AhvazAttractionsDestinationsIran TourismKhuzestan

Haft Tappeh Archaeological Site: All You Need to Know

Unveiling the Mysteries of Haft Tappeh

Explore the Haft Tappeh Archaeological Site in Khuzestan, a pivotal landmark of the ancient Elamite civilization. Located near the historic city of Shush, this site comprises 14 significant mounds revealing hidden secrets of a bygone era.

Unearthed during expeditions that began in 1965, Haft Tappeh has yielded remarkable finds, including a ziggurat older than Chogha Zanbil. Today, it hosts a museum that displays an array of artifacts, making it a must-visit for history enthusiasts. Plan your journey with SURFIRAN to dive deep into Iran’s rich cultural heritage.

Khuzestan is a treasure trove of ancient sites such as Jundi Shapur and the ziggurat of Chogha Zanbil, substantiating its rich historical importance.

Near Shush (Susa), one of Iran’s oldest cities, lies another intriguing site, the ancient area of Haft Tappeh. Previously the city of Kabnak, this site belonged to the Elamite civilization and retains many hidden secrets yet to be fully explored. Join us as we delve deeper into the wonders of Haft Tappeh.

What is Haft Tappeh?

An aerial photo of Haft Tappeh
An aerial photo of Haft Tappeh

The ancient site of Haft Tappeh is situated in the northern part of Khuzestan Province, embedded within the fields of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Company, approximately 15 km southeast of Susa. Flanked by the Karkheh River about 10 km to the west, the Shavour River roughly 4 km to the southwest, and the Dez River about 10 km to the northeast, Haft Tappeh is undoubtedly located in one of the most fertile regions of Khuzestan.

The site is positioned at the end of the Sadsarabad anticline, characterized by several mounds of varying sizes. Due to the prevalence of these mounds, the site is colloquially known as Haft Tappeh, meaning ‘seven mounds’ in Persian. Although named for seven mounds, the site actually comprises approximately 14 mounds.

Archaeological studies and excavations at Haft Tappeh have illuminated previously unknown aspects of Elamite history. These activities uncovered large tombs adjacent to a substantial structure, likely connected to royal families.

The Tomb of Haft Tappeh
Tomb number one at Haft Tappeh, where a bulldozer incident exposed part of an arch. The tomb featured a platform divided into three sections: the northern part contained seven skeletons laid parallel to each other, the middle section was empty, and the southern section likely held two skeletons, though severe erosion has obscured their details. The tomb’s entrance was located to the south, where numerous human bones were discovered in a disarrayed state.

The architecture at Haft Tappeh indicates that the Elamite civilization was highly developed in architectural techniques, notably in the creation of round arches.

These arches are dated two hundred years prior to those at Tchogha Zanbil and about fifteen hundred years earlier than Roman arches. Excavations at Haft Tappeh have yielded a wealth of artifacts, including seals, seal impressions, clay tablets, and stone engravings.

These findings confirm that during its heyday, the city held a significant political and economic status. Inscriptions frequently mention two names: Tepti-ahar, a lesser-known Elamite king meaning ‘king and ruler’ in the Elamite language, and the city of Kabnak. The importance of the excavations at Haft Tappeh lies in its identification as Kabnak and in highlighting the reigns of early Middle Elamite period kings, who likely governed between 1500 to 1350 BCE.

Excavation of Haft Tappeh

Haft Tappeh was initially discovered and visited by Jean-Jacques de Morgan, the then-director of a French expedition at Susa, in the late nineteenth century. Subsequently, Robert McCormick Adams from the University of Chicago further explored the site, marking it on a map as KS 98.

In the early 1960s, following the establishment of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Company, land leveling activities commenced. During one such operation, a bulldozer accidentally struck the arch of an Elamite tomb constructed from baked brick.

