Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shahr'e Yeri

Shahr’e Yeri (شهر یری), in a 400-hectare area, is located near Pirazman village of Meshkin Shahr, in Ardabil province. It consists of a fortress, three temples and Qush Tepe historical site. The fortress dates back to the third period of the Iron Age (2800 years ago), and the temple to the second Iron Age (3200 years ago). Shahr’e Yeri may have been one of the earliest inhabitants of Iran and stretched across 400 hectares which houses several small hills, one castle, two caves and close to 300 rock tombs. The site was first explored in the latter part of the 20th century. 

The construction of a fortress on one of the temples indicates that the temple existed before the fortress. The fortress was constructed on the remains of a burnt city. According to Alireza Hajbari Nobari, archaeologist and head of the excavation team in Shah’e Yeri, the residents of Shahr’e Yeri lived in the city previous to the attack of the Urartu people to the region. Following the attack and devastation of the city, the new fortress was built on the remains of the previous residences. 

Tombs in different sizes as well as earthenware excavated from the site bears evidence that it was once a residential area. Evidenced by the excavation of graves in Shahr-e Yeri, the bodies were buried with special ceremonies and rituals and in compliance with religious beliefs. However, the majority of tombs are empty of skeletons due to illegal excavations at the sites. The tombs have been built into the rock hill in various sizes depending on their location. As per their religious beliefs, those people used to bury valuable objects such as jewelry, silver, gold, brass, earthenware and weapons along with their dead. 

Further excavations indicate that the prehistoric inhabitants of the region used flint stones for making war and hunting tools. This stone has been identified in the layers of Neolithic epoch (about 9000 years ago). 

The main worship center of the site consists of stones on which mouthless faces of human beings are carved. According to Nobari these stones were used as totems, worshiped by the inhabitants of Shahr’e Yeri before the collapse of the city following the defeat against the Urartu people. Based on the findings of excavations in the Shahr’e Yeri, the inhabitants of the region broke with their religious beliefs and holy prayer centers due to the prevailing of a political religion after the domination of Urartu civilization over the region.

Urartus were a tribe who seized power in the mountainous region of the east Minor Asia some 2900 to 2700 years ago and founded a powerful government. Their territory extended around Van Lake in today’s Turkey and Uromieh Lake in Iran. They started their conquest from the north, Armenia, and entered Iran through Marand and Uromieh.

“Following their capture of the city, the Urartians made the residents’ totems valueless and then preached the existence of one unique God and a political religion in the region,” said Nobari, noting the construction of the fortress over the worship center by means of its stones as sign of people abandoning their previous religious beliefs and the center losing its sanctity.

“The construction of the fortress wall over the prayer house of Yeri City indicates that it was no more holy for to the inhabitants of the region and that they did not show religious beliefs towards it any longer,” says Nobari.

Currently many of the structures of Shahr’e Yeri are in danger of destruction as a result of natural circumstances such as rain and snow and also lack of maintenance. There are plans to construct a museum at the site.

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