Bronze Age Glyptics of Eastern Jazmurian, Iran

"Illegal excavations and looting of archaeological sites in parts of the Indo-Iranian borderlands and regions of South- Eastern Iran and Central Asia have been rampant over several decades. Archaeologists have attempted to minimise the damage caused by the plundering of sites by studying and publishing artefacts abandoned by looters on-site, or those recovered by security forces," write the authors (p. 133). While the methods of expropriating these objects, stripping them of the context needed to better understand them, what is remarkable is how at least some of these objects are being recovered, and how archaeologists and scholars have been able to use their skills and comparisons with what is known to cast light on them and develop a better understanding of regional history. This paper is an excellent case in point. Using "seals and sealings [that] were recovered by the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organisation (ICCHTO), Zahedan, from disturbed contexts and illegal excavations," the authors reconstruct their sequencing chronologically, and in doing so cast light on a sophisticated system of seal design and utilization that was connected to a much wider region, from Afghanistan to Central Asia and the ancient Indus Valley.

The eastern Jazmurian Valley was likely occupied from at least 4500-3500 BCE, and then again roughly from 2700-1800 BCE, around the time of the Indus Valley civilization's rise and height. From the evidence of the many kinds of largely geometric seals produced in the region, it seems to have been a fertile and inventive place, with some unique styles and designs, and others familiar from places like Shahr-i Sokhta in Iran or Mundigak in Afghanistan, Balochistan, and complex shapes later found in Mohenjo-daro [see Image 2, above]. "It is clear," write the authors, "that the preliminary evidence, in the dramatically compromised archaeological picture of Eastern Jazmurian, suggests that one or more elite groups of the Early Bronze Age made use of a very localized identity, formally expressed by a specific type of stamp seal whose functions, at present, are unknown; then, shortly after 2000 BC, completely different types of seals were more widely used with very practical functions in the economical reality of a new long-distance connectivity" (p. 151).