TEPE HISSAR (Tappa Ḥeṣār), prehistoric site located just south of Dāmḡān in northeastern Persia. To the north lie valleys rich in flint, lead, wood, fruit, deer, stag, boar, fish and fowl; to the south, the periphery of the great desert (kavir), with known occurrences of copper, gold, turquoise, semi-arid fauna, and herds of gazelles and onagers (Dyson and Tosi, fig. 4). The present mound covers an area of 200 x 300 meters; formerly, it covered about 600 meters (Schmidt, 1937, fig. 16). A Sasanian palace was excavated at 2,200 m to the southwest (Schmidt, 1937, pp. 327-46).
Objects found in 1877 (Schindler) were catalogued around 1925 (Herzfeld, n. 44). In 1931 and 1932, excavations were undertaken by the University of Pennsylvania Museum (Schmidt, 1933, 1937). A surface survey was carried out in 1972 (Bulgarelli, 1972, 1979). In 1976 a re-study project was fielded by the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Turin University, and the Iran Center for Archaeological Research (Dyson and Howard). In 1995 salvage work was done by the Iran Cultural Heritage Organization (Sāzmān-e mirāṯ-e farhangi; Abdi).
Sixteen hundred graves were recorded; of these 782 from 1932 formed the basis of the 1937 tabular presentation of burial data. Specifically described graves include only 33 for Hissar I, 24 for Hissar II, and 38 for Hissar III (Forest, p. 314). Four rich graves of Hissar IIIC were found in 1931 (Schmidt, 1933: pls. CXLVII, CLII-CLV, pp. 442-52). Some of the skeletal remains have been restudied since Wilhelm Krogman’s 1940 study, using different techniques (Nowell; Rathbun). Generally, bodies were buried on their sides in a flexed position in simple pits. In period II, however, rare brick cist graves appear (Schmidt, 1937, pl. CXI, p. 389). Forest provides a detailed analysis of burial customs.
Based on his analysis of burial ceramics, Erich Schmidt identified three major periods. Period I was subdivided into IA (earliest), IB and IC. The separation between IC and IIA is unclear; the term IC/IIA better reflects this uncertainty. Period II(B) and III(B and C) are well-defined; IIIA is ephemeral. The 1976 radiocarbon determinations support the following chronology: IC/IIA: about 3980-3865 cal. BCE, IIB: c. 3365-3030 cal BCE, IIIB: ca. 2400-2170 cal. BCE; and IIIC 2170-1900 cal. BCE (Voigt and Dyson, I, pp. 173-74). Period IB should then be about 4000 BCE and earlier, while IA should be sometime after 5000 BCE, since it clearly follows the Cheshmi Ali (Čašma ʿAli)-Sialk II painted ware horizon of about 5500 BCE (Esfandiari).
Architectural remains for Hissar I consist of fragmentary čina walls with traces of mud-brick. Rooms are rectilinear but no complete building plans were recovered. In period IIB walls with regularly spaced exterior buttresses appear (Dyson and Remsen, figs. 9, 12, pp. 84-89). On the Main Mound structures dated to IIIB by Schmidt (1937, fig. 86) can be shown to belong to Hissar IIB (Howard, 1989, fig. 1, pp. 56-59), as originally proposed in Schmidt’s field notes. Brick sizes range from 47 x 23 x 11 cm in period I to 65 x 33 x 9 cm in period IIIB. The Burned Building of IIIB has various interpretations due to the richness of its contents and the presence of burned bodies and flint arrowheads (Dyson, 1972). Its plan was completed in 1976 (FIGURE 1). A small fire altar suggests that it may be a shrine (Dyson and Remsen, fig. 15, pp. 91-98). Rows of rectangular rooms of IIIC date above the Burned Building, associated with ritual objects, appear to be significant (Schmidt, 1937, fig. 1102, p. 177).
The subsistence economy was based on agriculture. From Hissar II onward plant remains indicate “an agricultural system based on cereals [glume and free-threshing wheats, naked and hulled barley] and the utilization of local fruit [olive, grapevine] plant resources” (Costantini and Dyson, p. 66). Lentil seeds and legumes were also present. Cattle and sheep figurines indicate herding activities (Mashkour).
