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Special Edition Iran – Timeline, Part I

By Jay Holmes

One of the critical international issues on the minds of Westerners today is the question of Iranian atomic capabilities. Is Iran developing an atomic bomb? If so, should we do something to stop it? Who is “we,” and precisely what would “something” be? How much would “something” cost, and to whom?

Iranian Nuclear Sites, image @Semhur/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0

All of these questions are worth considering. To consider them rationally, we need to know who the Iranians are, and what underlying agendas they have. What do they want, and how much are they willing to pay for it?

It’s easy to be confused by what we see and by what the Iranians say. When Iranian society behaves like a mob of unsupervised first grade boys, it’s easy to get an inaccurate impression of who comprises the Iranian government, and what Iranians might actually be like or think about that.

Long before the poorly educated, megalomaniac “ayatollah” Khomeini returned to Iran to drag it back into an eighth century style of government, there was a developing nation called Iran. Long before there was a nation called Iran, there was an empire called Persia. The history that took Iran from the Stone Age to a modern nation is worth considering when wondering what today’s Iranians think about the events occurring in their country.

c. 800,000 B.C.

Neanderthals were living in Kashafrud in Khorasan, now northeastern Iran, as evidenced by stone tools made from quartz that were dated by archaeologist C. Thibault. The National Museum of Iran agrees with the dating.

100,000 B.C. – 60,000 B.C.

Archaeologists have located Neolithic tools in at least three distinct major sites in modern Iran. The dating of the tools remains somewhat controversial. Archaeologists’ estimates range from between 100,000 to 60,000 years in age.

Archaeologists have also found Neanderthal skeletal remains from this time period in Shanidar cave in what is today an area of modern Iraq.

15,000 B.C.

Some archaeologists claim a wine vase from 15,000 B.C. was unearthed in Iran, but I have been unable to verify that from multiple well-respected scientific sources. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It means there is only so much time I’m willing to try to spend trying to verify one artifact.

9,000 B.C.

For simplicity’s sake, let us define ancient Iran as being the land between the Caspian Sea, the Indus river, the Euphrates River, and the current Iranian coast. Human artifacts including jewelry, refined pottery, and metal tools, have been found within this area and dated back to 9,000 B.C.

Nearly eleven thousand years before Boston silversmiths crafted Paul Revere’s tea set, skilled artisans in ancient Persia lived in a complex enough civilization to create sophisticated and intricate jewelry.

7,200 B.C.

Villagers in Choga Bonut, western Iran, farmed and made high quality clay pottery.

7,000 B.C.

Wine vases from the Zagros mountains of Iran date from 7,000 B.C., proving that, although black market English, Canadian, and American whiskey now enters Iran via small boats every night, booze has been there for a long time.

Archaeologists have found Neolithic evidence at a place that would later become the busy trade center of Susa, and that Iranians today call Shush.

6,800 B.C.

Villagers in Choga Mish, near Choga Bonut, inhabited a regional trade center and practiced agriculture. They left behind rich evidence that was being explored at the time of the twentieth century Iranian Islamic Revolution.

The “revolutionaries” felt threatened by science and saw the practice of archaeology as a heresy so they destroyed the dig site and stole the artifacts. Fortunately, work from the dig site was published prior to the 1979 Khomeni-induced hysteria.

5,000 B.C.

Someone in Susa was making painted pottery.

4,000 B.C.

Early bronze age sites attributed to the Jiroft agricultural civilization date from roughly 4,000 B.C. to 3,000 B.C.

The Jirofts irrigate their crops and produced well-developed jewelry and metal tools. They were also involved in East-West trade.

Jiroft rock weight from Azerbaijan Museum in Tabriz, Iran. Picture by Fabien Dany –

3,100 B.C. – 2,900 B.C.

People in the region were using clay tablets with Sumerian Cuneiform writing. The earliest dates of these tablets are still debated in Iran, but they co-date the Mesopotamian city building in Iraq and on the fringes of Iran.

For comparison, the Brits were building Stonehenge, and in North America, Cochise people were just beginning to cultivate corn, but not squash and beans. The Egyptians were building large cities and monuments.

2,700 B.C.

The Elamites, a non-Semitic people, established a kingdom in Western Persia with Susa as its capital. They introduced complex government with power shared by three family members and regional authority relegated to under-lords. Trade was controlled by a central system, and regions were tasked with producing the products that were best suited to their natural resources and local talents.

This inter-regional economy was quite productive and supported a higher standard of living for people within the kingdom.

The Elamites preferred trade with surrounding countries. However, they also maintained well-organized military forces and were able to resist invasion by powerful neighbors in Mesopotamia

Some anthropologists claim this culture had a written language, but recognized experts in early languages agree that the evidence is fake. Those ancient people may not have written, but they had a well-established civilization.

2,000 B.C.

The game of chess was invented in Persia.

1764 B.C.

Hammurabi of Babylonia conquered most of the Elamite kingdom. The Elamites survived in the mountains beyond Hammurabi’s reach.

c. 1730 B.C.

The Elamites dealt a devastating defeat to the armies of Hammurabi’s son, Samsuiluna, and regained their kingdom. Western Iran entered a period of two hundred years of comparative isolation from the outside world.

1,500 B.C. to 1,250 B.C.

The Anzanite faction of the Elamites established a strong dynasty, and the Elamite Empire grew toward Mesopotamia and what had become a strong Assyrian Empire.

1208 B.C.

Assyrian King Tululti-Ninurta died and Assyria fell into internal strife over succession to the throne. The Elamites seized the opportunity and campaigned against the Assyrian armies. They captured Babylon and took the famous Hammurabi Stela containing the inscribed code of Hammurabi to Susa.

c. 1150 B.C.

