Sasanian or Islamic? Monuments and Criteria for Dating

Author: Donald Whitcomb
The Iranian World: Essays on Iranian Art and Archaeology Presented to Ezat O. Negahban, Edited by: Abbas Alizadeh, Yousef Majidzadeh, Sadegh Malek Shahmirzadi, Iran University Press, Tehran, 1999

Abstract:
The remarkable amount of archaeological research undertaken in Iran in the 1960s and 1970s greatly enhanced our understanding of the great empires of the Achaemenians and Sasanians. More detailed information has also led to problems of periodization,especially for the fundamental period marker known as the Muslim conquest. There are interesting patterns of interpretation of the late Sasanian period in the Levant and Iran with varying emphases on continuity and discontinuity into the early Islamic period. Much of this transition remains without documentation, necessitating careful examination of archaeological monuments and sites. This is a dual problem of understanding the characteristics of early Islamic material culture and the impact of Sasanian heritage upon it. This papaer takes the example of architectural monuments to describe the problems involved and offer some archaeological approaches. The first example used is the fort found at Siraf, beneath the Abbasid period mosque. Interpretation of this structure continues to be remarkably ambiguous, partially when viewed as an isolate phenomenon divorced from hypotheses on the nature of the early Islamic settlement in this port and other settlements in the Persian Gulf. There are repeated references for Siraf and monuments of this period in Iran to the “desert castles” (Qusur) located in Syria and Jordan. Three sites are discussed from Iran, Sarvestan, Chal Tarkhan, and Hajiabad.In these cases, there has been re-evalution of the dating to Islamic periods or an under-utilization of the archaeological context of these monuments. As in the Levant, this spatial contextualization is essentially an underestimating of the urban nature of these settlements. This is a particularly archaeological perspective whichholds great potential for understanding of early Islamic history and culture in Iran  and all the Middle East.

Bibliography:
Whitcomb, Donald, Sasanian or Islamic? Monuments and Criteria for Dating, The Iranian World: Essays on Iranian Art and Archaeology Presented to Ezat O. Negahban, Edited by: Abbas Alizadeh, Yousef Majidzadeh, Sadegh Malek Shahmirzadi, Iran University Press, Tehran, 1999, pp 210-219.

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