Thursday, 1 December 2011

On the High Road

On the High Road
The History of Godin Tepe, Iran

by Hilary Gopnik and Mitchell Rothman

The site of Godin Tepe is located in the southeastern corner of the Kangavar valley in central western Iran, at the western end of the Silk Road. Excavated by the late T. Cuyler Young Jr. under the auspices of the Royal Ontario Museum from 1965 to 1973, Godin provides the longest continuous sequence of occupation of any archaeological site in central western Iran. On the High Road will trace the 4000-year history of this uniquely important settlement and demonstrate how, at each successive phase of occupation, the people of Godin exploited their home's position at the crossroads of cultures.

"On the High Road" will provide the first major publication of the material remains from Godin. The assemblage of artifacts includes over ten thousand pottery sherds and elaborately painted vessels; about seven hundred unique stone, ceramic, bone, and metal objects including jewelry, bronze drinking bowls, and clay animal figurines; some of the earliest clay tablets and sealings from Iran; and hundreds of samples of organic material and animal bone which have provided evidence for early wine and beer production. The long overdue publication of Godin will constitute a major contribution to the scholarship of the archaeology of the Near East and will provide a fitting culmination to one of the most important archaeological projects of Iranian archaeology from the last half of the 20th century. The book will also serve as a record of the lifework of former ROM director and internationally respected scholar of early Iranian history, the late T. Cuyler Young Jr.

"On the High Road" will be aimed at a broad readership. The authors will weave a narrative of the remarkable 4000-year history of Godin while explaining how archaeological remains are used to reconstruct the past. Select architectural plans and reconstructions as well as photos and drawings of the most complete objects will illustrate the art and architecture of the various phases at the site, and will also be used to demonstrate how artifacts can offer us clues into the social, economic, and spiritual lives of the people that used them. The printed volume will be supplemented by an extensive online database that will provide further detail and illustration for those scholars in search of more indepth information about the site. This innovative approach to publishing Godin Tepe will make this important site accessible to a wider audience than can be served by a traditional site report, while at the same time providing the data that is required for future scholarship.

Table of Contents
List of Maps
List of Plans
List of Sections
List of Tables
Key to Architectural Plans

Hilary Gopnik

Chapter 1. History of the Excavations at Godin Tepe
Hilary Gopnik

Chapter 2. Making Sense of the Mound: Archaeological Interpretation at Godin
Hilary Gopnik

Chapter 3. The Environment of Godin Tepe
Mitchell S. Rothman

Chapter 4. Contact and Development in Godin Period VI
Mitchell S. Rothman/Virginia R. Badler

Chapter 5. Migration and Re-settlement in Godin Period IV
Mitchell S. Rothman

Chapter 6. The Godin Period III Town
Robert C. Henrickson

Chapter 7. The Median Citadel of Godin Period II
Hilary Gopnik

Ancient ‘Fast Food’ Window Discovered.

Can you imagine life without the convenience of takeout food? According to new research, neither could the ancients. Evidence found at Godin Tepe, an archaeological site in the mountains of western Iran, suggests that its inhabitants may have used "windows" to obtain and distribute food and even weapons more than 5,000 years ago.
Nestled in the Zagros Mountains near the modern city of Kangavar, Godin Tepe was first excavated in the 1960s and 1970s by a research team led by T. Cuyler Young Jr., a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada. After Young’s death in 2006, other researchers continued his work, and they recently published much of their findings in “On the High Road: The History of Godin Tepe” (Hilary Gopnik and Mitchell Rothman, Mazda Publishers, 2011).
According to their research, Godin Tepe apparently began as a simple rural agricultural village settled by the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia as early as the mid-fifth millennium B.C. It remained that way for some 1,000 years. Around 3200 B.C., the village’s small houses were razed to make way for a main building of mud-brick built around an oval enclosed area, like a courtyard. One of the surrounding walls facing into the courtyard had two windows, which were very unusual for architecture of the time in the Middle East.

When they looked inside the building with the windows, researchers found beveled rimmed bowls of a common type used in the region, along with a fireplace and food remains ranging from dried lentils to goat and sheep bones. But that’s not all—they also discovered more than 1,700 clay sling bullets, of the type commonly used in hunting and warfare. Hilary Gopnik of Emory University, who discussed the findings at a recent symposium at the Royal Ontario Museum, argues that the evidence suggests that Godin Tepe served as a sort of ancient takeout joint. On the other hand, Victoria Badler, a doctoral student of Dr. Young’s, suggests it may have had a military purpose, and that the windows may have been used to pass out provisions to soldiers.
This is not the first time that Godin Tepe has given us a “window” into its ancient civilization. In the early 1990s, according to findings published in the journal Nature, archaeologists found chemical evidence that people at Godin Tepe were making and drinking beer as early as 3500 B.C. Beer was thought to be a favorite beverage of the Sumerian civilization, which produced works of art depicting people drinking collectively out of a large vessel. Researchers had also discovered the earliest known chemical evidence of wine at the same site.

Thanks to its strategic position along the major east-west trade route known as the High Road, or Silk Road, which would eventually link the Mediterranean with China, Godin Tepe served as an important Sumerian trading post. The settlement was mysteriously abandoned during the second or third millennium B.C., and it’s unknown whether the inhabitants left under peaceful or violent circumstances.

About the Authors

Hilary Gopnik
Hilary Gopnik received her BA in Anthropology and Classics from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and her MA/PhD in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Toronto. Her doctoral dissertation, under the supervision of Dr. T. Cuyler Young Jr., dealt with the ceramics from the Iron Age level at Godin Tepe. Gopnik is particularly interested in exploring the role of style in both modern and ancient cultures. She has written about aspects of style as reflected in a range of artifact types including pottery, high art, and architecture. For the past ten years Gopnik has worked as a professional writer and editor with an emphasis on history and biography. Since 2008 she has been the ceramicist and assistant director for the archaeological site of Oglanqala in Azerbaijan.

Mitchell Rothman
Mitchell S. Rothman is a professor of Anthropology and Archaeology and founder of the Anthropology Department at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. He was educated at Washington University in St. Louis, The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor Michigan, and Hunter College of the City University of New York, receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988. Dr. Rothman took his early archaeology training in the Eastern, Midwestern, and Southwestern United States. He began working in Iran in 1974, and undertook a survey in the Zagros Valley of Borujerd in 1978. Over the last two decades he has conducted archaeological fieldwork in Turkey. Rothman's research interests include the origins of complex societies in the late fifth through early third millennia BC in Mesopotamia, and the effect of crosscultural interaction on societal evolution. His major research projects include the reanalysis of the excavations of Tepe Gawra in northeastern Iraq; field projects under his direction at two late fourth through third millennium sites on the Upper Euphrates River; and a survey in the highland valley of Muš west of Lake Van.

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