Sociology and Anthropology 2(5): 196-200, 2014 http://www.hrpub.org
A Comparative Study of Chlorite Vessels Iconography,
Discovered from HalilRud Basin
Hassan Basafa*, Mohammad Hosein Rezaei
University of Neyshabur, Iran
*Corresponding Author: email@example.com
Copyright © 2014 Horizon Research Publishing All rights reserved.
Abstract HalilRud drainage basin is located South-East
of Iran in Kerman province with an area of 8450 square
kilometers. Multiplicity of sites, hills and ancient cemeteries
along with numerous findings and cultural materials is a
feature of this great cultural zone. A variety of factors and
appropriate conditions together with favorable
environmental situation have attracted human communities
and groups from the oldest ages in this great cultural sphere.
In 2001 and after accidental discovery of cultural materials
obtained from very rich and ancient cemeteries in HalilRud
River margin, it has been revealed that the HalilRud cultural
zone has been one of the largest industrial and cultural
centers of Ancient East in production and export of
manufactured goods in the second half of the third
millennium BC. Engraved chlorite vessels and other
handicraft had been exported to other urban areas of
Southwest Asia and Central Asia to Syria.In this study, based
on study of 144 pieces of engraved chlorite vessels
fromHalilRud River zone so far introduced, it has been
attempted to present a preliminary analysis of their
iconography. Also, they have been briefly compared with
other findings of Southeastern Iran sites such as Tape Yahya,
Shahdad and Shahr-I-Sokhta.
Keywords HalilRud, Jiroft, Konar Sandal, Chlorite,
Bronze Age, Tape Yahya, Shahdad, Shahr-I-Sokhta
In 2001, after accidental discovery of material and cultural
objects, hundreds of looters plundered hundreds of intact
chlorite vessels decorated with symbolic motifs from the
ancient rich cemeteries of HalilRud River margin and
cheaply sold them to international traffickers. Follow-up of
courts and capture of traffickers of cultural property has
resulted in return of some of the vessels. All the seized pieces
emphasized that HalilRud River cultural sphere has been one
of the largest industrial and cultural centers of Ancient East
in production and export of manufactured goods especially
chlorite vessels in the second half of the third millennium BC.
Iconography of chlorite vessels found in HalilRud River
cultural sphere is very rich and complex and is drawn from
the rich mythology and ideological concepts of the people in
this cultural domain. The vessels in this period of time have
been such valuable that many of them have been exported to
other Southwest Asia urban centers from CentralAsia to
In this research we have attempted to separate and study
chlorite container motifs so far introduced (Majidzade 2003
and 2006; Iran Bastan Museum 2005), and while introducing
them, present a preliminary analysis of rich iconography of
vessels and briefly compare them with other sites
Southeastern Iran such as TepeYahya, Shahdad and
2. Topographic Description of HalilRud
Valley in Jiroft
In terms of geographical location, Jiroft County, as a
county in Kerman province is located in 56°45′ to 58°31′N
28°10′ to 29°20′ E coordinates. It has an area of 13798.619
square kilometers. Jiroft has a plain and mountain situation
and HalilRud River is its most important river (Geographical
atlas of Kerman Province, 2003, 3).
Figure 1. Location of Jiroft at Iran
HalilRud River drainage basin with an area of 8.380
hectares, with North West - South East direction with 400
km length begins from Zagros Mountains in the north of
Sociology and Anthropology 2(5): 196-200, 2014 197
Jiroft and ends in Jazmurian basin (Jafari, 1997, 45-47) The
average height between Jiroft and Jazmurian basin inlet is
550 meters. The valley is surrounded with high mountains,
and downstream Jiroft River there is an alluvial plain with a
width of seven kilometers drained by two main drainage
channels (Fig. 1). Archaeological areas identified in
HalilRud River of which north and south Konar Sandal hills
are the most important, are all located in the alluvial plain a
few meters higher than flood level of HalilRud River
(Fouache, 2005, 109).