From the beginning full-time craft specialists mass-produced standardized painted pottery (Hissar I-IIA). Hissar I ware, handmade in IA and wheel-made in IB, consisted of painted buff, painted red, and plain utility ware; a crude late painted ware still occurred in period IIB, along with a coarse ware tempered with crushed slag (Pigott, Howard, and Epstein). Hissar I painted ware is decorated with geometric, plant, and animal motifs (gazelles, ibexes, and birds; FIGURE 2). Shapes consist of small cups and bowls, and bowls (shallow and deep) on pedestal stems with flaring bases. Burnished grey ware becomes predominant in period IIB and III, produced in a reducing fire from the same local clays. In IIB cups on high pedestal stands appear; in III canteens and bottle-pitchers replaced them. As with pottery, the uniformity and skill seen in the artifacts (and the quantity of slag and furnace linings) suggests full-time specialists. In Hissar I daggers, knife blades, arrowheads, pins, tacks, points, and needles were made. In Hissar II and III copper artifacts increase in quality and variety (Pigott, Howard and Epstein, p. 222) and include personal ornaments (earrings, pendants, bracelets, bands), tools and weapons (bidents, lances, mattocks, chisels, maceheads), and luxury items (vessels, mirrors, boxes and intricately cast pins and rods). Lab study shows “remarkable technological conservatism persisting from Hissar I through III” (Pigott, 1999). In Hissar IIB lead, silver, and gold were added to copper for the first time (FIGURE 3).
While western connections are visible in the ceramics and button-seals of Hissar I (McCown, pp. 7-11), many connections with Margiana (Marv) and Bactria occur in Hissar IIIC. These include mini-columns, alabaster discs, animal figurines, bidents, tridents, axe-adzes, compartmented copper stamp seals, lanceheads with bent tangs, metal horns, cosmetic bottles, beads with incised circles, etc. Four rich burials from 1931 belong to this period as does a large “hoard” of pottery copper, gold and alabaster objects (most likely a cenotaph like those found in Baluchistan and Central Asia; Amiet, 1986). The 1976 excavations produced one clay or tablet with signs and nine blank pillow-shaped tablets in Hissar II (Tosi and Bulgarelli, pp. 38, 40, figs. 6, 8). Additional (unpublished) tablets with signs were excavated in the 1995 salvage excavation.
Kamyar Abdi, Archaeological News from Iran 3, Oriental Institute, Chicago, 1996.
Pierre Amiet, “La période IV de Tépé Sialk reconsidérée,” in Jean-Luis Huot, Marguerite Yon, and Yves Calvet, eds., De l’Indus aux Balkans: recueil à la mémoire de Jean Deshayes, Paris, 1985, pp. 293-12.
Idem, L'Age desechanges inter-iraniens 3500-1700 avant JC, Paris, 1986.
C. H. Bovington et al., “The Radiocarbon Evidence for the Terminal Date of the Hissar IIIC Culture,” Iran 12, 1974, pp. 195-99.
Grazia Maria Bulgarelli, “Tepe Hissar: Preliminary Report on a Surface Survey, August 1972,” East and West 24/1-2, 1974, pp. 15-27.
Idem, “The Lithic Industry of Tepe Hissar in the Light of Recent Excavations,” in Maurizio Taddei, ed., South Asian Archaeology 1977, Naples, 1979, pp. 39-54.
L. Costantini and Robert H. Dyson, Jr., “The Ancient Agriculture of the Damghan Plain: The Archaeological Evidence from Tepe Hissar,” in Naomi F. Miller, ed., Economy and Settlement in the Near East: Analyses of Ancient Sites and Materials, MASCA, Research Papers in Science and Archaeology 7, Suppl., Philadelphia, 1990, pp. 46-68.
Jean Deshayes, “Tureng Tépé et la période Hissar IIIC,” in Charles F. August Schaeffer, ed., Ugaritica 6, Paris, 1969, pp. 139-63.
Idem, “Hissar Tepe,” in Reallexikon der Assyriologie undVorderasiatischen Archaologie IV, Berlin and New York, 1975a, pp. 426-29.
Idem, Tessons de Céramique Peinte de Tappeh Hesar,” in Firouz Bagherzadeh, ed., Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Symposium on Archaeological Research in Iran, 1974/Gozārešhā-ye sevvomin majmaʿ-e sālāna-ye kāvešhā wa pažuhešhā-ye bāstān-šenāsi dar Irān, Tehran, 1975b, pp. 103-20.
Robert H. Dyson, Jr., “Ceramics i.
The Neolithic Period through the Bronze Age in Northeastern and North Central Persia,” in EIr. V, pp. 266-75.
Idem, “The Burned Building of Tepe Hissar IIIB, a Restatement,” Bāstān-šenāsi wa honar-e Irān 9/10, 1972, pp. 57-83.
