finer and better made. Most pottery belongs to simple forms, the most common being simple bowls, deep bowls and large jars. The pottery sherds have simple vertical rims and a slight curve in the middle part.

Figure 3
Figure 3. Pottery sherds collected from the site.
Click to enlarge.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Neolithic painted pottery from Tepeh Khaleseh.
Click to enlarge.

All painted pottery sherds have geometrical motifs including patterns such as cross hatches, as well as zigzags, ladder and rectangular patterns in a band (Figure 4) in red, dark brown and black (Alibaigi & Khosravi 2007: 37). Considering the primitive production technology with large amounts of chaff temper and the low firing temperature, as well as the primitive forms, small amount of decoration, and the simple geometrical motifs, the collection of Khaleseh is comparable to those of the Late Neolithic sites of Ebrahim Abad (Fazeli et al. 2007a), Chahar-Boneh (Fazeli et al. 2007b) and Mah Tepeh in the Gazvin plain (personal observations). This suggests that there is evidence for a sixth-millennium BC pottery tradition on the north-western reaches of the central Iranian plateau.

In addition to the pottery sherds, 23 stone tools have also been recovered from disturbed contexts which were encountered at a depth of about 2.5m below the surrounding fields (Figures 5 & 6) in places where there have been illegal excavations .This collection includes 9 choppers, 9 cores, 4 simple and retouched flakes and 1 hammer stone. These tools are made of limestone, chert and igneous stone, and the surface of all pieces is covered with a thick layer of patina.

Considering the technological and typological aspects of the tools, as well as the type of material used, the thick layer of patina and the lack of recent stone tools such as blades, blade cores and microlith cores, it is possible that the stone tools of Khaleseh belong to a Lower Palaeolithic horizon, known from sites such as Pal Barik (Mortensen 1974; 1993) and from collections around the Sahand Mountain (Sadek-Koroos 1976).

Figure 5
Figure 5. A large core fragment.
Click to enlarge.
Figure 6
Figure 6. Stone tools from Khaleseh, possibly of Lower Palaeolithic date.
Click to enlarge.

Conclusion

Khaleseh is a site which, despite being extensively damaged, has the potential to answer important archaeological questions relating to the north-western region of the central Iranian plateau. In the context of recent Lower Palaeolithic discoveries in Iran, Khaleseh also has the potential to provide new information on the existence of hominids in the region and their movement eastwards.

References

  • AALI, A. 2004a. A report on the first season of the archaeological survey and identification of Abharrud Basin (Abhar and Khorramdarreh county). Unpublished report in Archive of the Cultural Heritage Organization of Zanjan Province, in Persian.
    - 2004b. A report on the survey and identification of Khorramdarreh county. Unpublished report in Archive of the Cultural Heritage Organization of Zanjan Province, in Persian.
    - 2006a. A report on the second season of the archaeological survey and identification of Abharrud Basin (Abhar and Khorramdarreh county). Unpublished report in Archive of the Cultural Heritage Organization of Zanjan Province, in Persian.
    - 2006b. A descriptive report on the archaeological survey and identification of Abharrud Basin. Payam-e Bastanshenas, Archeological Journal of Islamic Azad University of Abhar 6: 17-42, in Persian.
  • ALIBAIGI, S. & S.H. KHOSRAVI. 2007. Tepe Khaleseh: earliest prehistoric settlement in Abharrud Basin. Bastan Pazhuhi 15: 35-47, in Persian.
    - n.d. Khaleseh: the first evidence from Lower Paleolithic occupation in the Khorramdarreh valley, in northwestern borders of Iranian Central Plateau. Unpublished report, in Persian.
  • FAZELI, N.H., H. ILKHANI, A. MARGHUSIAN & A. BESHKANI. 2007a. A preliminary report on sounding and stratigraphy of Tepe Chahar Boneh of Ghazvin plain. Archeological reports(7) on the occasion of the 9th annual symposium on Iranian archaeology (1st Volume): 355-76, in Persian. Tehran: Research Center for ICHHTO, Iranian Center for Archaeological Research.
    2007b. A preliminary report on sounding and stratigraphy of Tepe Ebrahim Abad of Ghazvin plain. : 377-406, in Persian. Tehran: Research Center for ICHHTO, Iranian Center for Archaeological Research.
  • MORTENSEN, P., 1974.Survey and sounding in the Hulailan valley 1974 in F. Bagherzadeh (ed.) Proceedings of the 3rd annual symposium on archaeological research in Iran, Tehran 1974: 1-12. Tehran: Iranian Center for Archaeological Research.
    - 1993. Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic sites in the Hulailan valley ,Northern Luristan, in D.I. Olszewski & H.L.Dibble (ed.) The Paleolithic prehistory of the Zagros-Taurus: 87-159. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.
  • SADEK-KOOROS, H. 1976.Early Hominid traces in East Azarbaijan, in F. Bagherzadeh (ed.) Proceedings 4th annual symposium on archaeological research in Iran, Tehran 1975: 1-10 Tehran: Iranian Center for Archaeological Research.

Authors

  • Sajjad Alibaigi
    Department of Archaeology, University of Tehran, Enghelab st, Tehran, Iran (Email: sadjadalibaigi@gmail.com)
  • Shokouh Khosravi
    Department of Archaeology, University of Tarbiat Modares, Jalal Al-e Ahmad st, Pol-e Gisha, Tehran, Iran (Email: shokouh_khosravi@yahoo.com)