3. Research Background
So far, distribution, organization of production and
consumption of engraved chlorite vessels of the second half
of the third millennium B.C. has been analyzed by several
researchers. Kohl is one of the first researchers to study these
vessels, and for this purpose he has benefited from
intercultural style (Kohl, 1974). Miroschedi is another
researcher treating Louvre Museum chlorite vessels and has
applied the terms “ancient series” and a "recent series” (1973,
9-77). Although his classification must be revised, it is still
the basis for many archaeologists. Lamberg-Karlovsky, like
Kohl, has chosen the intercultural style to define the chlorite
vessels found in Southwest Asia sites (Lamberg-Karlovsky,
1988, 55 - 68).
Cleuziou is another researcher who has briefly studied
HalilRud River vessels and their relation with Tarut
collection in southern Persian Gulf region (Cleuziou, 2003,
114-125). Jean Perrot in 2003 (Perrot, 2003, 96-114) and in
2005 together with YousefMajidzadeh
(Perrot&Madjidzadeh, 2005, 123-152) have dealt with
iconography of vessels found in HalilRud River.
4. HalilRud River Chlorite Vessels
Although many of chlorite vessels are a result of
unauthorized excavations and have not been obtained by
scientific explorations, they indicate flourishing HalilRud
River culture of the third and second millennia BC.
Researchers already have very different views in this regard,
and even some of them (Muscarella, 2004, 173-198; Kohl,
2004, 287) have been suspicious of Jiroft findings and have
recognized most of them as fake. At present, 144 pieces of
carved chlorite vessels of HalilRud River zone in Jiroft have
been introduced in two catalogs and a brochure (Majidzade,
2003 and 2006; National Museum Catalog 2005), the
analysis of iconography of which has been dealt with in this
Chlorite vessels of HalilRud River have considerable
variety in shape. The most important forms are cylindrical
vases, cone carafes, cups, ventricular jugs, handbag shape
(weight stone), game object, bowls and various other forms
One of the most important characteristics of stone vessels
discussed is the use of decorated stone. This technique is so
advanced that almost all the eyes of human or animal figures
have been stone decorated. There are some rules and
principles of this technique, for example, stone decoration in
the eyes of wild and carnivorous animals like eagle, snake,
leopard and lion is circular but it is oval for domestic animals
such as herbivores and ibex, cattle and also in humans. White
marble or calcareous or turquoise has been used for eyes. In
some of the samples the white of the leopard eye is made
from ochre colored stone and the black of eyes with
turquoise (Majidzade, 2003, 3).
5. Iconography of Chlorite Vessels in
Iconography of chlorite vessels found in the cemeteries of
HalilRud River in Jiroft is too rich and complex that their
classification and categorization in specific groups is very
difficult. This is also true for interpretation of the designs and
their origin. However, the motifs have been classified in
seven groups. It is also essential to note that sometimes a
combination of patterns also has been used (Fig. 2).
Figure 2. Percentage of Chlorite Vessels Moti
Brick-like motifs with bezel corners (Fig. 3: 1), hair lock
texture design (Fig. 3: 2), fish scales, rope design (Fig. 3: 3),
spiral (Fig. 3: 4), basket design (Fig. 3: 5) and circle or
concentricity with a point in the middle (Fig. 3: 6) are among
geometric designs. Among these design patterns, rope design
reminds of river, and imagination of the artist has progressed
to the point that they have used rope like wave lines.
Geometric motifs have also been found in other
Southeastern sites in Iran but their frequency in Jiroft is
much higher. Brick like design in TepeYahya
(Lamberg-Karlovsky, 1988, Fig. 3, K) and the Shahdad area
(Hakemi, 1972, 11, A); hair like texture in TepeYahya
(Lamberg-Karlovsky, 1988, Fig. 3, B); fish scales in the
Shahr-I-Sokhta (Kohl, 1977, 24, n 2) and basket design in
TepeYahya (Lamberg-Karlovsky, 1988, Fig. 3, C); basket
design in TepeYahya (Lamberg-Karlovsky, 1988, Fig. 4, I)
and Shahdad area (Hakemi, 1972, 142) and circle or
concentricity designs with a point in the middle in Shahdad
area (Hakemi, 1972, 132) is seen.
