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World Heritage Convention

Decision 38 COM 8B.26
Shahr-i Sokhta (Islamic Republic of Iran)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC-14/38.COM/8B and WHC-14/38.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. Inscribes Shahr-i Sokhta, Islamic Republic of Iran, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii), (iii) and (iv);
  3. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    Located at the junction of Bronze Age trade routes crossing the Iranian plateau, the remains of the mud brick city of Shahr-i Sokhta represent the emergence of the first complex societies in eastern Iran. Founded around 3200 BCE, the city was populated during four main periods up to 1800 BCE, during which time there developed several distinct areas within the city. These include a monumental area, residential areas, industrial zones and a graveyard. 

    Changes in water courses and climate change led to the eventual abandonment of the city in the early second millennium. The structures, burial grounds and large number of significant artefacts unearthed there and their well-preserved state due to the dry desert climate make this site a rich source of information regarding the emergence of complex societies and contacts between them in the third millennium BCE. 

    Criterion (ii): Shahr-i Sokhta exhibits a transition from village habitation to an urbanized community with significant cultural, social and economic achievements and developments from the late Calcolithic to the early Bronze Age. It served as a link between the civilizations of the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia. 

    Criterion (iii): Shahr-i Sokhta bears exceptional testimony to a civilization and cultural tradition that linked trade and cultural relations with ancient sites and cultures on the Indus Plain, southern shores of the Persian Gulf, the Oman Sea and South-west Iran, Mesopotamia and Central Asia. Archaeological remains and finds indicate the key role of the city on a very large scale in terms of working with metals, stone vessels, gems and pottery. 

    Criterion (iv): The ancient site of Shahr-i Sokhta is an outstanding example of a multi-cultural settlement during the 3rd Millennium BCE. The excavations show that the city was separated into various parts according to different functions-residential, industrial and burial; it therefore represents an important stage in urban planning and as such serves as a prototype in the region. 


    All elements necessary to express the property’s values are included within the nominated area, which is of adequate size to ensure the complete representation of features and processes which convey the property’s significance. The property does not suffer from development or neglect. 


    In general the surrounding desert landscape and extraordinary scatter of archaeological material present on the surface of the low hill of Shahr-i Sokhta give a strong sense of authenticity, as does the sight of the complex architecture of the various parts so far excavated. The labyrinthine succession of rooms, corridors and courtyards give a genuine impression of these ancient buildings. 

    Protection and management requirements

    Boundaries of the nominated property and buffer zone

    The property boundary encloses the known area of the extent of the archaeological remains of the city and is morphologically well-defined by the lower limit of the slope of the low hill on which the site is located. It is marked by stakes at the co-ordination points indicated on the plan provided in the nomination dossier. The buffer zone is marked in the same way. It surrounds the property concentrically at a distance of 1.5 – 2 km. Its boundary connects high points that define the basin in which the property is located and is essentially a desert area. 

    The buffer zone includes the single storey research base for the site, the emergency and fire station and water pumping station. The highway and adjacent power line pass through the buffer zone from north-east to southwest, not far outside the eastern boundary of the property. Surrounding the buffer zone concentrically at a distance of around 4–5km is a landscape zone which includes a police station; research missions’ store of artifacts; two brick kiln sites; the Hauzdar basin; Machi castle, Asbad windmills and the village of Qal’a-e Rostam. The Hamoun Lake and the castle Qal’a-e Rostam are located outside the landscape zone. 

    The property is in State ownership. The property is protected by the Law for Protection of National Heritage (1930). The Law covers identification, criteria and legal protection for properties on the National Heritage List and legal provisions for archaeological excavations. Shahr-i Sokhta was registered in the list of national cultural properties of Iran as no. 542 in 1966. The bylaw Concerning Prevention of Unauthorised Excavation (1980) stipulates penalties for excavation and/or purchase of excavated historic objects and further regulation limits production, purchase, use or advertisement of metal detectors. The property is also subject to the Regulations of Cultural and Historical Properties covering all works, research and data organisation. 

    In the buffer zone use of heavy machinery and environmental pollutants that may harm the buffer zone is prohibited, as are installation of pollutant facilities and alteration of the topography of hills and mountains; plans for infrastructure and tourism are subject to approval by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism organisation (ICHHTO). The landscape zone is also regulated to prevent any large scale industrial projects that may harm the environment or “deeply” affect historical, cultural and natural structures of the region. All ancient mounds within the landscape zone are subject to the same regulations as those for the nominated property. It is intended that an archaeological map of the landscape zone will be completed by the Shahr-i Sokhta Base of ICHHTO as soon as possible. 

    The archaeological excavations and finds have been documented by the Italian Institute for Oriental Studies (IsMEO) and the Iranian Centre for Archaeological Research. Records, inventory and finds are stored and analysed at the ICHHTO multi-disciplinary Base at Shahr-i Sokhta. The Base comprises a library, archives, a museum, a laboratory, an anthropological and pathological studies centre; botany, zoology and restoration workshops; audiovisual facilities and visitors’ centre. Recent research includes Magnetometer surveys in 2012 to investigate areas around existing excavations for further remains.

    The excavated remains are cleaned regularly during the year and Kahgel plaster is applied to conserve exposed walls. In some parts, the Kahgel plaster is used over jute matting. This is periodically replaced every two or three years when decayed. 

    Management structures and processes, including traditional management processes.

    The property is managed by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation (ICHHTO) on behalf of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from ICHHTO’s Base at the property, located in the buffer zone. 

    The Base is advised by a steering committee comprising regional officials and experts and a technical committee comprising regional officials and experts and is divided into six sections: Technical (4 staff), Research (3 staff), Presentation, Training and Monitoring (5 staff), Financial, Legal and Security. The Higher Education Centre of ICHHTO and national universities, especially Zabol University, provide sources of expertise and training in conservation and management. The Research Organisation of Cultural Heritage and Tourism is responsible for multi-disciplinary research and training.

    Students from local and national universities undertake internships at Shahr-i Sokhta. Funding is provided from national and provincial annual budgets. 

    Policy framework: management plans and arrangements, including visitor management and presentation

    It is the intention of the Iranian authorities to open the country to more international tourism, incorporating cultural heritage sites such as Shahr-i Sokhta. As part of this overall policy, the provincial government has plans to relocate the road and power line out of the buffer zone. An outline management plan is provided in the nomination dossier together with an outline action plan covering short, medium and long term activities relating to research, conservation, visitor management and presentation. 

    Signage and a designated tourist path are provided at the site, together with visitor information (brochures and site map) at the ICHHTO Base. A guide book is also available.

  4. Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
    1. Paying sustained attention to installation of speed-control systems on the Zahedan-Zabol road on the section it passes the buffer zone of Shahr-i Sokhta,
    2. Conducting adequate archaeological studies of the property and its buffer zone prior to the implementation of the proposals by the provincial government on re-locating the high-voltage power transmission line and re-directing the Zahedan-Zabol main road both to a place out of the buffer zone,
    3. Linking the data base of the property with a geographic information system (GIS),
    4. Promoting risk preparedness management on the property, so that the already existing fire station, police station, and emergency services can function more effectively inside the property,
    5. Enforcing the publication of an archaeological map of the landscape zone of Shahr-i Sokhta, intended by the ICHHTO Base of the property, as soon as possible;
    6. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2015, a report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the progress made in implementing a comprehensive Management Plan for the property for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.

Decision Code
38 COM 8B.26
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties 1
Properties 1
Report of the Decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session (Doha, 2014)
Context of Decision