Nebuchadnezzar I united northern and central Babylon, an area we call modern Iraq. He attacked and defeated the Elamite empire. Again, the Elamites retreated to mountainous areas and survived.

In the next article, we will look at Iranian history up to the seventh century Islamic Invasion.

37 thoughts on “ Special Edition Iran – Timeline, Part I

    • on ,
      J Holmes said:

      Hello Emily. I just discovered your articles. Your Kimono experience was informative and hilarious. That old kimono looks elegant on you. I love finding unanticipated and interesting articles. I have no idea why but it’s therapeutic for my cranky old brain. Thanks for the brain therapy.

  1. I’m with you so far, Holmes. High praise from the person who routinely had erasers thrown at her in HS history class. Notepad and pen at the ready for the next in your series.

    Yeah. I’ve gotta admit. I was hoping for “what I will do as Secretary of Defense” wisdom on the current escalating situation between Iran and Israel.

    • on ,
      J Holmes said:

      Hi Gloria. I will get to the “what to do” ideas after a few more articles on Iran. It’s a complex place.
      The president doesn’t read my articles so I am safe in taking whatever guesses that strike my fancy.

  2. Holy crap! I thought I was going to learn the key to solving this issue after going through the history! You’d better prepare me for how many parts there are to this series! Is this like “ROOTS”? I have so long wanted to understand what’s going on in Iran.

    A sticking point: I think you meant to say they were acting more like 5th grade boys. That’s when boys get mean. First graders are still young and sweet. 😉

    • on ,
      J Holmes said:

      Hi Renee. As the Mexican Padre told his tired but dutiful companion”be patient my dear, be patient.” Your parents might possibly remember that old joke.

      Yes you are right about 5th grade boys. I do remember being well behaved and rather civilized in first grade even when Sister Mary N was not watching. By fifth grade I had been cured.

      To avoid painfully long articles and readers with headaches we need a few more articles on Iran before we put on our JCS hats or practice CIA analyst blank stare techniques.

      Here’s a riddle and MY answer. Others may answer differently. How can you recognize an experienced CIA analyst? It’s easy. They always look like they are reading something important while doing the blank stare. It helps them avoid annoying social contacts with dreadfully dressed tech staff or those stubbornly informal and dangerously uncouth operations people.

  3. I’m embarrassed to say that I know so little about Iranian history, I don’t know what to ask! I’m going to keep my eyes open for your next post and reread this again later. 😉 Thanks for educating us, Piper. Means a bunch!

    • Glad you’re enjoying this, August. I’d love to take credit, but this one is all Holmes. He knows waaaay more than I do about these things. I’m like you and don’t even know what to ask. Thanks for stopping by.

      • That’s okay, Piper. Lawyers don’t have to know anything as long as they know where to find the answer. You apparently do with Holmes.

        • on ,
          J Holmes said:

          Hi David. She’s a good lawyer too. I saw her turn an entire school district admin types into frightened children in half a day. Those political kids straightened right up. Don’t let her kind smile fool you.

    • on ,
      J Holmes said:

      Hi August. Don’t feel too embarrassed. Most Iranians know even less about us.

  4. Very interesting! I knew the region had a long, rich history. I just didn’t know it went all the way back to the Neanderthals. I’ll be sticking around for the rest of the timeline 🙂

  5. Great stuff, Holmes. I’ll have to dig around a bit and see if there is anything buried in my “sources” about that wine vase. Probably a designing post in there was well.

    It is always wise to know the history of a people or a person before making assessments. I won’t say judgements because, in reality, only those that have lived through an event or experience or within a culture make effective judges.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series.

  6. on ,
    Dave said:

    Like Cliff Notes for world history. Thanks for the primer, Holmes.

    • on ,
      J Holmes said:

      Thank you Dave. Anything I wrote above about poorly dressed tech staff was simply a paraphrase of what an analyst might say. Thank you and all the other scientists that actually bother to program and frequently use their expensive calculators to answer real questions. It saves me from having to do my own science and it keeps my calculator looking new for years on end.

      Long live the tech staff!

  7. What a fabulous timeline, and impressive research, Holmes. Thanks for sharing your time and talents with us. Hope the chocolate-tasting competition went well. 🙂

  8. on ,
    J Holmes said:

    Hi KB. Never believe anything that Piper says about me when I am out of town. Years of keeping bad company with suspicious looking people has caused her to acquire the habit of fabricating stories about her friends.

  9. Great history run-down. Looking at them today shows us that staying on the scene for a long time doesn’t necessarilly mean that the people who run the country have any sense of history. Iran today is looking for a place in history. They might get it. If Israel has its way. This is definitly the time for us to use any means we have to tell them to live and let live. Bombing of Iran might bring the apocalypse that the evangelicals are hoping for.

    • on ,
      J Holmes said:

      Hi Tomwisk. I am hoping that we avoid an apocalypse. But as you hint at it’s up to Iran how far they want to push.

  10. Interesting stuff, Holmes. Not what I was expecting given the title 🙂

    The thing I most often think when comparing the US outlook on life to many other cultures is that the US is an incredibly young country, and like all youths we’re full of energy and expect things to be done immediately. To put it another way, if your country has been around for a few thousand years, what’s another 10, 20 or 50 years to achieve your goals?

    I’m looking forward to the next installment.


  11. on ,
    J Holmes said:

    Hi Nigel. I think that time and space can be perceived differently in the “old” and “new” worlds.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the 1st installment.

    • on ,
      J Holmes said:

      Yes there is always an exam. Self-administer the exam of your choice as you walk through your day. I’m confident that you’ll get an A..

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