Excavating Haft Tappeh Stone Stele
Excavating Haft Tappeh Stone Stele

Prompt action by officials led to the halting of the land leveling, and Dr. Ezatollah Negahban from the Iranian Archaeology Center was dispatched to assess the site. His visit in 1964 initiated archaeological excavations, which continued until 1979 in partnership with the University of Tehran.

These annual three-month winter excavations are noted for their role in training Iranian students and archaeologists, and for producing significant Elamite archaeological documents and finds for research purposes.

Throughout these years, approximately 150 trenches each measuring 10×10 meters were excavated, initially focusing on the northwest section where the bulldozer had first exposed parts of the ruins. Later excavations expanded to the southeast.

Participants in the Susa Conference in during a visit to Haft Tappeh

After interruptions due to the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the Iran-Iraq War, excavations at Haft Tappeh were dormant until 2002 when the World Heritage Base of Tchogha Zanbil and Haft Tappeh was established.

Archaeological work resumed under Dr. Behzad Mofidi, continuing the legacy of earlier efforts. Recent excavations have included geophysical surveys using geomagnetic and geoelectric methods, conducted between 2002 and 2006 over a 26-hectare area.

These surveys aimed to clarify the extent and interconnection of architectural remains. By 2006, approximately 1100 m^3 of the site had been excavated, yielding a more detailed map of Haft Tappeh that integrates findings from both past and present studies, enhancing our understanding of the site’s architectural dispersal without extensive physical excavation.

The site’s extensive area and the wealth of findings attracted significant attention from archaeologists, making the excavations at Haft Tappeh one of the most noteworthy in the country.

Consequently, in 1973, a museum was established on-site to house the discovered artifacts, turning Haft Tappeh into a popular destination for tourists in Khuzestan.

Recent Excavations at Haft Tappeh

Haft Tappeh Excavation Site of Ancient Elamite City
Haft Tappeh, Excavation Site of Ancient Elamite City

In 2009, a joint team of Iranian and German archaeologists led by Behzad Mofidi-Nasrabadi, in collaboration with the University of Mainz, embarked on new excavations. They unearthed a ziggurat estimated to be at least 200 years older than its counterpart at Chogha Zanbil, with an estimated height of 30 meters.

Cylinder seal from Haft Tappeh, The middle Elamite period, The 15th-14h B.C.
Cylinder seal from Haft Tappeh, The middle Elamite period, The 15th-14h B.C. Photo by Haft Tappeh and Tchogha Zanbil World Heritage Base Haft Tappeh Museum

Nearby, evidence of a mass slaughter was found, with hundreds of victims buried atop each other. A workshop for making clay tablets was also discovered, highlighting the development of art and craft in the ancient Elamite empire.

Historical Significance of Haft Tappeh

Visiting Haft Tappeh in Khuzestan
Visiting Haft Tappeh in Khuzestan

Haft Tappeh, identified as the city of Kabnak, dates back to the Middle Elamite period. It was an important political center during the reign of the Kidinuid dynasty, the first ruling family of the Middle Elamite period.

Musician male figurine from Haft Tappeh, The middle Elamite period, The 15th-14h B.C, Photo by Sara Fereidouni
Musician male figurine from Haft Tappeh, The middle Elamite period, The 15th-14h B.C, Photo by Sara Fereidouni

Timeline of the Elamite Civilization

  • Proto-Elamite period: c. 3200 BCE – c. 2700 BCE
  • Old Elamite period: c. 2700 BCE – c. 1600 BCE
  • Middle Elamite period: c. 1600 BCE – c. 1100 BCE
  • Neo-Elamite period: c. 1100 BCE – 539 BCE (beginning of the Achaemenid Empire)

Elamite Structural Periods in Haft Tappeh

As a result of archaeological studies, four Elamite structural periods can be identified in Haft Tappeh. After a lengthy hiatus, this city was re-inhabited during the Parthian and Sassanian periods but never regained its former significance.

