Shahr-e Sukhteh: One of the most advanced cities in the world
Shahr-e Sukhteh, meaning ‘Burnt City’, is located at the junction of Bronze Age trade routes crossing the Iranian plateau. The remains of the mud brick city represent the emergence of the first complex societies in eastern Iran. Founded around 3200 BC, it was populated during four main periods up to 1800 BC, during which time there developed several distinct areas within the city: those where monuments were built, and separate quarters for housing, burial and manufacture. Diversions in water courses and climate change led to the eventual abandonment of the city in the early second millennium. The structures, burial grounds and large number of significant artifacts unearthed there, and their well-preserved state due to the dry desert climate, make this site a rich source of information regarding the emergence of complex societies and contacts between them in the third millennium BC.
Shahr-e Sukhteh (Burnt City), one of the wonders of the ancient world, is a unique example of the first, the largest and the most advanced urban establishment of Bronze Age. Burnt City is located in eastern Iran and had been founded in the direction of Hirmand River to Hamun Lake.
Changes in water courses and climate change led to the eventual abandonment of the city in the early second millennium. The structures, burial grounds and large number of significant artefacts unearthed there and their well-preserved state due to the dry desert climate make this site a rich source of information regarding the emergence of complex societies and contacts between them in the third millennium BCE.
Shahr-e Sukhteh bears exceptional testimony to a peculiar civilization and cultural tradition that entertained trade and cultural relations with ancient sites and cultures on the Indus Plain, southern shores of the Persian Gulf, the Oman Sea and South-west Iran, and Central Asia. Archaeological remains and finds indicate the key role of the city on a very large scale in terms of working with metals, stone vessels, gems and pottery.
The ancient site of Shahr-e Sukhteh is an outstanding example of early urban planning: excavations have brought to light well-preserved evidence in the form of its mud-brick structures, burial grounds, workshops and artefacts that testify to its size, organisation, the source of its wealth and its trade and social structures. The city was separated into various parts according to different functions – residential, industrial and burial; it therefore represents an important stage in urban planning in the region.
In general the surrounding desert landscape and extraordinary scatter of archaeological material present on the surface of the low hill of Shahr-e Sukhteh give a strong sense of authenticity, as does the sight of the complex architecture of the various parts so far excavated. The labyrinthine succession of rooms, corridors and courtyards give a genuine impression of these ancient buildings.
Protection and Management Requirements
Shahr-e Sukhteh was registered in the list of national cultural properties of Iran as no. 542 in 1966. The property is further protected by a buffer and landscape zones where activities are regulated and subject to approval by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism organisation (ICHHTO).
The archaeological excavations and finds have been documented since the 1970s and records, inventory and finds are stored and analysed at the ICHHTO multi-disciplinary Base at Shahr-e Sukhteh. The excavated remains are cleaned regularly during the year and Kahgel plaster is applied to conserve exposed walls.
The property is managed by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation (ICHHTO) on behalf of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran by ICHHTO’s Base at the property, located in the buffer zone, through a management plan that includes short, medium and long term activities concerning research, conservation, visitor management and presentation. The Base is advised by a steering committee comprising regional officials and experts and a technical committee comprising regional officials and experts. The Higher Education Centre of ICHHTO and national universities provide sources of expertise and training in conservation and management. The Research Organisation of Cultural Heritage and Tourism is responsible for multi-disciplinary research and training.