(ORDO NEWS) — In Ahvaz, the capital of the province of Khuzestan in southwestern Iran, an ancient cemetery with urn-like tombs has been discovered.
The cemetery was accidentally discovered while drilling oil wells near the Karun River in the city of Ahvaz.
At a cemetery about 150 meters from the river, ancient human remains were found in some beige-coloured urns covered with natural resin, Iranian archaeologist Hossein Feyzi told ILNA on Tuesday.
The Iranian expert said that the vase tombs were located towards the river and were probably built according to the principles of Mithraism.
Archaeologist Hossein Feizi said: “The fact that this type of burial is located in the direction of the river strengthens the hypothesis that this cemetery and its burials were associated with Mithraism.”
In pre-Zoroastrian Iran, Mithraism was the worship of Mithra, the Iranian deity of the sun, justice, treaty, and battle.
Known as Mithra in the Roman Empire throughout the second and third centuries AD, this deity was revered as the patron of imperial loyalty. Mithraism quickly declined with the adoption of Christianity by Emperor Constantine in the early fourth century.
Preliminary research indicates that the cemetery dates back to the time of the Parthian Empire (247 BC – 224 AD), which once stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in present-day central-eastern Turkey, to eastern Iran.
According to the Tehran Times, “This type of urn burial has been especially dedicated to infants and young children since the Neolithic period. But the peak of this burial method can be observed and traced back to the Parthian period.”
Feizi noted that the newly discovered urn tombs can be compared and contrasted with those previously discovered in the Shoghab (cemetery) of Bushehr province.
The Shoghab cemetery, located on the outskirts of Bushehr, covers an area of five hectares and is adjacent to other magnificent objects dating from the Elamite (3200-539 BC) and Sasanian (224 AD-651) eras.
Previous excavations there have revealed three types of burials, including rectangular tombstones, rectangular stone pits, and (giant) urn pits (elongated) in an east-west direction.
In his speech, Feizi recalled that many researchers believe that the southern regions of Khuzestan, in particular, Ahvaz and its environs, were once permanent settlements, starting from the Sassanid era.
“The discovery of this new cemetery in Ahvaz is a good indication of human settlements in the late Parthian period,” the archaeologist said.
With new discoveries made during an oil drilling project, Cultural Heritage activist Mojtaba Gahestuni expressed concern that the site might not be protected.
“Now a new ancient site has been discovered in the area of the oil company’s workshop, and there are fears that this site will not be explored. This territory must be explored, saved, preserved and registered at the state level,” ILNA quoted Gakhestuni on Tuesday.
Urn tombs or urn-type tombs; is a type of burial in which the cremated remains of the deceased are interred in a vessel in cremation-type burial rituals. This term is especially often used to refer to funerary urns – vessels used in burials either to store cremated ashes or as grave goods.
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