BEIJING, Aug. 10 (Xinhuanet) -- Archaeologists worldwide are having hissy fits because numerous sites in modern-day Iran and the surrounding region are giving up evidence that a vast network of societies constituted the first cities, redefining the origins of modern civilization.
Residents of the cities traded goods across hundreds
of miles and forged parallel but strikingly independent cultures. The social
structures, wealth and technologies of this society slowly spread along the Nile
and then the Indus rivers in the 3rd millennium B.C.
Archaeologists have thought modern civilization
began in Mesopotamia, where the large Tigris and Euphrates rivers bounded a
fertile valley that nurtured an increasingly complex society.
"People didn't think you could have large settlements
this early without large rivers emptying into an ocean. No one knew of these
sites," reporter Andrew Lawler wrote in the Aug. 3 issue of Science
magazine on the key findings, which were discussed at a recent archaeological
conference in Ravenna, Italy.
One site proved particularly important for convincing
some scientists of the error of the accepted history. Locals had been uncovering
artifacts in an ancient cemetery near Jiroft and flooding the art market with
pottery and other goods. Researchers tracked these curiously unique pieces back
to their source, where, Lawler said, they found "a vast moonscape of craters
made by looters."
But further exploration of two nearby mounds found
evidence of a large city, one that may have rivaled contemporary Ur in
Mesopotamia. "These people were trading with the Indus, with Mesopotamia, to the
north and south," Lawler explained.
According to Carl Lamberg-Karlovsky of Harvard
University, the site dates back to 4000 B.C., signifying that the Jiroft site
and its environs were once home to a long-lived culture, not a brief response to
The entire area of interest spreads roughly from the
eastern border of Iran to the Pakistani-Iranian border, and from the Russian
steppes southward through the Persian Gulf area and onto the Arabian
The potential discovery of a new writing system was
perhaps the largest controversy of the many discussed at the conference. Three
tablets, the first discovered by a local farmer and the others subsequently
unearthed by professional archaeologists, appear to contain a unique