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Chega Sofla (Ritual Landscape of Chega Sofla)

Date of Submission: 24/08/2021
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Iranian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts
State, Province or Region:
Khuzestan province
Coordinates: UTM 9R 417614.00 m E 3355056.00 m N
Ref.: 6549

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The prehistoric site of Chega Sofla is also known as Tol-e Chiga Payini, Tol-e Chiga Domeni and Chogha Sofla. This site is located in the Zeydun plain south of a provincial city of Behbahan southeast Khuzestan province and a short distance from the northern shores of the Persian Gulf.

Chega Sofla includes a settlement and a cemetery section. In the settlement section, five low and high mounds have been identified, with the elevation of the highest remaining ridge reaching more than 30 m from the surrounding land. The cemetery section begins right on the southern slope of the site and continues to near the heights of the Rag Sefid in the south. The settlement area is about 20 hectares and the cemetery area is ca. 2,000 by 800 meters.

In the 1970s, during an archaeological survey by Hans Nissen from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Frei University of Berlin, the site was identified and marked as BZ.71 as the widest prehistoric site in the Zuhreh Plain.

In 2009, during an archeological survey under the supervision of Kamyar Abdi, Chega Sofla with the name of Tol-e Chega Payin, was registered as the number of 28822 in the national monuments list. In 2015, with the studies carried out by the Archaeological Research Group headed by Abbas Moghaddam, the boundaries of the site and the protected area of Chega Sofla have been determined and approved.

Important achievements have been obtained as a result of excavations from 2015 to 2020 by "Zohreh Prehistoric Project (ZPP)" directed by Abbas Moghaddam, which can be identified as a six-thousand- year-old burial tradition with unique tomb architecture, which is the oldest example of using bricks in tombs construction. In these excavations, a sanctuary including two parts of an offering platform and a monument has been found. Also, stone slabs with symbolic motifs from the offering platform section of Chega Sofla sanctuary is another achievement of these excavations.

Chega Sofla represents a stage in the prehistory of Iran that is known in the archaeological literature from the late Middle Susiana to Late Susiana. To date, absolute data from the Chega Sofla have ranged from 4,700 to 3,700 BCE.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Chega Sofla is the largest known prehistoric site belonging to the fifth millennium BCE, which is located a short distance from the north of the Persian Gulf and next to the Zohreh River. The large cemetery and sanctuary with two parts of the offering platform and the monument has made the religious function of Chega Sofla more colorful among the contemporaries. Here, the architecture of prehistoric tombs has reached its peak of magnificence in terms of construction technique, shape and function, to the point that the oldest brick tombs have been discovered in Chega Sofla Cemetery. The art of Chega Sofla has been so closely associated with the ritual and symbolic tradition prevalent in it that motifs on pottery, motifs carved on stone slabs, and other handicrafts have been inspiring for millennia. Chega Sofla is the clearest evidence of mankind civilization history in the Persian Gulf region.

Criterion (i): Archaeological excavations at Chega Sofla have led to the discovery of one of the rarest ritual sites from 6,000 years Attention to the supernatural world becomes regular at a time when man realizes the value of superior (divine) forces. Attention to the supernatural world is crystallized in all the evidence of Chega Sofla, including the tombs and their regular structure, and symbolism in various ways in pottery, stone, seal, etc. Thus, the sum of movable and immovable finds from Chega Sofla, indicates the creative genius of man six thousand years ago.

Criterion (ii): Archaeological research has shown that for the first time in human cultural history six thousand years ago, the cemetery was separated from the residential area. This was not possible without considering the growth of human spiritual values during a period of time from Middle to Late Susiana period. Therefore, according to the construction technique of Chega Sofla tombs and its newly discovered sanctuary, it can be concluded that in Chega Sofla human values can be exchanged over a certain period of time (Late Susiana period) and in a specific cultural area Iranian south to

Criterion (iii): In addition to the durability of the cemetery, which is one of the first known cemeteries, the extent of the 6,000-year-old Chega Sofla cemetery, according to our research, is ca. 800 by 2,000 meters. This exceptional feature is known only from Chega In addition, for the first time in the burial costume, elements such as ossuaries, the use of valuable grave-making techniques using stone materials, baked bricks and raw clay, the arrangement of corpses and, most importantly, the abundance of deformed skulls documented in Chega Sofla cemetery. Chega Sofla represents a civilization that flourished in the southeast of Khuzestan for the past millennia, close to the Persian Gulf.

Criterion (iv): The architecture of Chega Sofla tombs in its place is a clear example of a kind of architecture that has no precedent All the graves have been built with the utmost care. The space inside the tombs has been carefully designed so that the burial chamber is divided into two parts, the ossuary and the main chamber. The construction of tombs with brick materials in Chega Sofla is known as the oldest example of the use of bricks in the construction of tombs. Brick tombs have special technical features.

In general, Chega Sofla and its environs have a 6,000-year-old religious landscape, including sanctuary, massive ancient tombs, and religious rock arts in the southern highlands of Chega Sofla. All of these components have revealed a six-thousand-year-old religious cultural landscape.