198 A Comparative Study of Chlorite Vessels Iconography, Discovered from HalilRud Basin
Figure 3. 1- Conical vase with brick-like motifs (Piran and Hesari, 2005,
Fig. 8); 2- Conical vase with hair lock texture design (Piran and Hesari, 2005,
Fig. 6); 3- Conical vase with rope design and palms (Majidzade, 2003, 110);
4- Game object with spiral design (Piran and Hesari, 2005, Fig. 24); 5-
Cylindrical vase with basket design (Piran and Hesari 2005, Fig. 12); 6-
Kohl vase with and circle or concentricity with a point in the middle
(Majidzade, 2003, 120).
Another design on stone vessels is fighting scene that
without doubt has been attractive for ancient HalilRud River
people, because it has been frequently used by them. Issues
such as snake and leopard fight (Fig. 4: 1), snake and eagle
fight (Fig. 4: 2), and battle of intertwined snakes (Fig. 4: 3)
and bull attack to lion (Fig. 4: 4) are placed in this group.
The theme of snake and leopard fight has also been
observed in TepeYahya (Lamberg-Karlovsky, 1988, Fig. 3,
G). However, confrontation of two wild animals in Sumerian
art was common, but a specific form of it unique to New
Uruk period and observed on cylindrical seals is the fighting
scene of two animals whose long tails or necks are
intertwined in each other (Majidzadeh, 2003, 4-5). Bull
attack to lion motif is interesting because it is unique to Jiroft
Figure 4. 1- Fighting scene between snake and tiger (Majidzade, 2003, 80);
2- Fighting scene between snake and eagle (Majidzade, 2003, 92-94); 3-
battle of intertwined snakes (Majidzade, 2003, 99-100); 4- bull attack to lion
(Majidzade, 2003, 58-59).
Animal motifs that represent the fauna of the region in
ancient times include scorpion (Fig. 5: 1), eagle (Fig. 5: 2),
bull (Fig. 5: 3), lion (Fig. 5: 4) and the combined scorpion –
man design (Fig. 5: 5). Scorpion is the most common animal
design used and is often seen in multiple rows (two, three and
four rows). Scorpion design has also been used in many
cases as a filling or combined design (Scorpion - man).
Figure 5. 1- Scorpion motive (Madjidzade, 2003, 11); 2- Eagle motive
(Madjidzade, 2003, 92); 3- Bull motif (Majidzade, 2003, 53); 4- Lion motif
(Majidzade, 2003, 39); Human-Scorpion motif (Majidzade, 2003, 113).
Figure 6. 1- Architectural motif (Majidzade, 2003, 69); 2- Palms
(Madjizade, 2003, 110); Meadow motif (Majidzade, 2003, 18-20); A person
that domesticate animals (Majidzade, 2003, 15-17).
About 12 percent of total designs on chlorite vessels of
HalilRud are architecture designs (Fig. 6: 1). This subject has
been stereotypical and is observed in almost all of the forms.
The feature of this design is downward doorways and
decorative half columns or half towers. Existence of
Sociology and Anthropology 2(5): 196-200, 2014 199
downward doorways has been demonstrated in the graves
explored in GhaleKoochak, and many researchers have
connected this type of architecture with rituals (Majidzade,
2006, 30). Decorative half towers have been observed in
Mundigak in Afghanistan (Dumarcay, 1984, 47-80). Among
other designs used in architecture is a step like structure
topped by a horn like symbol. Stylistically, this design
probably shows a commemorative tower like Mesopotamian
ziggurats or something similar to what has been found in
AltinTepe (Vallat, 2003, 92-97).
The architecture design also appears on other forms and
sometimes as a combined design with other designs.
Architectural design referred to by Kohl as supraregional
(Kohl, 1974) has also been observed in sites in Southwestern
Iranian plateau such as TepeYahya (Lamberg-Karlovsky,
1988, Fig. 2, H & Pl. VII) and Shahdad (Hakemi, 1972, 193).
Plant motifs are classified in two groups (Fig. 6: 2) of palm
comparable to TepeYahya (Lamberg-Karlovsky, 1988, Pl.
VIII) and rosette. Palm has been frequently used while there
have been cases combined with other designs.
In another conventional design, horned herbivore animals
have been displayed grazing in the prairie (Fig. 6: 3).
