Friday, May 3, 2013

History Mystery: Susa Home of the Elamites Part.II

Susa’s trading community began to take to the roads, setting up distant merchant colonies; there is evidence that merchants from Susa even reached Egypt. But once again, an era of history ended for reasons that have not been identified. In about 3000 BC Susa and its colonies were abandoned. The abandoned is thought to have been brief. Excavations indicate that the city was soon reoccupied, and began long period influenced at first by the hardy, inventive peoples of the Iranian plateau, then by the sophisticated Mesopotamians. Out of this fertile mixture of cultures, the cultivation known to the Old Testament authors as Elam eventually emerged. Initially, the newly occupied city looked to the upland peoples of the plateau, establishing commercial and diplomatic links with the peoples of the Fars region on the southern heights of present-day Iran.

Among its new trading partners was a flourishing kingdom centered on the neighbouring town of Anshan. Examples of early Elamite writing have been discovered at both Susa and Anshan – distinctive and lively representations of animals impressed on soft clay. The culture of civilization which produced them, known as Proto-Elamite, survived for some 200 years, until a new Mesopotamian upsurge caused Susa to renew its links with the cities to the west. Susa was drawn even more closely into the Mesopotamian fold in about 2300 BC, when the mighty Sargon of Akkad, a warrior king from the north-west, overran the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates and united its kingdoms into a single realm. As a result, the local spoken language was replaced by the Semitic language of the Akkadians. Though politically and culturally part of Mesopotamia, Susa maintained its established trading links. It remained the gateway to the Fars plateau, hub of the well-trodden routes along which merchants carried precious stones and metals from the hills to the plain. These routes were reaching ever deeper into Asia, and craftsmen on the Iranian plateau began to produce chlorite and later alabaster wares which were exported over vast distances. The most characteristic items were glazed seals made of steatite (soapstone) with cut-out patterns featuring a cross, an eagle, or mythological figure.

The seals reached Susa along the westerly routes; they have also been found in the steppes of southern Russia, and even as far east as the fringes of China. Persia’s prosperity was strongly felt by the people of Susa. After their long subjection to Mesopotamia, political and cultural links with the Fars region were restored when the Elamites brought about the downfall of Mesopotamia’s ruling dynasty of Ur in 2004 BC. Susa and Anshan were reunited under one monarch, Kindattu – and the Elamite dynasty began. In about 1950 BC, the ruler’s title of ‘King of Susa and Anshan’ was dropped in favour of ‘Grand Regent’. The heir to the throne at that time was not the king’s son, but his younger brother – the son was the second in line. This sensible arrangement gave the son time to mature, and the in – fighting so often connected in royal houses with the accession of a young heir was thus avoided. Under the new dynasty, a suburb grew up on the northern outskirts of Susa which has been carefully explored by archaeologists. Houses were grouped in blocks, separated by well – defined streets. Each house had a fireplace, used for cooking and for heating in winter. Most of the houses were fitted with latrines with a drainage course to carry away waste water, and many of the inhabitants enjoyed the luxury of a bathroom with a terracotta bath.

One house contained its own private chapel – a tiny sanctuary housing a huge altar, elaborately decorated with reliefs. Tombs were dug underneath the houses, and fitted out with funeral furniture. The home comforts in the suburb of Susa all speak of modest prosperity, but it seems that the area was gradually adopted by a wealthier aristocracy. Funerary vaults replaced the simple tombs, and imposing buildings began to appear. In the 18th century BC, one of the suburb’s housing blocks was transformed into the residence of a high official known as Temti-wartash. Temti-wartash’s house was a palace. After passing through three vestibules, visitors entered a lavishly tiled courtyard. A palatial doorway led to a reception room with an arched roof supported by four rectangular columns, and the rest of the building was laid out around secondary courtyards.

 ( Cont....)

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