Criterion (vi): The findings clearly show that many of the common traditions of the ancient Near Eastern world have their roots in the Chega Sofla civilization. Many of the aesthetic developments of the Mesopotamian Uruk period (including Warka Vase, seals, and steles) have their roots in what we know today as Chega Sofla. Because the Chega Sofla finds are nearly 700 years older than those found in Uruk. The motifs of the opposite goats on the Chega Sofla stone slabs are more than 3,000 years older than the motifs found in the Umm al-Nar cultural area (Hilly) of the United Arab Emirates (the area is now a UAE World Heritage Site). As a result, the Cultural Package of Chega Sofla is now the mother of a wide range of cultures, even in remote areas as the site of Hazor in ancient Palestine.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

All the findings obtained from Chega Sofla are original and represent a critical stage that has led to the emergence of a flourishing Elamite civilization in the south and southwest Iran. The settlement and the cemetery section and the surrounding areas, with their rock arts, indicate the original and integrated remains and represent a six-thousand-year-old ritual landscape.

In the settlement section of Chaga Sofla, three seasons of archaeological excavations have been carried out since 2016, when all the excavation workshops were returned to their original state after completing the work in full compliance with the conservation standards.

The section of Chega Sofla Cemetery remains intact and only in 1394, three archeological excavations were carried out in three workshops, which were returned to their original condition after the excavation of all workshops in full observance of conservation standards.

Comparison with other similar properties

From the point of view of form and content, the closest place where his works can be compared to Chega Sofla is Susa Acropole area World Register. both sites flourished in the second half of the fifth millennium BCE; both represent a central and politically and religiously important area; both have religious monuments; both have cemeteries.

Next to the high platform (Haut Terrasse) of Susa, an area was identified that represents the oldest known cemetery in southwestern Iran. There are two narratives about the extent of this cemetery from its two explorers, namely de Margan and de Makenam. One says the cemetery is 750 square meters and the other says 120 square meters. Meanwhile, the area of the cemetery in Chega Sofla is about ca. 800 by 2000 meters. An area that has not been reported from anywhere at this time.

We know very well that Chega Sofla tombs are made of materials such as carved stone, clay, brick and Chineh. The tombs in Chega Sofla have an east and west direction. The entrance door of all 10 excavated graves in Chega Sofla is to the west. The tombs are built in a special order, the side walls of the stone and brick tombs are supported by buttresses, and the interior of the tombs is divided into two parts, the main chamber and the ossuary. A significant part of the excavated graves (7 graves) are among the multiple burial graves.

One of the characteristics comparable to Susa is pottery and metal (copper) tools. The beauty, variety and abundance of pottery in Susa has made most of the world's famous museums have samples of those vessels in their showcases. Due to the fact that archeological excavations in Chega Sofla Cemetery have not been completed yet, the variety and abundance of Chega Sofla pottery has not yet reached the level of Susa. But among the evidence obtained from 10 tombs excavated from Chega Sofla, large quantities of beautiful and luxurious pottery and large quantities of various copper tools have been found.

In addition to the structure of the Chega Sofla tombs, unique specimens of deformed skulls of Chega Sofla have been found that have not been reported from Susa.

Chega Sofla sanctuary consists of two parts: the offering platform and the memorial building. The offering platform contains a variety of gift benches for pottery, animal sacrifices, and stone steles. Only 16 goats and a cow were found on two benches of sacrificial gifts at the sanctuary. The most distinguished find in the Chega Sofla offering platform section is the stone steles with symbolic motifs.

Studies on pottery from the Susa cemetery have shown that the pottery was made by various workshops and donated to the temple of Susa. Our studies and excavations in Chega Sofla show that there is a manufacturing sector around the religious means of burial and sanctuary, which has been engaged in the production of uses such as pottery. Brick kilns have also been identified for brick production in the 6,000-year-old Chega Sofla burial mounds.

Another aspect of the comparison between Susa and Chega Sofla is the artifacts from these two important archaeological sites. Among the most important of these objects are stone vessels. The results of studies show that stone vessels (marble and calcareous) obtained in Chega Sofla, in addition to greater variety and abundance, also has manufacturing and aesthetic skills. The important result of this comparison shows the close relationship between Chega Sofla and the southeastern regions of Iran and the skills of stonemasons in Chega Sofla.

In terms of being a religious landscape, Chega Sofla is comparable to many well-known sites both in Iran and outside from which religious evidence, including shrines, cemeteries and carvings, and  symbolic motifs have been obtained. Of course, not all of the sites mentioned here are necessarily synchronous with the Chega Sofla. World Heritage Site of Shahr-e Sokhta (Sistan and Baluchestan province), World Heritage Site of Susa (Khuzestan Province), Heklan cemetery, Dom Gar Parchineh cemetery (Ilam province), Chogha Mish (Khuzestan Province), Shrine and Cemetery of Erido (southern Iraq), World Heritage Site of Dilmun Burial Mound (Bahrain), Shrine of Uruk (southern Iraq), World Heritage Site of Cultura sites of Al-Ain (Hilly) (United Arab Emirates), World Heritage Site of Gokli Tappeh (Turkey).