Idem, “Comments on Hissar Painted Red Ware,” in Jean-Luis Huot, Marguerite Yon, and Yves Calvet, eds., De l’Indus aux Balkans: recueil à la mémoire de Jean Deshayes, Paris, 1985, pp. 337-45.
Idem, The Relative and Absolute Chronology of Hissar II and the Proto-Elamite Horizon of Northern Iran,” in Oliver Aurenche, Jacques Evin, and Francis Hours, eds., Chronologies in theNear East: Relative Chronologies and Absolute Chronology 16,000-4,000 B.P., BAR International Series 379, 2 vols., Oxford, 1987, II, pp. 647-78.
Robert H., Dyson, Jr. and Susan M. Howard, eds., Preliminary Reports of the Tappeh Hesar Restudy Project, 1976, Monografi di Mesopotamia 2, Florence, 1989.
Robert H. Dyson, Jr. and W. C. S. Remsen, “Observations on Architecture and Stratigraphy at Tappeh Hesar,” in Robert Dyson and Susan Howard, eds., pp. 69-109.
Robert H. Dyson, Jr. and M. Tosi, “Introduction,” in Robert Dyson and Susan Howard, eds., pp. 1-6.
A. A. Esfandiari, The Cultural [sic] of Cheshmi Ali on the Central Plateau of Iran, Tehran, 2000.
J.-D. Forest, “La Sequence de Tepe Hissar: continuité et evolution,” in Jean-Luis Huot, Marguerite Yon, and Yves Calvet, eds., De l’Indus aux Balkans: recueil à la mémoire de Jean Deshayes, Paris, 1985, pp. 313-35.
Ernst Herzfeld, Iran in the Ancient East: Archaeological Studies Presented in the Lowell Lectures at Boston, New ed., New York, 1988, pp. 96 ff, n. 44.
Susan M. Howard, “The Stratigraphic Sequence of the Main Mound at Tappeh Hesār,” in Robert Dyson and Susan Howard, eds., pp. 55-68.
Wilhelm M. Krogman, “The Peoples of Early Iran and Their Ethnic Affiliations,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 26, 1940, pp. 69-308.
M. Yaghmay Mashkour “faunal remains from Teppeh Hissar (Iran),” in Proceedings of XIII International Congress of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences, Forli, Italia,September 1996 I, (3), Forli, 1998, pp. 543-51.
Donald E. McCown, The Comparative Stratigraphy of Early Iran, Chicago, 1942, figs. 3, 4, 8, 14-18, Table I, pp. 7--11, 18, 50-62.
G. W. Nowell, “An Evaluation of the Miles Method of Aging Using the Tepe Hissar Dental Samples,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 49, 1978, pp. 271-76.
Vincent C. Pigott “Archaeomethlurgical Remains from Bronze Age Teppe Hissar,” in idem, ed., The Archaaeometallurgy of the Asian Old World, University Museum Monograph 89, Philadelphia, 1999, pp. 84-86.
Vincent C. Pigott, Susan M. Howard and S. M. Epstein, “Pyrotechnology and Culture Change at Bronze Age Tepe Hissar, Iran,” in Theodore A. Wertime and Stephen F. Wertime, eds., Early Pyrotechnology: The Evolution of the First Fire-using Industries, Washington, D.C., 1982, pp. 215-36.
T. A. Rathbun, “Recent Research on Physical Anthropology in Tappeh Hesar,” in Robert H. Dyson and Susan Howard, eds., p. 133.
Erich Friedrich Schmidt, “The Tepe Hissar Excavations 1931,” Museum Journal of Philadelphia 23/4, 1933, pp 322-485.
Idem, Excavations at Tepe Hissar, Damghan, Iran, Philaelphia, 1937.
A. Houtum Schindler, “Notes on Some Antiquities Found in a Mound near Damghan,” JRAS 9/4, 1877, pp. 425-27.
Maurizio tosi and grazia maria Bulgarelli, “The Sequence of Squares 86/89 on South Hill, Teppeh Hissar,” in Dyson and Howard, eds., pp. 35-53.
Mary M. Voigt and Robert H. Dyson, Jr., “The Damghan/Khorasan Sequence,” in Robert W. Ehrich, ed., Chronologies inOld World Archaeology, 2 vols., Chicago, 1992, I, pp. 169-74; II, pp. 127-28, 135-36.
Paul Yule, Tepe Hissar: neolithische und kupferzeitliche Siedlung in Nordostiran, Materialien zur allgemeinen und vergleichenden Archäologie 14, Munich, 1982.
(Robert H. Dyson)
Originally Published: July 20, 2009
Last Updated: July 20, 2009