Haft Tappeh: the Elamite city of Kabnak


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Haft Tappeh (‘Seven Mounds’), located 15 kilometers to the south of the ancient city of Susa, is one of Iran’s most significant archaeological sites.

Haft Tappeh: the Elamite city of Kabnak
The great hall, Haft Tepe [Credit: Livius Org]

Composed of seven ancient mounds as its name implies, the site was first excavated by an Iranian archaeology team, headed by Dr. Ezzatollah Negahban.

The site first drew attention to itself when parts of a brick wall and a vault were found during a construction project in the area.

Early archaeological studies showed that the site housed the world’s oldest vault built over the tomb of the Elamite ruler, Tapati Ahar.

Two catacombs were found in the northern part of the site along with an inscription  bearing the name of Tapati Ahar.  The catacomb has a large platform, divided by low walls into three sections.

The northern section houses seven skeletons, the southern section houses three skeletons and the middle section (smallest of the three) was found empty.

Haft Tappeh: the Elamite city of Kabnak
Vaulted “royal tomb”, Haft Tepe [Credit: WikiCommons/Rainer Fischer, CC BY-SA 3.0]

Some ten skeletons were found in front of the platform in the southern part of the catacomb, which were irregularly laid on top of one another.

The catacomb’s divisions show that it was built to house numerous bodies. Its rather small dimensions and the low-value objects found inside it prove the catacomb not to be a royal structure but one that belonged to commoners.

Archaeologists believe that the door of the catacomb was sealed after each burial and reopened for the next.

Excavations also yielded the remains of a 2nd-millennium BCE Elamite city that once had several ziggurats as well as various royal buildings, tombs and temples.

Early studies conducted by American anthropologist Robert McAdams revealed that the area had been briefly inhabited.

A number of small buildings and earthenware were found to the east of the tombs, which according to Dr. Negahban date back to the Parthian and Sassanid eras.

Haft Tappeh: the Elamite city of Kabnak
Excavated burial, Haft Tepe [Credit: Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz]

Archaeologists also found the remains of two large brick porticos surrounded by numerous rooms and halls.

A room was located to the east of one of the porticos, which appears to have been a jewelry workshop.

The majority of objects found near the site date back to the early Middle Elamite era.  Negahban believes the massive structures found at the site were all built in the same era.

Inscriptions bearing the name of Tapati Ahar have convinced some experts that the buildings were constructed during his reign; however, there is not enough evidence to verify the exact time he was in power.

The Haft Tappeh museum, which was opened in 1974, houses some 1550 inscriptions.   

Haft Tappeh: the Elamite city of Kabnak
Ruins Of Haft Tappeh Near Shush, Iran [Credit: Shutterstock]

Excavations conducted by Negahban yielded a large number of clay tablets  bearing cuneiform inscriptions in Akkadian, belonging to Elamite kings.

The tablets contain information on the religious beliefs, trading methods and the political, cultural and social relations of the time.

One inscription found at Haft Tappeh bears the print of a seal belonging to Athibu, appointed by Tapati Ahar as the mayor of the ancient city of Kabnak. Another seal, found at the site bore the name of the god, Insusinak sar ilani.

Archaeologists have also found different forms of burials, including jar burials, group burials, royal tombs, bodies buried in clay coffins.

Excavations have yielded a number of cylindrical and flat seals made of stone and clay. Some of them picture humans presenting gifts to the gods or worshipping.

Haft Tappeh: the Elamite city of Kabnak
Cuneiform tablets in situ, Haft Tepe [Credit: Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz]

The plain and patterned jars, cups and bowls found at the site are mostly buff-colored with patterned ones bearing geometrical designs.

Animal and human figurines as well as bronze objects such as daggers, arrowheads, axes, needles, buttons, nails, hooks, chisels, awls and routers have also been found at the site.

The wall paintings found at Haft Tappeh are in the form of blue, red, orange, yellow, gray, white and black geometrical shapes.

Archaeologists have also found numerous stone objects including tools, measuring stones, dishes and blades.

The jewelry discovered at the site includes necklaces and pendants along with circular and quadrangular buttons made of bones and faience.

Mosaics made of bone, bronze and lazulite have also been found, which bear geometrical patterns.

Source: Tehran Times [October 26, 2011]



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