Period DescriptionNameTime Range
First Elamite Structural PeriodSukkal-mah17th and 16th centuries BCE
Second Elamite Structural PeriodFirst Middle Elamite Phase15th century BCE
Third Elamite Structural PeriodFirst Middle Elamite PhaseLate 15th to early 14th centuries BCE
Fourth Elamite Structural PeriodFirst Middle Elamite Phase14th century BCE

Haft Tappeh Museum

Haft Tappeh Museum in Khuzestan
Haft Tappeh Museum in Khuzestan

Visitors can explore a wide range of artifacts at the Haft Tappeh Museum:

  • Cuneiform clay tablets and inscriptions in Akkadian script
  • Stone and clay seals depicting religious scenes
  • Plain and decorated pottery in various shapes and colors
  • Ornamental items made from semi-precious stones and natural bitumen
  • Geometric mosaics crafted from lapis lazuli, bone, and shell
  • Elamite terracotta statues and metal figures of animals and humans
  • Stone weapons and tools, and various sizes of clay coffins

The museum also features facilities like a laboratory, a library, a pottery restoration workshop, and a photography lab.

Brick with Cuneiform Inscription from Haft Tappeh
Brick with Cuneiform Inscription from Haft Tappeh

Discoveries Near Haft Tappeh Archaeological Site

The Haft Tappeh Archaeological Site, nestled in the ancient region of Elam near Susa, is a treasure trove of history dating back to the Elamite civilization. While exploring this significant site, visitors can also enjoy a range of nearby attractions that highlight the area’s rich historical and cultural heritage.

The Susa Archaeological Site

Susa Archaeological Site in Khuzestan
Susa Archaeological Site in Khuzestan

Just a short distance from Haft Tappeh, the ancient city of Susa provides an in-depth look into the region’s history. As one of the oldest settlements in the world, Susa’s ruins include palaces, temples, and residential areas that chronicle the rise and fall of multiple civilizations.

The Tomb of Daniel

Tomb of Daniel in Khuzestan
Tomb of Daniel in Khuzestan (photo by Wikipedia)

Close to Haft Tappeh, the Tomb of Daniel in Susa is a site of great religious importance that attracts visitors from various faith backgrounds. The tomb is said to house the remains of the biblical prophet Daniel, making it a significant pilgrimage site.

Chogha Zanbil

Chogha Zanbil Haft Tappeh Khuzestan
Chogha Zanbil, Haft Tappeh, Khuzestan

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Chogha Zanbil is one of the few extant ziggurats outside of Mesopotamia. Located within driving distance from Haft Tappeh, this ancient Elamite complex offers a unique glimpse into the religious life of the Elamites with its grandiose temple and ziggurat.

The Shush Castle

The Shush Castle Susa Khuzestan
The Shush Castle, Susa, Khuzestan

Built with bricks from the ancient city of Susa, Shush Castle mimics French medieval castles and now serves as a museum showcasing artifacts from the area. This site provides a historical narrative that complements the findings at Haft Tappeh.

The Museum of Susa

Museum of Susa Khuzestan
Museum of Susa, Khuzestan

To further enrich your visit, the Museum of Susa offers a well-curated collection of artifacts recovered from both Susa and Haft Tappeh. This museum helps visitors connect the archaeological discoveries to the broader history of the region.

Visiting Haft Tappeh

Haft Tappeh is open to the public, with visiting hours from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. As we explore these historical treasures, it is crucial to preserve and protect them from damage.

For more detailed guides and to explore other exciting destinations in Iran, visit SURFIRAN’s Travel Guides. Discover more about Khuzestan and its historical wonders by planning your visit with SURFIRAN.

Read More

5/5 - (16 votes)

SURFIRAN Editorial Team

SURFIRAN is an Iranian tour operator and travel agency offering tour packages to those interested in Iran. It provides the tourists with services needed to travel to Iran, offers tours across the country, and assists the tourists in obtaining Iranian visas.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button