Meadow has been a favorite topic for people in HalilRud
sphere, and artists have been appropriately inspired from the
natural environment and have dealt with it. In meadow
scenes, some goats are seen feeding on trees. In some cases,
the design has been created in duplicate, and two rows of
goats are observed feeding indicating the pinnacle of artist’s
skill. In some cases the goats are seen rising on their hind
legs or jumping. Meadow scene is among motifs specific to
HalilRud River zone in Jiroft and has not been seen in other
A scene similar to meadow motif has been depicted on a
cylindrical seal of Late Uruk period in which a man feeds the
goats by tree branches. However, this design (two goats
facing on the sides of a tree) has been found from
Proto-Elamite, Susa III and Yahya IVC periods (Majidzadeh,
The most important human motifs are animal taming
scenes. In these designs we always see heroes raising the
animal with two hands in the air. In some examples the tamer
appears as a combined form of bull-man and lion-man (Fig. 6:
4). Undoubtedly, this design perhaps relates the Gilgamesh
and Lugalbanda epics. Although at present just hardly can
the details be reconstructed.
In Shahdad site also a sample has been found (Helwing,
2004, 160, Figs. 8-9) similar to samples near Jiroft and can
be regarded as an imported from this civilization, although
chemical analyses are needed to prove this theory.
In iconography of human motifs it must be stated that the
bust of all men is nude and the skirt has been fastened to
waist by a large shawl, with the difference that here they
carry a necklace with a large earring of turquoise that extends
from back to the end of waist (Majidzadeh, 2003, 4).
6. Chronology of Vessels
Determining the exact dates of chlorite vessels is a
problem that will not be solved until further excavations are
done in HalilRud River sites. The most important place
scientifically excavated that play an essential role in
chronology of these vessels is TepeYahya chlorite vessel
workshop in IVB phase.
The date of this chlorite container production workshop
dates back to Akkadian or post-Akkadian period or late third
millennium B.C. centuries based on Pierre Amiet theories
(Amiet, 1986, 133-134) consistent with the results of latest
C14 examinations (Kohl, 2004, 286). In addition to
TepeYahya, many samples of excavated findings have been
found in Mesopotamia that helps in determining chronology.
The samples found in Nippur, Adab, Ur and Mari show the
periodical distribution of these vessels, a period starting from
Early Dynastic I and IIand extending to the end of Akkad
period and beyond. In fact, production of chlorite vessels
spans a 500 year period, and they have been produced in
various times, regions and workshops (Kohl, 2004, 286;
Lamberg-Karlovsky, 1988, 54; Potts T.F, 1994, 255).
In addition, some of the vessels found in Mesopotamia
bear inscriptions after production that can be a basis for
termini ante quem dating. Typical examples of these vessels
are war trophies ofAkkadian king to Rimush, bearing the
theme Rimush, king of kings, conqueror of Elam and
Parsumash. So these vessels are grouped in Akkadian period
(Potts T.F, 1994, 225-232).
Although many of new chlorite findings are a result of
unauthorized excavations, they indicate flourishing HalilRud
River culture of the second half of the third millennium B.C.
Although researchers have expressed different views and
interpretations in this regard, today it is recognized that
modification and change in them is necessary. Based on
cultural material we able to recognize specialization in
HalilRud basin and and has been in place for vessels
production and trade to other regions.
In conclusion, it should be said that without doubt
continuation of archeological explorations in HalilRud River
direction, and identification of workshops and archeological
contexts of containers along with study of other cultural
materials especially seals and their impression, eliminates
many of the arguments and ambiguities in this regard. In
addition, in this regard there is a need to further study and
evaluate the sites in the same horizon within and without the
region such as TepeYahya IVB (Lamberg-Karlovsky, 2001),
Bampoor I-IV (Cardi, 1970), Shahdad periods IV1-III2
(Hakemi, 1997) and Shahr-I-Sokhta II-III (Kohl, 1977, tab. 1;
Sajjadi, 2003; Tosi, 1983), Susa V (Miroschedi, 1973, 9-77),
Persian Gulf sites such as Tarut (Zarins, 1978, 65-93) and
Mesopotamian sites such as Nippur, Adab, Ur and Mari
(Lamberg-Karlovsky, 1988, 55-68).
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